Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Why do lip plumpers sting?


Are lip plumpers the only way to get poutier lips?
Are lip plumpers the only way to get poutier lips?
Digital Vision/Getty Images

Looking for a prettier pout? Try a lip plumper -- a new makeup bag staple that help add a little extra volume and pleasing plumpness to your kisser.

Celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie have made bee-stung pouts highly desirable. It makes sense: Anthropologists say that full lips reflect a woman at her most fertile. The popularity of their pouts also shows that standards of beauty are changing; ethnically diverse beauties are now cover girls, easing into a domain once dominated by blue-eyed blondes with relatively thin lips.

As a woman ages, her lips lose elastin and collagen, the fibrous proteins that help keep lips full. While some women may turn to injections and other dermatological procedures in the quest for sexier lips, lip plumpers offer a quick and non-invasive fix.

Lip plumpers work on the principle that applying an irritant to the lips will puff them up, much like how skin swells after a bee sting. Natural ingredients such as cinnamon, wintergreen, capsaicin (the substance that gives chili peppers their heat), caffeine, and ginger have that effect on the tender skin of your lips and are often included in lip plumpers. Niacin, added in liquid or powder form, will cause blood vessels to swell, and it's also used as an ingredient in some lip plumpers. These ingredients naturally make your lips sting, so cosmetics manufacturers will often add a cooling ingredient. That's the icy sensation you often feel after applying a lip plumper.

Tests haven't proven that lip plumpers actually work, but dermatologists say they see little risk in using them as long as they aren't overused. Overuse may result drying and scaling; you also risk developing lip ulcers from excessive application. One application every few hours should suffice.

Lip plumpers usually come in a tube with a foam applicator, and you can find them at your corner drugstore, the department store makeup counter, or your favorite beauty products emporium. Whatever brand you choose, most women agree that the results are subtle and rarely last more than an hour without reapplication. But for a special occasion, or to make a beautiful first impression, pull out that magic wand and plump up your pout!


More to Explore