Written by Avery Samuels, Reviewed by Dr. Justin Harper, MD
When you think of buffalo wings, what comes to mind? Lazy Sunday afternoons spent watching – or being forced to watch – football with the family? Creamy ranch or blue cheese dressing? Or perhaps it’s the sensation that we experience when eating the wings: a familiar burning of the lips that makes them feel tingly and plumped.
This is not a phantom feeling; the spices used to make buffalo sauce really do cause our lips to tingle, swell slightly and appear fuller. And it turns out that the cosmetic chemists responsible for formulating lip plumpers are one step ahead of the game.
How do lip plumpers work?
Hot peppers (labeled as capsaicin) are a common ingredient in lip plumpers because of their ability to cause “vasodilation,” which just means increased blood circulation in the lips. Vasodilation occurs when the walls of blood vessels relax and expand, causing the affected area to appear plumper and fuller.
Cinnamon, menthol, niacin (vitamin B) and caffeine, all natural ingredients that are frequently added to plumping formulas, also stimulate blood flow for a plumper lip. That tingle and burn you feel after downing a few too many wings is just a natural way of killing two birds with one stone: keeping your stomach full and your lips fuller.
Are these ingredients safe?
While all these ingredients have been tested for safety, be cautious if notable irritation occurs. Continuous use of lip plumpers can cause allergic dermatitis or dry, cracked, blistered lips.
Many lip plumpers compensate for this irritation by including soothing ingredients like shea butter, sunflower oil and aloe vera to their formulas.
If you’re worried about the potential side effects of ingredients like cinnamon and hot peppers can have on the delicate skin on your lips, look for products that contain hyaluronic acid, a compound used in lip fillers like Juvederm, Restylane and Restylane Silk.
Like lip fillers used for lip injections and lip enhancement, topical lip plumpers that contain hyaluronic acid draw fluids into the area, creating long lasting fullness. Plus, both topical and injected lip fillers decrease the appearance of fine lines in the lips and increase cell growth and rejuvenation.
For a synergistic effect, look for products that combine both hyaluronic acid and natural vasodilators. For maximum lip fullness and skin health benefits, we recommend SkinMedica’s TNS lip plumper.