This Is How Lip-Plumping Products Actually Work

Today’s class of lip plumpers aren’t the same as the old-school formulas.


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A plump pout is arguably one of the most covetable facial features—just ask one of the ~3 million people who opt for a little soft tissue filler to enhance their pucker each year. Injections aren’t for everyone, though. In lieu of the needle, lip-plumping products are another option you can try if you want to make your lips look fuller. But do lip-plumping products truly work? We asked a handful of beauty pros to enter the chat on this convo and weigh in with the straight truth. 

A Quick History of Lip Plumpers

OG lip plumpers surfaced in the mid-2000s, and by 2010 were a full-blown beauty category. Back then, these products typically worked via mildly irritating “vasodilator” ingredients such as peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, and capsaicin, notes Blair Hayes, board-certified aesthetics physician assistant. Some even used bee venom, which were believed to trigger an inflammatory response. 

Everyone had a tube of tingly lip plumper in their purse, and there was a weird sort of pleasure in the zing of each application. “These ingredients helped increase blood flow, causing a temporary swelling effect—AKA plump lips,” says Hayes. 

Sounds great, until you find yourself with a case of an ouchy pout. Lip skin is incredibly delicate, and irritating ingredients can lead to sensitivity, redness, flaking, stinging, and burning. Not ideal for anyone, really, but particularly for those with sensitive skin. 

Today’s Lip-Plumping Formulas 

You may still find some of these products around, but modern-day lip plumpers tend to leverage less irritating ingredients that tend to offer longer-lasting results. Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, says common ingredients found in lip plumpers today include the following: 

  • Hyaluronic Acid: A humectant that works by attracting moisture to the skin. In fact, hyaluronic acid can hold roughly 1000 times its weight in water. It's the key ingredient in Shiseido's splurge-worthy Bio Performance Serum Duo that mimics fillers.
  • Peptides: “This ingredient helps to boost collagen production which may help improve the overall appearance of the lips over time,” notes Dr. Garshick. 
  • Glycerin: Another humectant that also helps make lips soft and supple. 
  • Botanical Oils & Butters: Avocado oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter are a few examples of conditioning ingredients that lend to a hydrated and juicy pout.

Some of today’s lip-plumping products combine lower amounts of the old-school irritants with the above ingredients. You might find that your lips tolerate these, 

So, How Well Do Lip Plumpers Actually Work?

Long story short: yes, lip plumpers work. But how well do they work, exactly? Are we talking noticeable-only-to-you results? Comparable to filler results? Typically, the visual difference falls somewhere between the two. 

“I think these products are a great option for a quick and easy lip-plumping confidence boost, but it’s important to have realistic expectations and understand that the results will be subtle and short lived,” Hayes says. 

Kim Nichols, MD, board-certified dermatologist, feels the same. She says the results are there, but they’re not dramatic and they definitely don’t come close to lip filler (which could technically be a good thing depending on the look you’re going for.) 

“Lip plumpers simply swell the lips while lip fillers, on the other hand, work to not only augment lip size but also define lip shape, minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the lips, even top and bottom lips, and provide long-lasting hydration and lip color enhancement,” says Dr. Nichols. Still, a lip plumper can definitely make the most out of a bold red lipstick.

 6 Top Lip Plumpers to Try 

Curious about today’s class of lip plumpers? We asked our pros to share their favorite lip plumpers on the market. Here’s the cream of the crop: 

01 of 05

PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Lip Booster

lip-plumper-PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Lip Booster

“This lip booster contains a blend of sodium hyaluronate and konjac root, which together work to plump and hydrate the lips,” says Dr. Garshick. It also contains peptides to help boost collagen along with vitamin E, an antioxidant. 

02 of 05

Revision Skincare Youthful Lip Replenisher

lip-plumper-Revision Skincare Youthful Lip Replenisher

Jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid, and peppermint join forces in this lip plumper from Revision Skincare. Hayes adds, “I love that it even targets lip anti-aging by including antioxidants like green tea and vitamin E, THD ascorbate (my favorite form of vitamin C), and a blend of three peptides that target fine lines and wrinkle repair.” 

03 of 05

StriVectin Double Fix for Lips Plumping & Vertical Line Treatment

lip-plumper-StriVectin Double Fix for Lips Plumping & Vertical Line Treatment

Dr. Garshick says, “This two-in-one treatment helps to both plump and improve the appearance of vertical lines using hyaluronic acid and peptides, in addition to passion fruit extract and bacuri butter which soothes and hydrates.”

04 of 05

Ourself Natural Lip Filler

lip-plumper-Ourself Natural Lip Filler

The instant results you see with Ourself's Lip Filler will make you a lip plumper believer. The patent-pending formula plumps via hyaluronic acid and helps create more definition. 

05 of 05

IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips Solid Serum Lip Gloss

lip-plumper-IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips Solid Serum Lip Gloss

For some color added to your plumping action, try IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips gloss. “It contains collagen, hyaluronic acid, and a tri-oil complex, which together helps to boost hydration and plump the lips,” Garshick says. 

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