The perfect lip formula - Natural is better

What do the sexiest female lips look like? There's a formula for that

Focus groups deemed the upper to lower lip ratio of 1:2, far left, to be the most attractive on white women. The ratio of 2:1, far right, was considered least attractive.

Focus groups deemed the upper to lower lip ratio of 1:2, far left, to be the most attractive on white women. The ratio of 2:1, far right, was considered least attractive.

This formula of attractiveness was published in February 2017 in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery (see below for link to study). Only images of young Caucasian women were used in this paper so that the study could be compared to previous research, which has often focused on college-age women of Northern European descent. The study was conducted by the University of California Irvine.

Key Points


What lip dimensions are the most attractive in white women?


All 100 faces were cardinally ranked by 150 individuals in phase 1, and all 60 faces were cardinally ranked by 428 participants in phase 2. In a survey of attractiveness, an increase of 53.5% in the total lip surface area with a linear dimension equal to 9.6% of the lower face and an upper to lower lip ratio of 1:2 was found to be the most attractive.


These findings indicate a quantifiable approach to determining the most attractive lip proportions used in augmentation procedures.

So, when it comes to white women, the study showed the most attractive mouth has an upper lip that’s half as big as the lower lip. This 1:2 ratio goes against the current trend of aesthetic patients favoring a visibly fuller upper lip.

The study highlighted a trend, we have noticed patients asking for in practice, towards this look that aesthetically is overly filled and disproportionate. 

Focus groups found a more natural result to be more appealing, but some celebrities are trying to create a trend that violates that aesthetic.

For the study, a computer created “synthetic morph” composite images based on photos of women 18- to 25-years old. Those images were then manipulated to show various lip dimensions on the same face. Focus groups weighed in on which faces they found most attractive.

The final verdict?

The most appealing lips on white women had

  • a surface area that was about 50 percent bigger than the women’s natural mouth size
  • took up about 10 percent of the lower third of their face
  • had that magic upper to lower lip ratio of 1:2.
amanda kerr 1-2.jpg

Models Miranda Kerr and Alessandra Ambrosio fit the ratio well, said Natalie Popenko, co-author of the study.

Allessandra ambrosio 1-2.jpg

What have we learned from this study? (4)

1. There is such a thing as too much when it comes to filling the lips

2. Proportions and lip ratio must be respected

3. Balance of the lip region must be maintained

The changing face of lips

We are aware that well-defined and full lips suggest youth and attractiveness and that lips are very important to overall facial appeal with lip procedures very popular no matter the age or demographic of the patient.

We also know that a record number of people are undergoing lip augmentation procedures. (There were 27,449 lip implants performed in 2015 in the U.S., making it the second-fastest growing facial procedure since 2000). 

It's obvious that the number of Lip injections will continue to increase at a fast pace. Anecdotal evidence suggests the popularity is partly down to “the age of the selfie.”

We are also cognisant that

  • significant differences in defining beauty exist across the ages and cultures (2)
  • significant differences in perception of facial attractiveness has been documented between lay-people and professionals (3)

As we encounter ever changing requests from our patients, we must respect different concepts of beauty without abandoning the ratios of the aesthetic ideal.

Studies and further reading

1. A Quantitative Approach to Determining the Ideal Female Lip Aesthetic and Its Effect on Facial Attractiveness

Natalie A. Popenko, MS1,2; Prem B. Tripathi, MD, MPH1,2; Zlatko Devcic, MD1,2; et alKoohyar Karimi, DDS1,2; Kathryn Osann, PhD, MPH1,2; Brian J. F. Wong, MD, PhD1,

JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2017;19(4):261-267. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2016.2049

2. The Ideal Buttock Size: A Sociodemographic Morphometric Evaluation.

Heidekrueger PI1, Sinno S, Tanna N, Szpalski C, Juran S, Schmauss D, Ehrl D, Ng R, Ninkovic M, Broer PN.

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017 Jul;140(1):20e-32e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000003439.

3. Influence of Smile Arc and Buccal Corridors on Facial Attractiveness: A Cross-sectional Study

Shashank Gaikwad, Harsimran Kaur, Anna C Vaz, Baldeep Singh, lavina Taneja, KS Vinod, Prateek Verma

JCDR - Year : 2016 | Month : September | Volume : 10 | Issue : 9 | Page : ZC20 - ZC23

4. Defining the Perfect Mouth

Catherine P. Winslow, MD

JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2017;19(4):268. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2016.2263