While everybody else admired Angelina Jolie's leggy pose at the Oscars, I was glued to her lips. (Not literally. That would have been awkward. Also probably illegal.) Not that Angie's dress wasn't drop-dead gorgeous -- it was (and her leg was, too). It's just that her lips practically deserve their own Academy Award. They're that amazing.
Really, Angelina's bee-stung lips are the envy of women everywhere -- which is probably why so many of us try to emulate them. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were more than 1,300,000 lip injections performed in 2011. That's a lot of Angelina wannabes -- and a lot of women going under the needle just to end up with nothing better than the overinflated trout pout you see in a scary amount of Facebook profile photos.
Duck lips aren't the ultimate goal for these women, of course. What they -- and I! -- really want are lush, natural-looking, ever-so-slightly-plumper lips. Lips that happen to look something like Angelina's (and if they come with a side of Brad Pitt, that's OK, too). But is there a way to get those lips without succumbing to injections?
There is. Good lip plumpers can add subtle shape to your lips -- enhancing them without altering them, blessing you with the hottest lips in town. Bad plumpers, on the other hand, can cause damage to your lips, leaving them red, flaky, and burning -- a different kind of "hot lips" altogether. That's why it's especially important to know which brands fall into which category. We gave our courageous readers the mission of reviewing hundreds of lip plumping products to find the best and the worst, so you'll know what to reach for when you want to plump up your pucker -- and what you should leave on the shelves.
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 6.7
Why: "This product actually burned and stung my lips!" says one reader. "I kept waiting for it to wear off, and finally had to remove [it] after 30 minutes of discomfort." Readers say they also "didn't experience any noticeable plumping," and disliked "the texture of the gloss." One reader says the "numbing sensation is very uncomfortable. I also made the mistake of accidentally licking my lips and gagged at the horrible taste."
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 6.2
Why: "Steer clear of this one folks. It's just nasty," one reader says. "This lip plumper stings more than other lip plumpers I've used, and it gets so bad that talking becomes difficult." Another reader says, "It dries your lips like no tomorrow and the [plumping] effect lasts even after you take this stuff off." Those sensitive to fragrance beware, "this lip plumper had a strange smell and also tastes like perfume." Yuck.
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 5.2
Why: Readers agree that this lip plumper is "goopy" and "the goopiness is more noticeable than any plumping" effects from this product. "This was so sticky, it didn't want to come out of the tube," one reader says. "And considering how sticky and tacky it is, you would think that it would last longer than a few minutes."
The Worst No. 3: Victoria's Secret Very Voluptuous Lip Plumper Extreme, $26
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 4.8
Why: One reader says, "this stuff feels icy hot on your lips and the 'tingling sensation' [you get] is really more of a painful burn. I can never last more than 5 minutes before I HAVE to wipe [this product] off." Another reader agrees, saying, "It was a bit on the burning, [rather] than numbing side and I didn't notice any plumping." "For a lip gloss that costs 26 bucks, this [product] does not fulfill any expectations nor does it live up to its own claims."
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 4.6
Why: "This [lip plumper] is a thick beige mess. It's drying, does absolutely no plumping, and changes the color of whatever lip product you put over it. You cannot wear it alone because of the color unless you want to look like a corpse," says one reader. Another reader says, "It's basically a foundation for your lips. [This product] is better as a lip primer and smoother but does nothing as far as plumping."
The Worst No. 1: Fusion Beauty Lipfusion Lip Plumping Pencil, $28
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 4.3
Why: Readers agree that they saw "no plumping" effect with this pencil. "This is just an overpriced lip pencil/liner that doesn't work as promised," says one reader. "You can get the same effect with other lip pencils that cost half the price." Another reader says, "The color choices [of this product] are limited, and I'm not thrilled with how the colors look on my lips after trying several of them."
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 7.6
Why: Readers say "the results are phenomenal" with this lip plumper. "This gloss plumps without the sting that most plumpers give, comes in a variety of colors, and moisturizes," says one reader, also "the colors are fantastic and seem to be enough but not too much on their own." Another says, "This plumper made my lips look subtly fuller and sexier, without looking surgically enhanced, and it never feels goopy or sticky. I have been using this for a few years now and never leave home without it."
The Best No. 3: Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme, $28
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 7.9
Why: Readers say, "This is the one that gives me the instant gratification I was hoping for" in a lip plumper. "It goes on smooth without being sticky. There is tingling when you first apply but it does add color and plumps every line out of my lips while keeping them moist," says one reader. A reader who regularly uses this lip plumper agrees, saying, "My lips have never looked better and I am 42. My lips still stay full even when I miss a day of using this product."
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 8.1
Why: "The extensive colors [offered] are beautiful and light enough to be pretty on nearly everyone," says one reader. "It is a little sticky at first, but that wears off pretty quickly and leaves almost a barrier of moisture on your lips that lasts for-freakin'-ever." Readers also love that "you get a tingle but not a harsh or scary tingle, and the gloss is unscented and wears well." It's so good that one reader "has one at work, one at home, and one in the car," just in case.
TotalBeauty.com average reader rating: 8.4
Why: Readers love that this lip plumper gives "stellar results at a K-mart price." One reader who has tried many other lip plumpers before says, "The plumping action is instant and very significant. After being ripped off by SO many other lip plumpers, I was pleasantly surprised with this one." Another reader says, "the double retinol must be working pretty darn well because my lips feel the smoothest they have even been. And this lipstick lasts up to five hours of wear." What's more, "the SPF 15 is certainly a welcome addition no matter what time of year."