There aren’t many specific products I MUST have in my washbag at all times. Except one, and it’s a bizarre item to get so het up over on the few occasions it’s missing. It’s an antioxidant ‘lip complex’ by SkinCeuticals, and I’ve taken to using it as an antiageing lip cream overnight (which is technically incorrect, as antioxidants are primarily supposed to shield you from the day’s environmental attacks).
It’s been the last thing I’ve put on my face at night it for years, as it makes me wake up in the morning with full-looking lips. More importantly, the fine ‘lipstick’ line (there was one) that I spotted above my top lip 20 years ago is still, give or take, just one minor line. How could that be? Genes, perhaps, but I think it’s the ‘lip complex’. And so I’ve become devoted to it. What if it’s delivered me from aged lips all these years? I’m not prepared to give it up just to find out.
The problem is, there’s nothing in the formula that should give it such superpowers. Its ‘hero-ingredient’, an antioxidant called silymarin, is literally last on the INCI list. Never a great discovery. Second-to-last is a peptide – the only thing that might in fact tackle lines. The rest of the list is dominated by silicones and waxes, which will, er, help hydrate. The company’s R&D tells me it’s the ‘magic of the right formulation’, which is not a satisfying answer. Still, I love it. It’s worked for me, probably on the basis of my favourite skin adage: it’s all about consistency. Anything barrier-building, hydrating, protective and irritant-free you apply religiously is going to stop the rot from setting in. People who age gracefully aren’t trying to wrestle the clock back, they’ve thought to prevent it from racing ahead.
However. With the big 5-0 approaching, I’ve been looking out for an anti-ageing lip cream that’ll give me a little more bang for my buck. One with some decent collagen boosters, to hopefully replace some volume I bet I’m already losing, on top of helping me hold on to what I’ve got. Google’s thrown up some retinol-based ones – but I’m not taking a sledgehammer to my lips. Not for nothing ‘retinol lip’ has been identified (by Dr. Sam Bunting, who by the way, makes a lovely, super-thick lip balm teeming with reparative ceramides); inflamed, flaking lips that are hypersensitive to the sun, thanks to retinol creams creeping into the lip area. Not worth it, for the purported positives won’t outweigh the negatives.
Elsewhere, lots of age-busting lip creams/serums/treatments, which tend to be the preserve of super-luxury brands, come with a ‘luxuriant’ fragrance, which for me just means big red welts on my lips: they’ll look swollen, but not in a good way. Plus, beware: despite lofty language about mouths about to be ‘plumped’ and ‘re-shaped’, they’re often no more than glorified lip balms.
Turns out, though, that the answer was nigher than I realised all along: two of the best potions are available on this very site. And I didn’t even fix it that way.
I now chop and change between the Skinceuticals complex (old habits die hard) and iS Clinical Youth Lip Elixir on my bedside table. The latter feels identical to the former, and has me rising in the morning with the same volumised lips. But this waxy cream is made from a list of cell-protecting land and sea botanicals as long as your arm, and plenty of water-attracting humectants alongside conditioning emollients and barrier boosters. Also on the list (and not in last place): much lauded, non-irritating THD Ascorbate vitamin C and Matrixyl 3000 peptide – so that’s my depleted collagen sorted.
Youth Lip serum has a ‘sister product’ in the form of a lip scrub, but I don’t like those – they tend to be made of sugar and oils. I can do that in my kitchen. If the wish is for smoother, healthier, chap-free lips, carefully dosing a balm or cream with chemical exfoliants is a more advanced approach. Which is where Ameliorate Intensive Lip Treatment comes in.
It has a little bit of lactic acid, which will both gently peel and boost the lips’ protective barrier, alongside deliciously soothing-sounding things like oat lipids and ‘phyto milk’. It’s a combo that will heal broken winter lips so much more effectively than a fat smear of Vaseline and its paraffin-based peers, whose benefits remain only as long as you keep your lips doused in it (hence the ‘addiction’ tag). The only drawback here is that there is a ‘flavour’ (that’s a scent). That’s just annoying. With so many lipsticks already whiffing of ‘coconut’-scented minicabs and plastic mangoes, nobody needs more irritating fragrance on their lips. But maybe that’s just me.
Now, do these potions actually ‘plump’ lips – surely, these days, the primary requirement for any lip product or treatment? I’ve seen some angry reviews of some of these creams, calling them a ‘waste of money’ for they ‘don’t make lips any plumper’. No – not if you actually believe using a lip cream will qualify you for reality TV. None will ever do that – although all of the above have a visible temporary volumising effect, thanks to them drawing in heaps of moisture then sealing all of that in with lipids. As said, the good ones will also delay the downward slide. For getting your teen lips back, though (or worse, someone else’s that won’t fit your face), you’ll need needle-based help.
From what I can see, that hardly ever works out well, despite everyone wittering on about how ‘natural’ their work looks. It doesn’t really though, does it, in the majority of cases? Or maybe that’s just me again.
One thing I tried a few years ago worked pretty well though, I thought. It’s something Dr Stefanie Williams at London’s Eudelo Clinic developed and calls ‘Lip Smoothie (£595).’ Williams uses a significantly diluted hyaluronic acid filler (instead of a viscous gel, it’s practically liquid), injected with a cannula via entry points in the mouth corners. It gives a slightly rounder shape to the lips, softens lip lines and infuses them long-term with moisture, not small cushions. You’ll look like a blow-up doll for 24 hours after (the initial swelling is always nuts), but after that you really do have your lips from 15 years ago back, for four months or so.
For a price (an extra £70, to be precise) you can soup this up with platelet-rich plasma made from your own blood (this is a Vampire facial, but for your lips), injected along with the hyaluronic acid. The resulting solution is thicker, so gives more plumpness immediately, while the growth factors in the plasma can rev up your collagen production. The resulting faded lines and long-term plumper lips “should begin to show with repeated 6-month treatments,” says Williams. That requires quite a lot of faith alongside quite a lot of money, and I can’t vouch for the outcome as I never did a course. But the one-off results genuinely ‘rejuvenated’ my lips without changing them. And in a universe full of pufferfish, that is quite an achievement.