Hyaluronic Acid and Peptide Lip Plumpers Are Trending—Here’s Why

Hyaluronic Acid and Peptide Lip Plumpers Are Trending—Here’s Why

Young woman applies lip gloss close up

Anna Tabakova / Stocksy

In This Article

Understanding Lip Plumpers Traditional Formulations Newer Formulations What to Keep In Mind The Final Takeaway

From Marilyn Monroe overlining to get her signature Old Hollywood look to the viral lip (and not recommended) challenges of the 2010s, the pursuit of fuller-looking lips is age-old. Fast forward to today, and many invasive cosmetic and non-invasive topical treatments are available. While plenty of people have opted for injectable lip fillers that contain forms of synthetic hyaluronic acid (HA), others prefer over-the-counter topical solutions to get the look. If you’re uncomfortable with or don’t feel the urgency to go the injectable route, some promising new topical options should be on your radar.

Ahead, we summoned the expertise of board-certified dermatologists Connie Yang, MD, FAAD, and Juliya Fisher, MD, FAAD, to learn more about the new generation of hyaluronic acid- and peptide-based topical lip-plumping products.

Meet the Expert

  • Connie Yang, MD, FAAD, of PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York.
  • Juliya Fisher, MD, FAAD, is a double board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained dermatologic surgeon at Juva Skin and Laser Center in New York. 

Understanding Lip Plumpers

"Lip plumpers are products that are applied topically to produce a fuller, more hydrated, and poutier appearance to the lip," explains Fisher. "Results are temporary and last a few hours with each application." These topicals "typically come as a gloss, serum, or balm," adds Yang.

Traditional Formulations

As Fisher tells us, historically, lip plumpers have been formulated with ingredients that are mild irritants. These “work by increasing blood flow to the lip,” she explains. “[They] tend to be ‘spicy’ ingredients like cinnamon, peppermint, or capsaicin, a substance found in spicy peppers. These ingredients are responsible for the tingling or prickly sensation associated with traditional plumpers.”

These traditional ingredients are still popular in lip plumpers, and some "are still in use with newer products," Fisher says. The good news? "They are formulated to be less uncomfortable than in the past," she assures us.

How Do Newer Lip Plumpers Work?

Newer lip plumper formulations use alternative compounds to plump the lips—and they offer several benefits over traditional plumpers. “The mechanism of action behind this new generation of lip plumpers is different,” says Yang. “Instead of relying on irritation to temporarily swell the lips, these plumpers with hyaluronic acid and peptides have potential longer-term benefits by stimulating collagen production and providing hydration.”

Digging in a bit deeper, “hyaluronic acid is a hygroscopic molecule,” explains Fisher. “This means that when applied to the skin it will draw water.” This helps to hydrate and plump the lips, “similar to how it works on the skin as a serum.” Meanwhile, “peptides are an anti-aging ingredient found in many skincare products and have been shown to improve skin quality and texture,” she says. Thanks to these two particular ingredients, “lip quality and fullness should improve over time and with continued use of these newer lip plumpers.”

And your lips won't just look better—they'll feel better, too. "The advantage of these new plumpers is that there is less irritation and discomfort with the application, and you can get longer-term benefits," says Yang.

Byrdie Tip

"I recommend the skin be slightly damp when applying HA products to avoid drawing water out of the skin," says Fisher.

What to Keep In Mind

According to Yang, results from hyaluronic acid- and peptide-based lip plumpers may not be as immediate or dramatic as traditional formulas and may vary from person to person. "You may get some immediate plumping through hydration from the hyaluronic acid, but peptides work slower and require consistent use over several weeks to months," she explains. 

The Final Takeaway

While you might still reach for the traditional lip-plumping products that use natural ingredients to cause an intentional inflammatory response, that's no longer your only option. The new generation of lip fillers harnesses the power of hyaluronic acid and peptides to generate volume without irritation, and potentially with longer-lasting results—you just have to be patient enough to allow the ingredients to work their magic.

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