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Learn more about sub nasal lip lift surgery with Brisbane specialist plastic surgeon Dr David Sharp, including benefits, risks and the recovery process.

The skin between the upper lip and nostrils is called the philtrum, and lip lift surgery slightly reduces its height, making more of the upper lip and teeth visible – without the unnatural appearance that fillers sometime achieve while trying to create this change to the mouth.

Lip lift surgery is also known as philtrum shortening. It involves an incision in the fold under your nose and can be performed under local or general anaesthetic.

During the surgery, a small segment of skin is removed and the incision closed with sutures. The procedure results in a shorter distance between the lip and nose, supporting the ‘cupid’s bow’ and helping the top lip roll outward more, increasing the amount of pink (vermillion) lip showing.

This procedure must consider the balance of their entire oral region – seeking proportion and supporting the natural shape of the lip. 

Lip lift surgery is also for men who have previously concealed a long philtrum with a moustache. Lip lift surgery may also be utilised by women and men who want to make changes to their lower face that lip fillers haven’t been able to achieve for them.

The surgery does not increase the size of the lip volume itself.


lip lift surgery Brisbane Dr Sharp
lip lift surgery Dr DAvid Sharp

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The results shown above and below were taken preoperatively and again at 6 months post lip lift surgery with Dr Sharp. Results vary between patients, scroll down for more images. 

In our clinics, lip lift surgery is also sometimes combined with facelift surgery or chin augmentation surgery.

Lip lift surgery is not the same as lip flick or flip injections

These two terms are often confused by our patients but describe two very different procedures, to address two very different aims. For patients who experience an over-exposure of gum when smiling (colloquially called ‘gummy smile’), a small amount of muscle relaxing product can be injected into the muscle above the lip, bringing the lip down and helping it project outwards more. This is a non surgical treatment that lasts 3-5 months and is called a lip flick or lip flip. It is sometimes confused with lip lift surgery, but the two are very different and achieve different things for the upper lip.

Picture below: before and 3 months after lip lift surgery with Dr Sharp 

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Anaesthesia and surgical suitability

It is a minor procedure, and can be performed under local or general anaesthesia for healthy patients. But it’s not for everyone; when patients are not carefully selected, the surgery can unbalance a face that already has good upper lip proportions.

Risk and considerations

Lip lift also comes with risks and potential complications, such as prominent scarring, nerve damage, nerve damage, asymmetry and unnatural results that are difficult to conceal with makeup. Having lip lift surgery isn’t akin to having lip injections; while dermal fillers can dissolve in a relatively short time, lip lift results are more permanent.

When unfavourable scarring occurs, a combination of laser and topical skin treatments might be recommended, to optimise healing and speed up scar maturation. Deep swelling takes 6 months to resolve and scars take 24 months to mature. Scroll down to read more about general risks of surgery.


Most patients have 1-2 weeks off work after this procedure, to allow for bruising and swelling to reduce. Immediately after surgery patients can be shocked by swelling and a ‘rabbit’ like appearance of the upper lip, due to oedema and the normal tightness involved with surgical healing – this usually resolves over the coming weeks and months. No exercise or physical exertion is allowed for 6 weeks. Patients are encouraged to sleep with their head raised to reduce deeper swelling. Twice daily scar massage is encouraged from 1 week post op using a silicone gel.

Why do people have lip lift surgery?

While lip lift is not a new procedure, a resurgence in lip lift surgery’s popularity is being noted across the world. As the philtrum drops as we age, the top teeth become hidden and a permanently downturned mouth can occur. All of these factors can contribute to patients seeking the procedure.

Lip liners and dermal fillers play a useful role in improving the appearance of aged, thinning lips, but trying to using these tools to turn a curled-under lip out – or to reduce the length of the philtrum – can create an over-filled, heavy appearance.

In this way, dermal fillers are often over-used, as injectors try to shorten the appearance of the philtrum or achieve the rolled-out lip look, when surgery may be required.

As a lip lift can be performed under local or general anaesthetic, the total cost can vary significantly, as hospital admission and general anaesthetic adds to the costs. If you are considering this procedure, talk to a specialist plastic and reconstructive surgeon that is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (denoted by the letters FRACS after their name) to obtain a full facial assessment and ascertain if it is right for you.

Possible complications of surgery, in general, include:

  • Acute medical event such as stoke, heart attack, pneumonia
  • The need for revision or further surgery
  • Pain which does not respond to pain relief
  • Nerve damage, causing altered sensation or loss of sensation – temporary or permanent
  • Haematoma (collection of blood), oedema (collection of fluid) and abscess
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolisms (PE)
  • Damage or or loss of loose teeth during placement of anaesthetic apparatus
  • Sore throat, swelling or discomfort following placement of breathing tubes during anaesthetic
  • Breathing difficulties following anaesthetic
  • Allergic reaction to medication
  • Allergic reaction to sutures, dressings, tapes or intraoperative solutions
  • Heavy bleeding from the wound, which may require further surgery
  • Poor or slow skin healing, wound infection, breakdown or necrosis (skin death)
  • Wound dehiscence (incision separation)
  • Adverse scarring
  • Psychological impact of surgery, recovery or altered appearance
  • Death
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The outcomes shown are only relevant for these patients and do not necessarily reflect the results other patients may experience, as results may vary due to many factors including the individual’s genetics, nutrition and exercise. 

Scroll down to read more about Lip Lift surgery with Dr Sharp.

before and four months after Lip Lift with Dr David Sharp 

before and four months after Lip Lift with Dr David Sharp 

before and four months after Lip Lift with Dr David Sharp 

before and three months after Lip Lift with Dr David Sharp 

before and three months after Lip Lift with Dr David Sharp 

Would you like to know more about Lip Lift Surgery ? Contact our friendly patient support team.