[By Tania Hui]
Some may think of them as an asset but as everything else in life, there’s always a flip side.
While the mention of full lips often conjure up sexy images of famous actresses and models such as Angelina Jolie and Naomi Campbell, having excessively prominent lips may not be a desirable feature to all. Medically known as “Macrocheilia”, such lips may interfere with normal oral function and can be a source of unwanted attention, ridicule, or even bullying.
In a society familiar and obsessed with “up-sizing” lip augmentation is definitely one of the most popular aesthetics procedure around. And yet, there are times when less is desired and we seek to address this. RSB talk to plastic surgeon, Dr. Tan Ying Chien from The Sloane Clinic about this special group of patients with alternative needs— turning to lip reduction surgery as a way to help reduce their self-consciousness and restore their overall confidence.
RSB: Hello Dr. YC, thanks for giving us the chance to explore further on this lesser known area of Lip Reduction Surgery! So what’s the typical patient’s profile for the procedure?
Dr.YC: Hi Tania, thanks for having me to share some information about this interesting and niche surgical procedure.
Our lips are the most prominent structures of the lower third of the face and are an important element in conveying emotion and attractiveness. In our modern day society, full lips are often associated with youth and sensuality. However, overly large or noticeably asymmetrical lips can detract the overall facial harmony and thus affect beauty in an adverse way. Functional difficulties such as labial incompetence interfere with speech, salivary control, and chewing have been reported as well. Those seeking surgical reduction are often born with lips that were too full. Otherwise, they are patients suffering from an iatrogenic cause. Permanent fillers injected can lead to lips that are too large, with no contour or subtleties that reflect a natural lip line. Other problems with permanent fillers include asymmetry, distortion and formation of painful granulomas that are best dealt with surgically.
RSB: So what is the aim of the surgery?
Dr.YC: The goal of lip reduction surgery is to achieve a harmonious relationship between the upper and lower lips that is in balance and not out of proportion with the entire face. Before you decide to sign up for the surgery, it is important for you to undergo a detailed consultation with the performing surgeon. Point out exactly what you would like to see improved and this will help the surgeon to understand the patient’s expectations and determine whether they can realistically be achieved. It is important that you have a clear idea of how you would like to look, and at the same time, realize that there are limitations to the results which can be achieved from the surgical procedure.
RSB: What does lip reduction surgery involve and what are the risks if any?
Dr. YC: This procedure can be done under local and/or general anaesthesia and takes about an hour to complete. Lip reduction surgery is performed by making an incision along the length of the lips on the inside of the mouth and removing a strip of skin from the upper or lower lip or both, depending upon the final look that one wishes to achieve.
Fortunately, significant complications from surgical lip reduction are infrequent. Every year, many people undergo successful reduction surgery, experience no problems and are delighted with the gratifying and at times life-altering changes. However, anyone considering any form of elective surgery should be aware of both the benefits and risks and weigh them in judiciously.
RSB: What about the recovery?
Dr.YC: Take it easy and sleep on two pillows to keep your head elevated for around 7-14 days, according to the surgeon’s discretion. Remember that swelling and bruising is expected and perfectly normal after surgery, but this should clear up after a couple of weeks. Because of the post-operative swelling, do not be alarmed to find your lips looking even larger than before. This by no means indicate a botched-up job and they will settle down nicely in time.
Give yourself a week after the completion of your lip reduction surgery before returning to your normal routine. It is also advisable to refrain from participating in contact sports for at least six to eight weeks. One would expect to see the final, permanent results from the lip reduction surgery in about three months, and they should last you a lifetime.
RSB: Thanks for the insightful interview, Dr. YC! Any last words for our readers?
Dr.YC: It’s a good thing that modern surgery means that both women and men need not suffer in silence if they are unhappy with their oversized lips. When it comes to augmentation of facial features such as nose, chin and lips; steer clear of all forms of permanent fillers. The same goes for volume replacement for the aging face. A better and safer alternative will be natural fillers made of hyaluronic acid. The only way to treat complications arising from permanent filler injections is via surgical excision, often a painful, time consuming and expensive procedure that has to be done in stages with no guaranteed satisfaction of the eventual outcome.
Dr Tan Ying Chien is the Consultant Plastic Surgeon at The Sloane Clinic Plastic Surgery Centre@Novena and remains a Visiting Consultant to the Plastic Surgery Departments at both KK and SGH, Singapore.