By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Unless you are Angeline Jolie, Scarlett Johansson or Kylie Jenner, you probably wish that yours were bigger, fuller and more voluptuous.
After all, while eyes may be the windows to the soul, lips are the most erogenous exposed organ on the human body.
And according to Mexican Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery (AMCPER), lip augmentation is the fastest-growing cosmetic procedure in the country today – more than breast augmentations – with nearly 15,000 Mexican women undergoing medical lip-plumping treatments every year.
Getting that perfect kiss-me pout used to entail having fat-grafting surgery or implants medically inserted, and some patients still opt for these methods of lip enhancement because of their permanency and that fact that they can produce more refined results.
But, today, dermal lip fillers have made lip augmentation a simple, minimally invasive procedure that can be carried out in a doctor’s office in less than half an hour at a price that won’t break the bank.
“I would say that about 30 percent of my patients today who are looking for injectable treatments (Botox and dermal fillers) want lip augmentation,” said dermatologist Ingrid López Gehrke, who specializes in skincare and cosmetic procedures at the DermaDF clinic in Mexico City’s Colonia Benito Juárez.
“And I think that figure is pretty representative of the trend in Mexico right now.”
Speaking at a conference sponsored by Belotero, a subsidiary of German pharmaceutical conglomerate Merz that produces a variety of dermal fillers, López Gehrke went on to say that with products like Belotero’s new Lips Contour (which is used around the lips to reduce the appearance of fine perioral lines) and Lips Shape (which is used to augment lips), it is now easier than ever to define and enhance lips while maintaining a natural appearance.
She said that by combining the two Belotero products (now available in Mexico) to meet the specific concerns of volume and definition, physicians can now tailor the procedure for each patient.
“Full, well-defined lips are a signature element of youth and beauty, so it is only natural for women to want to accentuate and augment their lips,” López Gehrke said.
“Women – and men too – have been painting their lips to highlight their physical beauty since time immemorial. And modern dermal fillers can help address the signs of aging in this crucial area of the face.”
Almost all modern lip fillers are composed of hyaluronic acid (HA, for short), which occurs naturally throughout your body – mainly in joints, eyes and skin — where it helps to promote the production of fibroblasts, the cells that make collagen, in the dermis, the second layer of skin.
Because it can absorb up to 1,000 times its weight in water, HA is the most important molecule involved in keeping skin hydrated and plump.
Inside the skin, the vicious, jellylike HA acts like a liquid sponge to hold moisture and keep skin looking full and dewy.
But like most good things in the body, our ability to produce natural HA declines as we age, which leads to our skin (and lips) becoming thinner and less resilient.
That waning of HA production also ushers in the first signs of aging, such as fine lines and sagging.
Although some topical HA treatments to help boost the external appearance of skin do exist on the market, HA molecules are just too big to penetrate through the skin cells, so their effect is limited.
Injectables, such as the Belotero line and other medical brands like Restylane and Juvaderm, get around that problem by being inserted under the epidermis with a syringe.
“In the fight against aging, hyaluronic acid fillers are one of the best and safest options patients have today,” said plastic surgeon Jorge A. Porter Robles, who also attended the Belotero conference.
“We are also seeing a lot of younger women and men who want to redefine their lips through dermal augmentation procedures.”
Lip augmentation can typically be done in a single visit, Porter Robles said, starting with an assessment to see what the patient wants, with input from the doctor on whether it will look natural.
The lower lip should generally be twice as large as the upper lip, although those dynamics can vary from patient to patient.
Because the lips and mouth area has a lot of nerve endings, the procedure can be painful, but your doctor will normally apply a topical anesthetic (Lidocaine) before the injection process begins and products like Belotero have built-in anesthetics.
In most cases, the pain in very transitory and the visual results of the dermal fillers are immediate.
Once the procedure is over, a patient will sit in the office for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure that they do not have any negative reaction, and then they can leave and return to their normal activities.
There can be some minor secondary effects such as swelling, soreness and bruising, varying from patient to patient, and while dermal fillers are relatively safe, like all medical procedures, there are some risks involved, including bleeding and infections.
“It is important that these procedures only be conducted by a certified medical specialist, preferably a plastic surgeon or dermatologist,” Porter Robles warned.
Overall, the procedure can cost anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 pesos, depending on the physician and how much filler is used.
Results typically last from eight months to a year.