Is it a bit facile to say that smiling is good for us? Like, duh, making a happy face is obviously better than making a sad one. But it’s actually an area that’s been heavily researched. Experts have found that smiley folks have better immune systems, lower blood pressure, and may even live longer.
That’s all very well, but what if you don’t like your teeth or lips, or are self-conscious about your smile? Dentist Dr. Farshid Shahbazi of Theory + Essence in North Vancouver says that’s become increasingly common in recent years. “Social media platforms are now a main form of communication,” he says. “Selfie culture and posting pictures online have caused people and generally young adults to turn to cosmetic dentistry to create beautiful smiles, which at times goes hand in hand with increased self-esteem.”
Dr. Shahbazi says Covid didn’t particularly change people’s approach to aesthetic dentistry—aside from the fact that patients were reluctant to visit the clinic during the height of the pandemic. But the same isn’t true for general aesthetic medicine. “Lips have always been a big part of my aesthetic practice, but when we were moving toward virtual work and school I found that there was a bit of an increase in people focusing on their perceived flaws,” says dermatologist Dr. Angela Law of Dermapure Vancouver. “Some perhaps noticed they had lost volume in their lips. Also, the pandemic was a time when you could kind of hide out after a treatment, so perhaps people were a bit more willing to pursue something they were thinking of.”
If you are keen to explore any aesthetic procedures, there are many options, but a key thing is to visit a specialist who can tailor treatments just for you. “The evaluation of a patient’s smile is essential,” explains Dr. Shahbazi. “The patient’s desires and expectations are addressed at this stage, and also facial symmetry, lip position and the smile line, along with gum height and contours.” These days, clinics have digital tools and scanners that can show patients exactly what their new smile might look like, taking much of the guesswork away. Want a Hollywood-white smile? Factors like your skin tone can affect how natural your new gnashers look.
Likewise, Dr. Law is looking at balance and symmetry when consulting with you about what type of lip procedures might be suitable. The most popular treatments at her clinic are hyaluronic acid fillers. “If you’re not ready for full volume, there’s also the lip flip,” she says. “This is where we use neurotoxin in small amounts at the vermillion border at the top of the lips. It just subtly averts [flips] the top lip for perceived fullness.” If you have “smokers’ lines” Dr. Law suggests Juvederm skin boosters—a hyaluronic acid product that creates deep hydration to minimize the appearance of lines. “For very deep lines I would probably suggest ablative resurfacing of the upper lip to get collagen stimulation,” she says.
There are a lot of different dental procedures that can alter the appearance of the smile and these have become more advanced in recent years. “New developments in porcelain ceramic material allows thin veneersto be natural in appearance and also more durable,” he says. “These can then be used to resolve issues such as teeth alignment and shape, open spaces, rotated teeth and also stain and colour concerns.” Invisalign offers a quicker and easier alternative to traditional braces while whitening technology is always improving. He says that different types of sedation can also be used to help make things easier for nervous patients.
Daily dental maintenance is the same as it ever was—have regular checkups, don’t smoke, floss and brush. Dr. Shahbazi says you can get just as good results with a manual toothbrush as an electric one, the electric ones can be better for people with limited movement, people who are used to brushing too hard, kids, and anyone who wouldn’t ordinarily do their full two minutes (thanks, built-in timer!). We love Vancouver’s Brüush brushes, which clean brilliantly and look stylish, too.
On the other hand, there’s lots of innovation in lips, where you can find myriad balms, sunscreens and colours to try. These targeted treatments are important because lip skin is thinner than that of the face, and therefore more prone to problems like dryness and fine lines. Dr. Law says that persistently dry lips can be a problem for people with atopic dermatitis, if you’re in the habit of licking your lips or when the air outside is cold and dry. That might be exacerbated as we get into cold and flu season, when you’re constantly wiping your nose and the area around the nose and upper lip might be irritated. “If you have dry and chapped lips then keep your lip care simple,” she says. “Use limited products with the fewest ingredients; my go-tos are petrolatum jelly [Vaseline] and Aquaphor, which is more water-based. Essentially anything that will be a good barrier to lock in moisture and prevent further irritation.”
As well as those basics, Dr. Law suggests looking for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, both of which are present in U Beauty’s Plasma Lip Compound. “I’ve always loved the look of lip gloss, but most formulas are sticky, and my lips craved the moisture of balms, but they never delivered a consistency that was up to my standards,” explains brand founder Tina Craig. The Plasma Lip Compound delivers immediate hydration in a light texture, and Craig says with continued use, you’ll have less inflammation and chapping, visible plumping, and reduced fine lines. For severely chapped lips, we also like Flexitol Lip Balm, which has a petrolatum base, with lanolin, and water, plus comforting camphor, and is said to be good even for post-chemo dryness.
You might also want to consider a lip-specific sunscreen, especially on cold and bright fall days, or if you’re skiing. Dr. Law says to look for one with mineral filters, as the chemical ones can taste unpleasant. These can be hard to find, but The Detox Market has a number, including Hurraw Sun Protection Lip Balm, Solara Pout Protector Moisturizing Lip Serum and Ava Isa Sun Lip Sun Whip Clear Sunshine. All have zinc oxide to shield from the sun, and the Ava Isa product comes in three different tints to add a dash of colour.
Jennifer MacDonald, national sales and education manager for Nyx Cosmetics says people’s focus was largely on skincare and comfort throughout the pandemic. “We’re now seeing the post-Covid power-lip trend rising,” she says. “Consumers are becoming more open to trying a bold or bright shade of lipstick of gloss for a put-together look, without fear of how the mask will impact the makeup underneath.”
If you’re reluctant to try a bright lip after a couple of years of nudes, she suggests trying a lip liner such as Nyx’s Line Loud Vegan Longwear Lip Liner, paired with gloss. “Pick a bright shade like Movin Up or Hottie Hijacker and line and fill your lip,” she says. “Add a touch of gloss over top and you’ve got an uncomplicated yet trending lippie shade.” If you’re looking for something long-lasting, you can try the brand’s two-step Shine Loud High Shine Lip Color. Start with a sweep of highly pigmented base coat and then finish with the non-sticky gloss topcoat. It’ll give you up to 16 hours with no colour transfer.
Finally, for those who want a unique lip look, you can get your own customized lippie from Lip Lab. The Canadian-founded company shuttered its ready-to-wear arm, Bite Beauty, earlier this year, but the bespoke service remains. Visit an IRL store (one each in Toronto and Paris and eight in the U.S.) or arrange an online appointment. A colour expert will analyze your skin tone, chat to you about preference in shade and texture, and customize a lippie for you, which you’ll receive in a few days. It brings a whole new meaning to the term “lip service.” —Aileen Lalor