Effective Smoker’s Lip Treatment Options

By Erica Stevens, MD July 26, 2019 No Comments

smokers lip

Most people are aware that smoking cigarettes (and vaping too!) harms nearly every organ of the body. Smoking has been linked to several major health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, and lung cancer. The 4,000+ toxins in each cigarette can also cause major damage to the skin, causing premature aging while worsening numerous long-term skin disorders. One such skin issue is the formation of “smoker’s lips” or “smoker’s lines”.

What Are Smoker’s Lips?

Smoker’s lips are a cosmetic distortion of the mouth characterized by a series of vertical lip lines and wrinkles that become distinctly etched above the upper lip. The lips can exhibit uneven darkening (hyperpigmentation) and appear blotchy purple, dark brown, or black in color. The visual symptoms of smoker’s lips can vary in severity depending on how long (and how often) a person has used cigarettes.

Lines and wrinkles are formed through habitual long-term puckering of the lips involved in the act of smoking along with the exposure to collagen and elastin damaging chemicals found in cigarettes. The discoloration of the lips is due to their exposure to nicotine and tar, as well as a constriction of blood vessels under the skin.

The time it takes for smoker’s lips to begin forming can vary from individual to individual based on different factors such as a person’s genetics, age, skin characteristics, how often they smoke, and other lifestyle characteristics like diet and exercise. Some will notice their formation within a few months of picking up the habit while for others it may take years for smoker’s lip to become noticeable.

Smoker’s Lips Treatment Options

It’s possible to minimize the visible signs of smoker’s lips, just as its possible for even the most chronic of smokers to improve their skin after kicking the habit.

Individuals with earlier (mild) signs of smoker’s lip may only need at-home or non-invasive in office treatments, while long-term smokers with severe symptoms like deep wrinkling and dark discoloration may require more invasive alternatives.

Note: One prerequisite for successfully treating smoker’s lip is that the individual quits smoking. It’s important to understand that the continuation of smoking will reverse or limit the effectiveness of the below treatments.

At-Home Care

Individuals with mild smoker’s lips symptoms may be able to reverse any lines and discoloration by following a lip care routine that includes daily moisturizing, twice-weekly exfoliation, and the use of a nightly anti-aging serum. There are many great lip moisturizing products like SkinCeuticals Antioxidant Lip Repair, as well as numerous lip scrubs for exfoliation. Finally, consider adding a powerful anti-aging serum to your skin care regimen. Look for one containing proven age reversing ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, or hyaluronic acid.

Botox

Patients who only exhibit smokers’ lines when pursing their lips (i.e. lines are not noticeable when mouth is at rest) can benefit from a neuromodulator treatment. A small amount of Botox, as well as alternatives Dysport and Xeomin, can be injected into the area to relax the underlying muscles that cause the lines as they contract.

Fillers 

Patients with more pronounced smoker’s lines may require the user of hyaluronic-based fillers such as Juvederm Volbella or Restylane Silk. These lip injections work by filling deeper lines and wrinkles by plumping the lip skin.

Laser Resurfacing

Smokers with moderate to severe smoker’s lip symptoms may require laser resurfacing treatments, which, compared to the alternatives above, is a more aggressive option which requires a longer recovery period. Laser resurfacing uses highly concentrated microscopic beams of laser energy to vaporize lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation. This controlled skin damage results in the improvement of skin tone, texture, and overall quality.


Erica Stevens, MD

Erica Stevens, MD is a board certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology. Dr. Stevens is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is currently a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Texas Medical Association, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and the Skin of Color Society.


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