If you’ve noticed fine, vertical lines starting to make an appearance right above your upper lip, chances are you’re either a smoker, you do a duckface in every selfie, or you really love sipping your iced coffee through a straw.
Here’s why: Whenever you take a puff on a cigarette, purse your lips, or sip through a straw, you are contracting the muscles around your lips. “Do that enough times and you will break your collagen and over-extend your elastic tissue,” said New York City dermatologist Neal Schultz, MD, founder of DermTv.com and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz. The damage brought on by that repetitive motion leads to wrinkles, which are known as “smoker’s lines” since they’re the most common in people who light up.
You don’t have to live with these lines, though. We can’t stop you from making selfie duckface (although really … stop) or sipping those iced coffees, but there is one major change you can make: if you are a smoker, quit. Not only will you prevent future lip lines from developing, but you’ll also reduce your risk for diseases like lung cancer. (Here are some handy tips to help you kick butt).
To reduce the appearance of the fine mouth lines you already have, Dr. Schultz recommended using a daily moisturizer to hydrate the area and in turn “puff up” the skin to help replace some of the volume lost from collagen damage. Next, use a product that stimulates collagen production to fill in those wrinkles, such as a prescription retinol, like Retin-A; glycolic acid peels, such as BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz’s Progressive Peel ($70); or peptides, such as Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($26).
A sample skincare routine to erase those lines would look like this, according to Schultz: Use a moisturizer with peptides and SPF in the morning, and at night, use glycolic acid, followed by a vitamin C serum, which also plays a role in generating collagen, followed by a moisturizer.
For more pronounced lines, your dermatologist can inject a low-dose amount of Botox. “It will slow down the repetitive contractions, lines will be less apparent, and it will help to prevent them from getting deeper,” explained Schultz.
In addition to Botox, Schultz recommends injecting fillers, such as Restylane Silk or Belotero, to eliminate more pronounced above-the-lip wrinkles. “These fine fillers are suitable for fine and medium lines,” he said.
For deep wrinkles, Schultz recommends a more invasive treatment: ablative lasers, which resurface the top layer of skin and stimulate collagen production, removing those deep grooves. Because it’s more invasive, there’s more downtime while your skin heals, but Schultz noted that only one to two treatments are needed to get results. Or you can opt for less invasive non-ablative lasers, which only destroy 20 percent of the outer layer of skin and trigger skin-smoothing collagen production. The less invasive treatment has less downtime, but can require five sessions.
It’s worth noting that the area between your upper lip and your nose is a tough place to generate collagen, so if you’re considering a laser treatment, Schultz said the more invasive ablative laser option is likely more effective.