Kylie Jenner's lips are the latest body phenomenon that teens are obsessing over, and not in a good way. As we reported earlier this week, the situation has transitioned from rumors that she had plastic surgery and/or lip injections to a dire trend known as the #KylieJennerChallenge, where young people dangerously try to emulate Jenner's full-lipped look using shot glasses. While there are now plenty of alarming videos showing teens damaging their faces (including this image after a shot glass broke on someone's lips)—and even more speculation as to how Jenner got her plump lips—even pleas from Kylie herself haven't gotten the hype to cool down.
In the interest of getting answers about the real dangers of the #KylieJennerChallenge, we spoke to board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. John Zannis. Here, we ask him about the lasting effects of the #KylieJennerChallenge, what the safe alternatives are (if any), and if he thinks Kylie Jenner's lips got some medical assistance in recent years.
So the trend is basically teenagers who effectively plump their lips by sucking on bottles or shot glasses. The results seem really extreme. What are the medical repercussions in the long and short term?
Essentially they are creating a vacuum in the bottle, which causes the lips to become engorged with blood. It's the same as if you apply a vacuum to any part of your body. It’s a temporary or transient effect of plumping the lips, which, if done just a little bit, I don’t think would have any adverse effects at all. But in a couple hours or less, it would go back to normal.
If it’s done for an extensive amount of time, it can certainly cause some damage like subcutaneous bleeding in the lips, broken blood vessels, maybe even a wound that might take a week or two to heal. Still, it's nothing I believe would be a long-term problem, but it could potentially be a short-term problem if they do it for too long.
So what would be the repercussions if someone was to do this, for example, once a week, every week, for four to five months?
Well potentially they could have some stretching of the blood vessels in their lips and mouth. They could maybe have some discoloration that is permanent, like a darkening of the area around the months and the lips. I doubt that there would be a very long-lasting, permanent enlargement of the lips. It could potentially be a little bit larger permanently or for a long, long time—like chronically for a year.
More than anything, if you do it a lot, the coloration would be the most noticeable thing. It's the same as when you see people apply vacuums to breasts or for sexual functions in bed. Honestly, it's not the way to achieve a permanent lip enlargement.
What would be a safer medical alternative to pursue larger, fuller lips, along the lines of what teens are trying to do with the #KylieJennerChallenge?
As far as teens, I think, there's really nothing. There are some lip glosses and things that have mild irritants in them—like the chemicals found in a lot of hot peppers and chili peppers—which cause inflammation and swelling. They're popular lip products that you can apply; they cause subtle swelling and redness of the lips, which can be found at any cosmetic retailer.
A better solution, when you are over 18 and can make more judgments, would be lip fillers and things that we use everyday to give adults temporary [lip] fullness. Those cosmetic procedures have a very proven safety track record and efficacy. This means that the likelihood of having an allergic reaction or complication from a filler is very, very low. We do it every day in my practice, and I really haven’t seen any complications.
You need to be at least over 18 to be considered for an elective cosmetic procedure like that.
While some teens are trying to do the shot glass approach, there have also been mentions of lip plumping kits. Are you familiar with these over-the-counter lip plumping kits? Are they an alternative to lip injections or surgery?
Well, injectables are not surgery; it’s a needle injection. It’s done while you’re wide awake, and it's a five minute procedure. Surgery options are like putting an implant in the lip. This is not very commonly done, but that's a permanent way to augment the lip.
Those kits you’re talking about, there are different ones out there. Some of them might use suction, but most of the ones I’ve seen advertised are like the irritant ones I explained before. You apply something to your lips, which has an effect similar to when you get stung by a bee. It does the same thing to the lips; they swell. There are different irritants that cause blood to engorge in the lips. But those would last for maybe six to eight hours and then go away.
I’m not sure how closely you follow the Kardashians and Jenners, but looking at photos, do you believe that Kylie Jenner may have had surgery done? Or do you think she’s using an irritant/over-the-counter product to make her lips fuller?
I think it’s very likely that she had at least a filler injection, which is something that will last about a year. If she used an irritant, she'd have to do the lip plumping every single day, and you can’t get terribly large lips from that. I think probably, and it's just my guess, that she had a filler done and does it once a year or so to maintain that result.
And that would mean going to a specialist and having that procedure done?
That’s right, going to a specialist. A cosmetic procedure like that is usually done through a plastic surgeon or dermatologist, and it’s an FDA approved treatment. Iat’s legitimate.
It’s not 100% without any risks, because no procedure is. But it’s very low risk procedure, and usually the only results are some swelling and bruising that would last for less than a week. [With this type of procedure], the result will last for about a year.