We finally have an answer to the question that no one needed to ask, but did, incessantly: Are Kylie Jenner's lips naturally that full? No. No. God no. Can't you tell?
Until yesterday, the Kardashian sister wasn't ready to admit to the public that she'd gotten lip fillers (which is fine!). But in a promo for this week's Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Jenner reveals what we already knew: The 17-year-old sees a dermatologist to enhance her pout—a pout that has inspired fans worldwide to physically harm themselves in an effort to have what she's having.
We here at Fusion like to give all individuals space to grow and be themselves, so our only question when we heard the news was: Is it a good idea for a 17-year-old pair of peckers to get injections? Compared to, say, a 35-year-old pair? What's happening beneath the skin?
Here's what Snehal Amin, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell-New York Presbyterian Hospital who regularly performs lip injections, told Fusion.
What are lip injections made of?
According to Amin, if Kylie is like 90 percent of his patients, she's getting the injections with "immediate volume increase"—basically, the lightweight of lip fillers. Brand names for these injections are Juvederm, Restylane, and Voluma, and they're all forms of synthetic hyaluronic acid. (The other 10 percent get injections that are both more invasive and more permanent.)
Hyaluronic acid is a gel-like substance that already naturally exists in our skin, eyes, and joints, so when someone chooses to get a synthetic injection, it's easier for the body to absorb—and they'll see an immediate volume increase.
How does synthetic hyaluronic acid work?
Our skin is made of several layers—including the epidermis, subdermis, and subcutaneous layer, which is the fatty layer. Fillers are mostly injected into the subdermis, but sometimes into the subcutaneous layer. It depends on the patient, and on how long she (or he) wants the filler to last. The deeper you go, the longer the effects. Amin guesses that Kylie is getting her injections in the subdermis (though, of course, it's impossible for him to really know without seeing her as a patient).
Once the filler is injected, the material "fills up" space beneath the skin. So the injected synthetic hyaluronic acid pushes up the skin from the underlying fascia (a.k.a. connective tissue) and bone.
There goes your bat mitzvah money
Here's the thing about synthetic hyaluronic acid fillers. If you like the way they look, you're going to have to go back every three to six months for additional procedures. They cost between $900 to $1,200 a pop. And because the procedure is usually cosmetic, it's not covered by insurance. Something tells us, however, this isn't an issue for Kylie.
How young is too young to get lip fillers?
And that leads us to the question that started this all: Is it biologically sound for a 17 year-old to be injecting what is likely synthetic hyaluronic acid into her lips?
There are no noticeable difference between the way a pair of 17-year-old lips will react versus a pair of 35-year-old lips, says Amin, who is also the founder of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City.
The upshot? No, Jenner is not too young in the eyes of cosmetic medicine. (Though, legally speaking, if you're under eighteen, you do need a parent to sign off on the procedure.)
But Amin was happy to wax philosophical about social mores and beauty with me. "Whether a lip filler is appropriate for a teenager is in transition in our culture right now," he says. "The perception of what’s acceptable changes every year and limits of evasiveness also change. Lip injections are becoming more and more popular, so there will naturally be a group of socially advanced or accelerated teenagers that want injections. Whether they are psychologically mature enough to get injection is their doctor's decision."
Cleo Stiller is a digital producer covering the intersections of sex, tech and culture. Words to live by: get your money's worth.