Why is it that certain lip jobs look so bad? We interviewed Dr. Lips to clear up the mystery behind bad celebrity lip enhancements and how to avoid them.

Words: Ivette Figueroa

You just can’t seem to pick up a supermarket tabloid without seeing “the horrors of plastic surgery”—especially bad lip jobs. Believe it or not, good lip augmentations are actually the norm, but you wouldn’t think so paging through one of these magazines. Yes, we all know bad news sells, but that doesn’t answer the question: Why the botched lips? What are they doing wrong?

In order to clear up the mystery behind lip augmentation, we interviewed Dr. Robert Gordon, D.D.S., a Tampa-based cosmetic dentist and oral/facial specialist known as Dr. Lips, along with other cosmetic surgeons who practice his techniques.


The Three Principles of Lip Aesthetics

Lip enhancement, like any art form, requires an understanding of the underlying elements that create the final impression. “The art of lip augmentation is just that …ART,” says Dr. George Papanicolaou, a plastic surgeon in Altamonte Springs, Fla. “Any augmentation should follow rules of aesthetic relationships, form and cultural perspective.”

And like other expressions of artistic beauty, the appearance of lips relies on complex forms that lie beneath the surface. This is especially true for lips; few areas of the face are as multi-faceted or subtle. “The lips are the most expressive aspect of the face. In relationship to the mouth they smile, grin, laugh and express a larger range of emotion than other facial areas,” says Dr. Alexander Nemirovsky, an aesthetic physician in Santa Monica, Calif.

Despite this, cosmetic surgeons frequently treat lips with little understanding of the nuances of form. They simply fill them like tires—and usually over fill them, with the resulting trout pouts, duck bills and sausage lips so often photographed in celebrity magazines.

To understand what went wrong, and to understand how to create a natural, flawless look, Dr. Lips says that you must understand three basic principles.

The first principle is lip relationship, the most basic aesthetic point. This is the relationship between the upper and lower lips, and there are only three ways to go. Lips are either supre par (where the upper lip is larger than the lower), infre par (where the lower lip is larger than the upper), or on a par relationship, where both the upper and lower lip volume are equal.

The next principle is lip shape, or style. Renaissance artists first described the basic lip shapes as early as 600 years ago, and these come down to a half dozen signature styles, ranging from the sexy Hollywood look, with its full upper lip, to the Cupid style, with its cute Cupid’s Bow shape.

This final principle is the height of contour—basically how the lips are angled if you were to view them in silhouette from the side. This is an aesthetic value that is seen from a distance, and is revealed by how and where light hits the lips.

Upper and Lower Lip Relationship

“When most of us are asked to draw an ideal lip, we begin by making the lower lip a little larger than the upper lip—somehow this model has imbedded itself into the modern North American ideal,” says Dr. Lips. While it’s true that the lower lip being slightly larger (or infre par) is more prevalent, Dr. Lips says this is not the only ideal for a pleasing aesthetic. “Depending on your jaw shape and teeth relationship you may have a natural upper lip bigger than your lower lip, or supre par,” he says. Indeed, many famous actresses have a supre par lip style: Julia Roberts, Victoria Silvstedt and Uma Thurman to name a few.

Either one of these styles is natural and attractive in appearance, especially if it hits the ‘golden mean’ or ‘golden proportion’ between the lips. “Regardless if your lips are infre par or supre par, the golden proportion of 1 to 1.618 is a magical number that seems to elicit a pleasing aesthetic to the human eye,” says Dr. Lips. “Lips with this relationship or close to it fit the ideal aesthetic principle.”

What you don’t want are lips of equal size. This, says Dr. Lips, is the least attractive form and can represent an aged look to the lips. It’s also what gives the ham-like appearance to bad lip jobs, aka the “trout pout.”

Lips Forms

The overall shape of your lips—call it your lip ‘style’—is determined by five planes, or forms, that compose the lips, and it is the combination of these five forms that give lips their unique shape. The top lip has three of them: two pyramidal forms on either side, with a half-bucket shape in the middle. The lower lip has the other two: Two teardrop shapes that are accented by a pearl-like round form toward the middle where they meet.

Think of these underlying forms as little balloons in the red areas of your lips, with three-dimensional contours. The cosmetic doctor must understand these existing forms and their potential manipulation for each patient’s lips. With that insight, they can accentuate sexy presentations or enhance a youthful style.

“The most useful component of the Dr. Lips method is the strategic division of the injection process into the five anatomic planes of the lips,” says Dr. Marco Pelosi, III, a cosmetic surgeon in Bayonne, NJ. “Not only does it lead to reproducible results, but it allows for a level of augmentation control that increases the confidence level for physicians and patients alike.”

“Over augmentation of any of the five planes will violate the aesthetic rules and look unattractive,” says Dr. Lips.

Height of Contour

The way a lip contours—what amounts to its sideways shapes—is the simplest of the lip principles, but the most important when it comes to the final sense of natural beauty. This is the aesthetic value that is seen from a distance.

Simply put, our perception of lips is based on where and how they reflect light. In a beautiful upper lip, which curves inward, the light hits at the vermilion border or the top edge of the lip. In a beautiful lower lip, the light hits the middle of the lip as it gracefully curves outward. “If we augment the upper lip too much, it can roll out and the light will hit the middle, giving the appearance of duck lips,” says Dr. Gordon.

Following these three rules ensures that lips compliment the face rather than detract from it. Violation of one of the above rules will leave the onlooker puzzled and not quite sure why the lips just don’t look right. If two rules are broken, it will call definite attention and the person is more likely to be categorized by names like “duck lips” or “trout pout.” When all three rules are violated, the lips no longer look human in aesthetics but more like a bad accident.

The Principles Applied

Here are some examples of bad celebrity lip enhancements and where the augmenter went wrong in following the three principles of lip relationship, lip form and height of contour.

Victoria Silvstedt

Victoria has a supra par lip relationship. The relationship of the upper and lower lip is enough to create a balance. Even though the upper lip is larger, it is still close to the 1:1.618 rule.

We can see in her lips the five planes that make up the shape of the lips. The violation comes from over augmentation of the three planes of the upper lips; they have been slightly “over inflated,” so to speak, leaving a distortion in the contours. In her case, it is not too over-the-top, but enough to be noticed.

Due to the slight over inflation of the upper lip, the result is a compromise in the height of contour. The height of contour on the upper lip should lie on the vermilion (top) border, but both the upper and lower lips have their height of contours in the middle—giving Victoria’s lips a B-sting look.

Victoria’s lip violations are enough to put her on the radar for excessively augmented lips, but not enough to be overtly unaesthetic.

Lara Flynn Boyle

Lara has a par lip relationship here. This is an unaesthetic relationship and is quite evident. In addition there seems to be an asymmetrical shape in her upper right lip.

There is little or no representation of the 5 shapes of the lips. Her lips have been over-saturated with material and the result is unattractive.

Luckily the height of contour on both upper and lower fit the norm of aesthetics, saving this case from complete failure.

Lara has two solid lip violations. In order to reestablish an infre par lip style and shape the lips correctly, the right amount of filler should be added to recreate the normal aesthetic lip forms.

Jessica Simpson

Jessica’s lip augmentation has brought her lips into a par lip relationship. The upper and lower volume is an equal 1:1 ratio—the least attractive relationship.

There is some form representation in the lips. The upper lip shows the three shapes and the lower lip the two teardrop shapes. However, these shapes are all over-inflated.

The height of contour is violated in the upper lip. The upper vermilion border should cast a sharp reflection of light. Instead, light hits the middle of the upper lip, albeit slightly. This is due to over-filling. The lower lip’s height of contour, however, is in the correct zone.

Jessica has lip violations in each of the three principles of lip aesthetics, rendering her lip augmentation extremely noticeable and unflattering. The excess material injected has caused her lips to roll out and the shapes to become bubble-like.


Reposted with permission from New You Magazine: www.newyoumag.com

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