Second only to the eyes, the peri-oral area including the lips, teeth, and mouth are one of the first areas where we look at others. Our eyes are drawn to this area as soon as we begin conversation with another person. So it’s no wonder that so many people seek to optimize this area both through improvement in diminishing lines and wrinkles, but also the shape and fullness of the lips and let’s not forget to outline a beautiful smile.
An upper lip lift is a surgical procedure that aims to shorten the length of skin between the nose and the upper lip as well as to lift the upper part of the red lip for a more volumized and pouted appearance. There are many names for this procedure such as upper lip shortening, sub-nasale lift, or bullhorn upper lip lift.
When we think of the upper lip, we tend to think of the red part of the lip. In medical terms however, the upper lip refers to the whole area between the base of the nose (subnasale) and the bottom of the red lip at the opening of the mouth. The part that is not red is called the “white lip”. The ideal measurement of the “white lip” is said to be 12- 15 millimeters. If this measurement is much longer, in certain individuals it may translate to an unpleasing appearance to the upper lip. Furthermore, a long white lip can make the red part of the upper lip rolled down/inwards and non-prominent and it can hide the upper teeth during smiling. If the upper lip is excessively long, it can drape over the upper teeth and decrease the amount of teeth seen during a smile. This is often referred to as insufficient incisor show, which is a frequent indication for upper lip lift procedures.
Mistakenly many cosmetic practitioners try to address these issues with volumization of the upper lip (often with fillers), however, this can create a weighing down effect causing this problem to worsen both in the short and long term. This is something that should be recognized by the aesthetic practitioner and addressed appropriately taking in mind each individual’s goals.
Lip lift surgery usually involves minimal post-operative pain. Bruising and puffiness around the Lips are at their worst the day after surgery and can continue for five to seven days. Stiffness and numbness of the upper lip may last for about 2-4 months. We recommend regular application of cold compresses and keeping your head elevated as much as possible. Sutures are typically removed between 5-7 days after surgery. It can be normal to have a degree of wound eversion, meaning the incision looks raised up slightly like a ridge. Most symptoms and bruising usually disappear within one week after surgery and work and regular daily activities can be resumed at this point. As with all surgical procedures, the final outcome can take months to develop, however patients usually look publicly presentable by one week post-op.