Doctors Say the Lipstick Effect Is Real…But It’s Not What You Think

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New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD has been doing “lots and lots” of lip augmentations since she reopened her Park Avenue office. 

While she pinpoints the FDA-approval of Restylane Kysse in May as sparking interest, she also theorizes something she calls “a twist on the Lipstick Effect.”

“When people are down, they spend money on lipstick,” she says. “But, over the past couple of months, that’s evolved to include the lips in general.”

Besides being able to cover any bruising and swelling with a mask at the moment, Dr. Peredo also attributes the popularity to lip fillers to the fact that, “people are ready to feel sexy” again and compares it to “that feeling you get when you go to get your hair done for the first time in months.”

Mirror, Mirror
Bay Harbor Islands, FL dermatologist Stacy Chimento, MD has also seen the surge and says the interest is a bit of a study in the self. “Patents have spent a significant amount of time quarantining at home—so much so that a lot of them come in and say that they, ‘are tired of looking at themselves.’” 

Like Dr. Peredo, Dr. Chimento credits the introduction of Restylane Kysse during the pandemic for both creating the spike and an increased interest in lip fillers overall. “It is very soft, natural, it increases vascularity to the lips, which helps improve lip coloration, and it lasts longer than most injectables,” she says, adding that patients have also has the chance to do their “aesthetic homework” during the time spent at home. 

“They’ve had more time to think about lip augmentation while quarantined and have had the time to do their research. Now, they come in more savvy about lip anatomy and the injection process; I attribute this to the wealth of information available on social media and the internet. I’m getting more requests for neurotoxin based ‘lip-flip’ augmentation in which either Botox or Dysport is used to subtly lift the vermillion border of the lip to create an illusion of a plump lip.”

Study Hall
It’s the education factor that Newport Beach, CA plastic surgeon Sanjay Grover, MD also points to as a perceived positive. “We are seeing an uptick in lip fillers, which is very interesting given that many more people are keeping their lips covered by their masks! Part of the interest may be the introduction of new fillers, but I also think there is much better education on lip aesthetics and safety these days, which is providing better outcomes.”

Likewise, Nashville plastic surgeon Daniel Hatef, MD gives his patients an “A” for being on the up regarding their research.

“With the increased awareness of fillers for lip augmentation, younger patients in their 20s are coming into the office in droves. They are seeking enhancements that make their lips look sexy, but natural. We are going through Restylane Kysse almost as fast as we’re going through Botox! I can tell that with the shutdown patients have had more time to do their homework. They’re asking very specific questions about the kinds of filler we’re using, discussing lip architecture and beauty, and asking about perioral Botox and buccal fat-pad removal.”

Best of all, Dr. Hatef says, is that patients, “are really getting the fact that it’s not just enhancing the lips with filler, but making an overall harmonious change to the perioral region.”

Zoom Boom
New York facial plastic surgeon John Kang, MD’s patients are also wanting lip enhancements—and he’s saying it’s triggered by a very two-dimensional source.

“The greatest drive is the constant ‘Zoom-ing’ people are engaged in as part of carrying out their work remotely at home,” he says. “On a two-dimensional screen, we simply look flatter and wider. If you have any combination of thin lips, weak chin or small nose, optically, you are going to appear a bit wider and flatter— almost like you might have gained a few extra pounds. So, we have definitely noticed a rise in patients who want enhancement to the lips—as well as filler augmentation to their chin or nose—in an effort to look a bit more dimensional on the screen.” 

It’s the working-from-home part of the equation that Palo Alto, CA facial plastic surgeon Jill L. Hessler, MD recognizes for taking patients from being “on-the-fence” to on the appointment calendar. 

“I’ve found many patients who have been on the fence about lip filler are now deciding to have treatment,” she says. “There are a few reasons for this: First, as many people are working from home now patients are less concerned with getting a bruise or having swelling, as they won’t be seeing these co-workers or friends.”

Dr. Hessler says another advancement is that there are many new filler materials available, which equates to more options and improved results. 

“Most of my patients are afraid of lips looking too full or unnatural. They’ve seen that ‘overfilled’ and ‘overinflated ‘look and my patients don’t want that. For me, it is more about creating beautiful contours to the lips and removing the dehydrated appearance. The most recent addition to the filler market is Restylane Kysse—it is an amazing filler specifically designed for the lips that creates beautiful hydration without looking overly filled. For patients who desire even more subtle volume, Volbella is another good option to create subtle enhancement.” 

Traffic Lite
In addition to the lips, Dr. Hessler says she’s seen a significant increase in patients wanting facial surgical procedures in general, mainly because they’re staying put right now.

“Many patients have consulted previously, but didn’t have the downtime available. Now, patients are seeing friends and most offices have converted to work-from-home until the end of the year and business travel has stopped. Patients who previously couldn’t find the time for surgery due to work or social travel now find they have a little spare time available—and, with many of these procedures, patients are able to work from home very soon after, so it is not significantly affecting their routines.”

In line with the routine theme, Pasadena, CA plastic surgeon Lily Lee, MD says that she’s seen a difference in when patients come in. “It used to be that people who came to see me for something else, like surgery on a Tuesday, would just have me do their fillers and neurotoxin while they were in the office,” she explains. “Now, they will talk to me about surgical procedures and neurotoxins, but when it comes to fillers, they will come back, for example, on Friday.”

“Maybe traffic is easier to deal with these days,” she hypothesizes. “Or maybe it’s because everyone is at home with more time on their hands?”

While she hasn’t necessarily seen a significant sway in lips since “they’re always popular at her practice,” Scottsdale, AZ facial plastic surgeon Kelly V. Bomer, MD says her patients are still steadily seeking skin- and full face–rejuvenation procedures, even during this uncertain time.

“Our patients have not swayed in any specific direction,” she says and points to the all-important doctor conversation step: “But they continue to look for guidance from us with respect to what procedure would be best for them.”

Bonus Round: Makeup Magic
Someone who is seeing the standard “Lipstick Effect” in full swing is Sephora Collection’s national artist, Helen Phillips. “It is so odd that the ‘fuller-lip’ trend is in this season considering all the mask-wearing, but I think it’s due to the fact that we’re all constantly on video calls staring at ourselves and noticing our ‘flaws’ and looking for ways to enhance our look,” she says. “Lips are an amazing way to grab attention and exude confidence when speaking!”

Her go-to “fuller lip” trick: Start by applying a lipliner. “This is a great hack for faking out your lip line and making it look a bit bigger,” she says. “But don’t go crazy—just draw slightly over the lips. I love using the Sephora Collection Rouge Gel Lip Liner ($13) because it is supersmooth and a little less dry than other lip liners, so it glides on and allows you to create a smooth new lip line.”

“Another thing to consider when giving yourself a fuller lip look is that textured-gloss makes everything look bigger. If you are going to go for a gloss, I highly recommend using one that plumps too for an added effect. Her go-to: The just-launched Outrageous Plump Lip Gloss ($13). “They are so beautiful—some of the shades have a fine shimmer which is so pretty, my favorite shade is called Sparkling Dawn.”

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