Listen up, my thin-lipped sisters, ’cause I’m about to drop some heavy, hard-learned wisdom about non-invasive pout plumping: it doesn’t exist. At least, not for a girl like me who can hide her entire mouth behind a No. 2 pencil.
None of the capsaicin-infused glosses in my makeup graveyard can deliver Lana Del Rey lusciousness, nor can contouring with eight different types of liner or even sucking on a shot glass for the #KylieJennerChallenge (I had a ring around my mouth for three days).
There’s only one way to turn pitiful puckers pillowy, and it involves a trip to the beauty doctor. So far, the fear factor has kept me away; I’ve seen a lot of overinflated botch jobs. Google “celebrity lip-filler fails” (or go to L.A.) if you don’t know what I mean. But recently, I heard about “Cinderella lips”—all the rage in London right now.
Similar to traditional $600-plus hyaluronic-acid fillers, saline injections provide 24- to 48-hour amping (medical-grade salt water absorbs into the bloodstream rather quickly), so you can preview what you’d look like with a fuller set, minus the commitment.
Dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll recently started offering the treatment to civilians at her Toronto clinic; it’s already popular among her hush-hush celeb clients, who use it for what she calls “a little bit of extra pow on the red carpet.”
When I go to see her for a little pow of my own—still a tad leery—she gives me some rhyming reassurance: “Your injectable should not be detectable.”
Then, with a laugh: “For someone like you, I’d never go full-on Angelina, because it would just look silly.”
OK, I get it. They’re small. Let’s do this.
Materials: Saline lip treatment, Compass Dermatology, Toronto, $100 (if you go for the real thing afterward, this cost is deducted from your total)
Process: Dr. Carroll prepped me with a gooey white numbing cream (which made the pricks manageable) followed by an ice pack, and mapped out the injection points with a lip-liner-type pencil. Then my fairy godmother waved her wand (er, needle) about eight times over 20 minutes, and I was magically transformed into a girl with an upper lip.
When I first saw the result—before Dr. Carroll squeezed around my lips to distribute the filler more evenly—I looked a bit trouty. But by the time I left the clinic, my pout didn’t look overinflated, just prettier. I was in love (save for the telltale red dots around my lip line). Dr. Carroll had to remind me not to push my mouth forward in the “after” pics she took, explaining that I was probably in the habit of doing so after years of compensating. Did I just get an official duck-face diagnosis? If my insurance covers that condition, I may be back for the real thing.
1. You might have to leave the ball before midnight. The treatment is said to last up to two days, but a high metabolism and excessive talking or eating might shorten its lifespan. (Ditto for traditional fillers, which last six to 18 months.) My lips felt back to normal after 12 hours, which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows how much I talk. Or eat.
2. A pumpkin carriage doesn’t rival the real thing. While you can get a good sense of what you’d look like with full-on filler, the result might not be identical. “I can’t sculpt as well with saline because it’s very watery,” explains Dr. Carroll, noting that creating ultimate symmetry requires the thicker, more malleable hyaluronic acid.
3. Bippity, boppity, bruise. One major downside is the potential black-and-blue marks—but only after your lips have deflated. So if you’re getting a boost for a special evening, book your appointment as close to the event as possible. I had my treatment at 9 a.m., and it wasn’t until I woke the next day that I saw a few blotchy spots. I played them off as the result of tripping over my glass shoes.