What exactly makes lip plumpers work to “plump?” We carry a tube of this wonder-working gloss or serum in our makeup kits as a pick-me-up solution for lips that need a little volume. Some of us are even quite devoted to the stuff. We’ll get compliments throughout the day on our Kardashian-esque kissers, never daring to reveal our secrets of lip amplitude. But how much do we really know about lip plumpers, anyway? Are our Lip Injections, Venoms, and Inflations really okay to be using every day? We turned to cosmetic chemist Nick Morante to get the skinny on our favorite plumping products.
Certain products such as DuWop Lip Venom use ingredients like cinnamon oil that will intentionally irritate the lips,” Morante explains, “and make them swell which gives an appearance of plumping.” Though that may sound a bit harsh for a beauty product, Morante insists the irritation is mild and safe.
Morante also tells us that many other popular lip plumpers use an array of ingredients to achieve a vasodilation effect—or a widening of the blood vessels. Vasodilation occurs when the smooth muscle cells within the blood vessel walls relax and expand. According to him, plumpers that work via vasodilation, “increase the blood circulation in lips, and make them look fuller with the appearance of being plumper.”
Though this all sounds awfully scientific, we’re relieved to hear that the real secret behind many of our favorite plumping products and boosting balms are things we have on hand in the kitchen. Spicy extracts such as cinnamon, menthol, and even hot pepper (commonly labeled as capsaicin), are added to plumping formulas to stimulate blood flow for a swollen look that lasts. Caffeine is another popular ingredient along with niacin—a B vitamin that has vasodilation properties. If your lip plumper tingles or even burns when applied, one of these familiar formulas might be to blame.
Many plumpers on the market rely on ingredients that cause blood to essentially rush to the lips. It turns out, labs have developed this idea to be used for other parts of the body as well. Giggle all you want, but if it wasn’t for a Viagra commercial, Too Faced creator Jerrod Blandino wouldn’t have been inspired to create his celebrated gloss Lip Injection. They don’t share the same ingredients list, but they certainly both result in, er...plumping.
“Another plumping option are products containing ingredients like collagen and hyaluronic acid—a cell-boosting molecule,” explains Morante, “[they] serve as biological additives that promote cell growth and rejuvenation, giving the appearance of plumper, fatter, fuller looking lips over time, while working to eliminate fine lines and wrinkles.” Miracle Skin Transformer’s Advanced Peptide Lip Treatment uses a tripeptide blend to boost, plump, and hydrate with hyaluronic acid spheres. But vegans be warned, products containing these ingredients typically derive them from animals. Best-seller Lip Fusion contains collagen derived from fish, while a tube of Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker XL Extreme Plump Collagen Lip Shine contains atelocollagen extracted from calf skin.
Even the most basic lip gloss on the market will give your pucker a plumped-up look thanks to its thick shiny nature. Though many plumping glosses do double what your regular Bonne Bell is capable of, the goopy gloss is there to make the finished effect look extra spectacular.
The idea of burning your lips with chili extract, jolting them with caffeine, or boosting their appearance with animal extractives may have you fearing for your face, but worry not. “There are many other things that people use on or around their lips that can cause much more irritation and discomfort,” explains Morante, “even eating and drinking! The levels of the ingredients in question are low and considered safe when used at these concentrations.” And, he explains, since all ingredients are tested for safety, they are safe to use as directed and considered ‘non-irritating’. We’re relieved to hear that our one-swipe lip plumpers are easy and carefree.