Lip filler is one of the most-searched terms on the internet, as it seems many of us are exploring ways to make our lips appear bigger on a semi-permanent basis. But it looks like there might be a new lip-enhancing procedure sweeping cosmetic clinics in the form of lip threading — and no, we're not talking hair removal.
The process, which was approved by the FDA in the US earlier this year, consists of passing "threads" through the skin to accentuate the outer edge of the lips, mainly the Cupid's bow, making lips appear more defined — unlike hyaluronic acid fillers, which plump the area from within. But is lip threading safe? Does it hurt? And is it really worth it? We asked two of the UK's top cosmetic experts to break it down.
What is lip threading?
Dr. Tijion Esho, cosmetics doctor and owner of the ESHO Clinic, explains that traditional lip fillers involve injections of hyaluronic acid to alter the size and shape of the lip. Dr. Jonquille Chantrey, cosmetic surgeon at One Aesthetic Studio and international aesthetic lecturer, says lip threading is very different. "Lip threading involves passing miniature threads or sutures through a small tube to elevate the skin and create a degree of tension," she explains.
Sure, it sounds a bit scary, but the threads aren't actually made of cotton. "These threads are composed of poly-L-lactic acid, or PLLA, a biocompatible synthetic substance," explains Dr. Esho. "They are placed into the lip to stimulate collagen production and therefore change both the shape and size of the lip. The collagen stimulation is modest, so there is a more noticeable change in definition than volume of the lip itself." In other words, the outline of your lips is likely to be more raised and therefore defined — think of it like semi-permanent lip liner with an extra lift.
Does lip threading hurt?
Like all cosmetic procedures, there is a chance lip threading could be uncomfortable. Dr. Chantrey says a dental anesthetic can be injected, but that this might not allow for a true assessment of the lip in different expressions; for example, smiling or relaxed. "An advanced practitioner would not give a dental block for this reason," she explains, "but this means it would potentially be more painful than a filler which contains an anesthetic." As well as a little pain, if multiple punctures are needed, downtime from bruising or swelling could be up to two weeks, according to Dr. Chantrey.
Is lip threading safe?
Dr. Chantrey mentions she would not use thread around the mouth, as she prefers natural movement and the ability to adjust product in the area if needed. "If placed poorly, lip threads can cause lumps and other issues," she cautions. "I have seen reasonable results but also poor results, particularly with uneven lips."
Dr. Esho, on the other hand, has previously performed lip threading himself. "This is a medical procedure and all medical procedures will carry risk, but within the correct, experienced medical professional's hands, this can be a safe procedure," he says. "I pioneered something known as the 'Cupid’s bow lift,' where small threads are used to lift and define the Cupid’s bow." Seeing as the threads are foreign bodies, do they need to come out? "No," says Dr. Esho. "They will break down naturally over time within the lip."
Is lip threading reversible?
Unlike traditional filler, you do have to wait until the body breaks down lip threads, which means they aren't instantly reversible; plus, Dr. Chantrey says they can take a little longer to break down than hyaluronic acid-based filler. "This can be seen as a positive by someone who wants a longer-lasting result," she explains. "However, if you have a side effect such as an infection or a distortion, or you just don’t like the result, you can’t easily get them out." For this reason, Dr. Chantrey, like many qualified aestheticians in the UK, only uses fully reversible dermal fillers that have undergone strict and comprehensive clinical trials.
How much does lip threading cost and where can I get it done?
As with all procedures, the cost will vary depending on the amount of thread used and the experience of the practitioner, both Dr. Chantrey and Dr. Esho explain. On average, though, lip threading ranges from £300-£600 (roughly $400-$800 USD) per treatment.