BY LISA WILLIAMS
Full lips have always been associated with youth and beauty. Because of this, lip enhancement is one of the most frequently requested procedures in a cosmetic practice.
We speak to Dr Low Chai Ling, medical director of SW1 Clinic who takes us through SW1’s six steps to achieve aesthetically pleasing augmented lips. While there is no single prescription for a “perfect” lip, nor a “one size fits all” approach for lip augmentation, these 6 steps created and coined ‘Lip Beautification sextet’ by Dr Low can be used as a basic template for achieving a natural look.
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In virtually all women, since the beginning of recorded history, full lips have been associated with youth, beauty, and voluptuousness. Robust, pouty lips are considered to be sexually attractive by both men and women. Even in a period of economic downturn, women continue to buy products to adorn their lips. The “Lipstick Index,” a term coined by Leonard Lauder, Chairman Emeritus of Estee Lauder, Inc., in 2001, describes the phenomenon of increased lipstick sales during an economic downturn. Studies have shown that women with beautiful lips feel more fabulous and are likely to be more optimistic.
WHAT’S THE IDEAL LIP?: RULE OF THE GOLDEN RATIO
The volume and, therefore, the vertical height of the vermilion of the upper and lower lips should fit within the framework of Phi—the Divine Proportion or the Golden Ratio—1:1.618. This begins with DaVinci’s classic proportions of the lips relative to the rest of the face. These basic artistic principles from hundreds of years ago still apply today.
One can summarize these proportions as follows:
1. The face is divided vertically into thirds: upper third, middle third and lower third of the face—all equal in vertical height.
2. The lower third of the face is also divided vertically into thirds: upper third corresponding to the upper lip and the lower two thirds corresponding to the lower lip and chin.
In youth, with more correct vertical proportions, the upper/maxillary teeth show during speech. With aging, it is very common to observe a lengthening of the cutaneous portion of the upper lip. It is common to no longer be able to observe the maxillary teeth during speech in an older individual. If the upper lip has lengthened so much, no degree of augmentation will correct this and the patient should be considered for a lip shortening procedure.
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Our Lips Age Too! The fundamental proportions of the lips change as one ages, with lengthening of the cutaneous portion of the upper lip and volume loss and thinning of the upper lip vermilion. While ageing Caucasian men and women have similar hard and soft tissue volume loss with thinning of the vermilion and cutaneous portions of the lips, men generally do not develop lines of the upper and lower lips, according to Dr Low. “Men have thicker skin with more subcutaneous fat surrounding terminal hair follicles” she explains.
3. From the side, if a straight line is drawn, the upper lip should project 3.5 mm anterior to the line and the lower lip should project 2.2 mm; the upper lip should project slightly greater than the lower lip—again about 1.6:1. An exaggeration of these proportions or the wrong ratio can lead to a “duck-like” or “trout-pout” appearance, says Dr Low. “Under no circumstances should the lips enter the room before the individual!” she laughts.
4. From the front, the ideal upper lip: lower lip ratio is 1:1.6. The vertical height of the upper lip should be less than that of the lower lip. Women will often present requesting augmentation of the upper lip alone, without considering the balance between the upper and lower lips.
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THE SIX STEPS TO LIP BEAUTIFICATION: SCULPTING YOUR PERFECT LIPS
Step 1: Sculpt Philtrum Columns
Sculpted philtrum columns are in style today! As we age, these well-defined longitudinal pillars are lost, leading to a flattened, ill-defined, unattractive upper lip. If the patient still has discernible philtrum columns, the object is to further enhance them. If the philtrum columns have been completely effaced, it is imperative to re-create them.
Step 2: Create Cupid’s Bow
Cupid’s bow is a shape like that of the double-curved bow often shown carried by Cupid, especially at the top edge of a person’s upper lip. This is often overlooked in lip enhancement but it becomes flatter with edge, that’s why older lips lose the shape and alluring structure associated with younger lips. The world went crazy over Rihanna’s pronounced Cupid’s bow, explaining why this is a vital area not to be overlooked, according to Dr Low.
Step 3: Define The Vermilion-Cutaneous Junction in the Medial Aspect of the Lateral Subunit of the Upper Lip
The upper lip is divided transversely into medial and lateral subunits. The medial subunit of the upper lip extends from the midline to the philtrum column; the lateral subunit extends from the philtrum column to the oral commissure and nasolabial fold.
It is important not to augment the vermilion-cutaneous junction along the entire lateral subunit, but only in its medial aspect. A very common error, states Dr Low is the creation of “sausage” or “duck” lip, to avoid this never augment the vermilion-cutaneous junction in the lateral subunit, she warns.
Step 4: Create Lower Lip “Pillows” on Each Side of the Midline for a sexy effect.
Lips should not be filled like it is an uniform structure, according to Dr Low. Rather, small ‘pillows’ of fillers can be used to give it a softer, sexier appearance. Think youthful kissable lips, not sausages.
Step 5: Support lip corners to prevent a downturned look.
Nothing spoils the effect of a beautiful pair of lips than down-turned mouth corners. Notice how more mature women tend to look sadder and angry, even when they are not? Well, this is because the collagen support at the lateral corners of the lips then to weaken with age, causing our lip corners to droop. Thankfully, this can be restored with clever placements of fillers at the corners of the lips. “There is a fine balance between putting just enough and too much corners in this delicate area” explains Dr Low. “Usually I will place fillers not at the lateral corner of the lips but also at the base of the corner of the lower lip to prevent future downturning of the lips”. She adds that this is one area where the returns are immesaurable as it makes the face look not just prettier but more approachable instantly.
Step 6: Fill the Nasolabial Creases to help evert the upper lip for a natural looking pout.
The nasolabial folds is another area that can make the difference between pretty lips and gorgeous lips. Nasolabial folds are the folds that run between the nose towards the lips and usually appears with age. With the loss of support in this area, it can cause the upper lip area to look flatter and less pouty. Filling up these lines is not only anti-aging for the overall appearance, it can also help to restore the volume of the upper lip area, which is essential for the lip pout.
Dr Low admits that while this comprehensive technique is suitable for most patients, there are some whose problems may extend beyond just the lips. These includes people with significant wrinkling of the skin around the lips, which may benefit from a more holistic approach.
“For more comprehensive, global perioral rejuvenation, this 6-step technique can be combined with BOTOX and fractional laser skin resurfacing during the same treatment session to smooth upper lip lines, and enhance the skin quality and overall results,” says Dr Low.
For more information on lip fillers and other cosmetic procedures, please contact SW1 Clinic. www.sw1clinic.com
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