When it comes to lips, beauty standards tend to dictate that bigger is better.
A big part of it is likely a cultural desire to look youthful — for people assigned female at birth, fuller lips (along with a lack of wrinkles and gray hairs) makes them more likely to be perceived as younger, according to an older December 2009 study in PLOS One.
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Or, as a more recent February 2018 article in Acta Otorhinolaryngol Italica states, "Robust, pouty lips are considered to be sexually attractive by both males and females."
Plumper lips can be achieved through many tactics, from injections to deftly applied cosmetics. Scroll around social media, and you may find another, non-surgical method mentioned as a path to a perfect pout: face yoga, or exercises to help train the muscles around your mouth.
The big question: Do these exercises work?
Can Facial Yoga Exercises Make Your Lips Bigger?
When it comes to the merits of face yoga for lips, Alexander Zuriarrain, MD, a quadruple board-certified plastic surgeon with Zuri Plastic Surgery, has a definitive response: "There are no lip exercises that are done to make lips bigger," he says.
"I have not come across any research on physical exercises to increase lip size," he adds.
There's "no real research to support 'lip exercise,''' Azza Halim, MD, of Azza MD, who focuses on aesthetic medicine, says. Dr. Halim compares these exercises to another trend she's observed, using lip suction cups to enlarge lips, "which do nothing but cause trauma and swelling."
There are a few factors that influence the size of lips, including:
- Getting older: With age, lips can decrease in size, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Lips may get longer and thinner, and overall lose volume, per a February 2019 retrospective analysis in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
- Ethnicity: Black and Hispanic people tend to have fuller lips, Dr. Zuriarrain says.
- Genetics: Dr. Zuriarrain adds that along with age, lip size is also associated with genetics.
Smoking and sun damage can also lead to a loss of volume in your lips, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But none of these factors relate to how much your lips move or any lip-related workouts.
"I would not recommend trying to do any facial exercises to increase lip size," Dr. Zuriarrain says.
That's true for Dr. Halim, too: "I never recommend anything that doesn't work or [is] not supported by science or doesn't make any clinical sense."
Exercises for Bigger Lips
That said, there's little harm to trying lip exercises if you're curious — or hopeful for positive effects.
And, daily smile exercises to condition, train and strengthen facial muscles may help dental patients improve their smiles and facial appearance, according to an August 2014 article in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. The article recommends considering retraining exercises as part of dental rehabilitation.
Doing these moves will take around 10 to 15 minutes, she says. Martinez also recommends staying hydrated as you do these exercises to avoid wrinkling in the lips.
Things You'll Need
Lip balm or chapstick
1. Happy Hands
- Place your hands on the corners of your mouth. Point your forefingers upward.
- Lift the edges of your lips firmly, as if you’re forcing yourself to smile.
- Hold for several seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 5 times.
2. Tongue Twister
- Slowly roll your tongue around the inside of your lips clockwise. Do this 3 times.
- Repeat the move, going counterclockwise, 3 times.
- Do this exercise for 2 minutes.
3. The Kiss
- Pucker your lips.
- Press them firmly against your hand for 2 to 3 seconds.
- Pull your hand away, then blow a kiss in the air.
- Repeat up to 15 times.
“Do this in front of a mirror to ensure you keep your forehead as smooth as possible,” Martinez suggests.
4. Selfie Pout
- While holding your breath, clamp your lips shut. Scrunch them into a “selfie pout.”
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Exhale, pushing your breath all the way out as hard as you can out keeping your lips in an “O” formation.
- Repeat 5 times.
5. Upper Lip Stretch
- Place both index fingers just above your upper lip.
- Press in firmly, while gently pulling the fingers apart for 30 to 45 seconds.
- Repeat this 4 times.
Other Ways to Make Your Lips Bigger
If you're not interested in pursuing face yoga, a tactic for bigger lips without research to support it, there are other methods you can try. They include:
- Cosmetics: Strategic application of makeup can give your lips the appearance of a larger size. There are also products aimed at increasing the fullness. These "include temporary lip-plumping gloss, lipstick or serums that contain various ingredients with a tingling effect to initiate a swelling reaction that is similar to when one eats spicy food and lips swell a bit," Dr. Halim says.
- Surgical options: There are several surgical approaches here. One option: "Placing lip implants that are contoured to the natural shape of the upper and lower lips," Dr. Zuriarrain says. Or, if you're getting liposuction, that fat can be used for placement in the lips, which leads to "natural softness and volume to the lips," he says. Another surgical option is a lip lift, Dr. Halim says — doing this will "evert the lips and give the illusion of larger fuller lips." (Think of everting the lips as making them tilt upward.)
- Fillers and injections: Facial fillers with hyaluronic acid can be used to enhance lips, Dr. Zuriarrain says. "Other options can include collagen injections to the lips," he says.
- Acta Otorhinolaryngol Italica: "Is it possible to define the ideal lips?"
- PLOS One: "Why Some Women Look Young for Their Age"
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: "Aging of the Upper Lip: Part I: A Retrospective Analysis of Metric Changes in Soft Tissue on Magnetic Resonance Imaging"
- Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research: "Enhancing Facial Aesthetics with Muscle Retraining Exercises-A Review"