Aesthetic Surgical Enhancement of the Upper Lip: A Comprehensive Literature Review



The recent rise in popularity of minimally invasive facial aesthetic procedures has resulted in the overall heightened patient interest in lip rejuvenation. There is a variety of techniques and modifications for surgical upper lip enhancement described in the literature but no single method is considered optimal. The aim of this literature review is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the studies dealing with surgical upper lip enhancement and evaluate their short- and long-term outcomes, as well as complication profiles.


A comprehensive review of the published literature through July of 2019 was performed. The PUBMED and Cochrane databases were searched for all English language articles on aesthetic surgical enhancement of the upper lip. Only articles dealing with the aesthetic aspect of the upper lip subunit were included. Preoperative assessment, patient selection and technique execution were assessed. Data were abstracted on all postoperative complications and outcomes.


Overall, 52 articles were screened for inclusion, of which 17 met the inclusion criteria. The total number of patients treated in these studies was 2265. The average follow-up period was 30 months. The most commonly used surgical method across the studies was the subnasal lip lift (93.6%). The bull’s horn excision pattern was utilized to perform the subnasal lip lift in 71.7% of the cases, and the wavy ellipse excision was used in 18.1% of patients. Lip advancement by vermillion border excision pattern was the technique of choice for 49 patients (2.2%). Across all patients the most common complication was a non-aesthetically appealing result or adverse scarring with a mean incidence of 7.23%. Overall, the studies reported improvement in the aesthetic appearance of the upper lip after surgical enhancement, along with few but promising reports of high patient satisfaction. There is a relative paucity of high-quality data regarding complication profiles, patient selection, indications and contraindications.


This review provides an overview of several techniques and modifications for upper lip enhancement. It highlights the paucity of high-quality data on their application and optimizing patient selection. Promising satisfaction rates and relatively low complication rates suggest a more prominent role for surgical cheiloplasty in facial rejuvenation.

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Fig. 1

adapted from Lee et al. [4]

Fig. 2

adapted from Austin [6]

Fig. 3

adapted from Fanous [7] and Holden [8]

Fig. 4

adapted from Jung et al. [16]

Fig. 5

adapted from Pan [17]

Fig. 6

adapted from Echo et al. [18]

Fig. 7


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Correspondence to Vasileios Vasilakis.

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Yamin, F., McAuliffe, P.B. & Vasilakis, V. Aesthetic Surgical Enhancement of the Upper Lip: A Comprehensive Literature Review. Aesth Plast Surg 45, 173–180 (2021).

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  • Upper lip
  • Lip lift
  • Lip surgery
  • Facial rejuvenation
  • Facial aging