Having a full pout has long been a #beautygoal, and before filler became mainstream people tried all kinds of tricks to reach said goals. Over the decades we’ve seen some interesting overlining (think Pam Anderson in the ‘90s), all kinds of DIY hacks (toothpaste, honey, and cayenne, anyone?) and let’s not forget the “Kylie lip challenge” a la 2015 that should never, ever be repeated again.
Throughout it all, beauty brands have concocted their own versions of lip plumping products, some with genuinely noticeable results. Curious about how these products are formulated, how they work, and whether they’re ultimately worth the cash? We enlisted a pro.
Lip Plumping Products: How Do They Work?!
There are two primary things you need to know about lip plumping products. The first is that the results are temporary. You’ll see a few hours of extra oomph, tops, so it’s important to temper expectations. The second thing to know is that most plumping products work by purposefully causing mild irritation. Nothing out of hand, but if you have super sensitive skin, then the tingling may be an unpleasant feeling.
“If you have ever eaten very spicy [or even minty] food that caused your lips to swell temporarily, you know the feeling,” says Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a board-certified Dermatopathologist practicing in the Boston area. “Most plumping glosses use similar ingredients. When applied to your lips, the irritation causes blood to rush to the surface of the skin, which results in a mild and temporary plumping of the lips due to transient swelling.”
Some of the most common ingredients found in lip plumping products are:
Cinnamon, peppermint, menthol, camphor, and caffeine: Dr. Frieling says that the majority of lip plumpers incorporate one or several of these ingredients to effectively irritate the lips. “After coming into contact with an irritant, the lips redden and swell as the body sends extra blood to the area to try to protect it from harm. The enhanced blood flow in the lip area, prompted by the irritation, is what makes lips appear fuller,” she explains.
Capsicum pepper: This is less common, and more of an old-school ingredient, but some brands still incorporate it into their formulations. “These peppers create a natural warming effect that temporarily rushes blood to the surface of lips. The typical feeling is the same as you’d get just after eating a dozen hot tamales,” says Dr. Frieling.
Honey: This is the gentlest natural lip plumper. Honey works as a humectant, which means it attracts moisture to the surface of your lips to hydrate, smooth, and create the appearance of more volume.
“The worst news for fans of these products,” says Dr. Frieling, “is that just as our bodies can develop tolerance to alcohol or medication, our lips can develop a tolerance to the irritating effects, and it can take more product and more frequent application to gain the same plumping effect.”
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Today we also have a newer generation of products that utilize hyaluronic acid, which is an exception to the above rule. Using this type of lip plumper is essentially the same as applying a highly moisturizing product to your skin – it plumps the area up temporarily. You’ll probably see a slight improvement in volume, but it’s not going to be a crazy difference. Still, nothing to snub.
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How Do Lip Plumpers Compare to Lip Filler?
Lip filler and topical lip plumping products vary in two ways: longevity and results. The truth is that lip plumpers are so subtle that even you might not notice them. Further, they’re only going to last for a few hours tops.
“At this point in time, there is no better semi-permanent solution than in-office lip fillers performed by a qualified and licensed physician, which have the potential to last up to six months or more. If you are not happy with the size, shape or symmetry of your lips, they can help,” says Dr. Frieling. “For those who don’t want the expense, commitment, or are afraid of needles, topical lip plumpers can serve their purpose for a date night or a special event.”
The Best Lip Plumpers on the Market RN
The most effective lip plumpers will give you a few hours of extra fullness. Check out the curated list of the best options below.
Glossier brings together a superhero trip of hyaluronic acid, squalane, and avocado oil to plump the delicate, thin skin around your lips and eyes. It’s lightweight and really works.
This vegan collagen lip treatment starts working within five to 10 minutes after application, and with consistent use, it can give you longer-lasting results. Protip: after letting the product soak into your lips, follow up with your favorite balm, gloss, or lipstick to lock the plump in.
This collagen-infused, hyaluronic-acid based lip plumper comes in 13 shades and is recommended by Dr. Frieling. The tingling sensation kicks in within five minutes, as do the results.
We like the dual approach to lip plumping that this Dr. Brandt product has. One side is a “plumping primer” formulated with oils and hyaluronic acid; the other side is a “nourishing lip conditioner” that moisturizes and diminishes fine lines.
What are your fave lip plumping products? Let us know in the comments below.