Nasolabial folds are the deep wrinkles or lines that form from the bottom of the nose to the corners of the mouth. While they’re extremely common, their severity can vary.
“People should feel reassured that everybody has nasolabial folds,” said Sarah Arron, associate professor of dermatology at UC San Francisco and the associate director of the UCSF Dermatologic Surgery and Laser Center. “Some people would like theirs to be less prominent, and there are lots of options [to treat them].
A dermatologist or skin care professional can help you determine the cause of your deepening nasolabial folds and find the right treatment for you.
“Partnering with a really caring dermatologist to start with a less-invasive procedure and maybe working your way up to something more significant or more invasive is a wonderful approach,” said Arron. “It may be that the end result can only be achieved with a face lift, but there are lots of things to try before undergoing full-on surgery.”
Fillers are most often the first step toward reducing nasolabial folds. Dermatologists and other aesthetic professionals inject fillers into the skin around the cheek. This adds volume to the area and lifts the skin. What type of filler and how much is used depends on the severity of the fold. The most common fillers are made from hyaluronic acid, a natural building block of skin, and calcium hydroxylapatite, typically found in bones. Both have been shown to help stimulate the growth of collagen in addition to plumping the skin.
Fillers are easily injected in the office and require little to no recovery time. Some people experience slight bruising, but makeup can be worn immediately after treatment.
However, fillers are a short-term solution. They last 6 months to 2 years, with most lasting 6 to 9 months. How long a filler lasts depends on the type of filler and how quickly your body dissolves it.
If loose skin is the cause of unwanted nasolabial folds, dermatologists or skin care professionals may also use a skin-tightening treatment. These can include a fractional radiofrequency device, ultrasound, or a fractional laser.
The procedures work similarly. They damage microscopic areas of the layer of skin beneath the top layer. This stimulates collagen growth for thicker, tighter skin. However, skin tightening alone is unlikely to make a significant difference for most people’s nasolabial folds, according to Arron.
A cheek lift or a full-face lift can reduce the appearance of nasolabial folds and other signs of aging. However, cosmetic surgery is expensive and often not covered by insurance. It also has a long recovery time and comes with the risk of complications.
There is no permanent fix for nasolabial folds. While some treatments can last years, you can’t completely halt natural aging. Even surgical alterations will look different over time and begin to show signs of aging.
Age, sun damage, and smoking are the biggest culprits of deepening nasolabial folds. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays break down the collagen and elastin fibers in your skin that keep it smooth and supported. Smoking also breaks down these fibers. As you age, cumulative skin damage can make your nasolabial folds more prominent.
Typical aging can also play a part, even without sun damage or smoking. As you age, the structure of your cheekbones flattens out. This can cause the skin of your cheeks to sag or droop downwards. Add to that years of gravity tugging on your skin and the natural decrease in collagen and elastin, and you have the perfect recipe for wrinkles, loose skin, and nasolabial folds.
Significant weight gain or loss can also contribute to nasolabial folds. Weight loss can lead to looser skin, especially in the face and neck. Weight gain can make the cheeks plumper and accentuate nasolabial folds.
Side sleeping may make one or both of your nasolabial folds deeper, but you don’t have to start sleeping on your back. You can certainly switch to sleeping on your back if deepening folds are a concern. However, a good night’s sleep is equally important for repairing your skin and staying healthy.
Using sun protection and not smoking are key to younger-looking skin and preventing deepening nasolabial folds. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends daily sunscreen usage. It’s important to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays if you’re going to be outside or in the sun, even if you’re driving or behind a window.
Moisturizing skincare products can also help reduce the folds and improve the overall quality of your skin. Arron recommends products that contain antioxidants like vitamin C to help protect the collagen and elastin in your skin. Products with retinol can also help boost the production of skin cells and keep the skin looking more youthful. Just be sure always to wear sunscreen and moisturize when using retinols. They can dry out the skin and make it more susceptible to sun damage.