What Is Lip Reduction Surgery?
Lip reduction, also called reduction cheiloplasty, is a surgical procedure that reduces the size of one or both lips by removing skin and tissue via an incision inside your mouth.
Lip augmentation surgery, a procedure that’s commonly done to make your lips fuller. Less commonly discussed is reduction surgery — this is done to decrease the volume in your lips. While not as prevalent, lip reduction surgery is useful if you want smaller lips, or if you don’t care for the results from a previous augmentation.
Why Have Lip Reduction Surgery?
Full, plump lips are sexy, but there are limits. Larger-than-average lips may appear out of proportion with other facial features and can interfere with eating, drinking and speaking. If you feel that your lips are too large, lip reduction surgery may be worth considering.
Lip reduction surgery can permanently reduce lip size. This plastic surgery procedure may be performed alone or in combination with other facial cosmetic plastic surgery procedures, such as chin augmentation, jaw augmentation or rhinoplasty.
Who Are The Best Lip Reduction Surgery Candidates?
Candidates for lip reduction surgery are generally those who want to change their facial appearance. Most people who get this type of surgery have naturally large lips, or they have larger than desired lips from a prior augmentation surgery.
Your lips can also change with age. Lip reduction may be a viable solution for any resulting asymmetry. It’s also common to get the lip reduction procedure in addition to other aesthetic treatments, such as dermal fillers.
Lip reduction surgery may be a viable option if you’re looking for a permanent solution to reduce the volume of your lips. It’s important to discuss all the potential risks and required costs with a provider beforehand.
Other candidates also include those who want to diminish or reverse a previous lip augmentation done with permanent filler (such as silicone, fat, or a polyacrylamide gel like Bellafill), or those who have a deformation caused by cleft lip or an accident and need reconstructive surgery.
The best way to determine whether you are a candidate for lip reduction surgery is to schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon. Be sure to choose a surgeon who has experience performing various lip surgeries, including lip reduction and lip augmentation with implants or hyaluronic acid-based soft tissue fillers such as Juvederm and Perlane.
Who Are Not Candidates For Lip Reduction Surgery?
Not everyone is a candidate for lip reduction surgery. Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases can limit your candidacy, especially if your condition causes frequent mouth sores. You’ll want to disclose your full medical history with your surgeon in advance so that you can limit your risk of side effects.
You can’t get lip surgery if you have cold sores or other types of mouth sores. Infections around the mouth area can also limit your time frame for surgery. Your surgeon may ask that you treat the infection first and then schedule your procedure for a later time.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of cold sores or herpes blisters of the mouth. They’ll likely prescribe medication to prevent an outbreak while you’re healing.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Lip Reduction Surgery?
- Pros: Lip reduction surgery is a permanent fix for people who want smaller lips. Scars shouldn’t be visible, since the incision is on the inside of the lip.
- Cons: You’ll probably need two weeks off work for recovery, and you may have sutures and swelling for up to three weeks post-procedure. There’s some risk of complications like infection or hard scar tissue. Some people have tingling, numbness, or tightness in their lips for weeks or months, as the nerves regrow. This shouldn’t be permanent, but it can be uncomfortable while it’s happening. There’s the possibility of asymmetrical results that may need to be corrected by revision surgery.
What Are Non-Surgical Options For Lip Reduction?
While surgery is the only definitive way you can decrease volume in your lips, there are alternative methods to help reduce the appearance of lip size. Some possibilities include:
- using dermal fillers in your cheeks to add volume in the upper part of your face
- applying foundation or concealer on your lips before putting on any lip color
- opting for darker color lipsticks and stains, and avoiding nude shades
- trying facial exercises
- staying hydrated to reduce inflammation in the lips
What Is A Brazilian Lip Reduction?
Some lip reduction procedures focus on slimming down only one of the lips. One such procedure is known as the “Brazilian” technique.
This procedure focuses on the shape of the lower lip, taking inspiration from a bikini line, which is traditionally more triangular-shaped at the bottom.
What Are The Risks of Lip Reduction Surgery?
Although it is considered safe, lip reduction does boast certain risks. General surgery risks include anesthesia complications, bleeding and infection. Additional lip reduction risks include:
- Numbness (usually temporary)
- Lumps and excess scar tissue in lips
- Dissatisfaction with the cosmetic results
Lip reduction results are permanent, but if you find that your lips are too thin after your surgery, lip augmentation may be performed to correct this outcome.
The best way to minimize your lip reduction surgery risks and help ensure a smooth recovery is to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon and follow his or her pre- and postoperative instructions carefully.
What Are Lip Reduction Surgery Side Effects?
The lips are among the most sensitive parts of your body, so it’s important to work with an experienced surgeon to minimize your risk of side effects. At the very least, you should expect redness, swelling, and slight pain within the first few days after your surgery. Bruising is also possible.
Less common side effects of lip reduction surgery include:
- severe swelling
- allergic reaction (to the anesthesia)
How Is Lip Reduction Surgery Performed?
Lip reduction surgery is typically performed using local or regional anesthesia, although oral sedation is sometimes used. The procedure may be performed in your surgeon’s office, a freestanding surgical center or a hospital. It takes about an hour to complete, but your time in surgery may be longer if other procedures are performed at the same time as your lip reduction.
Lip reduction surgery involves removing skin tissues from the lower or upper lips, or sometimes both. This is done in an effort to reshape the entire lip area. When performing lip reduction surgery, the surgeon first makes an incision along the length of your lip, usually on the inside of the mouth.
Next, he or she removes a strip of tissue and removes excess fat and tissues from the lip to reduce its overall volume. This surgery can be performed on both the upper and lower lips at the same time.
To achieve the desired shape and volume reduction, the surgeon removes a greater portion from the center of the lower lip.
Once all the targeted tissues are removed, the surgeon will close up the incision with stitches. These usually fall off on their own within a few days or weeks.
What Is Lip Reduction Surgery Recovery?
Immediately following your lip reduction, your lips may feel sore and tight. Swelling and redness can last for a few days, but you should be able to talk and move around more comfortably after this time.
During the next few days, you may feel some mild to moderate pain. Your surgeon can prescribe painkillers to help with this discomfort. Swelling and bruising are also to be expected after lip reduction surgery.
Your surgeon will provide you with guidelines about when you can resume normal activities after lip reduction surgery. You will have to refrain from vigorous exercise until your surgeon gives you the OK. Your surgeon will likely instruct you to sleep with two pillows to keep your head elevated.
Because the incisions are placed inside the mouth, eating may be challenging at first. Avoid foods with a high acid content — such as oranges and tomatoes — as they may irritate your wounds. Soft, pureed foods may be best immediately following your lip reduction surgery. Your surgeon may ask you to rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash throughout the day to help prevent infection. Excessive pain, redness or pus around the incision sites may be signs of infection. If these occur, contact your surgeon immediately.
It can take a week or two for the sutures to come out and by which time most of your swelling should have subsided. While this can seem like a big time commitment, the time frame is a lot shorter compared to other cosmetic surgeries. As a general rule of thumb, you should expect to take a full week off work.
Smoking is also off-limits before surgery, as well as during your recovery.
How much does lip reduction cost?
$300 – $5,000
Lip reduction cost will depend on your provider’s experience level and practice location, as well as the type of anesthesia you choose and how much tissue is removed.
Because this is a cosmetic procedure, it’s not covered by health insurance plans.
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Is lip reduction safe?
Lip reduction surgery is considered safe, but there are some risks and potential complications to consider.
As with all surgery, there’s the potential for infection or excessive bleeding. There’s also the possibility of an asymmetrical result that requires revision surgery.
Dr. Lam says that some patients who’ve had their upper lip reduced may find “that their top lip flips inward when they smile.” This is because of tight stitching on the inner lip, and it may last for a month or two, until the tissue regenerates and the skin becomes more elastic.
In about 5% of cases, Dr. Lam says, “patients may feel firmness in the lip that requires an injectable scar dissolver.”
Because this cosmetic surgery procedure is delicate and results are permanent, Los Angeles plastic surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hughes stresses the importance of choosing a surgeon with extensive lip reduction experience. “Find someone who has performed this procedure many times,” he advises.
Ask your surgeon if they can create a digital mock-up of what your result should look like, or if you can see lip reduction before and after photos of patients with similar anatomy and results.
RealSelf Tip: In the week prior to surgery, avoid blood-thinning medications (like aspirin or ibuprofen), which can exacerbate bruising. Dr. Lam says he also likes to prescribe an antiviral medication to patients who are prone to cold sores.
What happens during lip reduction surgery?
Most patients opt for local anesthesia, though some people choose general anesthesia.
Once the numbing agent or anesthesia has taken effect, the surgeon makes an incision along the entire length of the inside of your upper or lower lip, usually along the wet line (where the dry part of your lip meets the wet part). Surgeons use different incision techniques, depending upon the result you want. For instance, some surgeons use what’s called a “seagull” incision to create a more defined cupid’s bow on the top lip.
Your surgeon will then remove excess tissue and skin from the wet side. This typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on how much tissue is removed.
As your surgeon closes the incision, the outer part of your lip is pulled inward, making it thinner.
This is an outpatient procedure, and you’ll be able to head home after your surgery. Dr. Lam says he typically uses local anesthesia (a dental block) that lasts for up to six hours, even though a lip reduction rarely takes longer than an hour. “The first few hours right after the procedure are the most uncomfortable—so I keep patients numbed longer, to help them get through that,” he explains.
What is lip reduction recovery like?
Patients typically take one to two weeks off from work while they heal from a lip reduction procedure. “Recovery time is usually dependent on how major the reduction was,” says Dr. Lam. Your stitches will stay in place for about a week, and they’ll either dissolve or be removed by your surgeon at a follow-up appointment.
Here’s what else you should expect as you heal.
You will have a line of tiny stitches across the inside of one or both lips, and you should expect some pain, swelling and numbness as well as possible bleeding.
Apply ice packs to reduce the swelling and take the pain medication your doctor recommends.
You’ll also want to stick to soft foods or smoothies until the swelling subsides and avoid high-acid foods, such as citrus fruits, which will sting and irritate your incision.
Your surgeon may recommend that you rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash several times a day, to keep your incision clean.
Numbing, tingling, and tightness in the lips can last for several weeks—or even months. “Expect to improve gradually over several months,” Dr. Hughes adds in a RealSelf Q&A. “This is normal after surgery. The tingling is the result of the nerves coming back online.”
You should see your full results after the swelling subsides, three to six months post-surgery
Is lip reduction surgery permanent?
Lip reduction results are immediate and permanent. If you decide later that you want more lip volume, you’ll have to consider lip augmentation.
Keep in mind that you won’t see your final results for three to six months, when most of your swelling should be resolved, explains Chicago facial plastic surgeon Dr. Anil R. Shah. Some patients choose to have a follow-up lip enhancement surgery to correct slight asymmetry in the size of the lips that can become apparent once the swelling subsides.
Are there alternatives to lip reduction surgery?
If you want to reduce your natural lip volume or the results of a lip augmentation that was done with permanent fillers, lip reduction surgery is your only option.
If you want to reverse a lip augmentation that was done with a temporary, hyaluronic acid–based filler, such as Restylane or Juvéderm, you can have it dissolved with injections of hyaluronidase—or you could just wait it out. Eventually, the filler will be absorbed into your body (usually in six to nine months) and your lips should return to their original size.
People who’ve had augmentation with lip implants and want to return to their natural size can have the implants removed with a relatively easy surgical procedure.