Lip Wrinkles

Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN on October 26, 2017Written by Corinne O'Keefe Osborn on October 26, 2017

Overview

Lip wrinkles, which are sometimes called lip lines, lipstick lines, or smoker’s lines, are the little vertical lines that form on the lips of older adults. These lines are notoriously difficult to conceal. Getting rid of your lip lines, rather than trying to cover them up, can easily take 10 years off your face.

Lip wrinkles form on both the lips themselves and on the skin of the upper lip. On the lips, they appear as a set of fine vertical lines, often stretching from one side of the mouth to the other. It’s not uncommon for lipstick to settle in these lines, making them appear darker and deeper than they actually are. Above the lip, vertical lines stretch upward from the lip toward the nose. These wrinkles are typically deeper and more pronounced than the ones on your actual lips.

Causes

After age 20, you produce about 1 percent less collagen every year, according to a professor of dermatology. As collagen production decreases, the skin becomes thinner and less elastic. The lips, which are typically puffy during youth, become noticeably deflated as you age.

Aging skin also produces less oil, which can lead to chronic dryness. The lips are particularly prone to dryness due to their constant exposure to the elements. It seems that all those winters with chapped lips eventually catches up with you.

The other major cause of lip lines is sun exposure. The skin on your lips is very delicate and often goes unprotected. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is the primary cause of premature aging. This process is called photoaging.

Lip wrinkles on the upper lip are often caused by smoking. Smoking produces free radicals in the body, which contribute to premature aging. It’s also possible that the repetitive motion of a drag could contribute to lip wrinkles. Lip wrinkles may also be contributed to pursing of the lips associated with drinking through a straw or repetitive facial expressions.

Treatment

There are a few things you can do at home to treat the signs of aging on and around your mouth. Creams and serums that stimulate the production of collagen are a good place to start. There are a few products on the market that claim to be lip plumpers, although these are unlikely to help if your lips have thinned and wrinkled over the course of many years.

A few of the more common products include:

Treating lip wrinkles at home is only going to be minimally effective. To really get those stubborn wrinkles to disappear, you’re going to want to head into a doctor’s office that provides aesthetic services.

Derma fillers

Many healthcare professionals now use injectable fillers to fill in fine lines and wrinkles and provide a fuller looking lip. A solution containing hyaluronic acid, such as Restylane, Juvederm, and a new product Volbella designed specifically for lip lines, is injected directly into the lips and the surrounding area. Lip augmentation is the process by which healthcare professionals use fillers to make the lips appear slightly larger. The changes are subtle but effective.

Chemical peel

A chemical peel is a procedure that removes the top layer of skin so that a new, younger-looking layer can take its place. It can help improve the appearance of fine wrinkles, light scarring, and blemished skin. Chemical peels are particularly well suited for the upper lip. There are different types of peels, which vary widely in strength and intensity, so talk to your doctor about which one might be right for you.

Laser resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is another technique for removing the top layer of skin to make room for younger looking skin. Lasers have the added benefit of tightening the skin. It’s particularly effective on the skin around the mouth, nose, and eyes. This procedure can make people look 10 to 20 years younger. The results of this procedure last longer than others as well — up to 10 years!

Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion produces results similar to a light chemical peel. Standard dermabrasion is a medical procedure and is usually done under sedation. It uses a rotating brush to remove the top layer of skin. Microdermabrasion is a gentler procedure often performed by estheticians involving a handheld device that polishes away the top layer of skin with a stream of crystals or diamond tip. The device vacuums away the top layer of skin. You may need several procedures, spread out over a few months, to get the results you desire.

Microneedling

Microneedling is a relatively new procedure that can help reduce the appearance of fine lines around the lips. It involves a roller with tiny needles that puncture the skin repeatedly. It helps stimulate collagen production, which improves the look of fine lines and creates a more youthful appearance. It’s also an effective skin tightening technique.

Platelet-rich plasma

This is a procedure that uses a component of your own blood to stimulate collagen production. A solution is prepared from your platelets, which are tiny blood cells that help with healing, and they’re injected into your face through a microneedling device. It’s sometimes called the vampire facial.

Botox

The lines around the lips are often caused by the repetitive movement of muscles and Botox relaxes muscles. Injections of Botox by a trained healthcare professional in small amounts can significantly reduce the appearance of lip lines by preventing or reducing the movement of the muscles.

Cost

The cost of in-office procedures can vary depending on where you live and which procedure you’re doing. Always look for a licensed and trained healthcare professional when doing an advanced procedure. Most dermatologists do cosmetic procedures as well as general dermatology.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the average cost of 2016 procedures include:

  • Derma fillers: $500-$800 for a 1 mL injection
  • Chemical peel: $535-673 per session
  • Dermabrasion: $1,368
  • Microdermabrasion: $138 per session
  • Laser resurfacing: $1,000-$2,330
  • Microneedling: $100-700 per session
  • Platelet-rich plasma: $500-$3,000
  • Botox: $150-$376 per session

Prevention

The number one way to reduce your chance of developing lip wrinkles is to avoid sun exposure. Wear a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 whenever you go outside. Try incorporating a moisturizer with SPF into your morning routine. Take advantage of the many lip balms available containing SPF. This is a great way to prevent sun damage, add moisture, and protect your lips from the elements.

If you’re a smoker who’s concerned about wrinkles then you already know what you need to do. Smoking causes premature signs of aging all over the face, including the lips. If you’re a long-time smoker, that’s ok — it’s not too late. The longer you smoke, the more wrinkles you’ll develop. Learn more about how to quit today.

Takeaway

If you’re starting to show signs of aging in and around your lips, you have options. Treatment methods have come a long way in recent years. Depending on which procedure you get, the results can last months or years.

Many of these procedures require several sessions before any results can be seen. Also, bruising and irritation are common side effects, so talk to your healthcare provider about how much downtime to expect.

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