Welcome to the age of the ‘lip job’, where plumping your pout with fillers is potentially as mainstream as teeth whitening. But how did we get here? Joely Walker investigates
Whatever you think about lip fillers, this might change your mind
Some trends enter the beauty zeitgeist overnight, infiltrating our social media feeds for a short while before returning to oblivion. Then there are the mainstays – those that slice through the buzz and carve out their place as a decade-defining beauty movement. Think Nineties over-plucked brows, Noughties D-cup boob jobs and, now, our fixation with lip fillers.
But you knew that already. You’re living in the age of the ‘lip job’, with the number of Google searches for lip fillers in the UK 10 times higher than the figure from 2012 and lip augmentation proving the most popular nonsurgical cosmetic treatment of 2016, according to whatclinic.com.
But how did fillers move on from their ‘trout pout’ reputation to the modern working woman’s ‘tweakment’ of choice? These days, it seems plumping one’s lips with a syringe full of filler is as routine as teeth whitening and as easy to fit into your lunch break as a shellac manicure. Scroll through Instagram and you’d be forgiven for thinking that our obsession with pouting perfection is a recent phenomenon. In fact, it supersedes the millennial era, with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ 2016 report highlighting an increase of 50% in lip augmentations for 18 to 55-plus-year-olds between 2000 to 2016.
Angelina Jolie certainly piqued our interest (and envy) for the naturally plump lip in 1999 with the release of Girl, Interrupted, but it was 16 years later that one 17-year-old reality-TV star cemented the world’s burgeoning obsession with augmentation. In May 2015, a preview episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians aired, in which
Khloé Kardashian asked her youngest sister, Kylie Jenner (aged 17 at the time), about her enhanced lips. As a result, Google searches for lip fillers peaked globally, and one London clinic reported a 70% rise in enquiries over the next 24 hours.
Jenner had previously sworn her lips were simply a make-up trick. But why? ‘I’m just not ready to talk to reporters about my lips yet,’ she said. ‘People are so quick to judge me on everything.’ She makes a valid point: our social media culture and the anonymity it offers means we’re unashamedly quick to judge, call out or comment if someone – particularly another woman – has had ‘work done’. Indeed, in this instance we did, but what was arguably more interesting was the admiration of those wishing to emulate the look; admiration that helped Jenner build an empire – she launched her debut line of Lip Kits that same August, which sold out and subsequently sparked a thousand imitations. No longer fazed by the judgement, Jenner’s venture into cosmetics helped make her the youngest ever person to feature on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list.
Leading cosmetic doctor (and go-to for the beauty industry) Dr Frances Prenna Jones noticed a surge in demand for lip fillers in her clinic around a similar time, with a steady rise ever since. ‘Women of all ages enter my clinic for cosmetic lip treatments; half want a “natural” aesthetic, while the other half still ask for a “Kylie Jenner” look.’ Does she find this surprising, considering her clientele is made up of such a broad range of working women? ‘I’m continually blown away by the sheer volume of women asking for this; Kylie Jenner’s influence is undeniable.’
Sadly, the quest for lip perfection isn’t always so straightforward, with lack of regulation leaving women at risk of botch jobs. ‘These treatments are now very straightforward, and dangerous side effects are extremely rare,’ Dr Prenna Jones explains, ‘but should an issue such as anaphylaxis, occlusion of blood vessels, allergic reactions or extreme swelling occur, I personally don’t believe anyone other than a doctor, who is governed by strict rules and regulations, would be best suited to dealing with and rectifying such issues.’ Save spas and beauty salons for facials – never (ever, ever) fillers – and choose your doctor wisely. The one question Dr Prenna Jones recommends asking your practitioner? ‘How many times have you done this before?’
The good news: where there’s demand, there’s supply. Cue a wave of innovative products and treatments appearing in clinics over the past year. One such treatment is the Lip Smoothie, spearheaded by medical doctor and specialist dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams of Eudelo London. It involves taking a small amount of the patient’s blood and placing it in a centrifuge extractor to produce a platelet-rich plasma (or PRP). Postdevelopment, it’s mixed with hyaluronic acid before being injected into lips. The result? Aside from instant fullness, it stimulates tissue regeneration by kicking your stem cells into gear, which prevents loss of plumpness down the line.
For those concerned with outline as much as size, Dr Tijion Esho of The ESHO Clinic has pioneered the Cupid’s Bow Lift, whereby micro threads are passed through the philtrum (the vertical groove in the middle area of the upper lip) for a ‘subtle, natural-looking resting pout’. If softness and improved texture are your end game, there’s Volbella – a dermal filler treatment by Dr Bernard Hayot, which can be injected superficially under the mucosa membrane to smooth out dehydrated-looking lips without plumping. More intriguing still, if injected into lips for fullness, it doubles up as a shine-booster due to its higher concentration of hyaluronic acid, which boosts hydration of the dermis (the deep living tissue beneath the skin’s
‘Our social media culture and the certain anonymity it offers means we’re unashamedly quick to judge’
Photograph by HARRI PECCINOTTI