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Lip augmentation procedures create plumper, fuller lips. They also reduce fine wrinkles around the mouth.
Three primary techniques are used to add volume to and reduce wrinkles surrounding lips: injections, implants and local flap grafts.
Injections are generally office-based procedures where a natural or synthetic substance is injected into the lips. Some of the substances only add volume to the lips while others stimulate natural collagen growth. A wide variety of alternatives are used, each with its advantages and disadvantages. For more information about specific products, see Injections in the Skin Rejuvenation section of this Web site.
Artecoll®. The first filler used for skin rejuvenation, Artecoll® is made up of tiny synthetic beads floating in collagen. Once it is injected, the collagen is absorbed and the synthetic beads stimulate the body to produce more of its own collagen. This makes Artecoll® one of the relatively longer lasting injectables. However, because it is synthetic, it may cause the body to reject it through an allergic reaction.
Autologen. This is collagen extracted from elsewhere on the patient's body and injected into the lips. Because it is from the body, there is no chance of causing an allergic reaction. At the same time, however, Autologen tends to be absorbed by the body over time, making it a more temporary solution.
Bovine Collagen. This collagen injectable derives from cows and has a lower likelihood of rejection. It generally lasts between 1 and 3 months and is considered a good temporary technique to use to determine if the patient desires a more permanent solution.
Fat. Another common technique for creating fuller lips is to insert the patient's own fat from other parts of the body (most commonly, the abdomen or buttocks) into the lips. There is the risk that the fat may settle unevenly.
Hyaluronic Acid. A number of products create an injectable substance made from hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring chemical in the body. These products are not rejected by the body. They vary in longevity and generally last between 3 and 6 months.
Injections are non-surgical. They are done in a physician's office using only a topical anesthetic. A single injection can be completed in minutes. Patients can return immediately to normal activity with some short-term after effects, such as slight swelling.
Implants insert more solid material into the lips, either synthetic or derived from human tissue. This is a surgical procedure in which incisions are made either in the mouth or on the outer borders of the lips. A common risk of using implants is that they may harden, which then requires removal and/or replacement. Commonly used implant materials include:
Human Tissue Matrix products use pieces of human tissue with collagen taken from deceased humans for insertion into each lip. Although longer lasting than most injectables, the results are temporary because the collagen is absorbed into the body over time.
Fascia is made up of white connective tissue, often taken from the human scalp of patients or deceased humans. It can be inserted either through injections or as an implant and lasts about 1 year.
Synthetic materials are generally constructed in single sheets that are inserted into each lip. As with other synthetic products, there is the possibility of the body rejecting the implant. However, newer synthetic materials are proving to achieve high acceptance rates from patients. Synthetic implants are relatively permanent and are capable of creating good volume and a soft look. Nevertheless, there is the risk that the implant may move, requiring follow-up surgery.
This surgical procedure is generally conducted on an outpatient basis in a physician's office. A light local anesthetic is used. The procedure takes about 1 hour. Patients may experience some swelling and bruising, which will dissipate in a few weeks. Patients generally return to work in a matter of days with a full recovery in about 1 to 2 weeks.
Local flap grafting is a surgical procedure in which skin and tissue is moved from the patient's mouth into the lips. It is a more invasive procedure than injections or implants, but also a more permanent solution. Local flap grafting is generally conducted on an outpatient basis using a local anesthetic with sedation. The procedure takes between 1 and 2 hours. Swelling and bruising are normal after the surgery and will dissipate in a few weeks. Patients return to normal activity in about 2 weeks.