Can a lip gloss really plump your pout?

Dr Zara Kassam, PhD

Can a lip gloss really plump your pout? Dr Zara Kassam PhD finds out how they work and what they can do for your lips.

Just like bold brows, fuller lips look like they’re here to stay. A plump pout is on almost everyone’s wish list and let’s face it, social media is full of them. But do you have to have an injection of fillers to get them? The answer is no, there are less invasive alternatives. The question is though – what’s in them, how do they work – or do they work at all –  and how long will the effect last?

There’s a multitude of lip-plumping products on the market and they work in 3 main ways. Some claim to enlarge the lips by stinging them with ingredients that can cause irritation, while others work by delivering absorbable fragments of moisturising hyaluronic acid to the lips and the third groups works on peptides and a mixture of hyaluronic acid to plump by building collagen.

The first group has an instant plump effect but the others are a ‘slow build.’

A good lip plumper can subtly add shape and volume to your lips without making them look unnatural. On the other hand, a bad lip plumper can leave you with red, flaky, burning lips.


Those that irritate

Most lip plumpers work by causing irritation to lip skin, resulting in swelling and increased blood flow to the area the effects may last a maximum of few hours, as a result of the increased blood flow, which enhances the lips. These plumpers are likely to tingle as they begin to take effect, which is actually the irritation in action.

Essentially the irritation that occurs is achieved by the means of a vasodilation effect  (widening of the blood vessels).  These plumping treatments work by increasing the blood circulation in lips, and make them look fuller and redder, giving the appearance of being more plump.

While it sounds nasty and painful, they are – if used correctly – generally regarded as safe. If, however, you overuse them, there can be problems.

The Dermatology Review says the side effects from using lip plumpers can range from mild to severe, depending on how sensitive your skin is. Overuse is the main cause of side effects, that is, using it too often in a 24 hour period.

If the product overused the lips may become quite irritated, and could become dry, split, crack, and even bleed. The top lip is the most vulnerable as the skin is often thinner than on the bottom. The chapped and split lips can then peel, which can painful and unsightly.

The Review also warns that people who are prone to allergies should be especially careful when using these products as they may have a strong reaction to the ingredients in the lip plumpers, which could cause pain, stinging, and even a rash around the mouth.


ginger- ingredient-lip-plumpers-journal-harley-street-emporium

What’s in them?

Spicy extracts such as ginger, cinnamon, menthol, and even some hot pepper extracts, are added to plumping formulas to stimulate blood flow for a swollen look that lasts longer. Caffeine is another popular ingredient along with niacin, a B vitamin that has vasodilation properties. If your lip plumper tingles or even burns when applied, one of these ingredients might be the reason.

The most common ingredients used to promote irritation are:

  • Ginger,
  • Wintergreen,
  • Cinnamon,
  • Peppermint,
  • Cayenne pepper,
  • Menthol,
  • Camphor.


How fast to act and long does it last?

This is your short term fix. The maximum effect provided by these products is around two to three hours. Studies have shown women who applied a ginger-infused lip plumper found that the volumising effects was noticeable within 15 minutes and remained for close to 2 hours before petering out.


The patch test

Before using any of these products it’s always wise to do a little patch test. Usually the arm is used for patch tests but not the same type of skin as on your lips which are a combination of mucous membrane and ordinary skin cells. As such the Dermatology review suggests applying a little to a small spot on your lips and waiting a few hours at least to ensure it’s going to be safe for you.


The Hyaluronic Acid lip fillers

Other lip plumpers contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid that pull moisture into the lips by using the same molecule that is used in a many dermal fillers. Hyaluronic acid is found in our body and is our natural ‘filler’ as it sits between the cells and gives volume. As we age we produce less of it.

But can hyaluronic acid in a lip gel cross the skin barrier to work its magic? Some brands have managed to make an absorbable version which when it reaches its target area gets to work binding with the water in your body to plump up naturally. (Hyaluronic acid holds 1000 times its weight in water.)


How long does it take and how long does it last?

This is not an instant plumping effect. It takes days, even weeks to build and once you stop using, the lips will slowly revert to normal. And, for it to be effective you must make sure you’re well hydrated and are drinking plenty of glasses of water.

Fillerina recommends that you use their lip filling gels for one month and then repeat the treatments 3-4 times a year.


The protein plumpers

The last group are the peptide plumpers. These formulas that work by boosting collagen production and preventing its breakdown. They contain tripeptides (a chain of three proteins) that help promote collagen production and are sometimes used in combination with hyaluronic acid and other ingredients such as anitoxidants which help protect the lips from damage and are vital for collagen synthesis.

These ingredients promote cell growth and aid rejuvenation, giving the appearance of plumper, fatter, fuller looking lips over time while also working to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles – just like a moisturiser really.

Nannic’s Miracle Lips works in this fashion and has the added benefit of containing an SPF15 to help protect your lips from the sun’s damaging rays at the same time.

Again this is a long term approach. It may take a few weeks to a month to see the results and you need to use it continually to maintain it.


The Upshot?

So there are two choices really – the ones that deliver a short term boost or the slow build with hyaluronic acid and/or peptides. In either case, it’s important to be realistic about the results. They may temporarily enhance while they’re being used but will not change the shape of your lips of deliver dramatic results.

Two useful things are that lip plumpers can give you an idea what an injectable lip filler may look like, and the hyaluronic acid or peptide ones could be used to prolong the effects of an injectable dermal filler as well.

And for those who don’t like the idea of needles, they offer an easy to use – and cheaper alternative to the jab.


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