Courtesy of subject/Getty
Before getting a lip flip, I never fixated on my top lip’s lack of volume. I come from a long line of family members whose lips are as thin as sheets of paper. If anything, I was grateful to have a little extra something on the bottom. Maybe I wasn’t blessed with great lip genes, but I was blessed with a fulfilling sense of apathy when it came to what I looked like to everyone else. My nose is fine. I like my brows. I get compliments on my different-colored eyes. My lips, I thought, will just have to be the runt of the facial-feature litter.
And then, as the story typically goes, the pandemic happened.
Throughout lockdown, hours of staring at myself in a tiny box during meetings caught up to me. Whether it was out of vanity or boredom, I found myself increasingly convinced that my face needed some minor tweaking. Enter the Botox lip flip, the rising cosmetic procedure some women are trying in lieu of traditional lip fillers, that catapulted to social media infamy by compilations of people being unable to drink out of straws properly.
Before embarking on my lip flip before and after, I asked a board-certified dermatologist, plastic surgeon, and nurse practitioner about everything you need to know.
What is a lip flip?
“A lip flip procedure involves injecting a neuromodulator (like Botox, Dysport, or Xeomin) along the vermillion border of the upper lip to target the orbicularis oris muscle,” says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. “By relaxing this muscle, the lip rolls slightly upward and outward, showing more surface area of the upper lip. It usually consists of two tiny injections of approximately four units of Botox total, at the vermillion border at the Cupid’s bow.”
This prevents the top lip from curling inward when you smile. “The Botox or other toxins temporarily relax muscles around the lips,” explains plastic surgeon Andrew Peredo, MD. “As a result, your upper lip ‘flips’ upward and outward, making it look plumper.” The goal isn’t so much a massively inflated upper lip, but rather one that stays visible all the time and, in my case, doesn’t result in lipstick on your teeth.
Who is the best candidate for a lip flip?
Lip flips are a great choice for people who are looking for poutier definition but don’t want drastic change. “A good candidate would be someone who wants slightly fuller lips without committing to dermal fillers or someone with a gummy smile,” says Dr. Peredo. “Other candidates are those who want fuller-looking lips but do not want additional volume, or someone who wants to enhance lip shape without adding volume. Also, people whose upper lip seems to recede or disappear while talking or smiling.”
I decided to go to Nicole Frontera, an aesthetic nurse practitioner in New York who specializes in natural-looking injectables. We decided on a combination of both a flip and lip filler—more common than not—to add plumpness to my top lip and enhance my lip flip results even further. When it comes to presenting your doctor with a 15-second #lipfillercheck video to serve as the inspiration for your new pout, though, Frontera suggests leaving it at home.
You could allege that the rise of social media has contributed to a sharp uptick in aesthetic medicine, rooted in an overwhelming, vain self-awareness and constant bombardment of Instagram-style beauty standards. Like most 23-year-olds, I don’t often find that what I see online affects the way I feel about myself. It’s not that I’m easily influenced—on the contrary, I usually don’t have the brain capacity to constantly check up on every celebrity’s mouth—but I’ll try everything once.
“The most important thing is having the initial consultation [with a clinic]—not that you just heard it from a TikTok—and asking yourself if it’s right for you,” Frontera explains. “If someone comes into my office, and I know that they’re not going to benefit or see much change from the lip flip, then I’m going to counsel them to not waste their money and instead get a result where you really see a difference.”
Will I notice a difference with a lip flip?
The lip flip before and after depends on a few factors. “If someone has a lip that’s very visual and larger, they might not see a difference from the lip flip,” Frontera explains. “On the contrary, if someone has a smaller lip, and we struggled with them even having an upper lip to begin with, then I might give them a bit of lip filler in conjunction with a lip flip so the lip stays nicely open.”
My peewee-size lips were in the second camp, making me the ideal candidate for both a syringe of Restylane Kysse (a softer, milder filler) and four units of neuromodulators.
When you’re going in for any sort of cosmetic change, you have to manage your expectations from the get-go: When your face changes from one day to the next, it’s a large psychological change, Frontera explains. It’s important to have a doctor that will not only talk you through the expectations of what’s achievable for your face shape, but also personally analyze what would look best for you, regardless of what picture you bring in to show to them. My own results were too subtle for anyone but me and close family to notice.
Do lip flips look natural?
Most doctors agree that lip flips are a natural-looking lip enhancement. “Lip flips give the appearance of plumper lips, but they don’t physically increase the lips’ volume," says Dr. Peredo. “They look slightly fuller and very natural.” However, if you want a noticeable lip look or a more prominent lower lip, Dr. King suggests lip augmentation. “If you want more lip volume, then lip filler or a combination of filler and a lip flip may be a better choice,” she says.
How long does a lip flip last?
According to Dr. Peredo and Dr. King, a lip flip will last about two to three months.
Just as with traditional facial Botox, lip flip results take time. While some patients see the results in as early as three to four days, you’ll get the full lip flip look 10 to 12 days after your injections. While waiting for results, make sure to ice your lips, and don’t work out for at least 24 hours after to avoid sweating the active ingredients out (it’s a real thing!).
While I had to wait about two weeks to see the final product, the journey to get there was quick and painless. Most people get four to five units of injectables, meaning it’s just a few injection sites here and there. The actual procedure takes less than two minutes, and I was in and out within 15.
What are lip flip side effects and risks?
Unlike with traditional lip fillers, lip flip treatments have minimal side effects and no major downtime. “Lip flips are typically low risk due to only a small amount of Botox or other neurotoxins units being injected into your upper lip,” says Dr. Peredo. “Minor bruising may occur and your lips may be swollen briefly. After 12 to 24 hours, any pain and swelling should go away."
There are no major risks to lip flips. That said, make sure your doctor is experienced with the procedure. “When lip flips are done by an inexperienced injector, the muscles around your lip may relax too much and cause drooling, difficulty drinking, and struggling to speak,” says Dr. Peredo.
Some people claim getting the procedure could jeopardize your ability to properly use a spoon or straw—the aspect of getting a lip flip I was most nervous about, as I refuse to not be a hot-soup girl. However, a licensed practitioner will use the right amount of Botox treatment so as not to compromise your straw-sucking abilities, although Frontera says you may feel slightly numb in the days after your procedure, since the active agent in the injectable temporarily paralyzes the muscles around your lip.
That Insta look doesn't come cheap.
How much does a lip flip cost?
The price of a lip flip varies from practice to practice, but it typically hovers around $150 to $200. Unlike plumping agents like Juvederm or Restylane Kysse, which last for six months or longer, the agents used in a lip flip typically last eight weeks. Traditional hyaluronic acid lip fillers can range anywhere from $600 to $1,200, depending on the number of syringes used.
After telling Frontera that I was considering getting a touch-up filler during my next lip flip visit, she advised me to wait a full three months to decide how we wanted the rest of my lip journey to play out.
“I will warn you, I always say that it’s my job to talk everyone off the ledge, because sometimes people want to push it and do more,” she says, explaining that it’s best to work with the anatomy we have than go full-on duck lips right away. Naturally, it’s better to err on the side of caution at first—even if your desired end result is a King Kylie–era look.
After living with my lip flip and filler for the last month, I have to admit, I’ll be back.
Originally Appeared on Glamour