Lip Augmentation: Defining a Natural Lip Shape

This article is a basic primer on lip shape and balance to help a prospective individual interested in lip augmentation to attain the best looking lips that are 100% natural but still worth undergoing augmentation.  There are certain criteria that make a lip look natural and others that are dead giveaways that something unnatural was done but what are those qualities?  It has a lot to do with how each lip is shaped and also of importance is the relative size of the upper and lower lips.  There are many other more subtle criteria but this article will focus on the two that I have mentioned.

This image shows a woman who underwent silicone micro injections, a permanent lip enhancement of her upper and lower lips. As you can see the top lip has a 3-part curvature and the bottom lip has a 2-part curvature that are components of a natural lip design. Additionally, the bottom lip is slightly larger than the top lip, which is an essential feature of a balanced, natural appearing lip.

Let’s start with lip shape.  The upper lip naturally has 3 curved structures: the center being a larger oval known as the tubercle and the two side flanking ovals being somewhat smaller and tapering toward the mouth corners.  There is a little bit of a dip or depression between these three ovals or at least there should be.  When the upper lip is uniformly augmented into a singular tube without visual breaks, the lip can look artificial because lips are not a big tube in nature.  In addition, if a lip is increased in size but there are visual breaks in the lip shape, i.e., there are small depressions mentioned above then the lip will not look overly enlarged even when it is augmented because your eye will not observe a single overly inflated tube shape.

One final point about the upper lip that is a big stickler for me is how much women enjoy a very strongly defined border of the lip.  To me this is another telltale sign that something artificial was done, and I personally hate that look.  Conservatively, the border can be enhanced but in a conservative fashion but not every woman would look good with this augmentation.  So it is important that a physician exercise artistic judgment when it comes to borders and for everything mentioned in this article for that matter.  The red lip border can be mildly augmented but when the physician starts to go to the other side where the white lip begins, that is truly where the trouble starts.  This almost always looks fake.

The bottom lip can be thought of as a heart shape.  It has a central dip or visual break with two ovals that flank the central depression on either side.  These ovals gradually taper to the corners of the mouth.  Again, the lip should not be created as a uniform tube, which can look unnatural (but carries less of a risk than the upper lip does in terms of unnaturalness, a point which will be discussed further in a moment.)

Now’s let’s talk about the relative size of the upper versus the lower lips, which I like to refer to as balance.  The upper lip should be relatively smaller than the lower lip both in its vertical red height as well as in its degree of protrusion from a profile view.  When the upper lip is augmented in isolation without the lower lip, it can readily look too big compared with the bottom lip, which gives away that something artificial was done.  That is why I almost always emphasize the importance of the bottom lip.  Further, the lower lip is truly what creates a very pouty, feminine look and helps to attract light reflex bounce off of it.  I truly believe the lower lip is tremendously undervalued in its role in making a beautiful feminine look.

In future articles in this series, I will address how a lip size can look attractive for various ethnicities, how a lip should be created to fit a certain age group, how lips age and how to manage that situation, how to manage fine lines around the mouth, as well as how to correct lips that look like they belong to a duck.

Samuel M. Lam, MD, FACS is a board certified plastic surgeon in Dallas, Texas. To learn more about Dr Lam’s lip surgery procedures please visit our website or call 972.312.8188 to schedule a consultation.