A lip plumper is most often a cosmetic item applied to the lips, which supposedly has a plumping effect on the tissue of the lips. Most lip plumper products exist in the form of lip glosses. These are cosmetic products which differ from lipsticks and chapsticks in the sense that they are liquid, not solid or semi-solid products. Lip plumpers may be with or without color. Those without color can be applied alone or under lipstick or lip gloss, while colored or tinted lip plumpers can be worn alone, as they have the appearance of a lipstick or regular lip gloss.
The typical lip plumper comes in gloss form. Like most regular lip glosses, lip plumpers will likely contain ingredients which reflect light, such as mica or glitter dust. Light reflecting ingredients or particles contained in the gloss catch the light and appear to shimmer or shine. This adds to the visual effect of lip fullness. What sets a lip plumper apart from a regular lip gloss is that it contains ingredients which are thought to have an physical effect on the size of the lips. Rather than simply making lips appear more full through light-reflecting shimmer, lip plumpers claim to actually make lips bigger.
One way by which a lip plumper achieves such an effect on the skin of the lips is by irritation. Many lip plumpers contain natural or chemical irritants that slightly sting the lips. This stinging or mildly irritating effect prompts the flesh of the lips to fill with more blood and become slightly swollen or puffy. The same effect can often be seen when one eats spicy foods. Most spicy foods are spicy because they contain capsacin, the chemical in chili peppers which makes them taste hot. Some lip plumpers actually contain chili pepper extracts, including capsacin.
The amount of such an irritant varies from one lip plumper product to the next. Many lip plumpers also contain soothing ingredients to dull the slight discomfort or stinging that may result from applying the irritants. Thus, the lips will swell, but the stinging feeling will not occur, or will be lessened. One drawback of using a lip plumper is that the ingredients which are used to cause the slight swelling in the flesh of the lip are often harsh on the delicate skin surface of the lips. Thus, a few days after using a lip plumper, one may experience peeling of the irritated skin on the surface of the lips.
Other lip plumpers claim to have the same mild swelling effect on the lips through hydration, rather than irritation. For example, some products contain ingredients that are hydrophilic. This means that these ingredients draw water toward them and absorb it. Such hydrophilic ingredients contained in a lip plumper are thought to be absorbed by the skin of the lips. Once inside the skin they fill with moisture and swell, thus plumping the skin of the lips as well.
There are also some types of lip plumping products which come in the form of strips or patches. These products are meant to be applied temporarily to the lips, or the area above the upper lip, allowing ingredients contained in the strip to be absorbed by the skin. Lip plumping patches and strips are thought to be particularly effective for combating the wrinkles that often occur in the skin of the upper lip and between the upper lip and the nose. This is supposedly achieved by allowing hydrating ingredients to “fill in” the dry skin of the wrinkles, making them less deep and less visible.