Injectable Fillers

Ask a Plastic Surgeon: How to Get Subtle-Looking Lip Injection Results, According to Dr. Alexander Rivkin

Close up of woman's mouth

During a recent dinner with a friend, the topic of medical aesthetics came up in conversation. As a beauty writer, I adore discussing all things skin-related. So this wasn’t unusual. However, amid our chat, my friend mentioned that she’d been treated with injectables not too long ago. 

I was surprised, as I couldn’t tell at all that she’d had lip injections. Her lips were perfectly plump, but not overly done. Her bottom lip looked pillowy and soft, and her cupid’s bow was clearly defined, yet nowhere near duck-like. This wasn’t the first time I’d been completely clueless that a friend had gotten their lips injected, though — in fact, it was more like the fifth time. I’ve been writing about aesthetics for years, so I’d assumed that by now, I’d have at least a semi-trained eye for spotting injectables on strangers — particularly lip injections. But if my recent misjudgement of my friend’s lips at dinner is any indication, that’s just not true. In fact, many people get cosmetic injectable treatments that are so subtle, no one even notices

[Editor’s note: Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.] 

However, for those heading into a lip injection appointment for the first time (or simply heading to a new provider), it can be difficult to communicate the exact, subdued aesthetic you want for your lips. Miscommunication like this can lead to less-than-ideal results. So, we tapped Alexander Rivkin, MD, facial plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, CA, for his best tips on how to ensure your injectable outcome turns out to be exactly what you were hoping for. 

Subtle-looking lip injections tip #1: Make sure you feel heard during your initial consult.

Many patients really care about bedside manner, and a key aspect of that is a provider’s ability to listen intently to their patients’ goals and concerns. So, when you’re about to undergo an aesthetic treatment, assess your provider’s actions. You don’t want your provider to seem rushed or uninterested in what you have to say mid-appointment — no matter how busy they may be. “There are no shortcuts to communication,” says Dr. Rivkin. “Before you get anything done with a new provider, you have to be sure that they are listening to you and taking your preferences very seriously.” If you happen to feel like you don’t have your provider’s full attention during the appointment, it’s OK to request to postpone or cancel the treatment. It’s important to feel 100 percent comfortable come injection day, so speak up if you’re concerned.

Subtle-looking lip injections tip #2: Don’t be vague about the kind of results you want.

When specifically seeking results that keep friends guessing as to whether or not you’ve had filler, make sure you’re very clear with your preferences to your provider. “If patients want a subtle result, they should say so plainly and emphasize that they [wouldn’t] be [happy] if their friends could tell that they have had lip injections,” says Dr. Rivkin. The more straightforward you are with your provider, the better your chances of getting stellar filler results are. So, describe exactly how you want your lips to look. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror and figure out how to verbalize your ideal results. If you want a more rounded, full cupid’s bow, say so. If you want to focus on slightly boosting the volume in your bottom lip, be clear about that. 

Subtle-looking lip injections tip #3: Check your provider’s before-and-after images.

According to Dr. Rivkin, it’s important to review the results of your provider’s past patients. Afterall, even if you clearly say you want a slight plumping boost, their version of “slight” might be somewhat different than yours — and their before-and-after images will likely be able to show that. “You should double-check the injector’s before-and-after images so that you both are visualizing the same kind of thing when you say ‘subtle,’” says Dr. Rivkin. “You may be imagining Kiera Knightley and they may be thinking of Angelina Jolie.”

Subtle-looking lip injections tip #4: Bring pictures for reference — but don’t expect an exact replica.

A picture is worth a thousand words, which is why it’s a good idea to bring images of the aesthetic you’re looking for to your injection appointment. “Pictures certainly help, with the caveat that lip anatomy varies quite a bit from one person to another,” explains Dr. Rivkin. “What is possible for [a celebrity] may not be possible for you.” So, keep in mind that the pictures you bring to your provider are simply a reference point for volume of the lips, not necessarily the shape. 

Subtle-looking lip injections tip #5: Scan the Internet for patient reviews.

To get a strong sense of the general criticism and praise a provider has procured over their career, read their patient reviews found on the Internet. “[Online] reviews are helpful, especially if patterns emerge, such as multiple patients remarking on the injector's subtle — or not so subtle — results,” says Dr. Rivkin. If past patients think your potential provider has a heavy hand and that’s not the look you want, it might be a good idea to seek someone else. So, do your research before you commit. Unsure where to find a licensed provider in your area? Chat with our team of trained aesthetic specialists now.