Remember when oceans of expensive lip filler and a mouth like two over-filled pool inflatables was de rigeur?
Well forget it fast, because billowy, bee-stung lips are done.
It’s all about something called the lip flip now, if the more than 50 million posts on Tik Tok’s #lipflip hashtag are anything to go by.
An inexpensive Botox-based lip treatment, lip flip fans say the “tweakment” gives your gob a natural, just-pashed look, rather than the OTT power lip made fashionable by Kylie Jenner a few years back.
Inexpensive, relatively safe, the lip flip is fast, non-surgical and cheap as chips. So what exactly is it?
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WHAT IS IT?
While its rise in popularity is new, the treatment itself isn’t. It’s actually been available in Aotearoa-NZ for about 20 years.
The process involves injecting small doses of Botox into the upper lip to relax the mouth muscle and let the skin gently “flip” outwards. It lasts about 6 to 8 weeks.
Because you’re not adding anything to the mouth, just relaxing a section of muscle beneath it, the effects are not dramatic – you won’t end up with a so-called trout pout. This makes it popular with first timers, or people nervous about committing to fillers.
For people who have a very thin upper lip, or a lip that disappears when they smile, exposing their upper gum, it can give them some extra flesh there. It can also help with smoker’s mouth – the fine lines that radiate from the lip as we age.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
“The procedure uses Botox in very small amounts,” says Face value Clinic and Ivy Clinic cosmetic nurse Kaylie Harrison. In fact, it’s about a fifth of the amount commonly used for frown lines.
“You inject four areas of Botulinum toxin into the top lip, into the Obicularis Oris, the muscle around the lip. We only use a very small amount to ensure the muscle is relaxed not frozen, which can make talking and drinking difficult.
“For most people, the upper lip will ever so slightly pop out. There are instances where people won’t really notice the difference, but the majority really like it and want to do it again.”
In other words, if you’re someone who has a very flat, thin or inverted upper lip, it will provide you with a bit more flesh. If you already have an everted (plump) lip, this treatment might make it plumper. It’s very subtle.
The process itself is about 10 to 15 minutes, so technically you could get it done in your lunch break, but you will need a full consultation with the practitioner.
“Anyone who comes to one of our clinics will have a full medical consultation to determine if they’re even suitable to have the drug.
“We don’t do it on anyone under 20. You’ve got to be an ethical practitioner.”
HOW MUCH IS IT?
Harrison charges about $50 a treatment.
By contrast, fillers typically cost anything from about $300 to $1000 depending on how much is used.
WHAT’S THE CATCH?
The lip flip is an “off label” treatment, which means it uses the drug in a way Botox wasn’t originally designed for.
Although the procedure has been around for a while, it’s against regulations to advertise it here.
“In terms of cosmetic use, Botox is approved for frown lines, forehead lines and crow’s feet. So the lip flip is an unapproved use of the medicine. It’s commonly done, but not approved by Medsafe,” says Aesthetic Medicine practitioner Dr Sarah Hart.
“Originally it [the lip flip] was used in conjunction with dermal filler for reducing lip lines, commonly for older women who wanted to reduce the appearance of lines around the mouth.”
Despite this, Hart says it is legal and considered to be safe to use the medication off label. Practitioners just can’t promote it in print, online or on social media.
“People don’t hear about unless they go into a consultation, and then the doctor can talk to them about it,” Hart says.
“It’s well described in medical research and commonly performed by doctors all over the world. So it’s not that it’s dangerous, so much as regulations in New Zealand prevent health professionals from promoting it.”
Because of the small amount of drug used, side effects should be slight, but can include a little bruising and redness from the needles.
Some lip flip patients may also experience slight weakness in the upper lip. You might have some trouble sucking on a straw or whistling. Keep this in mind if you’re a vocalist, play wind instruments, or scuba dive – it may be harder to make a seal with your lips.
“We don’t advise getting it for the first time right before a wedding, because it can make it harder to kiss, talk and sip champagne,” says Hart.
“Better to try it out beforehand to make sure it suits you, as side effects can be variable.”
Although medical information site Heathline says some people have experienced headaches and fever from using Botox, or have had an allergic reaction, Harrison says the medication has “a very low allergenic profile”.
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT?
You will need to talk to a registered cosmetic nurse or doctor to find out if the treatment is right for you. Contact the Cosmetic Appearance Nurses Network (CANN), or The New Zealand Society of Cosmetic Medicine to find someone who can discuss the procedure with you.