Cupid's Bow Deformities and Repair

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. This is because in classical art, Cupid—the son of Venus in Roman mythology—is often portrayed as having a bow and quiver.

Close up of a person's mouth
Digital Vision / Getty Images

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. People today still use lip liner, gloss or lipstick to accentuate their cupid’s bow. Some people even have cosmetic surgery to accentuate this feature or choose to permanently enhance this feature with cosmetic tattooing.

Directly above the center of cupid's bow, there is a vertical dip that extends to the base of the nose, called the “philtrum.” Philtrum is the Latin derivation of the Greek word philtron meaning “love potion.”

Deformities of Cupid's Bow

Some medical conditions can interfere with the development of these facial features.

The anatomic feature of Cupid’s Bow and the philtrum are developed around 13 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.

Repair of 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.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Cupid. Encyclopædia Britannica.

  2. Ayestaray B, Bekara F, Andreoletti JB. Small-wave plasty for correction of lip length deficiency: a case report. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2013;37(1):121-4. doi:10.1007/s00266-012-0023-y

  3. Choi HN, Kim SR, Han YS. A New Method for Creating a Definite Philtrum by the Flipping of an Orbicularis Oris Muscle Flap in a Patient with an Indistinct Philtrum. Archives of Plastic Surgery.

  4. Piccinin MA, Zito PM. Anatomy, Head and Neck, Lips. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. 

  5. Domenico S, Orlando C, Graziana FF, Papi P, Giulia A. Cleft palate in Williams syndrome. Ann Maxillofac Surg. 2013;3(1):84-6. doi:10.4103/2231-0746.110071

  6. Deibert E, Crenshaw M, Miller MS. A patient with Phelan-McDermid syndrome and dilation of the great vessels. Clin Case Rep.

  7. Rossell-perry P. Primary unilateral cleft lip nasal deformity repair using V-Y-Z plasty: An anthropometric study. Indian J Plast Surg. 2017;50(2):180-186. doi:10.4103/ijps.IJPS_215_16

  8. Meara JG, Andrews BT, Ridgway EB, Raisolsadat MA, Hiradfar M. Unilateral cleft lip and nasal repair: techniques and principles. Iran J Pediatr.

  9. Lee JW, Lee SJ, Suh IS, Lee CK. Modified Abbé flap for reconstruction of Cupid's bow and vermilion tubercle in secondary cleft lip deformity. Arch Craniofac Surg. 2018;19(1):13-19. doi: 10.7181/acfs.2018.19.1.13

Additional Reading
  • Friedman, O., Want, T.D. & Milczuk, H.A.. 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. Bilateral cleft lip revisions: the Abbe flap. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.