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Lip Lines Treatment And Prevention Options

Written by Ramya Kollipara, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on November 19, 2020 No Comments

lip lines

Lip lines (sometimes referred to as lipstick lines or smoker’s lines) are vertical lip wrinkles around the upper and lower lips. These lines may be fine and thin or deeply grooved. Lip lines are the vertical lines which extend from the edges of the lip outward. Sometimes, they may be noticeable on the lips themselves. Depending on severity, lip lines may appear only during certain facial expressions (dynamic) or can be visible all the time (static).

lip lines exampleExample of lip lines (Source: Skinbetter Science)

Here’s what causes lip lines, how to prevent them from developing, and effective ways to treat even the most severe lip lines:

What Causes Lip Lines?

Like all wrinkles, lip lines are part of the natural aging process and are dependent upon your genetics. There are, however, some lifestyle and environmental factors that can hasten or worsen their appearance.

Age: With age, your skin loses the collagen and elastin which gives it structure and the ability to bounce back after stretching. Skin also thins and sags with age which makes wrinkles more visible.

Sun: UV rays speed up the aging process by increasing collagen and elastin damage. To prevent lip wrinkles, protect your skin when in the sun and avoid tanning beds.

Environment: Environmental pollutants, especially smoking, produce free radicals which damage the skin by causing oxidative stress.

Movement: A lifetime of puckering your lips, sipping through straws, pouting, and even talking becomes visible as elastin production slows down. With age, skin has a harder time recovering from movement.

Volume: Loss of lip volume also occurs with age, as collagen production slows down. This loss of volume can cause sagging in the area around the lips, and the appearance of wrinkly or crepey skin.

Lip lines appear with age in your 40’s and beyond, but can be apparent in your 20’s or 30’s if you smoke or spend a lot of time in the sun. Lip lines are not harmful, but most consider these wrinkles aesthetically unpleasing and would rather do without them.

Can Lip Lines be Prevented?

The future severity of your lip lines is largely determined by genetics, but there are some things you can do to slow things down. Make sure the following steps are included in your skin care routine:

Anti-Aging Skin Care: Include your lips in your skincare routine. When washing your face, pay attention to the lip area. Use a gentle exfoliant at least once weekly, and hydrate your lips daily.

Lip Care Products: Choose lip creams and face products that include hyaluronic acid, which promotes collagen production. Look for antioxidants to reverse or prevent free-radical damage.

Environmental Protection: Before heading outside, apply sunscreen to your face, and also to your lips. Choose a lip product that contains SPF of 15 or above. If you smoke, quit.

Preventative Treatments: Neuromodulator treatments such as Botox work best as a preventative. By relaxing the muscles around the lips, these treatments may prevent thin lip lines from becoming deep grooves.

Lip Lines Treatment Options

If your lip lines are already bothering you, there are multiple treatment options available. Which is best for you depends on the depth of your lip lines, how many lip lines you have, and your current lip volume.

Neuromodulators (Botox, Dysport, or Xeomin)

Neuromodulators work best when lip wrinkles are in their earliest stages. Botox is an easy and relatively inexpensive treatment option that requires little to no downtime. Results will be seen immediately, and will improve over time with continued treatment. Touch ups are required every 3-6 months.

Dermal Fillers (Lip Injections)

When lip lines are static, meaning they’re visible all the time, dermal fillers can be used in conjunction with Botox or as a stand-alone treatment. Fillers such as Juvederm Volbella or Restylane Silk are hyaluronic acid based, so they’ll not only provide volume underneath lip lines, but will trigger increased collagen production for longer lasting results.

Lip injections may cause swelling or bruising but this subsides within a few days. Results last anywhere from 6-12 months.

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing addresses mild to moderate lip wrinkles by using heat to resurface the skin. Different types of lasers can be used depending upon the severity of your wrinkles and your tolerance for down-time. The treatment works best on those with light skin, and may not be ideal if you’ve had upper lip electrolysis treatments in the past.

Redness, dryness or flaking is normal after laser resurfacing. Complete healing takes anywhere from 5-15 days. A series of treatments may be necessary to achieve ideal results.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a good option for those with multiple fine lip lines. This procedure scrapes the outer surface of the skin and triggers a healing process that promotes collagen production to smooth and support the skin. Microdermabrasion tends to be more effective on the upper lip, versus the lower lip.

Healing after Microdermabrasion takes anywhere from 1-2 weeks depending upon the intensity of the treatment received.

Microneedling

Microneedling triggers skin cell turnover and collagen production using a special tool which creates thousands of tiny punctures on the skin’s surface. This procedure works best for fine lines and takes place in your doctor’s office using a topical anesthetic for pain reduction.

Like microdermabrasion, full recovery takes anywhere from 1-2 weeks depending on how aggressive the treatment was.

Fat Transfer Injections

Fat transfer injections work similarly to dermal fillers and are effective for reducing lip wrinkles in cases where lip lines are related to a loss of lip volume. Fat grafts can both smooth wrinkles and improve lip contour.

The procedure is relatively permanent but can require up to 4 weeks of downtime before the final results are revealed.

Lip Implants

Lip implants are an option for those with severe wrinkles related to lip volume loss. This relatively permanent procedure takes place in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia and requires up to 4 weeks of recovery time.

While it’s good to know your options, an in-person consultation with your doctor is the best way to decide which lip wrinkle preventative or treatment is best for you.


Ramya Kollipara, MD

Ramya Kollipara, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologic surgeon specializing in the practice of both cosmetic and medical dermatology. Dr. Kollipara completed a prestigious laser and cosmetic surgery fellowship program at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology in La Jolla, California. During her fellowship, she was involved in cutting-edge clinical research for novel cosmetic treatments involving fillers, neuromodulators and lasers.


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