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I Got a Lip Lift and Didn’t Love the Results — So I Went Back Under the Knife Again

One writer on her decision to undergo revision surgery and what she wished she’d done before getting the procedure.

I Got a Lip Lift and Didn’t Love the Results — So I Went Back Under the Knife Again
Courtesy of Taryn Brooke

If 2023 is the year of the lip, then I am anointing myself the unofficial queen. Allow me to explain—I’ve had two lip lifts, lip filler, and have indulged in lip tenting (the viral lip filler injection technique that grew in popularity this past year). To put it mildly—my lips have seen some sh*t this year. I know what you’re thinking. Two lip lifts? Why? Because I was unhappy with my initial results, and no, it’s not unheard of or as crazy as you think. My second lip lift was a revision surgery. Though revision surgery is quite common in plastic surgery, lip lift revision surgery is not.

And this has all been in the name of achieving the ideal pout. Before you call me crazy for doing all this within a year’s span, just know that this was a culmination of years of frustration with not being born with a full set of lips.

“Revision surgery can occur, and that's something I see occasionally. This may range from scar revision to repeat lip lift with further elevation,” says Dr. Oren Tepper, board-certified plastic surgeon and cofounder of Greenwich Street 497 Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery. So, exactly how uncommon is lip lift revision surgery? Dr. Tepper says lip lift revision surgery accounts for only five percent of lip lift surgeries, and that statistic mostly includes scar revision under the nose, which is where the incision for lip lift surgery is made. My revision, however, was for further elevation of my upper lip for more noticeable results.

Read on to learn what a lip lift is, my experience with my first lip lift surgery, what I wish I had known prior, my experience with my lip lift revision surgery, and my results.

What is a lip lift?

“A lip lift is a cosmetic surgery procedure designed to enhance the appearance of the lips by adjusting the position of the upper lip to create a fuller and more youthful look,” explains Dr. Ramtin Kassir, triple board-certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and founder of Kassir Plastic Surgery and Inside Beauty. The surgery entails shortening the distance between the base of the nose and the top of the upper lip or the philtrum, which is the vertical indentation between the base of the nose and the upper lip. Skin is removed from around the part underneath your nose, which subsequently lifts the upper lip and exposes more of the pink part of your lip and top teeth when you open your mouth.

Candidates for lip lift surgery typically have a longer vertical indentation between the base of the nose and the upper lip, which Dr. Kassir says is “due to both facial anatomy and age.” Shortening the philtrum is meant to give more of an aesthetically pleasing and much more youthful look to the face–which is absurd even to say–as a lip lift is strictly a personal choice and should be done if this is indeed bothering you or cramping your style.

If you want to know more about the philtrum and said distance, don't worry, I got you. “ A normal philtrum length can range between 11 to 15mm [or 1cm to 1.5cm]. Most patients require 2 [to] 3mm of skin to be removed during a lip lift. Depending on the patient’s upper lip length, teeth shown with smiling, and nasal tip projection, the amount of skin removed with a lip lift will vary,” explains Dr. Nigar N. Ahmedli, director of the division of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at Montefiore Medical Center. Dr. Ahmedli adds that she doesn’t approach skin removal as the maximum amount that can be removed, rather, taking “into account the rest of the face in order to produce a visible lip lift result without facial distortion.”

While I find the idea of an “ideal length” of the distance between the base of the nose and the top of the upper lip to be yet another silly thing, Dr. Kassir explains that this “ideal length” varies from patient to patient but that when the surgery is performed, it will measure out to “about a centimeter or even a little bit less than that.”

Different Types of Lip Lifts

There are four types of lip lifts, and choosing the appropriate one depends on the patient’s goals. The four different types are: bullhorn lip lift, upper lip lift, corner lip lift, and the gull wing lip lift. The most common or popular of the four is the bullhorn lip lift (which is what I had done both times)—this is when a crescent-shaped section of the skin is removed from beneath the nose to elevate the upper lip and expose more of the pink portion of the lip. This type of lip lift is meant to create more of a natural look.

My First Lip Lift Experience

I had my first surgery at the end of March 2023. I had always desired large, full lips, and over the course of five years I had gotten syringes of lip filler and had even tried the “lip flip” technique using Botox, which is meant to roll up the upper lip to make it appear fuller. When nothing worked, I turned to surgery. I have to confess I did not spend an extensive amount of time looking for a plastic surgeon to perform my lip lift—which was one of my biggest regrets—but nevertheless, he did come recommended, and he happened to be an excellent surgeon. It’s always important to look for a surgeon that truly specializes in lip lifts and has the photographic or video evidence to prove their expertise.

When I had gone in for an initial consultation, I had shown my surgeon what I desired my lips to look like and had assumed I would get what I had wanted. However, surgery doesn’t always tend to work like that, even though it can come extremely close. Two weeks after my initial consultation, I had my lip lift surgery.

Performed under local anesthesia, my surgeon cut strips of skin from directly under my nose, removed those strips, then added sutures that remained in for five days-post surgery. “The incision is closed in a specific way to suspend the sides of the bullhorn incision to decrease wound care,” explains Dr. Ahmedli.

Though I noticed a difference in my lips in the weeks following the surgery, I felt that my upper lip could have been lifted more. I felt disappointed. I had gone through the surgery and recovery, which was not the most fun thing in the world, and did not get what I wanted. I was frustrated but remained determined. I knew what I wanted and knew that it was possible. My surgeon was just too conservative with the amount of skin that he excised.

A few months after my initial surgery, I scheduled a revision surgery to further lift the sides of my upper lip. “If the lip lift is unsatisfactory, then you should wait until the initial healing is over before going back in, which is a minimum of six months,” says Dr. Kassir. The scar tissue needs to mature, adds Dr. Ahmedli. And thus, almost six months to the day after my first surgery, I went back in for a revision.

My Revision Surgery

My revision lip lift surgery was performed in late September 2023, which was quite recent. The revision surgery was much easier than the first. I was not nervous (I was a pro at this point) and I knew exactly what to expect and how to care for the incision area.

My surgeon went back in and removed an additional 2mm more of skin on the sides of my nose to elevate the sides of my lips. The entire incision was not made this time around, which helped to decrease pain, pulling, and tightness. In other words, he left the skin under my nose alone to prevent lifting the cupid’s bow more, which could have caused an aesthetically unpleasing result.

Post-Care and Recovery

My recovery was much easier and faster the second time around. Since the incision area was not fully mature and still a little numb, the pain was minimal this time around. I started oral antibiotics when I got home the day of surgery, and I waited until the following day, as instructed, to remove the bandage from around and underneath my nose. I washed the area with soap and water and followed it with a topical antibiotic twice daily for a week afterwards. I made sure to avoid having any of my normal skincare products with actives anywhere near my stitches until they were removed and until the incision area closed more. That being said, I still continued with my normal routine—I just avoided the incision area like the plague.

Pain around the incision site was also minimal this time around and I only needed to pop two ibuprofen at a time for a day or two post-surgery. If I had to leave my house, I wore a mask (which, of course, is not by any means unusual these days). My stitches were removed on day five, and I was ready to rejoin the world. After the stitches were removed, I continued to keep the incision area clean and moist, switching over to Aquaphor, instead of the topical antibiotic. And a week after that, I was finally able to start using foundation on the incision site to hide any trace of redness.

Cost of a Lip Lift

The cost of a lip lift varies greatly, depending upon the plastic surgeon and region, but expect to pay an average of $2,000 to $6,500 for the procedure.

My Honest Review

I am still in the process of healing, but I can confidently say that I am much happier this time around with my results. My lips are much more lifted and in a better position now than after my first surgery. They are as close to my view of perfection as they can be. While I would have loved to not have to have gone through a second surgery, I am glad that I did.

A fair warning to all who desire a lip lift: “You need to have an honest discussion with your surgeon about your expectations,” says Dr. Ahmedli. While I certainly would have preferred not having to have gone in for a second surgery to ultimately get the lips I desired all along, I have a deep appreciation for my journey and the ability to share my story with others. As with any plastic surgery, it’s always harder to fix something that was overdone. So in a weird way, I appreciate the initial conservative approach with my lip lift, but I just knew what I had wanted all along.

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