Got Lip Lines? Here’s What a Dermatologist Would Do
Call them smoker's lines, lipstick lines, or whatever you like, but fine lines around the mouth are telltale signs of your real age and some not-so-healthy habits (hello smoking and tanning). Fortunately, there are more treatments than ever before that can literally erase those lines from your face.
How you got wrinkles around your mouth
Even if you never smoked in your life, you can develop fine lines around the mouth from sipping through a straw, whistling a tune, pursing your lips in frustration, or even overdoing it on those duck-face selfies. Even speech patterns which involve frequent pursing of the lips can contribute. "Minor lips lines are caused by aging and sun damage," explains New York City plastic surgeon Norman Rowe, MD. "Larger lips lines are caused by muscle overactivity." Regardless of the cause, top cosmetic doctors have more tools than they've ever had to help delete your lip lines and prevent them from coming back.
For fine, moderate (not too deep) lip lines, neuromodulator injections such as Botox, Dysport, or Xeomin can often paralyze them into submission, says Joe Niamtu, DMD, a cosmetic facial surgeon in Midlothian, Virginia. "This helps relax the muscle tension around the mouth and makes a small but generally noticeable difference." "Prejuvenation" is a big buzzword in aesthetics today, and it has a role to play in staving off severe lip lines, adds Joel Cohen, MD, a dermatologist in Lone Tree, Colorado. "If I see patients in their 20s and maybe early 30s, and I use Botox, Dysport, or Xeomin in low dosages to soften the muscles, these columns are less prominent, less deep, and less likely to imprint the skin." Some effects are visible immediately, but it can take up to two weeks for these neuromodulators to fully kick in. Results last anywhere from two to four months. Cost varies by the amount needed and often the geographical location of the medical practice. Here's how to find a doctor you trust.
For deeper static lines, hyaluronic-acid based dermal fillers are the way to go, says New York City plastic surgeon David Shafer, MD. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in almost every cell in our body (especially the skin), but our supply tends to dwindle with advancing age. "Some hyaluronic acid fillers—Juvederm and Restylane—can provide volume to plump the lip, while others—Volbella, Restylane Silk, and Beloteroare—much thinner and can help fill lines without adding as much bulk," he says. "Since the lips lose volume with age, I often suggest a combination of natural plumping and line filling." For people who have mild lines in the upper lip, Dr. Cohen injects the filler very superficially so it blurs them. He also likes to pretreat the area a week or two earlier with a little bit of Botox, Dysport, or Xeomin to soften that musculature. Cost is based on the type of filler, amount needed, and often the location of the medical practice. Exactly how long results last also varies by product. Another option for those who hate needles: Fillerina Replenishing Treatment, a gel composed of six hyaluronic acids that is released via a pen-like applicator to fill in fine lip lines.
Lasers, lights, and peels
Patients with fine lip lines and an aversion to needles have other options as well, Dr. Shafer says. "The outer layer of the skin can be treated with superficial treatments such as laser resurfacing, radiofrequency energy, chemical peels, micro-needling, dermabrasion, and other such treatments," he says. These treatments all remove the skin's uppermost layer, getting rid of dead skin cells and making room for new, healthier ones. "Treating the superficial layer helps improve skin texture and color and soften very fine static lines." These treatments are quick and relatively pain-free with numbing cream, and there's minimal recovery depending on the type of treatment and how aggressive it is. Peels and laser treatments will cause several days or more of redness, which you can conceal with makeup, he says. (Learn how to use makeup to fake perfect skin.) A series of treatments are typically needed for optimum results. "For deeper etched lines, I like to use full-field erbium resurfacing lasers, which is done to a very deep level," Dr. Cohen says. The downside? There's some downtime with this aggressive procedure, he says. The upside? It's often one and done, meaning there's no need to come back for more treatments. "I often pre-treat these patients a week or two before with Botox or Dysport just to decrease the mechanical action of that underlying muscle contracting for a synergistic result," he adds.
PRP: the newest kid on the block
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), a substance in our own blood that is rich with growth factors, is being used to treat hair loss, orthopedic injuries, and more, including lip lines. "PRP injections stimulate new collagen formation like spackling," says New York City facial plastic surgeon Sam Rizk. Collagen is the main building block of healthy youthful skin, and as we age, our natural supply diminishes. "PRP works well for smoker's lines because it fills in the lines from the inside out. I use a combination of PRP and laser resurfacing for a one-two punch," Dr. Rizk says. He typically recommends three treatments, spaced four to eight weeks apart, and often sees visible improvement in the first month. If you're leery about needles and fillers, think about a light resurfacing laser like Fraxel.
An ounce of prevention ...
The procedures outlined here can help eliminate lip lines once you have them. Even better? Preventing them from developing in the first place. "Protecting your lips from the sun, always using sunblock, not smoking cigarettes, and getting preventive Botox will slow down the formation of these lines," says Dr. Rowe. In the meantime, use these makeup hacks to fake fuller, line-free lips