All Your Burning Lip Filler Questions — Answered

What you choose to do with your face and body is up to you and you alone — and that extends to everything from plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures like Botox or dermal filler. One treatment in particular that has been spiking in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to more people working from home and face masks covering up the area amid the pandemic, is lip filler.

In case you are curious, Melissa Doft, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City, answered every question you need to know before getting lip injections — from what it is, how much it costs, how much it hurts, and any potential risks — below.

What Are Lip Fillers?

"Most doctors in the US use hyaluronic acid dermal fillers to help plump or define the lips," says Dr. Doft. "Hyaluronic acid is a sugar that is able to absorb 1,000 times its weight in water leading to a hydrating and plumping effect."

If the ingredient sounds familiar, it should; it's a naturally occurring molecule in your skin, which also makes it well-tolerable so you don't have to worry about allergic reactions. Hyaluronic acid, in a few different forms, is the standard for lip injections with several brands being FDA-approved, like Restylane Silk and Juvéderm. As far as knowing which brand is right for you, your doctor will use their discretion to choose.

"I favor smaller particle hyaluronic acid fillers, like Juvaderm, Vobella, Restylane Refyne, or Belatero," Dr. Doft says. " The smaller particle size allows me to inject closer to the surface of the lip to create definition." She adds that smaller particles are less likely to create bumps in the patient's lips (more on that later).

How Should I Prepare For My Lip Filler Appointment?

Luckily, there's not a whole lot you have to do to prepare for the actual appointment. However, Dr. Doft has one suggestion: "I ask patients to avoid medicines that can increase bruising for one week [before their appointment]." (Think: aspirin, Motrin, Advil, and Ibuprofen.) If you take fish oil supplements or vitamins, consider avoiding those for a week, too, to avoid bruising.

Are Lip Injections Painful?

Pain is subjective and usually dependent on your personal tolerance, but most people will say getting lip injections is an uncomfortable process. After all, it is a needle going into your lips. In some cases, most people find the process more painful after the fact during the week-long recovery due to soreness and swelling. With 1 million nerves in your lip, the potential to feel some discomfort is real; however Dr. Doft says she applies a very strong topical numbing cream onto the lips beforehand to reduce the pain.

How Much Does Lip Filler Cost?

According to Dr. Doft, the cost depends on the amount of filler injected and, often, who is injecting them. "Doctors will often charge more than nurses or physician assistants, but the type of filler can also affect cost," she says. "Most physicians up charge for only the brand Voluma, which is used for the cheeks and not the lips." The price is also regionally dependent, so in New York lip injections can cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000. Go anywhere else in the country and it'll be about the same price, likely never exceeding $2,000.

How Long Do Lip Fillers Last?

Lip fillers can last from six to 12 months. Dr. Doft notes that most of her patients return every six months, but that she tends to inject less volume at the second appointment (and so on) for a more natural appearance.

Getty | Elena Fedorina

How To Find the Right Doctor

Research and consultations are key. "Look at the physician and make sure that they have a similar aesthetic to yours," Dr. Doft suggests, adding that many physicians have before and after photos or reviews online that you can check out. While Instagram is a new way to find a doctor for you, it's still important to book an in-person consultation before committing to your decision. Another helpful tip is asking a friend. If you know someone who has lip injections you admire, consider asking them for a recommendation. Just be sure that whoever you do choose is a medical professional and not an unlicensed person at a medispa you found on Groupon.

What Should I Expect the Day After Getting Lip Injections?

"The down time is related to swelling and bruising," Dr. Doft says. "Most patients find they experience swelling during the first three to seven days." Bruising can occur, too, but usually resolves within a week. While Dr. Doft assures that most patients don't need an anti-inflammatory post-injections, she does recommend eating pineapple or taking Arnica montana — both can reduce bruising. Additionally, lips will feel a little tender and hard after the injections, but as the hyaluronic acid absorbs water the lips will soften and feel normal again.

What Are the Risks of Lip Filler?

Aside from you disliking the results, one of the most common risks associated with filler is the formula migrating in the lips. Migrated lip filler can present as lumps, noticeable volume above the top lip, lack of a defined lip edge all over, and sometimes can cause discomfort. Incorrect placement by the person who administered the filler is the number-one reason this happens.

Can Lip Filler Be Removed?

Yes, you can remove lip filler. (Kylie Jenner has done it before.) Dr. Doft says that it's a matter of dissolving the hyaluronic acid, which for the record, is temporary to begin with, with an enzyme called hyaluronidase. This also has to be injected into your lips in order for the filler to be "removed." The lips are well innervated, so getting lip filler removed isn't necessarily a fun experience. Some people with high thresholds for pain consider it incredibly uncomfortable, but again, this is all subjective.