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As we age, our faces change – there’s no doubt about it. We look out for fine lines and wrinkles and a loss of volume in our cheeks and under-eyes, but what many of us might not know is that our lips are prone to ageing too.

Our lips gradually become thinner as the years go by. Not the best news, we know. But fret not, because by understanding what causes that loss of volume, as well as the best ways to keep our lips looking youthful, we can hold onto a full pout for years to come.

For a deeper understanding of our lips, we reached out to Dr Lam Bee Lan, Medical Director of Ageless Medical, to get a better insight on lip volume loss and lip fillers.

How our lips change as we age

lip fillers how our lips change as we age

Credit: xFrame.io

According to Dr Lam, skin elasticity is reduced as we lose collagen over the years. “With less collagen, the skin becomes thinner and weaker,” she says.

“Hyaluronic acid (HA), a form of sugar molecule that binds a large amount of water, also depletes as we age. HA helps to keep our skin and lips plump and hydrated and with less HA, our skin becomes dry and loses radiance.”

“According to research by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, our lips go through a few changes as we age,” she leads on. “The study compares lips of people from two different age groups – 20 to 30 and 65 to 80 years.”

From the results, “the older group showed 20% lengthening in the upper lips (area below the nose and actual upper lip), upper lip volume was 40% less and 25% thinner lip.”

No matter how full your lips are at 20, they will lose volume with time. And if you are born with naturally thin lips, the ageing effects can be even more obvious.

What you can do to keep your lips looking youthful, starting now

lip fillers what you can do to keep your lips looking youthful

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Preventing lip volume loss isn’t easy, especially because genetics play such a major role. However, your best bet is to cut down on activities that can speed up the process.

Dr Lam advises us to stay away from the sun, quit smoking, and manage our stress levels. “Keeping hydrated is also essential for a plumper pout,” she adds. “There are lip balms and masks out there that can help to maintain the youthfulness of the lips.”

Related read: 20 best lip balms for daily use that cater to every concern and budget

Thanks to trends like “Instagram face” and celebrities like Kylie Jenner, plump lips are still the beauty look du jour. There’s something about defined, luscious lips that manages to pull an entire look together.

“If you would like to improve the shape of your lips, you may want to consider lip enhancement treatments such as Restylane fillers for plumper and smoother lips,” Dr Lam suggests.

What is a lip filler?

what is a lip filler

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Lip fillers are injections that add volume to your lips and are a type of dermal filler. One of the most popular minimally-invasive treatments, dermal fillers come in a wide variety of options, which allow doctors to customise every patient’s lip filler treatment with specific concerns in mind.

“Different lip fillers can achieve different goals,” Dr Lam shares. “Restylane® Kysse can be used to hydrate and soften lines on the lips for a smoother appearance, whereas Restylane® with Lidocaine can be used to correct asymmetry and add more volume or contour, as it is firmer.”

In fact, one of the most common reasons why people opt for lip fillers is to correct lip asymmetries, so that the upper and lower lips appear proportionate.

“Many older patients seek lip filler treatments to hydrate and reduce fine lines on lips and mouth area,” she discloses. “Lastly, most patients get lip fillers to define lip shape and cupid’s bow, and to add volume for fuller and plumper lips.”

How to achieve a natural-looking effect with lip fillers

If you’re worried about looking like a Bratz doll after a lip filler appointment, there’s actually a way to prevent this.

“It is, therefore, essential to consult a trained and experienced doctor with enough knowledge to select suitable fillers for the lips and inject the right amount of filler at the correct plane and depth, so that it is in harmony with the rest of the face,” Dr Lam advises.

This is also crucial to avoid any complications during the procedure.

Are lip filler treatments the same for people of different age ranges?

In short, no. Dr Lam tells us that patients in their 20s may have “genetic imperfections, such as asymmetry, thin lips, a gummy smile, or have a perpetual sad expression.” At this age, it’s all about enhancing the lips to make them look fuller and balanced, so they appear proportionate to the rest of the face.

Patients in their 30s may experience thinning and drying of the lips. “Lip wrinkles caused by sun exposure and increased muscle activity from facial expressions may start to appear,” she explains. “Lip fillers can be done to help smoothen and create fullness of the lip.”

“As for patients in their 40s to 50s, restoration of the overall facial structure is needed as the area around the lips, such as the nasolabial folds, also change,” she continues. “There is also a longer distance between the nose and the upper lip. Restoring the natural shape and volume of the lips can be done with lip fillers and botulinum toxins.”

Who would be an unsuitable candidate for lip fillers?

“Patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a known allergy to hyaluronic acid fillers are unsuitable for lip fillers,” Dr Lam says. This is why it’s important to discuss your medical history with your doctor, “including medicines, past and present allergies, and medical conditions.”

“Make sure to also inform your doctor of any previous surgical and non-surgical aesthetic treatments that you have undergone,” she asserts.

What to do before a lip filler procedure

what to do before a lip filler procedure

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Before your procedure, you’ll have to arrange for a consultation with your doctor. Of course, you can bring visual references for your doctor, but Dr Lam says that your goal should be to achieve a lip shape and size that’s proportionate to the rest of your facial features “and not to aim for a specific celebrity’s lip feature.”

When considering the size of your lips, it’s important to picture how you’ll look, just like getting a new haircut. Even if you’ve brought in a photograph of a celebrity as a reference, your hairstylist might suggest otherwise based on several factors, such as your hair texture, volume, length, or face shape.

You may want your lips to look like Scarlett Johansson’s, but it might not be achievable because your face shape and features are unique.

Before your lip filler treatment, Dr Lam says that there’s nothing you need to refrain from. However, you should refrain from doing lip filler if you have a cold sore infection.

What happens during a lip filler procedure

During a lip filler procedure, your doctor will apply a topical anaesthetic to your lips. This will numb your lips, so you won’t feel any pain or discomfort during the process.

Your doctor will then use a thin needle or cannula to inject lip filler into the treatment areas, which can include the Cupid’s bow, corners of your mouth, and the edges of your lips.

You won’t feel any pain during the procedure, but you may feel a slight pinching sensation. The whole procedure takes 15 to 30 minutes.

Downtime & side effects of lip fillers

“Some redness, swelling, bruising, or tenderness is normal at the treatment site,” Dr Lam assures. “These effects should disappear within one week after the treatment.”

Aftercare for lip fillers

aftercare for lip fillers

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To reduce the redness and swelling as much as possible after your treatment, Dr Lam suggests avoiding immediate makeup application on the treatment area. You should also “refrain from alcohol within 24 hours of the treatment”, avoid beverages that are too hot or too cold, and steer clear of water activities for a few days as there are needle marks.

She says that lip fillers can last up to a year as well, depending on the individual. And in terms of touch-ups, “patients should have a maintenance treatment once a year.”

If you would like to have a more significant, pronounced result after your lips have healed, Dr Lam says that she can do some topping up for patients too. “Patients will have to fix a review appointment two weeks after the treatment,” she adds.

Dr Lam Bee Lan is the Medical Director of Ageless Medical, which is located at 501 Orchard Road, Wheelock Place, #04-10, Singapore 238880. Contact 6734 4007 to make an appointment.