What is the Cupid's Bow?
The Cupid's Bow is one of several facial features which have been given Greek or Roman names. The cupid's bow is the curve in the middle of the upper lip. In Roman mythology, Cupid was the son of Venus and known as the God of Erotic Love. In classical art, Cupid is often portrayed as having a bow and quiver. As part of the mythology, if you are shot with one of cupid's arrows you will be filled with desire for the a member of the opposite sex.
The upper lip curves were labeled as the cupid’s bow because the shape was believed to look similar to the classic depictions of Cupid’s weapon of choice; and due to the belief that men cannot resist the curves of a woman’s lips. Women today still use lip liner, gloss or lipstick to accentuate their cupid’s bow. Some women even have cosmetic surgery to accentuate this feature, or choose to permanently enhance this feature with cosmetic tattooing.
Also, the vertical dip above the middle of the upper lip that extends to the base of the nose is called the “philtrum” which is a Latin derivation of the Greek word philtron meaning “love potion.”
Deformities of the Cupid's Bow
Some medical conditions which can interfere with the development of these facial features.The anatomic feature of Cupid’s Bow and the philtrum are developed around 14 weeks of gestation (pregnancy). Abnormalities to the development of these facial features generally occur before this time. For example, cleft lip generally begins to occur in the third to eighth week of gestation. Disorders that can affect the shape or development of Cupid’s Bow include:
From the list of associated disorders that can affect the shape of the cupid’s bow, cleft lip has the most pronounced malformation of the cupid’s bow structure (for more information on cleft lip read: What is Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate).
Repair of the Cupid's Bow in Cleft Lip
Cleft lip repair surgery for the infant is undergone to promote functionality of the mouth for nursing or bottle feeding as well as to cosmetically repair the natural curvature of the upper lip. More than one surgery is often required to complete the repair.
When performing the initial cleft lip repair, your surgeon will likely utilize a method in which he can close the cleft lip and attempt to hide the surgical scars in the natural location for the philtrum and the cupid’s bow to provide the most natural looking surgical repair.
While the techniques differ, the goal is the same and efforts are used to help reduce surgical tension (tightness) on the incision area. In the event that the cupid’s bow is not created or is unbalanced after cleft lip repair, a second cupid’s bow reconstructive cosmetic surgery may be performed. Later on, permanent cosmetics (the practice of tattooing eyeliner, lipstick or other cosmetics on) may be an option to aid in the appearance of a more normal cupid's bow.During reconstructive surgery goals may include lengthening the lips as well as surgically manipulating the vermillion border (the border of the red portion of the lips) and “white roll” which structures play a role in the overall shape of the upper lip line and philtrum. If the upper lip is tight, your surgeon may use an Abbe flap in the reconstruction of the philtrum and cupid’s bow. As stated previously there are multiple surgical methods which can be used, recovery times and after care will depend on the method that your surgeon uses.
Friedman, O., Want, T.D. & Milczuk, H.A. (2010). Flint: Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck. 5th Ed. Elsevier:Missouri.
Koshy, J.C., Ellsworth, W.A., Sharabi, S.E., Hatef, D.A., Hollier, L.H. & Stal, S. (2010). Bilateral cleft lip revisions: the Abbe flap. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 126(1):221-7.