In the age of Instagram, saying you want a "plump pout" usually conjures images of lavishly large, pillowlike lips. And if that's your thing? Go for it. But for some, wanting fuller lips just means something supple and soft: Your lips, just with a bit more oomph. Where does one turn for a look like this, sans needles and celebrity-endorsed lip kits? Well, like the rest of your body, some of it starts internally, and the rest just takes a few easy swaps:
Exfoliate with lip scrubs
In order to get your lips plumped, you have to prep them. Makeup artist Katherine Dorn suggests exfoliating "by using small circles on the lips and then rinse and then use a vitamin C lip treatment to hydrate and moisturize." (Find our favorite scrubs here.) Shawna Jones, PA-C, aesthetic nurse practitioner, recommends DIY scrub: "Make your own scrub using pantry items such as coconut oil and brown sugar to eliminate dry skin." We rounded up our favorite DIY lip scrub recipes here, should you want to experiment with more options.
Keep the skin moisturized
Keep your skin plump and supple with hydrating and conditioning lip products. Much like the rest of your skin, moisturizers will keep the area looking plush and healthy. But the delicate lip area in particular is thinner and more sensitive than other areas (much like the eyes!), so it may need a bit of extra care.
Look for options that contain botanical oils, butters, antioxidants, and plush waxes. Butters—like cocoa and shea—provide a softening texture. Oils and lipids feed the skin fatty acids and can add a protecting coat for the barrier. Antioxidants help fight free radicals. And waxes can help harden the base, as well as make the formula more occlusive.
A most basic function that will go a long way, no matter what products you use, is making sure you stay hydrated. Jones says this is her No. 1 rule. "Drink plenty of fluids every day as a part of your daily routine." Research backs this up as studies have shown that adequate amounts of water increase dermal thickness of the skin1. Translation: More plump skin all over, including the lips.
Take collagen supplements
Achieving fuller lips is just as much about playing the long game as it is finding quick fixes. We say this because lip size naturally thins over time, research shows. One study measured the differences in lip size between two age groups2 (one in their 20s, the other 60-plus) and on average, lip volume decreased by 25% between the younger and older age groups. So to make sure you have fuller, plump lips for longer, it requires preventive aging measures. This can include things like proper daily skin care, but it also means going internally. One way to get more youthful-looking skin is hydrolyzed collagen supplements. These have been shown to maintain dermal thickness, support elasticity, and natural moisture levels3.
"Don't forget sun protection," says Jones. "Protecting your lips from the sun is just as important as protecting your face. Look for products that have a physical sunblock [titanium dioxide and zinc oxide]. Some also contain other moisturizing actives, like hyaluronic acid, to hydrate and smooth the lips." When people think of UV damage, they likely think sun spots and wrinkles, but it also causes loss of volume: This happens because the UV rays not only speed up collagen loss but also hinder your body's ability to produce healthy levels. One human study found that exposure to UV rays showed significant loss of type I collagen4.
Apply a hyaluronic acid serum
Speaking of hyaluronic acid, filling out your pout naturally can be done with a topical serum. Like water to dry soil, your parched lips will suck it up and soon become plump with moisture. This is because HA is an ingredient that can pull in up to 1,000 times its weight in water. However, whenever you use an HA serum, be sure to top it off with an occlusive lip product, like an oil or wax-based balm. This is because HA is a humectant, and while these types of hydrators are great for attracting moisture, they're not great at holding it in the dermis long term. But if you seal it in with a thicker product, you'll find your lips will stay soft almost all day long.
Try essential oils
According to naturopathic doctor Tess Marshall, N.D., essential oils are a popular way to plump your lips naturally. "Even unnatural products use these ingredients for their properties," she says. She suggests using essential oils of cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and peppermint, which are the most effective. (Cinnamon can cause contact dermatitis5, so spot-test on your arm first.) They mildly stimulate the lips, which boosts circulation, thereby creating a localized "swollen" appearance. You can even DIY your own essential oil lip plumper. First, find an organic, clear lip gloss of your choice, and then combine three drops of peppermint essential oil and a pinch of cayenne powder in a small dish. Mix using the gloss's wand, then apply on your lips for a quick pucker up.
Consider gua sha
This daily habit is beloved by natural beauty experts for sculpting the face and encouraging lymphatic drainage. And with one quick move, your gua sha stone can become a natural lip plumper, too. For this, you need a stone that has a ribbed or scalloped side. Then, as holistic esthetician and mindbodygreen Collective member Britta Plug explains to us here, push your lips out and hold with your non-gua-sha hand. With the rippled edge of the stone, move it up and down quickly along the outer edges to cause friction, which causes the plump appearance.
Use clean lipsticks and liner.
Preventing sun damage, boosting moisture, and using essential oils are all great ways to plump your lips naturally, but if you are looking for fuller lips immediately, use makeup to create the illusion. Use a lip liner that is one to two shades darker than your natural lip color, before applying lipstick, slightly overdrawing your lips. (Meaning trace just outside your natural lip line, no further or else it can look cartoonish.) Next, use a lipstick that is near your natural hue to fill out your pout. Darker colors tend to make your lips appear flat. Finish by applying clear lip gloss to the center of your lips. This will reflect light and create a fuller-looking lip.
Alexa Erickson is a California-based writer who specializes in travel, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle. She received a degree in journalism and creative writing from the University of Tampa, and her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Shape, and more. She has spent the past decade researching and writing about the latest trends and scientific findings related to health and wellness, trotting the globe to review airlines and hotels while featuring cultures around the world.