What is a Lip lift?
A Lip lift generally refers to an ‘Upper lip lift’ and is a surgical procedure that elevates the position of the upper lip to create a more youthful and relaxed smile. However, there are two types of Lip lifts: Upper lip lift and a Corner lip lift.
- Upper lip lift – shortens the skin distance that is between the upper lip and the base of the nose. This increases the amount of ‘pink lip’ that is seen, exposes the teeth more, and gives you fuller, more youthful looking lips.
- Corner lip lift – involves only the edges of your mouth and is designed for the patient who feels as though they have a permanent frown.
If you get ‘duck lips’ after getting injectable fillers in the lips, the Upper lip lift may be for you. If your top lip rests on top of the bottom lip, the filler has no place to go but outwards, thus creating the duck lips. While there are various techniques for the Lip lift, my technique involves only the skin. I do not believe that the muscles near the mouth should be tapered with, as it can introduce too much risk.
With my technique there are no sutures to remove, so out of town patients only need to stay in Baltimore a total of two nights.
What problems does a Lip lift address?
My upper lip covers my teeth too much and I want my upper lip to look fuller
a New York patient
Candidates for the procedure include patients with these symptoms:
Upper lip lift
- teeth do not show when smiling
- long space (greater than 1.5 cm) between the nose and the upper lip
- thin flat lips
- lip fillers result in duck lips because the upper lip does not have room to expand vertically
Corner lip lift
- permanent frown
- corner of mouth is turned down
Who benefits most from an Upper lip lift?
Patients of all ages can benefit from the Upper Lip Lift procedure. Some of us are born with a long space above the upper lip while other people acquire this look with age. No matter what your age, this procedure is designed to shorten the space above the upper lip. Even patients in their twenties undergo this procedure with fantastic results. If your lips are not as full as you would like and you have a long space above your lip, you will likely benefit from this procedure.
In addition, patients who experience the phenomenon known as 'duck lips' after filler injections, will see a vast improvement with a Lip lift procedure. After a Lip lift procedure, lip fillers should no longer result in duck lips.
How much space is considered to be 'too long'?
The ideal length of the space between your nose and the vermilion border of the upper lip varies with gender. For females, this length usually ranges from 1.0 - 1.2 cm. Males typically have a longer space averaging 1.3 cm - 1.5 cm. The amount of space longer than that measurement is considered to be the excess part.
As we age, all the bones of the body (including the face) retract and diminish allowing the flesh of the face to hang more. The soft tissue and fat of the face undergo atrophy so the skin itself also falls. The aged upper lip is characterized by a thin or non-existent vermilion (the pink lip part) and a resting smile that does not show teeth. An ideal, youthful lip is often full and slightly pouting. The pink part of the lip should ideally be 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of the 'mustache' area in general.
Instead of a Lip lift, can lips be lifted with fillers?
The most common question I get is if lips can be lifted with fillers. Patients often ask, "Can Juvederm or Restylane lift my lips instead of surgery?" The answer is yes, but only sometimes. If the space above your upper lift is too long and you inject fillers, the filler will push the lip out instead of up. This will result in 'duck lips'. Patients who experience duck lips are usually candidates for the Upper lip lift. Once the lip is lifted to its proper position, it can later be augmented with fillers.
Therefore, fillers are great for augmenting the lip, but they will not lift the lip in the same capacity as a lip lift. In fact, the use of fillers can sometimes exaggerate a long upper lip and give the appearance of duck lips!
The elongated space between the nose and the top of the lip can only be shortened with the Lip Lift procedure. It really is the only way to get a permanent lifting of the lips. Additionally the Upper Lip Lift produces a more youthful shape to the lips. See me discuss the Lip lift in greater detail in my Lip augmentation, Duck lips, and Lip lifts blog post.
To better understand why some women seem to get duck lips as a result of Lip augmentation, watch my YouTube video. Beautiful lips are identified by a nice cupid's bow and having the right amount of space between your upper lip and your nose. Find out whether you need a Lip augmentation or a Lip lift by watching this video.
How is a Lip lift performed?
Lip lift procedures are performed in the office under local anesthesia. IV anesthesia is not required as the procedure is well tolerated by only numbing the area.
How the Upper lip lift is performed
I perform the Upper lip lift by excising only skin at the base of the nose. I do not cut muscles or nerves, as I believe that these facial elements should remain in their natural state.
An incision is placed directly beneath the nose and a small strip of skin and tissue is removed. The lip is elevated to its new position exposing about 1/8" of teeth and permanently increasing the volume of the pink part of the lip. The procedure takes about ninety minutes.
The result of the Lip lift is a more youthful and pleasant shape to the mouth and lips. The teeth will show more and the patient almost always looks happier and relaxed.
Pre-op Lip lift surgical markings
To learn more about how I perform the pre-op Lip lift markings please see my blog post with a short video clip here.
How much skin is removed in the Upper lip lift procedure?
The amount of skin removed varies with gender and is customized for each patient. The distance between the nose and the top of the vermilion border of the upper lip is measured prior to the surgery. For females, I usually remove the amount greater than 1.2 cm and for males I typically remove the amount of skin greater than 1.5 cm.
For example, if the measured distance from bottom of nose to top lip vermilion is 2.0 cm, and your ideal length is 1.5 cm, I will remove 5 mm of skin (2.0 cm - 1.5 cm = .5 cm = 5 mm).
As mentioned above, I remove only skin in order to lift your Upper Lip. I do not cut muscles or nerves, as I do not believe in upsetting the integrity of the nerves or muscles and cutting either introduces an added dimension of complexity and risk, which is absolutely unnecessary to achieving fuller, more youthful lips! You can read more about my skin only technique in my blog.
I use a combination of fast absorbing and permanent sutures.
I have been performing the skin only technique for over 20 years and I have been very happy with my patient's results. Even more importantly, my patients are very happy with their results.
How the Corner lip lift is performed
The Corner lip lift can be performed as a solo procedure, or in combination with the Upper lip lift procedure.
This Corner lip lift diagram illustrates the "Wedge Excision" used during the procedure. The edges of each corner of the mouth are lifted slightly with dissolvable sutures. This surgical procedure is also sometimes referred to as "smile surgery" and while it differs quite a bit from the Upper lip lift, it has a few similarities.
Like the Upper lip lift procedure, I only lift skin and do not touch nerves. Both procedures are also very subtle movements that, when done correctly, do not affect your ability to show a range of facial expressions.
The specific steps involved are:
- excise a small wedge of skin at the corner of the mouth to show more mucosa
- release of the DAO muscle
Generally speaking, your surgeon should be careful not to extend the excised wedge laterally or this will result in a Joker smile! I am very careful to ensure that this does not happen. To learn more about this procedure please read my blog post on Smile surgery.
What are the preoperative requirements?
Following your consultation, we'll schedule a time for your procedure. No pre-op testing is required for either the Upper lip lift or the Corner lip lift, as the procedures are typically performed with local anesthesia. However, ideally, you should refrain from smoking and taking aspirin for 2 weeks prior to the procedure. The Informed Consent document should be discussed between you and your surgeon, so that you understand any increased risk, especially for scarring.
Prior to starting the procedure, we discuss the amount of tissue to be removed in order to lift your lip to the most youthful state. Based on your input, I make the surgical markings above your upper lip. There are no surprises since it is all discussed in front a mirror together. Prior to starting the surgery you will know exactly what amount of skin will be removed for either procedure.
What is Lip lift Post-Op recovery like?
As soon as your Lip lift procedure is over you will be able to leave the office and go home to recover.
For either type of Lip lift, soft foods should be eaten for the first few days. You may return to work 3 - 4 days after surgery, but you will still be swollen and your mouth will still feel tight for the first few weeks. The sutures that I use are dissolvable, so you do not have to return to the office to have them removed. If you have traveled from out of state, my requirement is to stay in Baltimore the night of your surgery. Swelling will go down dramatically within 1 - 2 weeks. By the end of one month, the majority of all swelling will be gone. At four months post op, all swelling should be settled and the position of the lips is your final result.
During the first two weeks post op, you will likely experience redness near the incision location. If redness exists beyond two weeks, patients are asked to apply a small amount of over the counter steroid cream. The scar incision under the nose will eventually fade with time. Dr. Rodriguez has performed hundreds of Lip lifts and in all the cases, the redness of the scar will subside!
What are the risks and possible complications?
While the lip lift is generally well-tolerated with good results, there are possible risks and complications you should be aware of including, but not limited to:
- uneven or asymmetrical lips following healing
- undesirable scarring
- keloid in rare circumstances (especially for those with history of keloids)
- scar revision surgery
How much does a Lip lift cost?
The total cost for a Lip lift varies, depending on the type of Lip lift and surgical specifics. The most common type of Lip Lift is the Upper Lip Lift and the cost is $3200. Cost for all types of Lip lift surgery performed under local anesthesia in 2023 are as follows:
|Type of Lip lift||2023 Price|
|Upper lip lift||$3,200|
|Corner lip lift||$2,800|
|Upper lip lift with Corner lip lift||$4,950|
Can I finance my Lip lift?
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Board Certified Plastic Surgery, ASPS Member
Patients depicted in our before and after galleries have provided their written consent to display their photos online. Every patient is unique, and surgical results may vary. Please contact us if you have any questions.