Notice your lips getting smaller and smaller with every birthday? You’re not alone. Thinning lips is one of the most common signs of getting older. And if you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered how you can restore the volume in your thin lips with the least cost and hassle. So we did the research for you and found the best solutions.
What causes lips to thin?
As we age, our bodies’ production of collagen and elastin decreases, and this “loss of structural support and moisture contributes to the thinning of our lips,” explains Alexis Parcells, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of SUNNIE Skincare. This can be further compounded by the drop in estrogen that happens with menopause, which affects fat distribution and the skin’s thickness and elasticity.
Also, since lips lack oil glands, to begin with, any sort of dehydration causes them to shrink and look even smaller, especially when they’re forced to stretch when you smile. Smoking can also play a part in the thinning of lips because nicotine decreases oxygen and blood flow to the lips, starving them of nutrients. This even has a name: smoker’s lips.
Why it makes sense to want thicker lips
A study in the journal Scientific Reports found that people with thicker lips were viewed as more attractive, and there has been a 1000% increase in lip fillers since the turn of the century — proving that people just seem to prefer a plump pout. Plus, fuller lips are a sign of youth and attract attention to the center of your face, making your face appear slimmer overall.
Plus, several other things can happen when our lips start to lose their youthful luster. “Women with thin lips often complain of difficulty placing lipstick and lip liner because the lines that define our lips start to blur and bleed into creases, leading to decreased definition of the lip shape, lip asymmetry and a decrease in moisture, contributing to a less youthful and confident appearance,” says Dr. Parcells.
If you’re already prone to more narrow lips, watching them diminish right before your eyes can be alarming. But turn that frown upside down; We’re here to show you how you can plump up that pout in seconds, no needle required!
How to plump thin lips for pennies
1. Spike your lip gloss with a swipe of peppermint
Social media creators cleverly add a few drops of food grade peppermint oil into their favorite lip gloss before swiping the concoction onto their lips. The menthol in the oil provides a tingling sensation when applied topically, which increases blood flow to the lips, causing a temporary swelling effect.
Plus, the oil is rich in vitamins A & C, which work together to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, the skin-firming proteins that decline as we age. (Click through to learn how peppermint oil can boost focus and ease pain.)
Here, Anthony Youn, MD, FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon also known as “America’s Holistic Plastic Surgeon” shows the easy how to:
2. Layer lip colors to create depth and instant volume
Makeup artists say sweeping on a single matte lip color can make lips look even more deflated, especially reds, which tend to spotlight dryness and settle quickly into lip lines. Instead, use two lip colors in the same color family: one lighter and one darker (opt for a cream-based formula that contains hydrating and repairing vitamin E). This monochromatic effect gives lips more dimension for the illusion of fuller lips.
To do: Use a lip brush to outline lips with the darker color (you can also overdraw above your natural lip line if you feel comfortable doing so) and then fill in the rest of the lips with the lighter hue. Be sure to blend well. (Click through to see the best lipsticks for older women.)
3. Swipe on Aquaphor to add back moisture
Aquaphor (Buy from Ulta, $11.99) is suitable for everything from minor cuts and burns to dry skin, including lips. Drew Barrymore is a devotee of the multi-use ointment, which contains glycerin, a humectant that draws moisture from the air and into the skin. This hydrates dry lips so they look instantly fuller. You can slather this on many times daily for a more moisturized, youthful-looking mouth. (Click through for secrets to using Aquaphor to thicken eyelashes.)
4. Sprinkle on spices to give lips volume-infusing heat
Cinnamon and cayenne pepper are two common spices that increase blood flow while boosting collagen and elastin production. You can mix the two together with some coconut oil (its fatty acids penetrate the skin to lock in volumizing moisture) for a nourishing and plumping homemade balm. (Click through for more Saigon cinnamon benefits.)
To do: Mix 1 tbsp of coconut oil with two tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of cayenne pepper. Apply a pea-sized amount to lips, rub and rinse after two minutes. Be sure not to try more than twice a week, as the spices can cause irritation if overused.
5. Brush away flakiness for a more supple look
Add a drop of honey to a toothbrush to reap all the benefits of this natural emollient. Rub the toothbrush across the lips in a circular motion to whisk away the dry, flaky skin while the honey locks in moisture, healing and protecting chapped lips. Wipe with a wet washcloth when done. Afterward, lips will look naturally rosy, so all you need is a swipe of balm, and you’re good to go!
6. Apply suction for a temporarily plumped-up pout
Social media has been abuzz with various tools that use a suction-like effect to increase blood flow to lips for a more pillowy pout. But is it painful… and safe? Suction can cause swelling, bruising and even permanent scarring because it’s a forced action that makes blood appear in a place where it’s not required. Maybe we’ll leave this one to the TikTokers…
7. Work out facial muscles to pump up the volume
Exercising the muscles around your mouth can help your pout appear plumper and smoother.
This YouTube video from face yoga expert, Danielle Collins shows 5 ways to do it:
8. Overdraw lips to fake fullness
You can use a pencil or a lip liner in a shade that matches the natural color of your lips and “overdraw” the lip line, or you can have it done permanently using a variety of permanent makeup techniques. One involves essentially tattooing on a new lip border, while the other, known as lip blushing, deposits lost pigment back into the lips using a tiny blade to make cuts into the skin. (Click through to learn more about permanent eyeliner.)
In-office options to plump thin lips
While we generally avoid going under the knife, Dr. Parcells explains there are four options to enhance your pout permanently that you may want to consider:
1. Lip Lift
This involves injecting Botox to strategically relax the orbicular oris muscles around your lips, increasing and enhancing the lip appearance. This quick in-office procedure has minimal downtime and natural-looking results.
- Risks: Asymmetries, effects may only last 4-6 weeks, difficulty using straws
- Cost: $200-600 on average, depending on the botox cost per unit
2. Dermal Fillers
Celebrities are fans of injectable fillers containing hyaluronic acid, which can add volume, definition and hydration to the lips lasting 6-12 months
- Risks: Bruising and swelling, asymmetry, nodules/bumps from uneven distribution of the filler
- Cost: $500-$2,000 on average
3. Fat Transfer
This is a surgical and permanent solution to add volume to the lips and is specifically geared toward women who do not want to have repeated dermal filler placed.
- Risks: Bruising and swelling, asymmetry, nodules/bumps from uneven distribution of the filler, anesthesia risk
- Cost: $1500-$3500 on average
4. Bullhorn lip lift
Also known as a subnasal lip lift or upper lip lift, it is a surgical procedure designed to shorten the distance between the upper lip and the base of the nose. This procedure can help enhance the appearance of the upper lip by exposing more of the vermilion (the pinkish-red part of the lip) and improving lip proportions.
- Risks: Bruising and swelling, asymmetry, visible scarring, numbness or altered sensation, change in nose shape, anesthesia risk
- Cost: $2,000-$4,000
For more ways to enhance your lips, click through these stories: