The DIY fix: Lips that are dry or flaky automatically look thinner and more wrinkled than they are, so get on the balm bandwagon. "Skin makes less oil as we age, and lips are at a unique disadvantage because they don't have an epidermal layer, which is where oil is produced to begin with," says Paul M. Friedman, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. Bringing back moisture is the key to keeping lips looking smooth, even, and full. Try a rich balm like Aveeno Active Naturals Essential Moisture Lip Conditioner ($3), a treatment like Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Lip Rejuvenating Treatment ($17), or a healing gloss with color like Clinique Superbalm Tinted Lip Treatment ($11.50).
The doctor fix: Age-related dryness is usually easy to remedy, but if yours is extreme and accompanied by flaking or blistering, consult a dermatologist. "Severe dry patches can be a sign of a precancerous condition caused by UV exposure," says New Orleans dermatologist Patricia K. Farris, M.D. "That's why sunscreen on your lips is a year-round must."
Step 2: Erase Fine Lines
The DIY fix: Those annoying vertical wrinkles around the mouth are mechanically etched into our faces every day, whenever we talk, laugh, eat, or smoke. So fighting back is like fighting soil erosion — a pretty thankless job. While you can't stop the etching, you can slow it down by applying sunscreen regularly and using a collagen booster or a wrinkle-fighting treatment around your mouth daily, says Dr. Farris. Try: Olay Regenerist Anti-Aging Lip Treatment ($19) or La Roche-Posay Redermic Daily Fill-in Anti-Wrinkle Firming Care ($42), a topical cream that contains hyaluronic acid (to plump up fine lines) and madecassoside (an ingredient that sinks in to repair cell damage).
The doctor fix: Injectable fillers like Restylane can help lessen the appearance of wrinkles (though new lines are always being created, so this problem can never be permanently solved, says Dr. Farris). Laser resurfacing and dermabrasion can also reduce the appearance of these types of wrinkles. "A laser goes deep into the dermal layers to reactivate collagen production, smoothing out the lines over time," says Dr. Friedman. You'd need a series of laser treatments (about $500 per session) to see major results, but they last longer than fillers.
Step 3: Fake Fullness
The DIY fix: You weren't born with big, full lips? Few of us were, but celebrity makeup artist Laura Mercier says it's easy to cheat. All you need are lipliner and lipstick. First, use the pencil to draw a line just outside your top lip, but only at the bow. Mercier's instructions: Following the natural contour of the bow, draw your line a bit above the actual upper lip. Then use your pencil to make the middle of the bottom lip a bit rounder by drawing a line just outside the fullest part. "Never redraw the lips completely from corner to corner — it looks too phony," she warns. Fill in the space between the new lines and your lips with the same pencil. Apply lipstick over the entire area for a mouth with much more impact.
Another way to create the illusion of volume is to define the lip area by lining the outer edges of your mouth with a concealer that's the same shade as your foundation, says Australia-based makeup artist Napoleon Perdis. "Blend it out into the fine lines around your lips to help fill them and to prevent lipstick from feathering," says Perdis. Then apply your favorite lipstick and add a dab of shimmery gloss one shade lighter in the center of your top and bottom lips. "The subtle reflection of light makes your lips appear more full," he says. And if you have ultrathin lips, apply the gloss over your entire lip for a bigger boost, he adds. Try: L'Oréal Colour Riche Lip Gloss ($9).
The doctor fix: "Thinning is a normal part of the aging process — it's a breakdown of collagen and a loss of fat cells," says Dr. Farris, who uses a combination of injectable fillers to restore fullness. A cosmetic dermatologist or plastic surgeon can inject a hyaluronic acid filler, like Restylane, deep into the lip tissue to add body and then use a collagen filler, like CosmoDerm, to define the borders of the mouth and fill in thin vertical lines on the surface. The downside: Injections are costly (between $400 and $800 for one treatment) and can be painful. But the results usually last six months and are more permanent than over-the-counter options like lip-plumping gloss.
A surprising ally in the quest for younger-looking lips: your dentist. If you cover your upper teeth with veneers, they can be contoured or built out to widen the arch and increase lip support, resulting in a permanently plumped-up-looking mouth, says Anthony J. Vocaturo, D.D.S., a cosmetic dentist based in Bayonne, NJ. But veneers are an investment — about $1,500 per tooth.
GHRI Test: Do Lip Plumpers Really Work?
In 2004, a GH Research Institute test found that one plumper increased lip volume by an average of 3 millimeters. So we had high hopes that the five new ones we recently tested would rival -- or exceed -- those results. But our 25 volunteers, each of whom used one lip gloss twice a day for a month, were disappointed. Though many of the testers liked the glosses' texture (and some reported a moisture boost), our experts found that none of the plumpers measurably boosted lip size. So the original winner is still champion: City Lips Original Formula Lip Plumping Treatment ($19), an oldie but goodie.
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