Gasp — Have We Been Ignoring This Treatment For Deflating Lips?


Here’s the thing: Some people already apply a gentle (emphasis on gentle) retinol around their lips. “If you can tolerate a retinoid in that area, this will help with very superficial fine lines and wrinkles by blending and thickening the skin,” Rachel Westbay, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical, tells mbg about lip lines.

But remember, the skin around the lips is one of the thinnest regions of your whole face (aside from the delicate under-eyes), which means it may be more sensitive to heavy-duty actives. 

For many, retinol can easily cause irritation in the area, which people often mistake for the average winter chap. If that sounds like you, it’s best to steer clear of the area altogether; you may even want to apply a layer of lip balm to buffer the sensitive skin from your retinoid. 

However, a retinol product formulated just for the lips will likely be way gentler on that sensitive skin—so you can reap all the skin-resurfacing and softening benefits without the irritation. “A lip retinol is ideally formulated with plenty of nourishing emollients to help offset the potentially irritating effects of retinol,” adds board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav, M.D., founder of FACET Dermatology. “The retinol should also be at a very low concentration, as the skin of the lips is incredibly thin.”

She even recommends selecting a plant-based retinol alternative, like bakuchiol, over a traditional retinol for the lip area. This Ageless Phyto-Retinol Lip Treatment from bareMinerals, for example, features Bidens pilosa (aka Picão preto), a plant-based ingredient found to have retinol-like effects on the skin2.

“It will be less sensitizing but offer comparable benefits,” she says regarding retinol alternatives, such as restoring collagen and expediting cellular turnover. “This cellular turnover also fights hyperpigmentation and discoloration, so if you’re prone to freckling on the lips, a retinol lip product can help that too,” she notes. 

The bottom line? Yes, a lip retinol can help you secure a fuller, smoother pout for longer—just make sure to choose a formula with lots of hydrating buffers to stave irritation. 


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