Is This Lip Surgery the Next Big Thing?

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Kylie Jenner shocked everyone by dissolving her lip fillers — will the lip lift replace that trend?

In the realm of beauty trends, it was big news when Kylie Jenner dissolved her lip fillers this summer. After all, the beauty mogul almost singlehandedly started the inflated lip look, which became the cornerstone of her Lip Kits product line.

If Hollywood appears to have had its fill of lip fillers, there's another option ready to, er, fill in. Those not wishing to go full-on trout pout can try the subtler, yet more invasive procedure called the lip lift, which actually, has been around since at least the 1920s, says leading Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Rian Maercks. “It is a procedure that has come in and out of vogue repeatedly,” he adds, and one of those “in” moments is now.

That’s not to say the procedure, which removes a small piece of skin from below the nose in order to enhance the Cupid’s bow and increase the amount of pink (vermillion) lip showing, hasn’t appeared in Hollywood before. “It causes the upper lip to roll outward and makes it appear larger,” says Dr. Norman Rowe of New York-based Rowe Plastic Surgery. (Think actress Ruth Wilson, who is sick of defending her naturally pendulous top lip.) In fact, says Maercks, “lip lifts have hindered and destroyed careers in Hollywood with the appearance of scars and very unnatural results that are difficult to hide with makeup, so many stars have boycotted the procedure.”

But not all, says Rowe, noting a resurgence in popularity of lip lifts across the country. “Twentysomethings are doing it for the lip augmentation effect, whereas more mature patients do it to reverse the elongated upper lip due to the aging process,” he says. While fillers can dissolve in a relatively short time, these results are far more permanent, though with time and age the lip will eventually drop again, he says.

Subtlety is part of the appeal, and each procedure is customized to a patient’s desired result, making it as pronounced as they and the surgeon see fit. It’s possible to end up with a Lisa Rinna–like pout or a nearly imperceptible but flattering change. 

Risks include “unsightly scars, asymmetry, swelling and potential loss of feeling in the lip and tip of nose,” says Rowe. Additionally, “If done poorly the definition between the nose and lip is blunted and hypertrophic scars can result,” says Maercks. Laser techniques performed during the healing process can be helpful in healing and hiding the telltale scar, according to Maercks, who often performs a lip lift with fat grafting in conjunction with a face-lift for a natural-looking result.

Ultimately it’s his opinion that the lip lift is not right for everyone, in fact it’s only the best option for about 20 percent of patients. And Dr. Rowe, while experiencing an uptick in clients, is not sure the procedure is poised to become widespread in Hollywood. Says the plastic surgeon, perhaps surprisingly, “I think there is a limited patient population that will want a surgical lip lift. Despite the media frenzy that Kylie Jenner’s lip filler removal caused, lip augmentation of that type remains a very popular procedure.” Maybe Jenner isn’t as influential as we thought.