At some particularly impressionable point during my adolescence, a trashy magazine told me that men prefer lush, full lips on women because their subconscious mind affiliates big lips with … a vagina. I’m unable to dig up any actual scientific research on this subject in particular, which is a useful argument for why I have such a hard time throwing out old magazines.
But there have been real studies suggesting that women with plump lips are more desirable to men because, when balanced with larger eyes and a small nose, what you get is symmetry. Symmetry is associated with “strong mating potential.” Men want to mate. Men are weird. End of story.
Well, not quite: Women everywhere have been in hot pursuit of enhanced lips since long before scientists concluded that it’s all based in evolutionary psychology. Why? Unclear. But when you consider the fact that Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson regularly top off lists of celebrity women that other straight women agree are, like, really hot, there’s definitely something to it. (Kylie Jenner’s unnaturally large lips, on the other hand, are a whole other ball game that may eventually be a cautionary tale.)
Whichever way you spin it—there’s a case for evolution as well as a case for finding it appealing on others and wanting it yourself—plump lips can be a good thing within reason. But the quest to achieve that fullness doesn’t necessarily mean you should make a beeline to the derm for a syringe full of Restylane (unless you want to, of course). The best lip plumpers have gotten even better recently thanks to their high demand, and a good one can be game-changing for those who’d like to trade in their smaller lips for a slightly bigger pair. No shame.
Heralded as the best new option out there, this nourishing formula, which somehow has nothing to do with Ariana Grande (or Frankie, for that matter), employs hyaluronic acid, collagen peptides, caffeine, and conditioning niacin to firm lips and keep them that way.
GrandeLIPS Hydrating Lip Plumper, $27
If the bee-sting tingle of most plumpers isn't for you, this mintier iteration is a solid choice. It hydrates like a balm and feels silky going on, with a slightly glossy finish that tints lips a subtle, healthy-looking pink.
Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Lip Volumizer, $28
This one's been a fixture on the lip-plumping scene for years now, thanks to a gleaming high-shine effect that catches the eye as if you were wearing diamonds on your face. It's available in a million colors, and includes vitamins A and E for softer, smoother lips.
Buxom Full-On Lip Polish, $20
Given the fact that it comes from a brand known for its spectacular anti-aging skin care, this formula is the realest. It has a cumulative effect to strengthen the delicate skin on your lips and reduce fine lines and wrinkles over time, but you get instant gratification in the form of moisturizing, softening, and defining properties.
StriVectin Nourishing Lip Plumper, $39
This classic is at the top of my list for its unrivaled hydrating and plumping power. The minty vanilla scent makes it enjoyable to apply—even, and perhaps especially, if you don't usually like fragrance in your products—and the smoothing finish is unrivaled. It's not as glossy as most, but leaves lips looking naturally quenched.
Dior Addict Lip Maximizer, $33
Brought to you by the purveyors of all things good and cheap, this sheer, shiny plumper is packed with collagen-stimulating peptides, as well as something of uncertain origin called Maxi-Lip. There's plenty of glitter to be found here, but you can also choose from four non-sparkly shades and a clear if that's not your thing.
NYX Pump It Up Lip Plumper, $5.50
This innovative pick has a lot of things going for it: It plumps, yes, but it also primes to prepare for lip color application and prevent feathering throughout the day. There's also the lightweight feel and matte finish, which is so barely-there nobody will know you have anything on. Except for that newly lush fullness, of course.
GLAMGLOW Plumprageous Matte Lip Treatment, $24
"Swap that skimpy set for a sexier pair," this lip plumper teases, preying on your insecurities so that you have no choice but to buy it. No, but seriously, the peppermint oil in this surprisingly hydrating formula takes a good thing and adds an extra boost to make it even better.
Bliss Fabulips Instant Lip Plumper, $22
Ah, yes: no assembly of the best lip plumpers is complete without this longtime cult favorite, a tingly clear formulation with a touch of shimmer that immediately creates that elusive pouty quality. Works like a charm, as they say.
Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme, $28