We don't usually notice when it starts. We'll look at pictures of ourselves with pouty, full lips, and a giant bright smile. Then we'll look back at the mirror and realize that our lips have decreased in size significantly. They deflate. The cupid's bow falls, and they begin to droop. Sometimes wrinkles will form above the top lip, piercing through the lip line. Sometimes our lips will start to become asymmetrical, the upper lip larger than the lower one. Not everyone experiences this problem. But for many, thin lips are a characteristic sign that we are getting older.
What Are Thin Lips?
Thin lips are one of the most dreaded signs of aging. Everyone wants that plump aesthetic, the kind that makes us look like we're pouting. It's associated with sexuality and youth. There's a whole generation of kids who would whip out their phones every few seconds and take pictures of themselves thrusting their lips out, trying to make them look bigger. But as time goes by, we have to try harder and harder to make that look work, until we have to give up or risk making ourselves look silly. That's because the lips deflate and sag over time. There's no puffing them up, no pouting or hiding it.
Youthful lips hold water inside the skin due to a chemical known as hyaluronic acid. That's what makes them plump. The same can be said for a protein we hear a lot about in dermatology: collagen. This magic molecule holds the body together. It gives the skin strength and keeps it from sagging, and it gives the skin elasticity--or its ability to snap back and conform to its proper shape. When collagen fades, everything starts to sag, including the skin around the lips. It causes the lips to grow thinner, creating a sharp, often undesirable straight line as opposed to the healthy curves we're so used to.
What Causes Thin Lips?
Without certain nutrients, our skin has trouble holding itself up and retaining water. This causes the lips to sag and decrease in size. This problem is made worse by the drooping that comes on as a result of bone and fat loss throughout the facial region. There are a number of factors responsible for these issues.
When we are young, the body naturally nourishes the skin, replacing old hyaluronic acid and collagen cells. This helps the skin hold up and retain water longer. When we get older, our body's ability to heal itself wanes, meaning there's less collagen and hyaluronic acid to keep the lips plump and full.
When we purse our lips to take a puff from a cigarette, the muscles around the mouth crease. Over time, the skin itself falls into that crease, creating wrinkles that can cause the lips to look smaller. Toxins from the smoke also work to deplete collagen, making it harder for the body to replenish it.
Certain foods are known to damage collagen, which over time can make it harder for the body to produce it. This is especially the case with simple carbohydrates such as those found in crackers, cookies, baked goods, rice, breads, and pasta. Avoiding these foods may help reduce the chance of developing thin lips.
Some people are born with naturally thin lips. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people are also more likely to develop thin lips later in life. This is often due to specific genetic traits, which could lead to collagen depletion or the delayed turnover and renewal of hyaluronic acid.
Procedures That Remedy Thin Lips
Most people are aware that certain cosmetic procedures can plump the lips, making them seem fuller and youthful. What they don't realize is that many of these techniques have been used for decades on patients, and they aren't always visible. We often see their effects on a daily basis without recognizing them.
Lip LiftFind doctors who offer Lip Lift
A lip lift is a cosmetic surgical procedure that is meant to elevate the top lip, making it seem fuller and more prominent. This is accomplished by removing a small amount of skin between the base of the nose and the top of the lip, decreasing the space between the vermillion and the nose.
Lip ImplantsFind doctors who offer Lip Implants
Many patients prefer lip implants over lip lifts because they address the volume loss we often experience as a result of aging. It does increase the size of the lips, and unlike injections it does so permanently without creating that undesirable duck face effect that people tend to associate with lip surgery.
Fat transferFind doctors who offer Facial Fat Transfer
Fat transfer is a surgical procedure that involves suctioning out excess fat from one region of the body and injecting it into the lips. Patients often overlook this option, but it can be extraordinarily effective because it uses the body's own tissue, and it tends to create a more natural look.
Frequently Asked Questions
At what age do thin lips develop?
There is no specific age when thin lips develop. They can be a sign of aging, but they can also be a natural result of heredity and genetics. Usually, collagen depletion begins when a patient is in their 20s. Some surgeons say that for every year we age, we lose 1% of our body's collagen. This process can worsen depending on a patient's lifestyle, whether or not they smoke, and how much their skin is exposed to the sun. For this reason, many patients develop thin lips in their late 20s to mid-30s. But it can start when patients are still in their late teens.
Is lip augmentation better than a lip lift?
The choice of which procedure to undergo is between a patient and their provider. Both lip lifts and lip augmentation have their pros and cons. Generally, when a patient has developed thin lips due to a loss of volume, they tend to go with lip augmentation. It is known to have a plumping effect. There are several types of augmentation, including implants, injections, and fat grafting. Patients will have to go over the potential side effects and research each procedure. Lip lifts are reserved for patients whose lips have thinned due to sagging skin and wrinkles. They have no need to increase the size of their lips.
Are thin lips attractive?
Many people with thin lips worry that it is an unattractive characteristic. But the face's appeal isn't necessarily defined by one specific trait. There are many beautiful celebrities and models whose lips are thin, and nobody notices. Usually, their lips balance out the rest of their features. Sometimes it's better to have a natural look as opposed to the bloated, botched face that so many of us are familiar with. Thin lips can help to draw attention to other more flattering assets. They're not necessarily unattractive. They can enhance a broad smile, and they're often associated with a youthful, innocent look.
Do cosmetic procedures make the lips look bloated?
For years it was trendy to have giant lips, often protruding forward unnaturally. Patients would flock to med spas and clinics for injections and implants. They wanted to prove that they were willing to go to extreme lengths and that they could afford the finest care. It was a status symbol, the epitome of true beauty. Everyone wanted that perfect, pouty look. Now most of those women are regretting their choices. They overdid things intentionally--not because they had to, but because that was the style at the time. Botched lips are a preference not a natural result of cosmetic treatment. Most of the science surrounding lip treatments is based on avoiding that mistake.