Can My Subnasal Lip Lift Be Fixed?

Q : Hi, I found you in reading an article you wrote. This situation applies to me as I very recently had a subnasal lip lift done and I am still in recovery. I can see that my upper lip is crooked and way over corrected so much that my upper lip may be unfunctional. The worse part is however I had no idea I would not be able to smile, and appear deformed should I try to smile!!! I was told to expect some tightness but this is beyond tightness. What are my options? Can I get my smile back?

A: In the subnasal lip lift procedure, a wavy amount of skin (thicker in the middle) is taken directly beneath the nose with advancement of the lower edge of the incision to the area directly beneath the nose. The final closure is tucked in along the base of the nose from one side of the nostril to the other. This procedure shortens the distance between the top  of the upper lip vermilion and the base of the nose allowing for more upper tooth show when the lips are slightly parted. It also everts more of the upper lip vermilion, therefore creating an increased amount of a central pout of the upper lip. It is always slightly overcorrected as there will be some relaxation (mild re-lengthening) of the upper lip afterwards.

While this is a fairly simple procedure, I have seen and read of some problems associated with it. One complication appears to be from manipulating the underlying orbicularis oris muscle besides the skin while doing the upper lip lift. In theory, sewing the orbicularis oris muscle to the periosteum underneath the nose may make for a more stable long-term result. However,such a maneuver creates an unnatural stiffness and deformity of the upper lip when can be evident during smiling. This is not a good trade-off for the theoretical benefits of this manuever.  It is far better to run the inconsequential risk of doing a secondary tuck-up the procedure if there has been some relapse. Correction of this stiff lip problem can be done with re-opening the incision and releasing the abnormal attachments, with the possible insertion of a dermal or dermal-fat graft to prevent recurrence. The sooner this is done the better.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana