Some women will suffer just about anything to be beautiful (notice the trend toward 5-plus-inch heels and skyrocketing plastic surgery rates). But you don’t have to be a masochist to look your best. Take the quest for fuller lips, for instance. Traditional lip-plumping products work by irritating your lips—literally—with ingredients like cinnamon, capacin or menthol, which produce a sensation just short of a bee sting. Some people like that tingle, but over time such irritants can exacerbate the problem of dry, chapped lips, according to Paula Begoun, author of Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. Luckily, you can also give your lips a fuller appearance without the bite—just try these simple makeup tricks.
Exfoliate. A smooth pout will naturally look fuller, so start by scrubbing off chapped, flaky skin. (The process also irritates them temporarily.) You can use a product specifically designed for this, like Smashbox Emulsion Lip Exfoliant, or make your own. Raid your kitchen for an exfoliant like sugar and mix with a little bit of a binder like honey, suggests Dr. Jessica Wu, author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin & a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days.
Erase (or hide!) fine lines. Some women find that lip products containing anti-aging ingredient retinol (like Merle Norman Luxiva Lip Revive) can help reduce the appearance of lines on the surface of lips. For a quicker fix, use a lip balm with a waxy consistency, like the EOS Smooth Sphere, to condition lips, fill in lines and provide an even base for your lip color.
Line lips twice. First, take a pencil that matches your skin tone, or just a dab of concealer on a small brush, and trace around the outside of your lips. Then take your lip pencil and line them. Use the side of the pencil to shade in the edges of your mouth, but leave the center bare. This makes the corners recede, giving the illusion of fullness. Blend out the line with a lip brush to avoid a harsh two-tone look. (You can also apply lip liner after your lipstick for a softer line with a hint of definition.)
Layer lip colors. Using just one lip color can give lips a flat look that visually shrinks them. Add dimension by choosing a lip liner one shade darker than your lipstick. After lining and applying lipstick, add a dab of a second, lighter lipstick or gloss in the center of your pout. For the most contrast, use a matte or crème liner and lipstick, and a shimmery gloss. Glosses with light-reflecting particles also help create the illusion of fuller lips, says Begoun. For maximum shine, try one that contains mica, like NYX Mega Shine.
Make your products multi-task. Dab a shimmery eyeshadow or powder highlighter in the dimple just below your nose to reflect light and make your top lip look larger. You can also tap a bit of the powder in the center of your lower lip for a less sticky, longer-wearing shimmery effect.
In the market for lip-smoothing satisfaction? Check out “Best Lip Balms.”