Smile lines (or nasolabial folds if you want to use a more scientific term) are creases in the skin that occur on either side of the nose and curve around the mouth. They’re caused by the loss of collagen (elasticity) that happens as you age.
Other reasons may be dehydrated skin, excessive smoking, sun damage, or good ol’ genetics. Smile lines are a normal part of aging. As you get older, lines or wrinkles you already have may deepen or increase in number. “We lose bone mass, and our facial fat migrates downward as we get older, forming nasolabial folds,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. And according to Mona Gohara, M.D. and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, “You’re probably not going to see smiles lines as a teenager or in your 20s, but with time, you start to lose collagen and elastin in your skin. It’s progressive, but it starts in your 30s and 40s. As you repetitively use your facial muscles to smile, you’ll start to notice some lines,” she explains. “People get lines around their mouth from normal facial expressions, there’s no question about it, but everyone is going to be a bit different based on genetics and sun damage.”
Significant weight loss can also be a reason for nasolabial folds. Weight loss can lead to looser skin, especially in the face and neck, but at the same time, weight gain can make the cheeks plumper and accentuate the smile lines.
So what can we do about smile lines? Is there a way to prevent them or to reduce their appearance? You can incorporate a few things into your lifestyle: using sun protection, not smoking, drinking more water, and moisturizing. Let’s take a look at these a little closer:
Sun protection: When you were, being out by the pool or lake all day without sunscreen seemed fine. A nice tan made us think that we looked healthy. However, now we understand how short-sighted we may have been. The sun causes all types of skin damage, and the fragile skin on our face is often the first place we begin to notice the signs of aging. The ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sun exposure wreaks havoc on the skin. UV rays penetrate deep into the skin, producing free radicals that damage DNA and break down collagen and elastin. This damage is accumulative and doesn’t appear until years down the line, which means that most people are unaware their skin is being damaged.
Smoking: Smoking of any kind can cause lines to appear around the lips. The toxins in the cigarettes will accelerate the breakdown of collagen and elastin, the two proteins that give us that structure and bounce to our lips. Not only that, the repeated sucking of the cigarette (or vape pen) gives way to the formation of those lines we dread.
Hydration: Keeping your skin hydrated goes a long way to having better-looking skin, whether you already have smile lines or not. Be sure to drink plenty of water every day, and avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol —both have diuretic effects.
Moisturizing: A key element to keeping your skin soft and supple is to use an excellent moisturizer after your shower or after you wash your face. A nighttime moisturizer will have the most significant impact on erasing those smile lines. Overnight moisturizers are typically a little heavier, and you have eight hours to let them work their magic. Look for anti-aging moisturizers with natural ingredients like collagen, antioxidants, nut oils, and vitamin E.
Are there any treatment options for smile lines? Yes, both surgical and non-surgical. For example, injectable fillers are a non-surgical method. Many are made from hyaluronic acid, and the effects are noticeable right away. Botox is also injectable, and they work by relaxing the muscles in the injected area. Laser treatments are a skin resurfacing technique that removes the top layer of skin cells. This method decreases the skin spots and wrinkles by revealing the lower layer of new skin. Collagen induction therapy (microneedling) is supposed to increase the natural collagen production in the skin, though this method can take up to nine months for full results. Surgery can be an option for those who want more significant results that last longer. The greatest risk associated with a facelift is infection though scarring, pain, and nerve damage are also possibilities. A no-risk approach is medical-grade silicone pads specially designed for the contours of the face. These pads adhere to the skin and create a climate that helps to increase natural collagen production and hydrate the skin. This results in “plumping” up the skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles. For the best results, it’s advisable to wear them overnight for up to two weeks. SilcSkin’s Multi-Area Pads are designed for smile lines and other areas of the face.