How to Make Your Lips Look Bigger Without Needles

Posted November 15, 2018 12:42 a.m. EST

Fleshy, pouty, pillowy lips. Everywhere you turn, a new actress, model or influencer is pursing an outrageously plump pair of lips. If you were pointing fingers, you could blame the return of 1990s fashion and the beauty trends of that girlie-grunge decade.

But the exaggerated features of Instagram’s biggest beauty influencers (Kylie Jenner, Kandee Johnson and others) have a lot to do with the prevailing beauty ambitions: lips that can range from subtly defined to sex doll.

Let’s say you’d like to accent your pout but steer clear of injectable fillers like Restylane and Juvéderm, the gold standards. Here, several top makeup artists share their tips on how to make your lips look fuller with just makeup.

Lip Prep

Plumpness is something “you attribute to health,” said Christine d’Ornano, the global vice president of Sisley Paris. “It means you’re hydrated.” Most people will focus on moisturizing the lips, but d’Ornano emphasizes the importance of hydrating the skin around the lips.

“The lines around the lip can actually be what’s making your lips look less plump,” she said. (She uses Sisley’s Eye and Lip Contour Balm, the brand’s best seller, $140. If you prefer natural formulations, Osea Eyes & Lips cream, $60, boasts peptides.)

But you can ditch the lip scrub. “Lip scrubs don’t really do anything,” said Daniel Martin, who recently did Meghan Markle’s makeup for her wedding and is a brand ambassador for Dior Beauty. “They just taste like sugar and don’t really exfoliate.” Instead, he uses a warm wet washcloth on his clients’ lips to gently rub off any dry flakes.

Then look for a product that offers deep hydration. Martin particularly likes Tatcha’s Kissu Lip Mask ($30). It’s meant for overnight wear, but even a few minutes can help. “I’ll have the model put it on while her hair is being blown out to give it time to set,” he said. “And it doesn’t have the weird cinnamon stingy stuff of lip plumpers from the ‘90s.”

Finding Your Lip Shape

The pro way to puff up your pout with makeup means adding a few steps to your makeup routine. First, Martin blots out the tone of the lips with foundation or concealer. “This way you actually see the shape of the lip,” he said.

Next, he selects a lip liner that matches your actual lip tone or is one shade darker. That gives your lips structure and provides a base for any other product you apply.

“The truth is that unless you’re reapplying constantly, lip products will feather slightly at the edges,” Martin said. “As the day wears on, a liner that matches your lip tone will look less jarring as your lipstick or gloss wears off.” He likes Rouge Dior Ink Lip Liner, $32, because of its stainlike, natural-looking texture.

If you prefer classic pencils, Vincent Oquendo, a makeup artist known for his work with Victoria’s Secret models, favors those from the Sephora Collection, like the Rouge Gel Lip Liner, $12, with a built-in sharpener.

Ignore the names of the colors, Martin advised. Too often what is Nude is not nude for the wearer. Many women’s lips are more mauve or have purple undertones, he said.

Once you’ve found your liner and determined your natural lip shape, draw just one pencil tip’s width right outside the lip line, said Beau Nelson, a makeup artist who often works with Kristen Stewart. Any more and you veer into cartoonish territory. Fill in the rest of the lip with the same liner.

Insider tip: If you’re struggling with lining your lips, take the advice of makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury and stretch your canvas: “Smile slightly to get a bit of tautness in the lips. That way you reveal the shape.”

The Art of Distraction

A few optical tricks can go a long way to convey a plumper pout. You can wear lip liner on its own or in the ‘90s way with a thick coat of shiny gloss. The reflective surface creates the illusion of fullness. Martin loves pairing a liner with Charlotte Tilbury Collagen Lip Bath Gloss ($30) on top.

For a longer-wearing formula (no matter how good the gloss, it’s more likely than a lipstick to come off), a creamy lipstick or a satiny lip color over liner can be a lush and beautiful alternative, Oquendo said. He likes those by Marc Jacobs ($30 each) for their color selection; Joah’s satin finish lipsticks ($5.99) for their bang for the buck; and the new Pat McGrath Lip Fetish ($38) sheer color balms for their subtly shiny wear.

If you’re dead set on a matte finish, look for newer gel-based formulas with polymers that keep the color out of fine lines. (Martin likes those from Delilah, $32, and the Rouge Dior Ultra Rouge collection, $37). Apply and then blur with your ring finger for a softened effect.

Pro move: Highlight your cupid’s bow with a bit of shimmery highlighting powder or pencil. “Using a highlighting product there draws attention outward and can create the look of a little more fullness,” Nelson said.

What About All of Those Products That Promise Plumping?

All too familiar with the stinging plumpers of old that made you feel as if your lips were on fire? “Those lip-plumping agents contain mild irritants,” said Shereene Idriss, a dermatologist in Manhattan. “They create blood flow and give you mild swelling.”

While they do work, Idriss cautions against regular use. “If you’re constantly irritating your lips, they will get dry and chapped,” she said. Ingredients to avoid include cinnamon, wintergreen oil and even niacin, which can dilate blood vessels.

But there are more sophisticated options, Idriss said. They work by attracting moisture to the lips via ingredients like hyaluronic acid (found in Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Collagen Lip Cushion, $30) or aim to build collagen over time (see: peptide-boosted balms and glosses like Buxom Full-On Plumping Lip Polish, $21).

Idriss also pointed out that if you frequently suffer from dry lips, which can affect plumpness, you may want to alter your habits. For example, are you licking your lips throughout the day? “Sometimes,” she said, “you have to address the root of the issue to get what you want.”