Lipstick lines, smokers' lines, vertical lines -- call them what you will, lip lines are one of the signs of aging you'd rather not have to deal with. Along with crow's feet and sagging neck skin, they're a dead giveaway that you're not really 29.
Natural aging plays a part in the formation of these lines, but so do sun damage and cigarette smoke. In fact, these lines are sometimes called smokers' lines because they're much more common on people who smoke. Not only does smoking age your skin, but you're also performing a repeated action -- on a consistent basis -- that shows wrinkles. The pursing of your lips when you smoke has a long-term effect. The same can also be said for things like drinking through a straw, but people don't usually have a pack-a-day straw habit.
You can try to fight back with everyday anti-aging measures such as wearing sunscreen and using a good moisturizer, but those do more to prevent damage than to reverse it. You can use various cosmetics that claim to fill in wrinkles, stop lipstick from bleeding and condition lips. But sometimes products you apply to the skin's surface just aren't enough to undo the damage and achieve the youthful look you want.
If you're looking for something more than a great lip balm or nutrition advice, you may be surprised to learn that there are several effective options out there. These include fillers that can be injected into your lips to make them look fuller and fill in lines, and laser treatments that cause your skin to produce brand-new tissue.
For some of the options available, as well as their pros and cons, keep on reading.
Causes of Lip Lines
To start, let's look at what causes lip lines. Some of these factors you can control, and some you can't.
One cause of lip lines is, unfortunately, using your lips! Every time you purse your lips to drink through a straw or whistle a tune, you create folds in the skin. Over time, the repetition of this pursing motion can result in permanent creases and lines around your mouth. This is the main reason that people who smoke cigarettes tend to see lip lines develop sooner and more noticeably than nonsmokers do. When you add in the fact that smoking has a drying effect on skin and is known to accelerate the formation of wrinkles and loss of skin tone, it's clear that smoking is a major factor in the formation of lip lines.
Another cause of lip lines is loss of lip volume with aging. As you get older, your skin loses collagen and elastin -- the components of skin that give it a full and smooth appearance. In addition, facial fat, which accounts for some of your lips' plumpness, is lost naturally as you age. Lip lines, as well as other facial lines and wrinkles, become more and more visible as these components are lost.
Another main cause of lip lines is thinning skin. As you age, your skin tends to become thinner and more likely to become creased with use. All facial lines, including lip lines, are more visible as skin becomes thinner.
Aside from giving up smoking, it sounds like there's little you can do to avoid lip lines. There are several things you can do to erase them, however. For more information, read on.
Fillers for Lip Lines
One way to reduce or eliminate vertical lip lines is to replace some of the volume that has been lost from lips over time. Dermal -- or skin -- fillers can be injected into lips to make them fuller. These procedures are very similar to the ones used to give Hollywood stars their sexy pouts, except that the goal is to replace what Mother Nature gave you and gravity took.
One popular dermal filler is collagen. Collagen from your own body or from a donor can replace the collagen lost due to aging, filling in the lips and smoothing lines. The advantages of collagen are low cost -- it is relatively inexpensive -- and, if the collagen is derived from your own body, low risk of allergic reaction. Collagen treatments have an almost immediate effect, but they're a very temporary solution, lasting only about three months [source: ASAPS].
Another type of filler that can replace lost lip volume, tightening and smoothing skin, is hyaluronic acid. Several popular lip fillers used by cosmetic surgeons contain this ingredient, though the concentrations vary. These treatments are more long lasting than collagen treatments, lasting up to a year.
A third option is to have fat injected into your lips to reduce lip lines. You may be able to have fat from one part of your body (such as the stomach) extracted, treated and injected. This can reduce the appearance of lip lines and it can give your face a fuller, more youthful look overall. Fat injections can cause lumping or scarring, though, so talk with your surgeon about the risks versus the benefits.
If injection-type fillers don't sound good, however, there are other options. For more information, read on.
Laser Treatments for Lip Lines
Laser resurfacing treatments to smooth vertical lip lines are also available. These resurfacing treatments can be used either alone or in combination with injectable lip fillers.
All lasers used for skin resurfacing and rejuvenation use beams of high energy to tighten and repair skin. Although there have been several types of lasers in use over the years, fractional lasers are one of the most popular, gentle and effective.
A fractional laser causes skin to replace damaged and wrinkled skin with new skin. It also encourages the body to produce collagen. You'll probably need three to five treatments, over several months, to get the desired results - which might take a little longer to notice than with injectable fillers (about a week). However, once the initial series is complete, the results can last for a year before another treatment is needed.
There is some discomfort associated with laser treatments, even though a numbing gel is used to minimize any uncomfortable sensations. Redness, swelling and some blistering can occur as well. In addition, there will be some discomfort for a few days following each treatment, and redness that can last a week or more.
For more information about reducing lip lines, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, PA. "Injectable Fillers." (Accessed 9/17/2009) http://www.lookasbeautiful.com/botox_injectable_fillers.asp
- AgingSkinNet. "Causes of Aging Skin." (Accessed 9/17/2009) http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/basicfacts.html
- American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. "Lip Augmentation." (Accessed 9/17/2009) http://www.surgery.org/consumers/procedures/head/lip-augmentation
- Anderson, Stephen, MD. "Thermage in Bellevue and Seattle, WA." (Accessed 9/17/2009) http://www.800theface.com/thermage.asp?picSection=thermage
- Epilution. "Smokers Lines." (Accessed 9/28/09). http://www.epilution.com/glossary/smokers-lines.html
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- Mayo Clinic. "Slide show: Sun damage." (Accessed 9/17/2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sun-damage/SN00021
- Rodriguez, Ricardo, MD. "Fat Injections." Cosmeticsurg. (Accessed 9/29/2009) http://www.cosmeticsurg.net/procedures/Fat-Injections.php