No modern-day Michelangelo is sculpting, smoothing, and shaping faces quite as much as a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, at least when it comes to the aesthetics world. They have the tools and technique (and steady hand, thank god) to transform everything from the shape of your nose to the furrow of your brow with the slightest pinch of a needle — and this is no more apparent than in the latest injectables trend: "lip tenting."
This well-established Russian lip-filler technique was first created by aesthetic physician Tom van Eijk (but is widely adopted by docs worldwide) and involves injecting multiple tiny amounts of hyaluronic acid filler along the line of the two cupid areas for a fuller effect. Unlike the recently popular "lip flip," which uses a small amount of off-label Botox to relax the muscle above the lip and lessen a "gummy" smile, tenting is meant to add volume in a more natural-looking way.
"The lip-tenting technique can be used to give more support in the cupid's bow area and also the philtrum," says plastic surgeon David Shafer, MD, FACS. (The latter being the vertical groove between the upper lip and base of the nose.) "In essence, lip tenting is a tool or technique, and lip flip is a result."
Still, to fully understand lip tenting is to understand the basic anatomy of the mouth. Here, we're breaking down all the need-to-knows.
What Is Lip Tenting?
"Lip tenting is a lip-filling technique in which the filler is injected almost vertically or perpendicularly into the lips from the outline," says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD. This is different from your standard lip injections, which tend to be injected horizontally. "It is known to create a more natural-looking appearance, as it allows good control over the filling's shape and volume. Also, filler is injected in multiple smaller portions to prevent dislocation of the gel."
Each stroke of filler forms a "tent pole" in the lips while projecting the white roll, she adds, thus the name "tenting" was born.
Injections can be placed with a needle or a cannula, says Dr. Shafer. (He recommends speaking with your practitioner about which product is best for you; thinner hyaluronic-acid fillers like Juvéderm Volbella will give a subtler plump and smoothing effect, while thicker fillers such as Juvéderm Ultra will add more obvious volume and hydration.)
Who's the Best Candidate For Lip Tenting?
If you are looking for a fuller effect in your upper lip specifically or a more defined cupid's bow, the lip-tenting technique might be for you. Compared to your traditional linear lip filler, which focuses on volume enhancement, "tenting tends to give a structural enhancement," says Dr. Shafer. (In other words: it'll give you more definition to your lip shape.) Most doctors will employ a combination of both techniques.
Also worth noting: "It works best on lips that haven't had other procedures, so you'd likely need to get your filler dissolved beforehand for best results," says Dr. Engelman.
How Long Does Lip Tenting Last?
One big upside of the treatment is that it won't require much maintenance (or many trips to the dermatologist). "This technique may use more product, therefore can typically last anywhere between 12 to 18 months," says Dr. Engelman. "That being said, you may need touch-ups every six to nine months, so you should be prepared for that as well."
Dr. Shafer also notes that you may need more than one visit to achieve the results you want.
Potential Risks of Lip Tenting
Because this technique requires a higher number of teensy, tiny injections, there are a few things to consider. First, "there is theoretically an increased chance of bruising with multiple punctures and possibly more discomfort," says Dr. Shafer. He adds that if you bruise easily, you might want to reconsider lip tenting. "There's also a tendency for more chance for lumpiness if the injector is not experienced or if product is injected too superficially."
On that final note: the most important rule of thumb is that you trust the professional injecting you. "Make sure it's a well-qualified and experienced injector with years of practice and consistent results," Dr. Shafer says.