In much the same way I feel about my eyebrows, I feel perpetual dissatisfaction with my lips. Actually, dissatisfaction is probably too strong a word — I think they’re fine, nice even, but they don’t wow me. Is that a lot to ask, to be consistently and undeniably wowed by my face? And not in the, “Wow, those fifteen pints of beer last night were not the best idea” kind of way, please.
My lips are a C+, probably. I should count myself lucky – they haven’t failed out of lip school yet. But when I see all the A+s pouting around, I get a little envious. Because I both can’t afford and am not sure I totally agree with lip plumpers (although I am very much a graduate of the school of thought of “do what you want”).
I have to go au naturel. If by au natural you mean rubbing a shit ton of products into my mouth in the hopes of emulating a non-au-naturel look. Is my hypocrite showing?
And of course, of course, I know that there are problematic aspects to even product-based lip plumping. Eurocentric beauty standards are bizarre, bad and appropriate-y. The fact that there currently seems to be one “face” towards which all makeup routines must aim is not only fundamentally damaging, but also really boring. Small eyes, big foreheads, chubby cheeks, broad noses, etc., etc. are not features that require corrective makeup. But if you want a bigger mouth for fun, then there are some products that can do that for you. /Disclaimer.
By far and away the most effective lip plumper I’ve tried (and I’m a veritable connoisseur) is the GlamGlow Plumprageous Matte Lip Treatment. From the offset, it’s quite a strange product — it comes in a metal tube that requires pressing and twisting like a codebreaker in order to gain access. Once you do, you’re presented with a plastic doe-foot/spatula covered in thin, white fluid, which looks somewhat like a face serum. You apply it like a gloss, but it pretty much sinks into the lips in a traceless manner.
Mere moments later the product makes itself known. It doesn’t just tingle, it borderline burns. I would almost go so far as to say it actually hurts a bit, and if you get some in your mouth, it tastes like extremely spicy poison.
So far, I’m probably not really selling the experience. But believe me, it really does plump. I sent a photo to my friend after using, and she said I looked like a pouty toddler at the fair. It almost makes my lips look a little bit swollen, which is bizarrely what I’m going for. The pain subsides, and any lipstick you put over the top applies evenly and smoothly to a noticeably bigger mouth.
For those who want something less intense but still noticeably lip enhancing, I would point you in the direction of the Lancer Volume Enhancing Lip Serum. This product is slightly towards the silly end of the price spectrum, but it is bloody beautiful. Trust me — if you think all clear lip glosses are created equal, think again.
The product is thin and hydrating, yet long-lasting, and also somehow not at all sticky. It’s dispensed through a metal tube which spreads the product evenly and feels absolutely delightful on the mouth. I wouldn’t use this so much as a plumper for under lipsticks, more as a varnish-like topcoat to add shine and make lips look all pillowy and unwrinkled.
But most of all, I enjoy wearing this on its own. Something to do with the light and definitely non-painful tingling sensation seems to bring blood rushing to the surface of the lips, giving them a natural pinky flush. That slight amplification of color combined with the high shine finish does some weird optical illusion to make your mouth look large, shiny, eye-catching and appealing. It’s science.
And for a cheap fix, I think you’d be hard pushed to beat the Physicians Formula Needle Free Lip Plumping Cocktail. In pleasingly kitschy packaging (sort of supposed to look like a syringe?) it delivers all the benchmarks of a lip plumper at a drugstore price. It tingles but doesn’t hurt, it has a really good brush applicator, it’s extremely shiny, it doesn’t taste weird, it isn’t sticky or gross feeling, AND it does visibly enhance lips. Not bad at all for under $10.