GIVE ME SOME OF THAT BIG, FAT LIP SERVICE by Dr. Dima
by: Dr. Dima
So what's the big deal with Big Lips? How big is too big? And of course, the question everyone is asking: "If I keep getting my lips plumped up on a regular basis, will my offspring have naturally bigger lips???"
Well, if you believe in the theory of Pangenesis, then definitely keep getting your lips plumped so your children will have nice, plump, pouty lips naturally! I think we can all agree that big, pink lips are a sign of youthfulness, sexiness and above all, fertility. Whether we do it consciously or not, our society is obsessed with attracting a mate to procreate, and nothing says "PICK ME! PICK ME!" like a pair of luscious, full lips adorned with shimmering strawberry flavored lip gloss.
So the question is: what should I do and what really works? If you are a member of the Brazilian Suya tribe or the African Mursi tribe, or a member of the small, but growing Suya/Mursi Western followers, you'll have to invest in a "lip plate" and wear it rather consistently. This is actually a good example against the theory of Pangenesis, given that the children of these tribal women were born with normal sized lips. Remember that beauty is culturally relative and that even within the same culture, we have generational and geographical differences as to what constitutes the "ideal beauty". I will thus limit myself to the cosmetic surgery obsessed Western culture, since not everyone subscribes to National Geographic.
Before I address the popular injection method for achieving a sexy pout, I'd like to say a few words about the products out there that claim to be the "next generation of lip plumpers infused with revolutionary technology to plump lips instantly" - no kidding. Some of the more popular name brands include: "Lip Fusion XL", "DuWop Venom Gloss", and "Too Faced Lip Injection Lip Plumping Treatment". They each have their claim to fame, but here is one of the main concepts: you take some fish, mollusks, jellyfish, fish du jour if you will, and you grind it up real good (like pressing the "pulverize" button on the food processor) into a smooth, pasty like substance from which collagen, or more precisely atelocollagen is derived.
The physiological explanation is that the tiny dehydrated marine collagen micro spheres are small enough to penetrate the skin barrier where they attach themselves to water molecules and essentially absorb the water, rehydrating themselves, resulting in a mild swelling of the lip tissue. It's kind of like what happens to Sponge Bob Square Pants out of water. "The result is fuller, smoother, perfectly plumped lips in seconds. Results can last for up to 48 hours." You may feel even more reassured that many of these magic gloss sticks have received the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" (wink, wink).
Sound too good to be true? I am sure you can imagine the potential, troublesome odor of fish derived lip plumper. Fortunately, the fish collagen is put through a very stringent deodorization process to ensure that your pout doesn't smell like you just had a tuna fish sandwich.
The other major concept in topically plumping lips is to apply irritating ingredients such as ginger, cinnamon and yes, even red pepper to stimulate lip swelling. Nicotinic Acid, commonly known as Niacin or Vitamin B3 is another common ingredient in lip plumpers intended to eliminate the need for needles and doctors by increasing vasodilation, or blood flow, to the lip tissue. I am very familiar with this naturally occurring supplement as Familial Hyperlipidemia (inherited elevated cholesterol) runs in my family. I can guarantee that it could definitely result in some lip plumping, among other things. I was a 2nd year medical student at The George Washington School of Medicine when my mother was diagnosed with a cholesterol of over 340. Since I was studying pharmacology at the time, I decided that I would try my new found knowledge on my mother. So off to the local vitamin store I went, ensuring Mom (who was opposed to taking any medication at all) that this would be a great "natural" way to reduce her elevated cholesterol. Within about 15 minutes, my mother started complaining of itching and a burning sensation all over her body. Almost immediately, her naturally voluptuous lips started getting bigger and redder, but unfortunately, so did the rest of her face and neck! Allergic reactions to Niacin are not uncommon. This happened over 10 years ago. Not once did it occur to me at the time to crush the Niacin, mix it with a little petroleum jelly and sell it to my girlfriends! But if I had, I think I would've called it "Plump Me Up" and sold it as a bubble bath. Bottom line: if you like the OTC lip plumpers and you think they are worth the $25-$50 investment after you get used to the tingle, try not to lick your lips too often.
So let's talk about them needles and doctors. My filler of choice is derived from Hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a natural sugar that has an enormous capacity to retain water and thus act as a cushion between collagen and elastin cells. Just as Hyaluronic acid acts as a "shock absorber" in our joints, it can act as a filler to plump up wrinkles such as the nasolabial folds (smile lines) and restore a youthful appearance to lips. In my opinion, the most natural appearance is achieved by using a Hyaluronic acid based filler (such as Hylaform Plus, Restylane, Captique, Juvaderm) either alone or in combination with a collagen based filler such as Cosmoderm/Cosmoplast or Zyderm/Zyplast.
I am often asked if I will do a "lip makeover" on the same day as the consultation. I take this on a case by case basis. If a minor change is all that is desired, the answer is usually yes as no prior allergy skin testing is needed. If something more dramatic is requested, I will often ask the person to cut out pictures of lips from magazines so that I can get an idea of their expectations. Often times what a patient is desiring is just not compatible with their facial structure or lip anatomy. If you have lips like Mona Lisa and you want lips like Angelia Jolie, you might want to consider sticking your mouth in a bee-hive for 15 seconds. At least you'll be able to tell your friends you got stung and it will be a lot cheaper! Also consider that a filler injected into the lips will obey the space filling laws of physics in much the same way as air blown into a balloon or sausage meat stuffed into a casing. Remember that the goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing, natural result. This brings to mind the famous Maybelline® commercial: "Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline®". The magic is definitely in the mystery.
Another reason I like using this substance is its longevity. Re-treatment is usually only needed 2 or 3 times a year and there is very little "down-time." Swelling and bruising is usually gone by the second day and many people feel comfortable going back to work or out for the evening the day of treatment. We frequently use arnica montana, a natural homeopathic treatment for bruising and swelling to reduce these side effects.
Keep in mind that there are alternatives to Hyaluronic acid fillers, such as fat injections or liposculpture and other semi-permanent or permanent implants. Your doctor can help assess your needs and pick the right one for you.
One of the most commonly asked questions is: "Doctor, is it going to hurt?" My answer is usually: "What's the matter, you don't like pain??" Okay, just kidding. The truth is that if I said "no", I'd be lying. The question should be "how much will it hurt?" In addition to using topical numbing creams, I use a local anesthetic to make the procedure quite tolerable with minimal discomfort.
Another commonly asked question is whether other procedures can be done on the same day as a filler injection. The answer is yes. It is safe to schedule multiple treatments, including laser for rosacea or unwanted hair, Botox Cosmetic® or a chemical peel all on the same day. That's why it's not uncommon for Friday to be the busiest day of the week!
Finally, just a few words about the rapidly growing Cosmetic Medicine/Cosmetic Surgery industry. It's not just about improving someone's appearance. In fact, it's less about the actual physical change than it is about how that change makes people feel. I see a renewed sense of vitality in my patients with even the slightest improvement in appearance. They smile more, they stand up straighter and they have that bounce back in their step. I see introverts becoming more extrovert and I see people who were reluctant to change jobs finally apply for promotions they deserve. As a result of feeling better and becoming more in harmony with themselves, they attract better things and opportunities into their lives. That's where the real satisfaction comes from. The bottom line is to find and follow your bliss whether that comes in a tube of "lip plumping" gloss from Blissworld.com or a syringe. If it makes you happy, it's worth it!
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Dima Ali, M.D. is an internationally recognized Aesthetic and Anti-Aging Medicine expert. Her areas of expertise include aesthetic laser surgery, minimally invasive face lifts, lipofilling, botox, soft tissue fillers, chemical peels, sclerotherapy, mesotherapy/lipo-dissolve and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. Dr. Ali received her undergraduate degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. After receiving her Doctorate of Medicine and completing a general residency training at The George Washington University School of Medicine, Dr. Ali devoted all of her postgraduate work on her passion of Cosmetic Dermatology, Cutaneous Laser Surgery, Anti-Aging Medicine and cosmetic formulations. “Dr. Dima,” as her patients and colleagues affectionately call her, founded one of the East Coasts first medical spas, WellMedica Aesthetic & Anti-Aging Medicine in Reston, VA.
Dr. Dima’s Cosminology (clinical skincare & clinical mineral coverage) was created by Dr. Dima Ali, and inspired by her personal sensitivity to harsh, over the counter and prescription strength topical treatments. As a long-time acne sufferer with a propensity for hyperpigmentation, Dr. Dima began to combine varying strengths of potent, rejuvenating ingredients with natural, anti-inflammatory botanical extracts and essential oils to treat her own skin conditions and those of her patients.
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