I’ve always suffered from exceptionally dry lips. Whether it’s changes in the weather or chronic dehydration (I’m terrible at remembering to drink enough water), it’s an issue I’ve never been able to quell. This is particularly frustrating considering the role of a beauty editor is to be an oracle of knowledge about skincare.
So when cosmetic doctor Wassim Taktouk recently told me about “injectable lip balm” — also referred to as “lip balm filler” — I was intrigued, to say the least. Could a new injectable treatment stop me from having to reach for my Laneige Lip Mask approximately 50 times a day? As someone who has given lip filler a go previously, I was certainly game to find out.
What is lip balm filler or injectable lip balm?
Before I get into things, I’d like to point out that Refinery29 is a judgment-free zone. Whether you opt for aesthetic treatments — or not — is entirely your prerogative. But we like to bring you the facts so that you can make a safe and informed decision. With that out of the way, lip balm filler is exactly what it says on the tin. Dr Christine Hall, who practices aesthetic medicine at the TakTouk Clinic in London, tells me that the treatment is essentially an injectable skin booster including hydrating hyaluronic acid, various vitamins and minerals, plus antioxidants (which protect the skin from collagen-zapping environmental aggressors like pollution and UV).
Historically, these components have been used elsewhere on the face (like cheeks, chin and forehead) in moisturising injectable treatments like Profhilo (of which the main ingredient is hyaluronic acid). In the case of lip balm filler, Dr Hall tells me that the hyaluronic acid, vitamins and antioxidants are concentrated into the top and bottom lips to hydrate them from within.
What are the benefits of lip balm filler?
Lip balm filler has a number of benefits, primarily its ability to hydrate lips for longer, which means less of a need to reach for the lip balm, and fewer instances of chapped, cracked skin. “It can help anyone with very dry lips or vertical lip lines,” explains Dr Hall. Of course, vertical lip lines are an entirely natural and normal part of your anatomy, but for those with chronically dry lips, they may appear exaggerated.
In addition to providing longer-lasting hydration, lip balm filler is also a great entry point for those thinking about lip filler. “This is ideal for anyone who has lost a little bit of volume in their lips,” says Dr Hall, as it lends a small boost. “The effects won’t last as long [as filler] and are very subtle, so it’s good for people thinking about getting filler who may be worried about what it will look like,” she adds. But more on that later.
Is injectable lip balm better than actual lip balm?
The main problem with my chronically chapped lips is that applying lip balm feels like a full-time job. Glance into any bag I carry and you’ll spot at least three moisturising lip balms, lip oils or lip masks. The appeal of injectable lip balm was smoother, more hydrated lips on tap. I also liked the idea because I want to wear lipstick more regularly, and usually, my lips are too chapped to take colour that lasts.
“Lip balms, which you have to keep applying throughout the day, don’t really penetrate lips,” says Dr Hall. “They act more as an occlusive to prevent hydration loss from the surface of lips, rather than introducing hydration back in.” Many lip balms may also contain irritating ingredients which can make dry skin worse, including menthol, essential oils and fragrance. This injectable treatment tackles dehydration from the inside out, adds Dr Hall, and it uses different ingredients you may not find in lip balms. “The hyaluronic acid especially helps to attract water,” she tells me. Essentially, this is touted as a longer-term solution for dry lips.
How is injectable lip balm different from “regular” filler?
For transparency, I have had “regular” lip filler, but my lips are still dry. One of my first questions was how this treatment was different. The obvious answer is that filler boosts lip volume and size, and while it can subtly address dehydration lines on the surface, it doesn’t do so in a way that this targeted treatment does. “This is not technically even classed as filler,” Dr Hall tells me of injectable lip balm. “Both [injectables] are made from hyaluronic acid, but within this treatment, it’s not cross-linked or made in the same way. The balm treatment also contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.”
How long does lip balm filler last?
The main similarity between the two is how they are administered: Like filler, the lip balm is injected into lips with a comparable technique. Lip balm filler top ups are recommended every four to six weeks, while regular lip filler tends to last between six and 18 months
Is injectable lip balm safe?
Though lip balm filler is an established treatment in many clinics — and considered safe by practitioners like Dr Hall — it is not as widely available as traditional lip filler. While many clinics offer skin boosters made of similar ingredients, not all inject them into the delicate skin on the lips just yet. For this reason, you’ll need to ask your specific clinic or injector if they provide the service. Do your due diligence and check whether they are qualified by typing their name into the Nursing & Midwifery Council register and the General Medical Council register.
What is it like to get injectable lip balm or lip balm filler?
The experience of getting injectable lip balm is very similar to that of having regular lip filler. This involves a consultation with a qualified injector to establish your needs and expectations, and to talk through any potential side effects like swelling or allergic reactions. As someone who has had a handful of regular lip filler procedures, the injections felt very similar. While numbing cream is available, I find that it extends the appointment time, as it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to take effect. Lidocaine — a local anaesthetic, which provides a numbing effect — is typically included in the formula of most hyaluronic acid-based lip fillers, anyway.
The potential side effects of this treatment are very similar to that of most injectables, says Dr Hall; swelling and bruising are the most common. I was most taken aback by how my lips looked post-treatment, though. Usually, when it comes to lip filler, I bruise a little the following couple of days, but with injectable lip balm, the bruising was instant. My lips looked much bigger than normal, too. Dr Hall assured me that the swelling would go down in a couple of days and that it was likely intensified because my lips had some filler in them, providing additional volume. For transparency, before my injectable lip filler treatment, I had a laser applied to my top lip to zap a broken blood vessel. It was likely a combination of these factors which intensified the side effects. That said, injectable lip filler isn’t a speedy lunchtime appointment. If you’re interested, I’d recommend trying it when you can lay low for the next few days.
The swelling and bruising subsided after about three days, and I’ve definitely noticed that reaching for the lip balm has become less of a bi-hourly habit. I’ve been wearing lipstick a little more in the past week, and it hasn’t gone crusty (sorry!) at the edges like it usually does, which is a big win. Volume-wise, I now have the same size lips as I walked in with. In other words, it hasn’t made them much bigger, but again, I have had regular lip filler.
How much does injectable lip balm cost — and is it worth it?
Would I recommend injectable lip balm? It all depends on your goals — and how much cash you have to spend. Injectable lip balm costs £495 (around $945 AUD) at the TakTouk Clinic, which includes two sessions, four to six weeks apart. For those looking to dip their toe into the world of lip injectables, I think this is a great place to start. Not only does it provide more hydration thanks to the ingredients, but there’s a subtle volume boost which will show you what your lips might look like with a small unit of regular lip filler. That said, it’s a costly habit, especially when you consider the frequency and number of appointments needed.
Overall, I’m not sure I’d give up regular lip filler for injectable lip balm. As someone with chronically dry lips, I have noticed a positive change in the texture and feel of them, but I’m undecided as to whether I’ll return for more. In all honesty, I much prefer the volume and shape I get from filler. Though beneficial for dry skin, I don’t feel as though lip balm filler can match actual filler when it comes to plumping lips.