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Self-Help Advice on Having Luscious Lips

Written by Lauren Long

Achieve a younger look of full lips with this advice. Did you know that lip color fades with age? Don't pout; get proactive with your lip-care approach.

If lately it seems your mouth disappears without lipstick, it's probably not your eyesight. As we mature, we experience a natural loss of lip pigment.

The loss of pink lushness is primarily due to sun damage and as a result of the outer layers of the skin sloughing off. At the same time, we lose lip volume, another process that occurs with age that accentuates the loss of pigment.

"What you get are thinning lips; you don't have the fullness of the lip anymore, so you see any color loss more clearly," says Dr. Seth Matarasso, a San Francisco dermatologist.

Don't kiss those crimson lips of youth "goodbye" just yet.

To prevent the loss of lip pigment, Matarasso advises the use of a strong (at least SPF 15) sunscreen on this sensitive area. For added protection, look for lipsticks that contain sunscreen.

The use of a mild-formula Retin A or an exfoliant to reduce sun damage also can help retain the lip pigment. While an exfoliate won't reverse or completely prevent the problem, it can slow further pigment loss.

Because the lip mucosa is sensitive, use gentle products on this area. Matarasso recommends mild-formula Retin A or topical Vitamin C with L-ascorbic acid on the lips every third night. According to the doctor, saliva will neutralize small amounts of a product that are accidentally ingested. "It's basically the same anti-aging regime that you use on the rest of your face, just in smaller amounts and lower concentrations," he says.

Some women have even taken to tattooing their lips to add definition, but this is "not a good thing," asserts Matarasso. As you age, "the tattoo goes south on your body or wears off and becomes irregular. And as the body tans, the tattoo doesn't." The risks of infection and scarring also are something to consider.

As for the loss of lip substance, if your pout has all but disappeared, you may want help beyond the latest lipstick shade.

"A little bit of collagen," says Matarasso. "That is the big gun in getting back that youthful lip." He recommends a small amount of injectable bovine collagen to restore the prior architecture and give shape to the lips. Some people may be allergic to collagen, so it's important that your dermatologist check before injecting it into the lip area. For a drop of collagen that will last about three months, expect to pay between $300 and $500.

And quit smoking. All that puffing wrinkles your upper lip.

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