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Changes in Shape of Lip Region in Japanese Women Associated with Age Thinner Lips, Extended and Rounded White Upper Lip

The Makeup Research Laboratories of Kao Corporation (President: Michitaka Sawada) studied changes in shape of the lip area in Japanese women. Results obtained quantitatively showed that red lip portions became thinner, while the area between the nose and lips (white upper lip) became extended and more round in association with age.
The results of the study were posted in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists of Japan (Vol. 53-4, 2019).

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Fig. 1. Representative images of lips of Japanese women in each age


Dryness and chapping are major problems affecting lips, and researchers have been actively studying the function of the horny layer as well as differences as compared to that of skin. Occurrences of these troublesome conditions peak in the 30s, then other issues, such as dull color, loss of fullness, and an increasing vaguely defined contour (lip shape), increase along with aging.
In previous studies, Kao researchers confirmed that changes in the appearance of the lip area have effects on the impression of the face as a whole. However, few reports have elucidated morphological changes around the lips in a quantitative manner in Japanese women. In the present study, focus was given to the overall shape of the area including the lips, with quantitative analyses of age-related changes of the red portion as well as the skin above that area (white upper lip). Furthermore, changes over time in the same participants were examined to reveal those not attributed to individual differences.

Study 1. Comparison of shape around lips among different ages of Japanese women

Facial photographs of 139 Japanese women ranging from 16 to 78 years old were taken from the front as well as lateral view for measuring the lips and surrounding skin area at various points (Fig. 2).

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Fig. 2. Measurement sites White upper lip Red lip White upper lip group

<Changes in lip shape>
Both the thickness of the upper and lower lips, and that of both together showed a decreasing trend associated with aging. Furthermore, the width of the lips broadened with age and fullness of the lower lip shown in lateral views was significantly reduced.

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Fig. 3. Comparisons of lip shape between age groups
(representative images shown)

<Changes in skin in white upper lip area>
The results also revealed that the white upper lip under the nose became extended with aging. Analyses of lateral images showed a positive relationship between curve width of the white upper lip and age. Additionally, participants with a more apparent curved white upper lip were more frequently noted in the younger age groups, while that area became rounded as age increased.

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Fig. 4. Comparisons of white upper lip (under nose) between age groups
(representative images shown)

A more detailed investigation by age group confirmed that these changes tended to start around 40 years of age. This was considered attributable to the effects of inner tissue changes and muscular drooping.

Study 2. Changes in lip shape with age in same participants

Thirteen Japanese women 46-55 years old were enrolled as participants in 2015, then various lip area sites were measured in facial photographs taken in 1992, 2002, and 2015. The ratios of thickness and width of the lips, and of length of the white upper lip to lip thickness were determined and compared in each.
Comparisons of measurements obtained in the same participants confirmed that with age the lips became extended horizontally and nose-lip distance was also increased (Fig. 5, 6).


Fig. 5. Ratio of width to length of red lips in the same participants (age-related changes)

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Fig. 6. Ratio of length of white upper lip in the same participants (age-related changes)


In the present study, changes in the lip area, generally understood but scarcely demonstrated by quantitative data, were clarified, including the shape of the lips and surrounding area. These findings will be utilized by Kao for future development of new cosmetics and proposals for makeup techniques.

* Figures 1, 2, 5, and 6 are modified versions of those presented in an article originally posted in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists of Japan (Vol. 53-4, 2019).

About Kao

Kao creates high-value-added products that enrich the lives of consumers around the world. Through its portfolio of over 20 leading brands, such as Attack, Bioré, Goldwell, Jergens, John Frieda, Kanebo, Laurier, Merries and Molton Brown, Kao is part of the everyday lives of people in Asia, Oceania, North America and Europe. Combined with its chemical division, which contributes to a wide range of industries, Kao generates about 1,500 billion yen in annual sales. Kao employs about 33,000 people worldwide and has 130 years of history in innovation. Please visit the Kao Group website for updated information.

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