- Lip wrinkles can be caused by a loss of collagen and hyaluronic acid, and are part of the aging process.
- In-office treatments such as Botox, dermal fillers, chemical peels and dermabrasions are effective in reducing the appearance of lip lines.
- At-home treatments can help control existing lip wrinkles and prevent new lines from forming.
- Balms, exfoliants and sunscreen can be used in combination to soften and protect lips.
What Are Lip Wrinkles?
Lip wrinkles refer to the vertical lines that form around the edge of the lips. While they are often attributed to aging, lip lines can also be caused by genetics and bad habits such as smoking and excessive sun exposure.
Lip lines are not to be confused with the tubercles and fine creases that appear on the body of the lips. Tubercles are the protuberances which appear in the center of the lips; they can vary in definition depending on the individual.
Causes of Lip Wrinkles
Loss of collagen and hyaluronic acid due to aging
The body produces a variety of natural proteins and acids which help maintain skin’s elasticity and repairs damage.
Collagen is one of those proteins responsible for maintaining the skin’s elasticity and strength. However, research published in 2018 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences revealed that collagen production decreases with age, resulting in the formation of lines and wrinkles.
In addition to collagen, hyaluronic acid (HA) is another natural substance distributed throughout the body and assists in skin cell hydration and damage repair. As we age, our body produces less HA, which is especially apparent among the outermost three layers of skin, known as the epidermis.
A small, daily dose of sunshine can offer a number of benefits. However, excessive exposure will damage skin and cause wrinkles to appear over time.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun penetrate the skin and accelerate the aging process by damaging skin cells, including collagen fibers.
Lip wrinkles are often referred to as smoker’s lines. Since smoking involves the pursing of the lips each time one inhales, this repetitive activity and stimulation of the muscles around the lips contributes to the premature appearance of wrinkles.
How to Treat Lip Wrinkles
The development of lip wrinkles is an inevitable part of aging. However, there are several treatments available that have demonstrated effective results in reducing the appearance of these lines.
In-office treatments can offer the most noticeable results in reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Alternatively, there are at-home treatments available to help achieve and maintain softer-looking skin and reduce the look of lines.
Botox (also known as Botulinum) injections, one of the most recognized dermatological procedures, is used to reduce lip lines by relaxing the muscles around the lips and smoothing the skin. “Botox will prevent the muscles around the lips from moving as much.” says Dr. Michael A. Fiorillo, MD, a double board-certified plastic surgeon. “This can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.”
Results are often visible within three to five days. Botulinum is considered a safe treatment for wrinkles, but it is essential to choose a trusted provider, as skill and technique are vital for a successful outcome.
A chemical peel is a procedure that removes dead skin cells from the top layers of skin, encouraging the regeneration of new tissues. Once the skin has healed, it’s typically softer and less wrinkled in appearance.
The mildest form of a chemical peel is known as a superficial peel, which uses gentler peeling agents to remove layers of the epidermis. Medium and deep peels act on deeper layers and use stronger active ingredient concentrations to achieve the desired effect.
Chemical peels, however, do pose certain risks, especially to the thin skin of the lip area. “There is always a risk of pigment changes,” says Dr. Fiorillo. “Sometimes, following a superficial peel procedure, regenerating skin can produce an excess of melanin, resulting in the appearance of uneven, darker patches of skin. This is known as postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.”
Deeper chemical peels can also cause hypopigmentation; the development of uneven patches of lighter skin, which occurs when the melanin in the facial skin is unintentionally destroyed by the peel.
Laser resurfacing is a procedure that uses a laser to target the epidermis. There are two variations of laser resurfacing; ablative and nonablative.
Much like the chemical peel procedure, ablative laser resurfacing removes the epidermis layer. The heat produced by the laser causes skin to tighten, while stimulating the production of collagen, which results in healed skin that appears smoother.
Non-ablative laser resurfacing does not remove the epidermis, but instead directly targets deeper layers of the skin, resulting in the stimulation of collagen growth.
Although both types of lasers can be used, Dr. Fiorillo finds that “ablative laser resurfacing is a more aggressive treatment, and is much better suited for lip wrinkles.” Ablative lasers penetrate the tissues of the lip area more deeply, providing more effective results. However, due to the fact that they strip away surface skin, these procedures also require more recovery time.
Dermabrasion is used to improve the skin’s texture by removing layers of the epidermis using an exfoliating technique. This procedure is typically performed using a dermabrader tool that uses a rough wire brush (or a tool containing diamond particles) to buff skin cells away.
Following the removal of the top layers of skin, a dressing is applied to keep the skin moist and prevent infection. Once the skin is healed, as with similar procedures, the appearance of wrinkles are diminished.
Microneedling involves the use of a skin roller instrument with small needles that penetrate the epidermis, creating “microwounds.”
“These tiny wounds stimulate new collagen growth,” says Dr. Fiorillo, “regenerating lip tissue and leaving it firmer and softer than it was prior to the procedure.”
Platelet-rich plasma therapy
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy involves using your own blood to rejuvenate and repair areas that are wrinkled, scarred or damaged.
Those undergoing PRP therapy will have a small amount of blood taken prior to the therapy. Plasma is then separated and extracted from the blood using a centrifuge machine. The extracted plasma is injected into areas that appear wrinkled or scarred.
“The platelets in PRP stimulate growth factors,” says Dr. Fiorillo. “This assists in collagen production.” This increase in collagen production promotes tissue regeneration, and can help to smooth and soften wrinkled lip skin.
Dermal Filler Injections
Dermal filler injections are a popular and effective solution for adding volume to the skin and filling in creases and wrinkles. These injections are typically comprised of a hyaluronic acid gel solution which hydrates and cushions the skin.
When using dermal fillers to combat lip wrinkles, a number of small injections will be administered into the surrounding tissue.
Dermal filler injections act differently from Botox injections. Botox injections relax and prevent the muscles in the face from being stimulated, whereas dermal fillers plump the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Before and afters
At-Home Treatments and Prevention
At-home treatments can be used to prevent lip wrinkles from forming while keeping existing lines under control. Exfoliation of the lips and use of balms, moisturizers and sunscreen are easy steps you can take at home.
Exfoliate your lips
When skin becomes dry and chapped, it can often emphasize the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Exfoliating your lips as part of your daily routine can help maintain soft and healthy-looking lips.
Sugar scrubs are a popular product for exfoliation and work by gently buffing away chapped skin.
Apply lip balms
To maintain smooth lips after exfoliation, follow up with a moisturizing lip balm to ensure your lips remain hydrated and protected against the elements.
Lip balms often contain ingredients such as beeswax and lanolin, which offer a soothing remedy for cracked and dry lips. These are some of the essential ingredients to look for when selecting an effective balm.
Moisturizers plump the skin and increase its flexibility. Using one on a daily basis can help maintain a smoother complexion and reduce wrinkle depth.
Many moisturizers are also developed using ingredients such as retinol and hydroxy acids to target signs of aging, by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
When selecting a moisturizer, it’s essential to consider factors such as age, skin type and any sensitivity to achieve optimal results.
Regular use of sunscreen helps keep lip lines under control by preventing them from becoming more defined. Research in 2016 by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery revealed that regular use of sunscreen can improve the skin’s texture and clarity, by blocking harmful UV rays.
When selecting a sunscreen, it’s essential to review the SPF and UVB/UVA ratings. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends 30 SPF as the minimum and should be reapplied every two hours.
It’s also advisable to avoid exposure to the sun during peak hours: between 10.00 am – 2.00 pm.
Lip lines can be unsightly and cause one to feel self-conscious, however there are several in-office treatment options which can drastically reduce the appearance of these lines and wrinkles.
Incorporating sunscreen and moisturizer use into your daily skin care routine can also help to prevent lines from occurring. In addition, avoid direct sunshine to reduce the effects of photoaging.
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- Hillebrand, G., Liang, Z., Yan, X. & Yoshii, T. (2010) New wrinkles on wrinkling: an 8-year longitudinal study on the progression of expression lines into persistent wrinkles. British Journal of Dermatology 162, 1233-1241. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09709.x
- Randhawa M, Wang S, Leyden JJ, Cula GO, Pagnoni A, Southall MD. Daily Use of a Facial Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Over One-Year Significantly Improves Clinical Evaluation of Photoaging. Dermatol Surg. 2016 Dec;42(12):1354-1361. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27749441
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