A Cautionary Tale of Lip Augmentation

When lip augmentation goes bad.
Lip Augmentation Fails

Over the years, there have been well-documented tales of disastrous – and indeed, criminal – lip augmentation procedures that have left popstars, supermodels and A List celebrities disfigured and scarred.

And for every famous face that has been messed up by dodgy practitioners, dodgy products or simple ineptitude, you can bet there are many more people out there, whose names you don’t know, who are still counting the cost of a cosmetic misstep.  

If that wasn’t stain enough on the industry, there’s also the relentless pursuit of the next fad, no matter how freakish or insane it might be.

For this reason, I don’t follow trends.

I wait for them to pass and then I fix the mess they leave behind.

Cosmetic Guinea Pigs

There’s a popular saying in medicine that ‘next is best’ implying some sort of progress achieved following the last big thing, but that’s simply not true. In many cases, next is at best an experiment.

I first witnessed lip augmentation in 2000. The work was done by a French plastic surgeon using a semi-permanent filler that was popular at the time. It took him two seconds – half a syringe left, half a syringe right – and there was no regard to any sort of anatomy. The filler went in, the lip was big, and that was that.

Nowadays, most people understand that there are anatomical structures we want to avoid injecting filler into, so what I witnessed was pure lunacy.

Then in in 2001 to 2002 we saw a plethora of high-profile lip augmentation disasters including Leslie Ash, Meg Ryan, and Priscilla Presley to name but a few. All talented, beautiful women who suddenly became famous for the wrong reasons because, prior to semi-permanent fillers and collagen, there was silicone.

As a rule, this was the realm of plastic surgeons who would inject small droplets of silicone into the lips thinking they would look great. What they didn’t realise was, the lips not only got bigger, they didn’t stop getting bigger.

In the case of the actress Leslie Ash, the silicone actually migrated into the muscles around her mouth where it hardened. Over the years, Leslie has had steroid injections to help soften the mass, but she will carry the disastrous effects of that procedure with her for the rest of her life.

Speaking of her lip implant surgery a few years ago, she reportedly said: ‘I thought it was a dermal filler that my body would just break down. But unbeknownst to me they used an industrial filler which got mixed up with my muscle.”

The late popstar Pete Burns had it even worse because the filler injected into his lips began to spread, leading to infected holes in his face and talk of a lip amputation.

After suing the surgeon, he received £450k in compensation, and underwent some 200 surgeries over the space of two years to remove filler from his cheeks, Adam’s apple, and even the back of his eyes. Doctors actually removed a piece of his stomach to create a lower and upper lip.

Of course, these are super extreme examples, but when you inject someone with a product that’s basically body foreign it will cause a foreign body reaction, which means inflammation, scarring, and unstoppable scar tissue growth. Basically, lumps and bumps and other terrible things.

Still, progress marched on and the next big thing to come along were the fillers DermaLife and Artecoll.

Artecoll was invented by a German plastic surgeon named Gottfried Lemperle, the first version of which was called Arteplast. When clinical trials threw up an unacceptable rate of complications it led to a new formulation, called Artecoll, and everybody thought it was fantastic breakthrough. Me? Not so much.

To my mind, both Dermalife and Aretcoll were a disaster, and after using DermaLife for a number of applications, I publicly called time on it while others, disingenuously, denied ever using it.

Round the Bend Trends

Of course. sometimes it’s not even dodgy products that are the problem. It’s fashion.

When I first came to London, the ‘Paris Lip’ was en vogue. This was apparently the best way to practice lips – by injecting the top lip only. Nobody even thought about injecting the bottom lip.

The thing is, I was working with a lot of models at the time, and not one of these naturally beautiful people had a disproportionately larger top lip and a significantly smaller bottom lip. So, this kind of lip augmentation made no sense to me, whatsoever. In fact, it was grotesque.

After the Paris Lip we then saw another disaster. From 2005, the Eastern European trend for both the top and bottom lip being pumped to ever bigger proportions burst onto the scene.

All the floodgates opened with this one, with practitioners simply injecting the most product they could into a lip.

Big lips were now the rage and they were done so badly, with the most atrocious products that even today, 20 years later, I treat patients who have lumps and bumps and all sorts of distortions in their lips.

Again, this was a period of bee-sting procedures in which people were injected anywhere in the lip, without any nod to anatomy, aesthetics or even science. The aim was merely to pump the stuff in. and this went on for a couple of years until around 2008.

Then the whole look was turned on its head with the ascendency of Angelina Jolie. Suddenly, everyone was creating huge bottom lips, which was also a mistake. It was a look that worked for Angelina Jolie, but not so much for other people.

And now, here we are today, facing the return of the previous trend for both the top and bottom lip being supersized. And, of course, It’s another huge mistake.

Fads don’t last forever, unlike the potential damage caused by them – damage, incidentally, that we spend a lot of time undoing at The Prager Clinic in order to restore the health of these extravagantly misshaped lips.

So, how do I do lips? Tune in Friday where I will reveal the evolution that led to The London Lip – a timeless classic that will never go out of fashion.