The term lip flip has become synonymous with 2021’s wave of cosmetic procedures designed to achieve an of-the-moment mouth. What does it all mean? After injections of Botox (aka botulinum toxin type A) or similar med-grade alternatives, lip muscles can relax and give the effect of a fuller pout. It’s experiencing a surge in popularity and searches today, making it a subject of respectful examination. But before booking an appointment, let’s demystify the craze.

Understanding Lip Flips, Lifts, and Fillers

What is a lip flip compared to a lip lift or lip injection? A lip lift is surgical; it’s a procedure shortening the space between the mouth and the top of the nose. A lip injection is when dermal fillers like Restylane, Volbella, and Juvederm (and on and on) are injected into lips for volume. Alternatively a lip flip concerns the muscles around the mouth itself: “The so-called ‘lip flip’ is created by injecting the toxin at four points to the upper lip and typically two points to the lower lip,” explains Ava Shamban, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles. This relaxes “the orbicularis oris, a circular muscle that surrounds the mouth,” says Shamban. “The downside is it certainly will impact drinking through a straw (or pursing the lips!), and because the dose must be small, it wears off pretty quickly,” she warns. “If done improperly, it can interfere with a patient’s smile and even speech.”

Fillers can create a similar level of volume with longer-lasting results, though many are rethinking the injectable trend altogether. “Needle-free lip plumping is absolutely possible,” says celebrity facialist Candace Marino, whose client roster includes Dove Cameron, Grimes, and Miranda Kerr. Over the past year, the Los Angeles–based pro has decided to go “filler free,” so the topic is relevant to Marino’s personal quest for a natural alternative. “I actually dissolved my lip filler and have done the legwork to find out what works to keep lips plump and youthful,” she says.

Why the Needle-Free Revolution Is Worth Considering

First, perhaps it’s worth considering topical, at-home options to create that illusion of a more voluminous surface. Marino likes a massage as an initial, zero-dollar step. “Stimulating the lips by pinching and slapping is a free and easy way to instantly create circulation and make the lips plump up on their own—and also improve their color.” Next? Face rollers, exfoliators, masks, balms, and topical treatments can work their own kind of magic. And then there’s wardrobe. For “a pain-free hack to this trend, you need to understand how to manipulate the shape of your lips,” says Manhattan-based makeup artist Daniel Martin, who works with Meghan Markle, Gemma Chan, and Kaley Cuoco. “This understanding is what creates ‘the flip’ rather than just exaggerating the lip line,” he adds, before offering a few of his essentials (below) for the illusion.

“When products don’t deliver the look patients seek, that’s where I come in,” says New York–based facial plastic surgeon Yael Halaas, M.D., F.A.C.S. Furthermore, Julius Few, M.D., who started the lip flip movement while presenting the concept at 2017’s Aesthetic Society meeting during the Non Surgical Symposia, notes that in-office procedures could be seen as a final step. The Chicago-based plastic surgeon has been publicly praised by clients like Gwyneth Paltrow and recommends skin care as a daily treatment for areas around the mouth. “The upper lip is dynamic and easily wrinkles over time. Hydrating face oil with vitamin C is a secret weapon for our patients wanting to hold off from in-office care,” he says, pointing out that it has the potential to “reduce visibility of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Here, experts—from celebrity makeup artists to top-level dermatologists—share their favorite products to achieve the needle-free lip flip—plus the best-sellers that should be on your radar.


Tatcha Limited-Edition Kissu Lip Mask

“This jelly treatment not only gives you a beautiful plump pout, but it’s an extremely moisturizing overnight treatment,” says Martin. He prefers its limited-edition tint since “the new hint of red camelia adds depth as well to any lip tone without looking bright.”



Augustinus Bader The Lip Balm


Celebrity-vetted, everyday lip care. “Augustinus Bader The Lip Balm goes everywhere with me to replenish the lips throughout the day—keeping the lips moist will make them appear fuller,” says Marino. “It’s unisex and has no color and no shine—and provides lip-soothing and texture-improving moisture.”


Tom Ford Limited-Edition Sunlit Rosy Lip Balm


“To find the light on the lips, swipe on an emollient lip balm to see where the ‘shine’ hits—usually this would be the peaks of your cupid’s bow and the fuller part of your bottom lip,” says Martin. Tom Ford’s Sunlit Rosy Lip Balm offers a sheer swipe of moisture with a visible gleam.


Victoria Beckham Beauty Lip Definer


“After you’ve identified the light, you’re going to take a lip liner and you’re literally going to shape and stencil around the ‘highlight’ on the lips,” says Martin, who recommends Victoria Beckham Beauty. “It’s always good to start with a color that’s deeper than your natural lip color to exaggerate the flip more naturally—this pencil works on a lot of lip tones and is a matte neutral brown-pink.”


Winky Lux Pucker Up Lip Plumper


“Capsicum (from chili peppers) is a common ingredient that volumizes and plumps the lips,” says New Jersey–based plastic surgeon Smita Ramanadham, M.D. It can be found in cult-favorite brand Winky Lux Lip Plumper, and Ramanadham points out that capsicum has the power to “increase blood flow, which then causes the lips to swell and become plump.”


La Roche-Posay Nutritic Lip Balm for Very Dry Lips


For a drugstore option “chock-full of ceramides and lipids,” Shamban suggests La Roche-Posay’s Nutritic Lip Balm. “It will help to retain moisture, sealing and maintaining a healthy skin barrier for the lip tissue—the hero is ceramide 3, which is most closely related to the lipids naturally found in our tissue.”


Milk Makeup Electric Glossy Lip Plumper


For “a temporary plumping effect,” Ramanadham recommends lip plumpers with certain key ingredients. She mentions chili pepper extract, though Milk Makeup’s Electric Glossy Plumper levels it up with a Szechuan pepper–infused formula made with clean energy. Plus the company’s consumer-perception survey shows 96% of people said that when used twice a day for 30 days, lips looked plumper—with increased volume.


Ilia Lip Wrap Treatment Mask + Kinship Supermelt Vegan Lip Jelly Mask


To nurture a healthy environment for your natural lips while you sleep, “slather on a thicker lip treatment,” says makeup artist Katey Denno, who travels coast to coast to prep clients including Beanie Feldstein and Zooey Deschanel. For clean options from Credo, “I like the Ilia and Kinship masks,” adds Denno.


Dior Addict Lip Maximizer Plumping Gloss


“My favorite products are lip-plumping glosses, which can augment the lips temporarily and add shine, hydration, and a beautiful natural tint,” says Ramanadham, who personally gravitates toward Dior’s Lip Maximizer Plumping formula.


Glossier Lip Gloss


Of course, Glossier experts are its superfans. Many have awarded the line’s lip gloss five stars—followed by notes like “makes my lips look poutier and younger”—and begged the brand to make a larger size of “the holy grail of lip products.” A favorite description: “Makes your lips look like a bubble!”


Too Faced Lip Injection Maximum Plump Extra Strength Lip Plumper


Halaas calls this expert-favorite formula from Too Faced “an over-the-counter game changer,” where one can expect “a tingling sensation that leaves lips feeling plumped and revolumized.” She’s also impressed with the company’s clinical results: “In a consumer study of 106 women, after one week, 98% said it leaves lips looking revolumized; 97% said it leaves lips feeling softer and smoother over time; and 96% said it leaves lips feeling plumped,” she notes.


Fresh Sugar Smoothing Lip Primer Advanced Therapy


“Exfoliated lips are able to receive the hydration from your lip-care products,” explains Marino. “I love the Fresh Sugar Smoothing Lip Primer Advanced Therapy exfoliating drops, which use sugar acids to dissolve dead tissue.”


iS Clinical Lip Duo


“If you prefer a physical scrub, iS Clinical Youth Lip Duo comes with a sugar-based scrub in a fine texture that buffs the lips,” says Marino. Next, it’s “followed by a lip elixir packed with antioxidants; vitamins C and E; and hyaluronic acid to replenish and plump up lines.”


Skin Gym Goldie Face Roller


“Rolling with a gold roller is another great way to stimulate and encourage circulation,” says Marino. She likes Skin Gym’s Goldie roller for its gently studded (yet noninvasive) spikes.


Revision Skincare YouthFull Lip Replenisher


There’s a reason this one has risen to Amazon Choice status, according to Marino. “Revision Skincare YouthFull Lip Replenisher is an antiaging lip balm packed with ingredients designed to target loss of volume, contour, and lip lines,” she explains.


Charlotte Tilbury Collagen Lip Bath Gloss


When suggesting ingredients one should look for when trying to maximize volume in lips topically, Few recommends mint oil. Charlotte Tilbury’s Collagen Lip Bath includes it—along with mustard sprout extract, which the brand touts as helping to create a firmer appearance.


Nars Lip Liner Pencil in Morocco


Martin likes another hero product for creating optical fullness. “This lip liner has been a kit staple for me for years,” he says of the Morocco hue by Nars. “This shade is great on medium-deep to deep skin tones and buffs beautifully into the lip for shaping.”


Sisley Paris Phyto-Lip Delight


“This lip oil gives a beautiful beige sheen on the lips without looking or feeling too glossy,” says Martin. “Used after lip liner, this envelops the lip shape right where you want it.”


Buxom Full-On Plumping Lip Polish Gloss


Buxom’s Full-On has become one of Sephora’s best-selling products of all time. It contains glycerine, which Shamban notes is “a key humectant-pulling moisture supply.”


Common Heir 10% Vitamin C Serum


“Taking care of the skin around your lips will help ensure that the scaffolding of your lips is plump and juicy,” says Denno. “A vitamin-C serum like Common Heir’s around your mouth is a great first start.”


Henne Organics Lip Serum


Denno underscores the importance of lip serum. “I like the rollerball applicator one from Henne,” she says, mentioning to work it into lips day and night. “It’s okay to paint outside the lines, just make sure you rub it in really well.”


Jane Iredale HydroPure Hyaluronic Lip Gloss


“Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in our skin cells and increases hydration,” says Ramanadham of the star ingredient in Jane Iredale’s just-launched gloss. “When used on the lips, it also increases the ability to attract and maintain water.”


Stila Plumping Lip Glaze


“I love this high-shine lip formula because it gently plumps and hydrates lips,” says Halaas of Stila’s Plumping Lip Glaze. “As lips become better hydrated, they appear more defined, firmer, and smoother.”


Wldkat Cupuacu + Mango Butter Lip Balm


“By day, make sure lips are lightly covered in a balm you like—so you’ll reapply often,” says Denno. “I love Wldkat,” she says of the formula that shifts color based on the pH of your lips. Plus a clean recipe means you aren’t serving yourself toxins with every application.


October 21, 2021 — kristen bromiley