I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
Has anyone ever asked you what your favorite body part is? I don't hang out with middle schoolers much these days, but back when I did, I remember answering that question with "my lips."
Not much has changed in the hot minute since I was tween. I continue to rank my lips highly, even though no one is asking. I've even come to embrace their quirks. For example, the corners of my father's mouth turn down when he smiles, and mine have started to, too; however, because of what I'm assuming is the gravitational pull of my mole, the right corner remains higher when I smile with my lips closed, leaving me with a crooked smirk that I actually think is kinda cute, if I do say so myself. (No "if," really — I do say so.)
I've thought about getting lip injections for a few years, not because I think there's anything wrong with my lips as they are, but because I do like a fuller look. The techniques and materials have come a long way (did y'all know people tried paraffin lip injections in the early 1900s?), and my friends who have done it have been really happy with the results and wish they'd last longer. I love my lips, so injections would essentially just give me more to love.
The only thing I don't like about my lips is that they tend to be intensely dry. I mean, is there anyone whose default lip-skin condition is hydrated? Lips don't have sebaceous glands like the rest of the skin on the face does, which means — good news — you'll probably never get a zit in the middle of your lips, but — bad news — no natural oils are coming through to keep your mouth entrance moisturized.
My lips lean chapped pretty much all year, but in the winter, they flake in big, gross chunks, leaving discolored areas and even splitting sometimes. This adds up to discomfort and crappy-looking lipstick application, which, as we all know, rank third and fourth on the list of the most traumatic life experiences, after divorce and before imprisonment.
So when I heard that Dr. Bruce Katz, a dermatologist here in NYC, had starting using injectables to not just plump lips but prevent chapping, my previously restrained interest in getting lip injections became straight-up eagerness.
According to JUVA Skin & Laser Center, where Dr. Katz is the director, they administer "a one-time treatment of hyaluronic acid" — specifically using Restylane Silk, a hyaluronic acid gel — "which stops dryness in its tracks. It takes advantage of the known properties of hyaluronic acid to attract moisture and hydrate tissue. An additional perk is that it can be applied to plump your lips as well."
Hyaluronic acid formulations are arguably the most popular way to enhance lips via injection these days, though, so when I got to Dr. Katz's office – did I really need to include the part where they sent me an email offering me the treatment and I pondered it for all of three seconds before typing back "YES PLEASE" in all caps while also shouting it out loud? — I asked him how his use of Restylane Silk makes it a solution for dryness.
"Hyaluronic acids all work very much the same: they absorb fluid into the tissues," Dr. Katz told me. "Restylane Silk is a finer form of hyaluronic acid — it's a finer molecule — so we can inject it more superficially in the lips. Then you get more hydration in the superficial area, and that counteracts the dry lips."
Science! Also, the treatment is called Aphrodite. I love a melodramatic name.
So the super-nice JUVA staff prepped me by taking a few "before" pictures and smearing a generous amount of numbing cream on my lips. If I'd taken a picture of myself at this point, the caption would've been "Do a dollop of Daisy." Picture it. Funny, right?
Anyway, after 15 minutes, the numbing cream was wiped off, and Dr. Katz had me recline so I was completely horizontal as he injected Restylane Silk in numerous spots along the wet-dry line (basically where the slimy part of the mouth stops and the visible part of the lips begins). It was at this point that I realized the numbing cream would be more accurately called this-is-still-going-to-hurt-a-lot cream. YOU HAD ONE JOB, NUMBING CREAM.
The first few pricks were definitely the worst, but even though my eyes were reflexively tearing, it stopped being jarring by the time he switched to the bottom lip.
"Have you taken any aspirin in the last 48 hours?" Dr. Katz asked at one point. I hadn't. "OK, well, you're bleeding a lot, so you might get some bruising."
If I could've shrugged at the time, I would've.
It couldn't have been more than 10 minutes before Dr. Katz was done and, after massaging my lips to ensure even dispersement (which is not as sensual as it sounds) he had me sit up and look at the results in the mirror.
The first thing I noticed — and loved — was that my lips looked more proportional. My bottom lip is naturally almost twice as full as my top lip, but Dr. Katz successfully aimed for the golden ratio of 1:1.6. My favorite instant effect of this fuller upper lip: my smile immediately exposed less gum.
What Dr. Katz was most eager for me to notice, though, is that the flakiness my lips had when I arrived was already alleviated.
My lips started to show bruising shortly after the injections, so I kept a cute little ice pack from JUVA on my mouth until it was no longer cold. That night, I used a matte lipstick to cover up the bruising, and I went to trivia with my boyfriend, where I drank two beers without any discomfort when I put the glass to my lips.
When I got back to my boyfriend's place and removed my lipstick, it became apparent that the bruising had gotten more... colorful. And I was definitely more swollen than I had been right after the treatment.
At this point, my lips were a little more tender, so I told The Boyf to kiss me as infrequently and dispassionately as possible until the swelling went down.
If you saw this post on xoJane about how I texted Jane that I was going to be working from home the day after I got the treatment, you know that the swelling didn't go down by morning and, in fact, got worse. But it wasn't nearly as painful as it looks — not even close. My lips are just histrionic.
It's been a couple weeks, and the swelling and bruising are all gone. My lips are very subtly fuller — for me, again, the most noticeable difference is the proportion — and I actually wish they were a bit more ample. (Picture me saying this in the accent of a small, British boy: Please, Dr. Katz, I want some more.) But for a first-timer like myself, the understated look is a good way to ease into this kind of semipermanent change.
And while I wouldn't describe the surface of my lips as perpetually moist, they have, in fact, experienced less flaking and chapping since the injections. That's pretty damn cool! The effect can reportedly last up to a year, which I'm planning to help along by sealing in moisture with Aquaphor on a nightly basis.
For those whose eyes light up with hope at the thought of a year of slightly fuller, less-chapped lips, let it be known that, like any medical cosmetic treatment, this is not inexpensive. It's gonna cost you about one month of San Antonio one-bedroom rent. But if you break it down into a monthly cost, assuming it does last the full year, it ends up being less than you pay each month for things like internet, a gym membership, three or four Seamless orders, etc.
Ultimately, if you're serious about having somewhat poutier lips that are much more receptive to things like matte lipstick due to not being a tiny wasteland of crusty dead skin, Aphrodite (I love just typing that) could be a worthwhile investment for you.
- Have you considered getting lip injections?
- Would an extra perk like less-dry lips for a year make it a no-brainer for you like it did for me?
- What nonsurgical cosmetic procedure are you most interested in trying?