Popular Needle-Free Alternatives for 2023

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Let me start by saying that nothing you can DIY at home or get done without a needle will give your lips the same volume, plumpness, and definition as good old lip injections. Sorry, but that’s just the reality. When hyaluronic acid (the main ingredient used in popular lip fillers like Restylane and Juvéderm) is injected into the lips by a pro, the results can be be absolutely *chef’s kiss*.

That said, injectable lip fillers (or any face fillers for that matter) can come with potential downsides, including the risk of bruising or swelling, lumpy or lopsided-looking lips, a hefty price tag (think $1000+), and the pain of being poked by needles in a very sensitive area of your face. Now I don’t want you to worry if these downsides outweigh the pros of getting injectable lip fillers, because I’ve got details on all the new needle-free natural lip filler options that are available. Keep reading for the everything you need to know about the three most popular needleless lip filler alternatives—plus the one lip filler alternative you should absolutely avoid—according to of my most trusted dermatologists Heather Rogers, MD, and Dendy Engelman, MD.

The three needleless lip filler alternatives worth trying:

1. Topical hyaluronic acid lip treatments

Hyaluronic acid is the main ingredient used in injectable lip fillers, but it can have a plumping effect when applied to your lips topically as well. “Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body that can attract and hold a large amount of water, which helps provide hydration and plumpness to the skin,” explains Dr. Rogers. “When applied topically to lips, products with hyaluronic acid can help increase the water content in the top layer of the lips, making them appear fuller and more volumized. It also helps smooth the lips, making them more reflective of light and appear larger,” Dr. Rogers says.

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Unlike hyaluronic acid lip fillers (which typically last anywhere from six months to a year), the plumping effects from topical hyaluronic acid lip balms and serums are short term. “The plumping and smoothing benefits are the result of temporary increased hydration of the superficial layers of skin,” says Dr. Rogers, adding that “as the skin cells on your lips quickly shed, your lips will return to their natural state over time.” Dr. Dendy recommends that her patients who use topical hyaluronic acid lip plumpers apply and reapply the product three times a day or more for the longest-lasting, most noticeable result.

Another way to max out the plumping benefits of your topical hyaluronic acid lip treatment is to pat your lips with a little a bit of water before applying the product, says Dr. Engelman. “It gives the hyaluronic acid extra moisture to hold on to so the volumizing and smoothing effect is more noticable.”

Dr. Engelman’s favorite:

HA5 Smooth & Plump Lip System
SkinMedica HA5 Smooth & Plump Lip System

One of Dr. Rogers’ favorites:

Supermelt Hyaluronic Plumping Lip Treatment
Kinship Supermelt Hyaluronic Plumping Lip Treatment

One of Dr. Rogers’ favorites:

The Plasma Lip Compound
U Beauty The Plasma Lip Compound

This editor favorite:

Lip Filler

2. LED lip lights

You’ve probably used an LED device or mask to treat breakouts, but did you know LED devices, specifically the ones that harness the power of red and infrared light, can help plump your lips too? “The red and infrared light emitted from an LED device signals your cells to make more collagen and elastin, two products responsible for your skin’s smoothness, plumpness, and firmness,” says Dr. Engelman. In addition to plumping and lightly volumizing your lips, regularly using an LED device can help smooth lip lines and give your lips a rosy color too.

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For best results, you’ll need to your use LED device for a minimum of 10 minutes every day, says Dr. Rogers. Dr. Rogers prefers to use a full-face LED mask (her favorites are from Celluma and Omnilux) instead of one just for the lips so your entire face can experience the benefits, but the full-face options can be considerably more expensive. So if your lip area is your primary concern, try one of my favorite LED lip lights, below.

LED Lip Perfector
CurrentBody Skin LED Lip Perfector
DRx SpectraLite LipWare Pro LED Device
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare DRx SpectraLite LipWare Pro LED Device

3. A Hydrafacial Perk treatment

You’ve likely heard about Hydrafacial, but I bet you didn’t know that there’s an add-on lip service called Hydrafacial Perk that can temporarily smooth and plump your lips. During a Hydrafacial Perk treatment (check out videos of the treatment here and here) your lips are gently exfoliated to get rid of any rough and flaky texture, then they’re infused with a blend of antioxidants and hydrating ingredients to create fullness and plumpness.

Like all lip filler alternatives, the results are both subtle and temporary (in my experience the fullness lasts for a day or two and the smoothness about a week), but if you’re already booked for a Hydrafacial treatment and want to give your lips a little extra boost, I say go for it. It’ll cost you about $30 extra on top of the full-face Hydrafacial treatment, FYI.

And the one needleless lip filler alternative you should absolutely skip:

1. Hyaluron pens

These are TERRIBLE! Do not walk away…run away, says Dr. Rogers.”Hyaluron pens are promoted as painless, non-invasive alternatives to lip fillers like Restylane, Juvéderm, and RHA, but in reality these pens are both unreliable and unsafe.” Unsafe enough that the FDA, which is typically slow to respond to anything, issued a warning against these devices almost two years ago, Dr. Rogers adds.

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Dr. Engelman agrees that hyaluron pens are an absolute no. “Essentially, you’re using blunt force to shove hyaluronic acid into your lips. Not only does this cause trauma to the area, but there’s not way to control the placement or amount of product that goes into your lips,” says Dr. Engelman.

The bottom line:

If you’re not ready for injectable lip fillers, topical hyaluronic acid lip products, LED lights specifically designed for the lip area, and a Hydrafacial Perk treatment are all viable (albeit short-term) options worth trying. And even though they may be a thing on TikTok, hyaluron pens are a hard no, so skip those entirely. Also! If you do decide to eventually go the injectable route, just make sure you book an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon who has ample experience with lip fillers to ensure the best possible result.

Meet the experts:

Why trust Cosmopolitan?

Lauren Balsamo is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan with a decade of experience researching, writing, and editing skincare and aesthetics stories that range from the best sunscreens for sensitive skin to the best lasers for acne scars. She regularly works with the industry’s top dermatologists and aestheticians to assess new skincare treatments, products, ingredients, and trends.

Headshot of Lauren Balsamo

Deputy Beauty Director

Lauren Balsamo is deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, where she writes, edits, and produces all types of beauty content—from product reviews to personal essays and trend reports. She has covered beauty for nine years at Cosmopolitan and has contributed to Women’s Health and Seventeen magazines as well. Follow her on Instagram. 

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