So, what do we need lips for? First of all, let’s acknowledge the fact that the lips are a part of your skin. Only in our case, it’s a very special part. It’s thin, moveable, and sensitive – tucked with a massive amount of nerve endings, perfect for other utilities other than just covering our teeth.
Note: by the way, the reason we get chapped lips is due to the fact they lack sweat glands. (Who would want sweaty lips anyway?) But this absence means it lacks the lubrication the body oils provide, and in dry weather it kinda sucks…
Why are Human Lips Different?
If we look at other animals, we’ll find different kinds of lips, which are quite unlike ours – Birds and turtles have beaks, and in many other animals the lips are just a cover of skin over their mouth.
Mammals have the closest resemblance to ours, especially in primates, and have specific muscles that control the lips. But even then, they’re not as prominent or distinguished as ours.
Unlike in other animals, our lips seem to have more “attractive” features. They are red and luscious, and pretty much anything about them yells: “Look at me! Taste me!”.
This is a big hint at the difference in utility between us and other animals. They don’t use their lips to communicate, except when they snarl to threaten others by revealing their teeth, or in some rare species, kiss each other.
We humans have a variety of uses for them. We use them to verbalize words, and perhaps more importantly, we also use them to communicate non-verbally. Lips play a big part in our sexual communication and are one of our erogenous zones. Their shape, color, and size easily create attraction, and their sensitivity makes them perfect for kissing, for example.
Note: Some associate the lips with another female erogenous zone -the vulva, by color and form. What might explain why red and saucy lips can evoke strong biological reactions in men? As long as you don’t go too far…
Now that we’ve cleared their importance, let’s look at some mouth expressions and see how they convey emotions:
As an erogenous part, the lips are packed with many nerve endings and are very sensitive to touch. Even a slight brush can stimulate them and intense kissing has an exhilarating effect on your whole body.
Of course, there are many types of kisses, and the lover’s kiss can tell a lot about how good is the sexual chemistry between them. There is even a theory that suggests this exchange of fluids is an excellent way to determine biologically if it’s a good match. I won’t elaborate here more because I already wrote this series.
The Tense Mouth
This one pretty much speaks for itself. The lips pressed together to create a thin line. The jaw is often locked, which gives an overall tense, tight, and solid image. Sometimes the lips are even swallowed (more on that on the next page).
This mouth expression indicates some sort of emotional tension or self-restraint. It can be anger, sadness, anxiety, and frustration – depending on the context. I always imagine it as if the lips act like a dam, holding someone from bursting and flushing out their true feelings.
So while it’s associated with negative feelings, this type of restraint can be viewed as admirable – the stiff upper lip, an expression most familiar with the British people, is seen as personal strength, the will to maintain composure even in the face of bad news.
It’s synonymous with another phrase and expression – “keep your chin up”Of course, not all view this as a good quality as it appears cold and somewhat snobbish.
Slightly parted lips, on the contrary, are evident in more exciting occasions – In courtship.
When a couple is about to kiss, or one desires it, one of the telltale signs is that they keep their lips slightly loose and dart glances at their partner’s lips. It’s a preparation step for the actual kiss, after all, you want to be sure and ready, and not accidentally bump into a wall of teeth!
Pursing, Puckering, and Pouting the Lips
There are many ways to squeeze the lips to create various mouth expressions. The names we give such expressions are technical, but their meaning isn’t.
Pursing the Lips Meaning
The lips create a round, but tight shape. Just imagine a grumpy old lady with a stern look. It’s quite intuitive to understand – it shows disagreement and/or suppressed anger.
Sometimes however it shows indecision, it’s the “what to do…?” face, weighing 2 equally balanced choices. You can see it as a way of stalling the words, before blurting something out. Such evaluation gestures are important markers when you try to persuade someone. This is the time to give your best argument and tip the scales toward the decision you prefer because when a decision is made and verbalized, it’s much harder to change it.
Perking the lips Meaning
AKA the “duck face” or the “kissing face”. It’s a flirtatious, playful, and “cute” gesture, but only when done right and in the right amounts. Keep it light and save it for the right moments.
Blowing air kisses to your boyfriend is cute, taking every other picture with this pose is just ridiculous.
Pouting Lips Meaning
It’s when the lower lip slides forward. It’s most evident in kids who show their displeasure and insult. But adults do it too, only with much more subtlety, of course, we don’t want to appear childish. Or do we…?
As in many other gestures, women can use the “little girl” card – to use childish expressions and gestures, to manipulate men and get their wishes. What can I say… it’s easy to play on man’s protective paternal emotions.
Licking the Lips
Licking the lips is very context-dependent on expression because the act of touching the lip can be either comforting or stimulating at different times.
The “sexual” lick – is an intentional gesture where the tongue starts in the corner of the mouth, licking the upper lip and then the lower, in a slow-moving and sensual action. It means to entice by emphasizing the juiciness and color of lips, and since it’s an erogenous zone, it’s also self-enticing!
This sort of licking is a bold move, revealing instantly the desire to “taste” that somebody who’s getting the message. As such, this kind of flirtation is kept for advanced steps of the courtship, when both parties know they’re into each other.
Now the second type of lip licking is caused by nervousness, so it’s a self-comforting signal. We want to touch (pull the lip) or lick it to release some inner tension by stimulating the nerves in our lips.
This sort of licking would be quick and partial. We automatically understand that licking our lips or pulling them would give away our insecurities, so we try to contain them. But if the tension is high enough we accidentally leak it out – literally by sticking out the tongue.
Like all tension signals, it’s often associated with telling a lie, but it’s not always the case. It means that whatever the person is saying – he’s not quite sure about it, or he’s uncomfortable in his situation. To be more accurate, you need to watch carefully if the lick appears especially regarding specific issues or details.
And lastly, licking the lips can have much simpler interpretations:
- Chapped lips
- During extensive physical activity
- Deep concentration
Biting has a very similar meaning as licking – nervousness and attraction signals because it’s just a different way to stimulate the lips.
Commonly displayed in 3 forms:
- Biting the upper lip is not a very pretty site. Our lower teeth are not the most presentable part of our face. Plus it creates some not compelling marks on your upper lip.
- Biting the lower lip – a “better” form of biting them can be sexy if you know what you’re doing.
- Swallowing the lips – both of the lips disappear between the 2 rows of teeth.
- Biting the lips can be seen as a somewhat stronger form of licking them. It’s much more obvious and it’s one of the trademarks of insecure, shy types of people.
- Swallowing the lips can be seen as the extreme version of “tense lips” and is usually a strong indicator of self-restraint – be it anger or holding back thoughts.
Biting the lips can be flirtatious and sexy since the bite emphasizes the fullness of the lips.
For women it’s sort of a childish display, again, a tactic often used on men to evoke in them protective emotions.
If you do want it to appear sexy – avoid “rabbit teeth” and biting the upper lip.
Sticking out the tongue
It doesn’t require explaining, does it? 😛
Alright, now that we’re done let me summarize what we learned about lips in body language:
- Humans are quite different from other animals in the shape and use of their lips. For us, lips play a big role in communication – both verbally and non-verbally.
- Lips in terms of body language revolve mainly around 2 things – tension and sexual communication. This is because they are an erogenous zone and very sensitive to touch. Meaning we either touch them for stimulation or self-comfort.
- We have great flexibility with the muscles around our mouth, which allows us to create tons of different expressions with it. Sometimes they’re similar but carry distinct emotions. Most of them you’ll recognize instinctively – so don’t sweat it!
- I talked about the relation of lips with flirting, especially in women, and you saw some powerful ways to use such signals. The body language of lips can be a very powerful tool for seduction.