What to know about lip flips, a cheaper way to get fuller-looking lips

If you want fuller lips but aren't thrilled about the idea of lip filler, then a lip flip — performed with a neurotoxin like Botox — may be exactly what you're after. A lip flip is cheaper and easier to recover from than fillers, but can also have some serious downsides. So it's important to know exactly what you're in for before getting a lip flip, experts say.

"It's really great for patients who want to try a little additional volume in their lip without actually having a filler," Dr. Ivona Percec, associate director of cosmetic surgery at Penn Medicine, tells TODAY.com. "It can also be used in combination with a filler if you really want a much fuller lip," she explains.

However, rather than using filler to get fuller flips, a lip flip is performed with a small amount of a neurotoxin, such as Botox or Dysport, Dr. Evan Rieder, a board-certified dermatologist and psychologist in New York City, tells TODAY.com.

Using a neurotoxin will prevent one of the muscles around your lips from moving, Rieder explains, which will "give the lip a little bit more pouting and turn it up a little bit." But relaxing this muscle, which helps us contract the lips to make a kissing face, can also cause some common side effects, the experts say.

So, before you go through with a lip flip, here's what you should know.

What is a lip flip?

During a lip flip, your provider will inject a small amount of neurotoxin (Botox or Dysport, for example), into the cupid's bow and around the corners of your mouth.

"You inject one to two units of a neurotoxin to each half of the lip, depending on where their movement is," Percec says. "It's typically close to the margin of the pink part of the lip."

That prevents the orbicularis oris muscle from contracting, which leaves the patient with an upper lip that looks subtly fuller, Rieder explains. "Because the muscle is relaxed, it naturally (turns the lips outward)," Percec says. "So it makes them look a little more puffy and more full without actually increasing the volume."

A lip flip can either be done on its own, sometimes as an alternative to filler, or alongside filler for an even fuller look, Rieder adds.

How quickly do you see results with a lip flip?

"It's not an immediate result because the neurotoxin has to take effect in the muscle," Percec says.

You’ll probably start to see results within three to four days, Rieder says. But it can take up to two weeks to see the full effects of a Botox lip flip.

How long does a lip flip last?

"The treatment doesn't last a very long time because you're using very small amounts of Botox," Percec says.

Generally, a Botox lip flip will last about two to four months, the experts say.

Possible lip flip side effects

Depending on how much neurotoxin is injected into your lip muscles, you might temporarily lose what experts call "oral competence," Percec explains.

Once the injection takes effect, the experts say you might have trouble with some activities, especially if your provider uses too much of the product. That can include:

  • Drinking out of a straw.

  • Smiling fully.

  • Whistling.

  • Smoking a cigarette.

  • Pronouncing certain words.

  • Performing oral sex.

These side effects tend to be more severe soon after the injection takes effect and will typically settle and reduce over the next few days to weeks. But having trouble with activities like these is a "known complication," Rieder says, "and one that's not super uncommon, especially in the first couple of weeks."

You might also experience swelling and bruising with a Botox lip flip, but it's generally quite rare because of how little product is injected, Percec says.

How much does a lip flip cost?

As with any aesthetic procedure, the exact cost will depend on the practice and whether they're charging by the unit of product used or by the area that's getting injected, Rieder explains.

He estimates the cost to be in the hundreds of dollars, between $100 and $700 at the extreme end.

Getting a Botox lip flip vs. lip filler

People who want fuller-looking lips may be deciding between getting a lip flip, lip filler or a combination of the two.

Lip filler, which is typically hyaluronic acid-based, generally costs around $1,000 per syringe and can last for six months or more. So a lip flip is likely to be significantly cheaper, more subtle and last for a shorter period of time than lip filler, the experts say. And a lip flip requires less recovery time than filler.

That's why providers often see a Botox lip flip as a "stepping stone" or an introduction to lip procedures, Rieder says.

But, if you’re considering a lip flip, “it’s really helpful to keep your expectations reasonable,” he adds. “It may give you a millimeter more of a turned-out lip, but it’s not going to give you the volumization that you could get with a lip filler.”

And, if you’re new to the world of fillers and flips, that might be all you want for now. "You can use this before you use a filler. And then if you like the effect, but you feel like you still need more volume, then you know that you need a filler," Percec agrees. "So it's almost like a testing point."

And if you like the way your lip flip looks but you still want more volume, you can add filler later on.

But there are some potential downsides to keep in mind. With a lip flip, it's important to understand that you will likely notice a change in the way your lips work, Percec emphasizes.

"Unlike a filler where you have volume but you're not actually changing the activity of the muscle, the lip flip does change the activity of the muscle and some patients simply don't like it," she says.

But a lip flip also won't last as long as a filler would. Percec says she warns her patients about possible side effects but also reminds them that the treatment is temporary. So if they don't like it, they can take comfort in knowing it will wear off on its own.

Who is a good candidate for Botox lip flip?

People who are just getting into lip procedures may find the lower cost and more subtle results from a Botox lip flip appealing.

It can be especially beneficial for people who have an upper lip that's turned downwards or is thinner, Rieder says. But the procedure doesn't work as well for the lower lip.

While the results aren't as in-your-face as those from a filler would be, "if it's done right and you're a good candidate, it's much easier than having a filler put in your lip," Rieder says. So if you're not ready for filler, a lip flip may be a good alternative, he explains.

An experienced and knowledgeable provider will guide you through your decision and clearly communicate what to expect when it comes to your results and side effects, the experts say.

"The lip flip is a great option for a younger patient who hasn't lost a lot of volume in their lips," Percec says. "If they're just starting their journey into the lip area, it's a great first step."

This article was originally published on TODAY.com