There are people who have a prominent or large upper lip, and I know you have probably wondered what caused their upper lip to be so large or bigger than normal.

Quick Facts About Philtrum

DefinitionThe vertical groove in the middle of your upper lip, running from your nose to the top of your lip
Origin of Name Latin: philtrum, from Ancient Greek φίλτρον (phíltron), meaning "love charm"
Other Names Medial cleft, infranasal depression
Anatomy Formed by the medial nasal processes and maxillary processes during embryonic development
Function in AnimalIn most mammals, it may carry dissolved odorants from the nose pad to the vomeronasal organ via ducts inside the mouth
Function in HumanIn humans, it is a vestigial feature with no apparent function. Can affect facial expressions
Genetic InfluenceIts shape and form can be influenced by genetic factors
VariationsCan be long, short, or average in length; Can be deep, shallow, or smooth in depth; Can be broad or narrow in width
Cultural SignificanceIn Jewish tradition, it is associated with an angel teaching wisdom to the unborn child
Medical SignificanceAbnormal philtrum can indicate developmental disorders such as fetal alcohol syndrome or Prader–Willi syndrome
Associated ConditionsVariations or abnormalities can be associated with genetic conditions like holoprosencephaly
Surgical ConsiderationsPhiltrum's appearance can be altered through cosmetic surgery if desired

And what of people whose lower lips are shorter than normal; Too too short lips. And of course, you are also among others that want to know what causes such abnormality.

The upper lip can also be called the philtrum, and today’s article will explain all you need to know about the philtrum; its variations in different people, its development, and what causes its largeness in some sets of people, as well as every other thing you need to know about the philtrum.

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The Philtrum – What is it?

Philtrum - Healthsoothe

The philtrum is the groove that runs from the top of the lip to the nose. The length of the philtrum is passed down from parents to their children through genes. This groove is shortened in people with certain conditions.

The philtrum (Latin word from Ancient Greek, meaning "love charm"), also known as the medial cleft, is just a vertical depression in the middle part of the top lip that is widespread in therian mammals and extends in human beings from the nasal septum towards the tubercle of the top lip.


Development of the Philtrum

Development Of The Philtrum - Healthsoothe

During embryonic development, the philtrum is produced when the naso-medial and maxillary processes connect. A cleft lip may occur if these processes do not completely merge.1Sullivan KE, Buckley RH. Primary defects of cellular immunity. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020: chap 151.


Functions of the Philtrum

The philtrum is a thin groove in most animals that may transport dissociated odorants out from the nose pad or rhinarium to the vomeronasal organ through ducts inside the mouth.

The philtrum persists solely as just a vestigial medial dip between the upper lip and nose in humans and most primates.

The human philtrum, which is surrounded by ridges, is also referred to as the infra-nasal depression, although it serves no use. This could be due to the fact that most higher primates depend on eyesight rather than smell. Unlike monkeys and apes, strepsirrhine primates such as lemurs maintain the philtrum and rhinarium.


Variations of the Philtrum

Variations Of The Philtrum - Healthsoothe

A philtrum that is flattened or smooth may be a sign of Prader-Willi syndrome or fetal alcohol syndrome.

A study of males experiencing autism spectrum disorders discovered that a wider-than-usual philtrum is one of a group of physical characteristics related to autism.


Causes of Long/Short or Abnormal Philtrum

The way the philtrum appears is determined genetically. In some syndromes, this groove is shortened.

This condition can also be caused by the following:

  • Chromosome 18q deletion syndrome
  • Cohen syndrome
  • DiGeorge syndrome
  • Oral-facial-digital syndrome (OFD)


Tests to Diagnose an Abnormal (long or short) Philtrum

The following are used to test and diagnose for long or short philtrum:

  • Chromosome studies
  • Enzyme tests
  • Metabolic studies on both mother and infant
  • X-rays

If your health provider diagnosed a short or long philtrum, you may want to note that diagnosis in your personal medical record.


Treatment of Abnormal Philtrum

Home Care

No home care is needed for a short philtrum, in most cases. However, if this is only one symptom of another disorder, follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how to care for the condition.


When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if you notice a short philtrum on your child.


What to Expect at Your Office Visit

An infant with a short philtrum may have other symptoms and signs. Taken together, these may define a specific syndrome or condition. The provider will diagnose that condition based on family history, medical history, and physical exam.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Did you notice this when the child was born?
  • Have any other family members had this feature?
  • Have any other family members been diagnosed with a disorder associated with a short philtrum?
  • What other symptoms are present?

All right, guys, that is it for now for philtrum. I hope Healthsoothe answered any questions you had concerning the philtrum. 

Feel free to contact us at if you have further questions to ask or if there’s anything you want to contribute or correct to this article. 

You can always check our FAQs section below to know more about philtrum. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Philtrum

For humans and most primates, the philtrum survives only as a vestigial medial depression between the nose and upper lip. The human philtrum, bordered by ridges, is also known as the infra-nasal depression but has no apparent function. That may be because most higher primates rely more on vision than on smell.

Overall, 76% of men considered the upper lip with philtral contours as more attractive in both sets of images, which was statistically significant (P < 0.001). There was a higher preference for philtral contours in the young face than in the aged portrait, with 85% preferring image 1 and 68% preferring image 3.

Having a broad groove between your nose and lips is a clear-cut sign of your abundant energy as well as positive mental vibrations. If your philtrum is too broad or too long this indicates certain unexpected turns of fate throughout your life.

We all have them, though it's puzzled biologists for a long time as to why we do. I'm talking about that odd little groove found below your nose that runs to your top lip. Technically, it's known as your philtrum and it's as ubiquitous to the human face as the nose or eyes.


For some men, their philtrum can drop by up to 5mm, whereas a female's philtrum may lengthen by around 3.5mm. With age, it continues to lengthen by an average of 0.5 mm every ten years. Genetics can also determine philtrum length. If one of your parents has a longer philtrum length, you may too.

Length of the philtrum and lip width significantly increased with age while upper and lower lip lengths and length of the lower oral commissure significantly decreased with age. The angle of the upper lip tended to decrease with age, but this finding was not significant.

The philtrum is also believed to indicate the life force of a person. For example, if it is flat, weak, and unpronounced, it can be seen as a sign of a reduced life force, and perhaps a lack of personal drive. In fact, the groove is common to virtually all mammals.

A long philtrum, thin upper lip, cleft lip, cleft palate, and small jaw are other significant findings associated with abnormal fetal development sometimes caused by chromosome abnormalities, alcohol, or other fetal toxins.

This condition can be caused by: Chromosome 18q deletion syndrome. Cohen syndrome. DiGeorge syndrome.

Elongation of the philtrum typically occurs from time, gravity, and age rather than lip filler injections. This also leads to thinning of the upper lip.

The space between the upper lip and nose is called the philtrum. The ideal length of the philtrum is roughly a half-inch (11-13 millimeters) for women and a couple of millimeters longer for men. At that length, when your lips are relaxed, the tips of your teeth should be visible.

They can be if the shape of the philtrum is an obvious genetic attribute in their heritage, rather than a result of a birth defect or deformity.

The best way to reduce your philtrum length is through a lip lift. Making sure you are a good candidate and have the right goals are key!

The average philtrum length may vary between males and females, with an average length of between 11 and 15 mm. Anything longer than 13mm in a female, and 15mm in a male would be considered longer than the average.

A lip flip is where Botox or another Botulinum toxin is injected into the top lip. This temporarily flips up the cupid's bow and shortens the philtrum column (around 1mm). A surgical lip lift is a permanent surgery to do the same thing.

It means a flat skin surface, with no ridge formation in the central region of the upper lip between the nasal base and upper vermilion border.

The area just below the nose can have several effects. If the strike has an upward component, it will snap the head back. This movement can injure the cervical spinal column and could cause death. It is commonly known as whiplash.

Cosmetic surgery performed on and around the philtrum can target both the philtrum length and the shape of the philtrum.

Answer: Lip augmentation
Cosmetic fillers, such as hyaluronic acid, including Juvederm or Restylane, can be successfully injected into the upper cutaneous lip to accentuate or increase the philtrum column.

A short philtrum is a shorter-than-normal distance between the upper lip and the nose.

Answer: Botox lip flip
Botox is a great option to help flip the upper lip up. To achieve this effect, Botox is injected just above the vermilion border in about 2-3 areas per side of the upper lip. It will not shorten the philtrum, but with the lip flip effect, it will make it look like the philtrum is shorter.

No. They do not. Even though braces can adjust the width of your upper jaw, they don't extend into the structures that affect the shape and size of your nose.

A lip lift is an in-office surgical procedure that shortens the space between the nose and the top of the lip, known as the “philtrum.” The procedure increases the amount of pink tissue that's visible which makes the lips look fuller and more pronounced.

A Cupid's bow is the name of a lip shape where the upper lip comes to two distinct points toward the center of the mouth, almost like the letter 'M'. These points are usually directly in line with the philtrum, otherwise known as the grooved space between the nose and mouth.

For many people, the nose is tall in its vertical dimension, and that makes the bottom of the nose impinge on the philtrum, sit closer to the upper lip, and make the philtrum look so short. Then, when you smile, all those features get exacerbated by the movement of the facial muscles with a smile.

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Additional resources and citations

  • 1
    Sullivan KE, Buckley RH. Primary defects of cellular immunity. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020: chap 151.

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