It’s not surprising that the new cosmetic procedure dubbed the “lip lift,” is rising quickly in popularity. After all, it seems everyone these days is after a more youthful, sensual and attractive pout. Just check your Instagram feed for proof or the American Society of Plastic Surgeon’s 2015 Statistics Report, which says soft tissue filler procedures have risen by 245% since 2000. (Shocking, but not really. I know I’ve contributed to that number…) While lip fillers may be the procedure of choice for many, for some a lip lift may be the better option to achieving a more youthful and sensual pout . We reached out to the cosmetic community’s foremost expert on lip lifts, Beverly Hills based board certified facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Ben Talei, to get the low-down.
“The goal people are trying to achieve is better facial balance overall. A shortened upper lip length gives the appearance of looking more attractive and younger for a lot of people. But it also makes people look less heavy in the face. It gives more accent and definition along the upper lip board including the cupids bow, so it’s great for people who have heavy, poorly defined character on their lips.
It’s also great for people who need increased tooth show because showing the teeth is actually one of the measures of sensuality when you look at people when they talk. If you look at someone when they talk and it’s hooded and you can’t see their teeth it’s not as sensual in appearance.
And the other reason someone might opt for a lip lift are those people who are not getting any benefit out of lip fillers. The reason they aren’t getting benefit out of fillers is because their upper lip is not amenable to fillers because of the character of it. It’s either a down pointing or under turning.
When you do the lip lift it either gets rid of the need for fillers or it actually makes it so your lip can now receive fillers because it’s in a different position.”
When looking at a person’s face, is there an ideal lip ratio?
“In terms of the actual measurements of the upper lip to the lower lip, most people talk about the red part of the upper lip to the red part of the lower lip. People usually talk about the ideal ratio being 1-1.6. But if you look at the length of the white lip to the ratio of the whole face, there’s no exact measurement that it should be. Every face is completely different and there are so many variables that go into it: the length of the teeth, the length of the bone that’s over the teeth, the prominence of it. Which is why you cant give an exact measurement.
If you are looking at the length of the white lip, it usually ranges in length from 9mm-27mm. More attractive lips will range anywhere from 9mm-18mm. It’s a pretty big range and there is no magic number.”
Who is the right candidate for this procedure?
“With lip lifts it used to be they were only performed on patients over 55 or 60 years old with light, thin skin because it caused a lot of problems with scarring. But the way I do it now, which is a modification of the earlier lip lift, you can do it on patients anywhere from in their early 20s to any age and on any skin color.”
This procedure is rising in popularity among whom?
“Women in their 20s and 30s are the majority of patients requesting this procedure in my practice and who it is gaining popularity amongst. The patients classically were in their 50s and 60s because those are the ones who have significant lengthening of the upper lips, but now that there is no downside and significant risk, you can do it on younger people and give them the benefits.”
Who would you say should NOT get a lip lift?
“Not everyone is a candidate, especially people who already have excessive tooth show and you can’t lift the upper lip any higher because it would show too much teeth. People who have excessive tooth show, but their lip is still long and it needs to be shortened, you would send them to a cosmetic dentist who would shorten the teeth and then you do the lip lift.”
How much skin is typically taken away during the lift lip?
“Most people remove abut 5-7mm. The least you would ever take out on somebody is 3-4 mm because less than that makes no difference and it wouldn’t be worth undergoing the procedure, and you wouldn’t take anything over 11-12mm because it makes the healing time so long that it would affect people’s lives.”
What’s the procedure like and is scarring an issue…. how can it be avoided?
“It’s easier than getting a dental procedure. I do two little shots under the lip to numb the area and the procedure takes about 45mins with local anesthesia.
An incision is made between the nose and the upper lip. The reason you don’t go higher than that border and try to hide the incision into the nose, which is what some people do, is because it will cause a loss of definition of the base of the nose. When you lose natural definition it’s hard to get it back, so you try not to invade into any natural constructs.
Once I remove the skin, I end up releasing the skin all the way down to the corners of the mouth laterally and centrally to release tension. Next, the stitches are placed meticulously to get the lip to anchor to the ligaments anchored around the bone of the nose. Most people attach skin to skin and that’s why people get scarring and widening of the nose. I do the attachment to the ligaments around the base of the nose, which allows you to avoid scarring and spreading of the nose and that’s what ultimately makes people heal well.”
So…how long will it be until a person looks normal again after a lip lift?
“With my technique, the heal time ultimately takes longer than a regular lip lift by a week or so, but it’s well worth it because the results are a thousand times better.
You go home with stitches in place and have them removed after four days. Patients will come back to check in with me at 2-3 weeks and at that point most people look presentable – meaning they can go out in public and their family wont notice anything has been done. At that point I usually give a steroid injection to bring down the swelling and at 6 weeks people feel much more normal.
At 3 months they forget they ever had the procedure done. And after a year they look back at how it looked at 3 months and they say – oh my god, it looks better now than it did at 3 months.”
Why does it look better after a year?
“Everything just softens. The incision becomes almost invisible. On some people it is invisible, on others it’s barely visible. This technique is really special because you don’t have to do any scar management. With other lip lifts part of your plan is doing scar revisions.”
With any procedure there are risks, such as infection, abnormal scarring and fluid accumulation, but Dr. Talei says going to an expert board certified plastic surgeon is key to avoiding these issues. “In my time doing them, I haven’t seen any problems. The only real risk comes with people who have had silicone in their lips, and that’s typically a lot of people who come and need lip lifts because the silicone has weighed down the lip over time. These patients, when you operate on them, tend to be a little more swollen.”
Disclaimer: Any information in the publications, messages, postings or articles on the website should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to address individual medical needs. Your particular facts and circumstances will determine the treatment which is most appropriate for you. And the outcomes.
-by Amy Chang
Photographed by Wing Ta