03 Jan Lips: function & why are we obsessed with them?
After anti-wrinkle injections, lip treatments are the probably the second most requested procedure. Why do we even have lips and what are their key features and functions?
One of their most obvious roles is speech production. The different movements and positions of the lips allows for different sounds to be produced. Lips also control airflow in and out of the mouth so we can whistle or play a musical instrument. They are also hugely important in facial expressions- allowing us to smile, grin, bare our teeth or look sad. They allow us to pout when sulking or even pout to be sexy! Our mouth and lips help us to communicate with others around us.
Lips are also important for eating. They keep the mouth airtight and control food getting in and out of the mouth. We can also change the mouth shape allowing us to suck on a straw and breastfeed as an infant. They also have a huge nerve supply and are very sensitive to touch, warmth and the cold.
Lips are also an important erogenous zone in the body. They are very sensitive to touch and kissing. Full lips have also been linked with higher levels of oestrogen in women and therefore may be a sign of youth, health and fertility. This may partly explain the role of lipstick to enhance the female lip to appear more youthful and attractive. In the 1960s, zoologist Desmond Morris suggested a women’s mouth and lips were a representation of the vulva and that the mouth was also a secondary sexual organ.
Lips appear to have several functions from eating and speaking, to more complex associations with sexuality and pleasure. It’s unsurprising that they are the focus of beauty and cosmetic treatments given their association with youth, attraction and sexuality.
Dr Stephen Lowe