I wanted to recount my experience pertaining to my first time getting lip fillers as a way to help others who may be thinking about getting a lip filler.
As you may know, I was very nervous and hesitant. I have always wanted to get my lips done, especially after assisting in so many of those lip procedures. I just needed to find the courage to actually do it. It was definitely a great experience being on the other side as a “patient” this time around and experiencing it from another point of view.
Before the procedure began, Dr. Lee and I had both agreed on choosing Juvederm Volbella XC as the most suitable filler for my lips. Since my lips were quite thin to begin with, it was important for me to choose a filler in which my lips could handle without it being too overblown. Volbella is known to be a smoother filler, with more of a natural look. Its also known to have the least amount of swelling. Eventually, if I want to have my lips injected again, I can also choose a different filler to coexist with Volbella. Other choices included a newer filler called Restylane Kysse. This filler, Restylane Kysse is a thicker product than Juvederm Volbella XC. There are about 10 different lip filler choices we could have used for lips. But one choice we weren’t going to do is Radiesse – that is a syringe used for growing collagen (hyperdilute radiesse) in areas where there aren’t too much muscle activity. Lips are mostly muscle and have a lot of movement.
I explained to Dr. Lee the type of results I was hoping to achieve. My top lip had a very defined “M” shape to it, while also being very thin. I wanted more volume on the top of my lip border around the cupid’s bow, without the sides looking very elongated.
“Before” photos of my lips were taken. Numbing cream was applied, and left on my lips for about 5 minutes. We went through the cold sores and lip questions. As nervous as I was, I knew I was in good hands with Dr. Lee since he is the lip filler expert! I was completely numb and felt little to no pain for the entire lip filler procedure. The most painful area I think was when he began to inject towards the middle of my lips, specifically, the philtral columns. I would rate the pain level a 4 on a scale from 1-10.
I enjoyed the fact that Dr. Lee would explain what he was doing while injecting. Lupe was also very comforting while she was assisting Dr. Lee. She put her hand on my shoulder which made a big difference in my anxiety level. They would take a moment to ask me how I was doing during the lip procedure, which was really nice and reassuring. The entire process was maybe 8-12 minutes long. The Once the procedure was over, Lupe handed me the mirror to take see my new look. I was so excited! Of course, my first reaction was being a little taken aback at my lips being bigger than they were before, but with that being said, I instantly fell in love with my new look. My lips turned out to be better than I even expected them to be.
Dr. Lee did an absolute amazing wonderful awesome job! I am so happy! I have always been very insecure about my lips being thin as well as having a gummy smile. Now I have so much more confidence and am so beyond happy.
Dr. Lee informed me that I can apply an icepack to help reduce swelling – especially for the first 30 minutes. He educated me on side effects regarding swelling for the next few days. In about 3 weeks, I should see the full results with the bruising gone and swelling gone.
I had an amazing overall lip augmentation experience for my first time getting my lips done. Thank you, Dr. Lee!!
Lip Injections by Calvin Lee, MD, My thoughts in 2020
This question is a bit like asking what type of how do I like to use for playing the violin. Sometimes it depends on my mood and sometimes it depends on what type of mood I’m trying to create. It also depends on what type of technical challenges I’m up against.
This discussion is limited to the syringes I have at my office.
Above collage are lip before and after pictures of my patients in the 4 weeks leading up to today 9/13/20. Pictures posted with permission. Bottom right pictures are of the Surgical Artistry team.
Dumbells vs Fillers?
Oh another analogy: Picking a filler might be a little bit like picking which kind/type of dumbells one might use for working out. There are different brands of dumbells and different weights.
Often I choose Juvederm Volbella XC to inject into the lips. The syringe itself is very ergonomic and has a good responsive feel when I inject it when attached to a 32 gauge needle. This needle gives me enough resistence so I don’t just pour it all out in one spot.
It is a soft filler (not very thick – or it has a lower G prime) made of smaller Hyaluronic Acid molecules. The molecules stack on top of each other very smoothly. So if I’m looking for a subtle and more smoother look, I choose Volbella. Many younger patients who have a nice vermillion border and philtral column do very well with Volbella but many times we need two syringes of Volbella for the younger lip. Volbella also has less swelling due to the vycross technology and uses a smaller needle which is a 32 gauge needle. In the older patient, Juvederm Volbella sometimes looks the most natural with softer edges for the lips. The tissue integration of this product is rapid and thus there would be less movement of the product after injection. This is a great filler for patients with thin skin for their lips. Volbella is also a relatively long lasting filler syringe wtih longer duration compared to Ultra and Ultra plus.
This product also doesn’t look too blue under the skin and thus can be used very nicely for those smoker’s lines. This is one of my favorite products to inject into smokers lines.
I recommend this Volbella syringe to the more extremes of age – youngest patients and oldest patients – and in patients who only want a very subtle change but want long lasting results.
Volbella is a medium-high cost syringe in the lineup of Juvederm products.
This is my most commonly used filler for lips. I have been doing lip fillers since 2008 and this filler just feels very comfortable to me in my hand. I like the way the filler syringe feels and I like the feel extrusion force. This filler is attached to a 30 gauge needle.
This is a filler that makes great borders of the lips, and I like to inject it close to the vermillion border, and use it for philtral column support. The results are beautiful and this tool is in my comfort zone due to my experience with this product. This filler however tends to swell afterwards.
This filler is also very good for lines around the mouth. I will sometimes take a second syringe of Juvederm Ultra and use it for perioral support and reduction of the lip lines. Sometimes patients don’t want fillers in the red part of the lip, they just want the perioral support and lip line reduction (smokers lines – or bar codes).
This is the lowest cost product of the Juvederm lineup of products. I don’t choose it based on cost, but I choose it because in my hands, I feel that the results are predictable and it creates beautiful borders with the versatility of creating a fuller, plumper lip. Overall, I feel that Juvederm Ultra is the most versatile filler product in my hands. It can create a nice body to the lip along with a nice border to the lip.
Juvederm Ultra Plus
I sometimes use this syringe for lip augmentation. I am not entirely used to the light extrusion force when attached to the native 27g needle. The syringe itself is a wonderful tool as with all the other Juvederm products, with rubberized grips in the right places.
This Juvederm Ultra Plus filler is good for creating volume. But in my opinion not that good for creating the borders and many times in my observation it seems to extrude out of the borders. This is a thicker filler like a thick jelly and isn’t great for the fine borders or philtral columns but is good for creating a stiffer and thicker body to the lip.
Juvederm Ultra Plus is the same price point as Juvederm Ultra – they are both on the low end of the price scale.
The extrusion force is on the lighter side, but I can definitely get used to it. I’m so glad it comes on a 30 g needle so that it is less traumatic to the lip. I love the ergonomics of this syringe. It has a nice violet color to the syringe that lets me know that I’m using the right syringe.
The Vollure Lip procedure is becoming one of my favorites for building a fluffy body to the lip. Vollure is a very spreadable smooth filler that has the Juvederm vycross technology which allows the filler to last longer. This isn’t a great filler for sharpening the borders or defining the filtral column but it is wonderful for volumizing the lip, and giving it a bigger look and having great mobility of the lip without looking stiff. This filler works great going through a cannula as well.
Juvederm Vollure is very versatile and may work well alternating or alongside Juvederm Ultra. Using Vollure for creating a fuller body and using Juvederm Ultra for creating the definition. The swelling is less for this filler than a Juvederm Ultra filler procedure.
This product also integrates quickly into the lip and doesn’t move or swell much afterwards.
Vollure is a medium-high price for the syringe.
I’ve used this for lips a few times, mostly at patient request. This is for someone who wants a stiff large lip which can sometimes look a bit wider. I usually use this syringe in the cheeks for a stiff filler. This is the stiffest filler in the lineup of Juvederms at this moment in 2020.
This syringe is not good at creating borders, but it is good for creating a stiffer, wider, and fuller look and feel.
Juvederm Voluma is the highest priced syringe in the Juvederm line up at this moment. It is also very long lasting.
This Restylane Silk is an incredible syringe for the lips. It creates a very soft look and feel and rarely forms bumps. It does unfortunately create a good deal of swelling afterwards. I like this syringe very much for helping with the lip lines around the mouth. This product also does not look very blue under the skin.
I’ve only injected this filler syringe a few times. I do not have good motor memory with the use of the syringe. I’m not entirely used to the markings on the syringe itself – to give me a visual feedback of how much I’ve injected. This is mainly due to the fact that I’ve injected thousands of Juvederm fillers and very few Restylane Kysse syringes in comparison
The lip filler seems to be a very nice filler which isn’t the best in my hands for creating borders, but it is decent. Not bad for creating philtral column definition, but perhaps a bit thick. It is good at creating a nice fluffy body of the lip and many patients like the results. This product has a lot of potential. I think the thickness falls between Juvederm Ultra and Juvederm Ultra Plus.
This is a lightweight filler that creates a soft change to the lip with flexibility. It is very popular with some of the patients and is asked for by name. I think it is very versatile.
This is the thicker version of Refyne. This is a very versatile syringe and creates a result thicker than Kysse in my limited opinion. The lineup seems to be from thinnest to thickest: Restylane Refyne, Restylane Kysse, and Restylane Defyne. My patients who have gotten Refyne and Defyne for their lips seem to think that Kysse is better and just right for their lips.
This was my original lip filler syringe that I used back around 2006-2008. This syringe is still one of my favorites to use. It creates nice borders and stiffens and lifts the body of the lip. I like the feel of the syringe and it fits into my smaller hand very easily.
I’ve actually not tried this in the lip, but I think it would be similar to my Juvederm Voluma Experience
This Belotero syringe does a very nice subtle change to the lip very similar to the Silk and Volbella changes, but the duration is pretty short. I only used it when it first came out, and it doesn’t have lidocaine built inside like all the other syringes mentioned earlier..
In Summary of Fillers for the Lips – how do I choose?
I choose based on familiarity – can I inject it with my eyes closed type of concept.
I choose the filler based on the physical syringe itself – can I visually see what ratios I’ve created easily, and will the syringe fall out of my hand? And when I push the product, will I get good tactile feedback regarding how much I’ve actually pushed? This is somewhat like the gas pedal of our cars. Some have a stiffer pedal and others, you might floor it without knowing – zoom! A lot of this is also based on familiarity too and some of it based on purposeful design.
I choose this based on age of the lip, thickness of the skin, and desired outcome.
For a patient who wants a very stiff thick lip – then Juvederm Voluma.
For patients who wants everything – nice borders, flexibility, more fullness – but is willing to be a little bit on the smaller size and knows that we can just add more syringes of the same product or other products to get a bigger size: then it’s my usual Juvederm Ultra. We can add more in a few months to get to the right size.
For patients who want a subtle change with long duration with less recovery: Juvederm Volbella
For patients who already have a nice vermillion border who knows they want a bigger lip but only wants to do one syringe with longevity then I choose Juvederm Vollure. This syringe creates more of a visual change as seen in pictures.
For my patients whom I’ve had from 2008 and have liked their lip results with Restylane, I continue on the Restylane track. The same for new patients who want to try something new or came from other practices who use more Restylane than I do. Restylane is a fine set of fillers.
There is a new filler which can be used in the lips which is RHA 2 and RHA 3. New to the USA. I’ve tried RHA 3 and it seems very nice too.
My most common to least common ranking of lip fillers used in my own practice:
Most common on top:
Juvederm Ultra with Volbella combination
Juvederm Vollure with Ultra combination
Juvederm Ultra Plus
In the end, it comes down to four things when I pick a filler to inject lips.
Injector factors – injector’s personal preference, familiarity, predictability of giving the right outcome, reliability and responsiveness of the filler company.
Patient factors – thin skin, age of lip, lack of border, patient desires.
Friends and family factors – what do they prefer when they look at your lips and does it matter to you?
Financial factors – cost to the patient and cost to the injector. Many fillers can give a similar look but can I as the injector make that desired outcome with the least amount of product? I call this efficient use of product.
Sometimes I’m asked about my favorite lip augmentation technique.
I have about 15 different techniques I like to use for injecting lips with filler such as Juvederm. Thus I have 15 favorites which I like to combine! These include retrograde, anterograde, perpendicular injections (lip tenting), serial puncture, fanning (chicken feet), cannula, vermillion border emphasis, wet dry border emphasis, middle 2/3’s of the lips, parallel lip injections, keyhole preservation, lip tubercle preservation, starting laterally, starting medially, and our 4 hands lip technique. There is also something called the Russian Technique for lips but I’m not quite sure what that is – perhaps it is more of a white roll/vermillion border emphasis technique.
I like to have a vision in my mind for me to achieve and to maintain safety at all times. There are so many variations on what I like to do, but what I keep in mind in choosing which method I use is:
physics of elasticity, viscosity, rheology, vectors.
goals we have (shape, amount, symmetry, proportion)
One could also combine lip filler with Botox, but that’s for another topic. Thanks for reading my Lip technique blog.
About me: I am Dr. Calvin Lee, MD, former trauma surgeon. I have been injecting lips since around 2008. I use Allergan products: Juvederm volbella, and ultra most often for lip plumping. I also sometimes use Restylane for lips and also for tear troughs. I actually think that tear troughs and lips are some of the hardest filler procedures to do. The two procedures are quite opposite in the technique we would choose to do. I am located in Modesto, CA. Our address is 4754 Dale Road, Modesto, CA 95356. We moved in March, 2019. Hope you can visit us and give us a call at 209-551-1888.