Full lips are one of the signs of youth and vitality. All one has to do to recognize this fact is to see the difference between the lips of a 20-year-old and to compare them to the lips of a 70-year-old. The changes that occur in the lips are similar to those that occur throughout the whole body as one ages: decreasing blood vessels and collagen, which provide bulk to the soft tissue.
The two main ways to enlarge lips are to use either one's own body tissues, like fat or dermis, or to use a synthetic implant such as AlloDerm or a filler material such as Restylane. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.
Fat can be harvested, usually from the trunk, using a tiny incision and a syringe, and then injected into the lips. Lips are over-corrected because we know that some of the fat will dissipate. The advantage to fat injections is that the procedure is easily tolerated and is the patient`s own tissue. One disadvantage is the uncertainty of how much fat will survive the transfer and keep the lips full.
Dermis grafting to the lips is a very reliable way of enlarging the lips. The procedure is carried out by removing a strip of skin underneath the buttock crease or from a scar on the abdomen, removing the epidermis and fat and placing the dermis graft into the lips. The advantages of dermal grafts are the predictability of the augmentation and the natural feel of the lips. A disadvantage is the incisions under the buttock. Dermal grafts may be permanent, but some long term resorption may occur.
Other implants are categorized into synthetic implants such as radiated human dermis such as AlloDerm, and a hyaluronic acid filler such as Restylane. AlloDerm is human dermis that has been treated to make it safe for transplantation. The material is placed in the lips just like a dermal graft except there are no donor scars and no donor site discomfort. The disadvantage is the lips can only be made so large and the material may shrink with time. AlloDerm is also costly. Restylane is a relatively new product, hyaluronic acid, that is manufactured by bacteria, but which naturally occurs in humans so no skin test is necessary. Restylane is a clear gel that is injected into the lips. It lasts about 6 to 9 months.
All of these procedures are done in our facility with local anesthesia and sedation either by mouth or intravenously. Procedures take between 45-90 minutes. Everyone is swollen after surgery, but this resolves over several days to several weeks, dependent on the procedure. Lipstick may be worn shortly after the surgical procedures and almost immediately after Restylane injections. The lips may be initially numb due to swelling. but this resolves quickly as the swelling goes down. to the sun and the wind. For patients who have a strong history of fever blisters, we recommend a prophylactic anti-viral medication to prevent a Herpes blister post-procedure.
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