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Lip Lift vs Lip Filler: Which Is Right for You?


    Lip filler is an excellent solution for adding volume to your lips if you have naturally thin lips. It is typically a popular treatment for younger patients, with more mature patients looking into lip injections as a solution to restore volume in the lips lost throughout the aging process. 

    Although, as with any procedure, lip filler is not for everyone. Some patients believe lip filler results are too obvious and unnatural, even when done by a highly skilled facial plastic surgeon or injector. These patients consider lip lift surgery for a more permanent, natural result. However, surgery is not for everyone, so how do you know whether a lip lift or filler is right for you?

    What is a lip lift?

    A lip lift is a surgical procedure designed to permanently shorten the distance between the upper lip and the bottom of the nose, known as the philtrum, and create the appearance of fuller lips. Some people genetically have a longer philtrum, while others notice theirs begin to elongate with age.

    What is lip filler?

    Hyaluronic acid fillers such as Juvéderm® XC, Restylane® Silk, or Resylane® Kysse can build fullness in the lips, improve vertical lip lines, and contour the lips. Some younger patients get lip filler regularly to maintain volume in their lips if they have genetically thin lips. Other more mature patients decide to get lip filler when aging causes volume loss and shape changes in their lips.

    How does lip lift surgery differ from lip injections?

    From the procedure process to the results they provide, many key differences exist between lip lift surgery and lip fillers, which may influence your decision on the right option for you. 

    Procedure process

    Lip fillers

    At the beginning of your lip injection treatment, a small amount of topical anesthetic is applied around your lips and mouth to numb your top and bottom lips. The lips are then injected with hyaluronic acid (HA) filler to appear natural and close to your goals. The minimally-invasive procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the extent of your goals.

    Lip lift

    The most widely used technique is the bullhorn lip lift, which includes the removal of  a small strip of skin below the nose following the natural contours of the nostril, and rolling the top lip upward, creating more fullness to the lips. The procedure typically takes 1 to 2 hours in-office under local anesthesia. Other types of lip lifts include:

    • Direct lip lift – The outer skin of the upper lip is cut and pulled upward closer to the nose. Removal of a thin strip of skin from the area above the upper lip, the remaining skin at the central part of the lip pulled upward, creating the illusion of a more enhanced vermillion (the red part of the lips).
    • Central lip lift – The illusion of added volume to the upper lip is created by making an incision directly under the nose and removing a small amount of skin at the lower part of the nose.
    • Corner lip lift –  Making incisions at both corners of the mouth and removal of a small portion of the skin to lift a downturned upper lip just a few millimeters higher and restore a bright, youthful expression in the lips.
    • Italian lip lift – Making two incisions below each nostril, removing excess skin, and then the incisions are sutured within the nostrils.


    Lip fillers

    To achieve noticeable results with lip fillers, takes 1 to 2 full syringes. The cost of one full syringe of lip filler averages between $500 and $1,000 and does not include additional costs such as service fees. It is also important to remember that filler is not a permanent solution. To maintain results returning to your doctor or injector for regular treatment sessions will be necessary. 

    Key takeaway: We recommend lip filler patients visit The Kaplan Center every 12 to 18 months to reinforce the volume in their lips. If you decide to enhance the size of your lips through lip injections, you will need to return for treatments ranging from $500 to $1,000 every year or so to keep your results. If this expenditure is not an issue for you, then lip filler may be a great option for keeping your lips full. 

    Lip lift

    While some people may prefer to pay $500 to $1,000 every 12 to 18 months for filler syringes, others prefer to pay a single higher price for a more permanent solution. If you would rather not dedicate time and money yearly to keeping volumized lips, the cost to permanently enhance your lips with lip lift surgery ranges from $4,000 to $6,500, depending on which lip lift procedure you choose. 

    Key takeaway: This may seem more cost-effective than fillers to some people, as the cost of lip filler upkeep can reach the cost of a lip lift within 5 to 10 years.


    Lip fillers

    As mentioned above, filler treatments involve topical anesthetic. To help patients achieve their goal results for lip volume without surgery, we use synthetic hyaluronic acid (HA) injectable fillers. HA is a natural substance in your body and is FDA-approved to treat the lips using brands such as Restylane® or Juvéderm®

    Key takeaway: Some patients prefer not to have any substance injected into their bodies, even when natural. If you would rather work with what you naturally have without the intervention of injected materials and go the surgical route, you may be a better candidate for a lip lift.

    Lip lift

    Lip lift surgery is usually under local anesthetic. We discuss anesthesia and sedation in-depth with all patients to ensure they are comfortable undergoing any procedure at The Kaplan Center in New Jersey or New York. Using a special type of scalpel and surgical scissors to create incisions and remove unnecessary skin. 

    Key takeaway: Surgery is not for everyone, so if you are uncomfortable with sharp tools, anesthesia, or the recovery followed by surgery, you may be a better candidate for lip fillers.


    Lip fillers

    Your final results after a lip filler treatment should debut within a week of your procedure. Results are visible immediately, but slight swelling may last 2 to 7 days. Once your final results are visible, if injected properly, your lips will have a naturally plumper appearance, with the degree of volume increase and shape change to fulfill your personal goals. 

    Your lip filler results should last between 12 to 18 months. The great thing about lip filler is that you can choose specific parts of your lips to add volume. According to, 93% of patients report that their lip filler results are “worth it.”

    Key takeaway: If you desire more volume in your lower lips, you can decide how you want them to look with filler more so than with a lip lift. Lip lift provides minimal change to the lower lips.

    Lip lift

    Lip lift incisions may take 6 to 8 weeks to fade, but scars may not completely disappear until a year after your lip lift procedure. You should see your lips take their final shape from the surgery after about two weeks, allowing time for any swelling to dissipate. 

    After your lip lift procedure, your lips will appear lifted and more youthful. According to, 92% of lip lift patients report that their procedure was worth the result. 

    Key takeaway:  If you are insecure about the space between your nose and lips caused by genetics or aging, the lip lift can be a truly impactful procedure. Many of our patients report that they are very happy with the new shape of their lips and the natural appearance of their results following their lip lift surgery. Remember that the lip lift primarily focuses on the upper lip, so if you want to add volume to your lower lips, you may prefer a lip filler or look to combine the two procedures.


    Lip fillers

    Your pain should fade on its own within 12 to 24 hours after your lip injection treatment. Your swelling will most likely go down after 48 hours, but do not be alarmed if it takes up to a week for the swelling to dissipate. 

    Key takeaway: If you want full lips before a special event, we recommend having your lip injection appointment scheduled for at least two weeks beforehand, to ensure your final results are ready to be shown off.

    Lip lift

    Patients can usually return to work 7 to 10 days after lip lift surgery when sutures are removed and steri-strips are applied. After two weeks, the swelling should have subsided enough to use makeup to cover any residual redness. Scarring at the incision site should become fainter six weeks after surgery, with further improvements noted in the third month and the final result seen at twelve months.

    Key takeaway:  For best healing, we recommend lip lift patients regularly apply cold compresses, take over-the-counter pain medication when required, and ensure plenty of rest during their recovery period. To avoid scar darkening, we instruct all patients to wear sunscreen and avoid sun exposure as much as possible for 12 months. The Kaplan Center will provide you with a fully detailed plan to ensure you recover properly and get the best results possible from your procedure.


    Lip fillers

    As they are a minimally invasive treatment, lip injections do not cause any scarring. Any bruising or swelling will go away on its own. 

    If you opt to have your lip filler treatment done by someone less experienced, this may result in having too much filler injected, permanently stretching the skin on your lips, or the filler migrating to other areas of the face. Be particular about who you choose to perform this treatment on your lips. A board-certified plastic surgeon such as Dr. Kaplan or a trained injector experienced in injecting the lips is the safest option.

    Lip lift

    Any time an incision is made, scar tissue forms. Lip lift scars begin to fade after the first six weeks and become practically invisible once final results are revealed at the 12-month mark. The scar is purposefully concealed in a discreet contour of the skin underneath the nose and Dr. Kaplan uses years of expertise to create as minimal scarring as possible.

    Lip FillerLip Lift
    Procedure ProcessMinimally-invasive, takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour with topical anesthesia Surgical procedure involving incisions, takes about 1 to 2 hours in office under local anesthesia
    Cost$500 to $1,000 every 12 to 18 months$4,000 to $6,500 for permanent results
    Materials InvolvedHA filler, topical anesthesiaLocal anesthesia, scalpel, surgical scissors
    Results12 to 18 months of added volume to top and/or bottom lipsPermanent, natural result of fuller-looking, more youthful and shapely top lip, and reduction of philtrum
    RecoverySlight pain for 12 to 24 hours, swelling for <1 week7 to 10 days of rest, swelling for about 2 weeks
    ScarringNoneMinimal scarring, strategically hidden, fades within 12 months

    Who is a candidate for lip filler?

    If you are looking for a temporary, non-surgical solution to add volume to your lips with little downtime, you may be a great candidate for lip filler. You can work closely with an injection professional to explain your goals with the procedure. At a lower cost than its surgical alternatives, it may also be more reasonable with your current budget. 

    Other characteristics of good lip filler candidates include:

    • You are not quite ready for a surgical solution
    • Your primary focus is to add volume to your lower lip
    • You do not have enough space between your nose and lips to have skin removed
    • You want to avoid scars
    • You want immediate results
    • You want to test out how they would look with fuller lips without going straight into a permanent solution

    Who is a candidate for a lip lift?

    Lip lift surgery is ideal for people looking to enhance their lips permanently. In particular, suitable candidates are those with concerns about their upper lip. 

    While lip augmentation can benefit patients of all ages, the procedure is ideal for mature patients who have noticed thinning lips that appear to have fallen downward on their faces.  It is also suitable for younger patients who haven’t been able to achieve the results they would have liked by using injectable fillers. 

    In general, we consider you a good candidate for lip lift surgery if:

    • You’re noticing a shortening of the philtrum due to the natural aging process
    • You would like a more permanent result over continuing the maintenance of injectable fillers
    • You would like to enhance their upper lip but have been unsatisfied with injectable fillers
    • You have realistic expectations for results
    • You are in overall good health
    • Is willing to follow recovery advice
    • You have a busy schedule that would be interrupted by the maintenance of filler sessions
    • You have reached the point of the aging process in which filler would not provide results worthwhile

    A lot of factors go into deciding whether a lip lift or lip filler is best for you, but you can schedule a consultation with board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Gordon Kaplan in New Jersey to discuss your goals. He will do a facial assessment, consider your wishes and recommend which lip enhancement procedure he feels would be best suited for you.

    The Kaplan Center

    The Kaplan Center is a medical practice ran by board-certified surgeon Dr. Gordon Kaplan in Edgewater, NJ. With over two decades of experience, The Kaplan Center specialises in plastic and reconstructive surgery for the face and body, along with a number of non-surgical treatments.