What are smile lines?

Smile lines, sometimes called laugh lines, are types of wrinkles that primarily develop around the sides of your mouth. Sometimes smile lines can also occur around your eyes. They are more noticeable when you smile.

As you age, these types of wrinkles may be inevitable. However, you have many options to help get rid of them.

What causes smile lines?

The primary causes of smile lines include:

  • a loss of elasticity (collagen)
  • dehydrated skin
  • genetics
  • smoking
  • sun damage

How can I prevent smile lines?

Some of the causes of laugh lines may be prevented with good lifestyle habits as a young adult. For example, you can wear sunscreen every day to prevent wrinkles that are related to sun damage.

Keeping your skin hydrated also goes a long way, whether you already have smile lines or not. Be sure to drink plenty of water every day, and avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol —both have diuretic effects.

Wash your face once or twice a day and follow up with a moisturizer tailored to your skin type. Check out these tips that will transform your anti-aging beauty routine.

Exercise and a plant-based diet can also help keep your skin in good health.

If you needed another reason to quit smoking, know that kicking this habit now can help prevent future wrinkles, including smile lines. If you’re having a hard time quitting, these apps may help.

What are my treatment options?

When it comes to smile lines, there are a variety of treatment options available. Whether you’re looking for surgical options or other cosmetic procedures, it’s best to talk to a dermatologist (skin specialist) or plastic surgeon who’s knowledgeable and experienced in treating wrinkles. There are also some over-the-counter (OTC) options, though these aren’t as permanent. You may want to discuss the following wrinkle treatment options with your doctor:

Injectable fillers

Injectable fillers are among the top choices for people looking to get rid of smile lines without undergoing surgery. Many are made from hyaluronic acid and are injected at the crease that goes from your mouth to your nose. The effects are noticeable right away, but you can also have them reversed if you don’t like the results. Some common brand names include Juvéderm and Restylane. The results typically last several months. However, it’s thought that after repeated injections, some scar tissue may be left behind that causes a more permanent filler effect. Other fillers such as Radiesse, which is made of calcium hydroxyapatite, and Sculptra, which is made of poly-L-lactic acid, may offer more permanent results and can be injected deeper in the facial tissues.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, these injectable fillers last about 6 to 12 months at a time. Side effects can occur right after the initial injection and include headaches and allergic-like reactions. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) estimates that each treatment can cost up to $1,000.

Botox

Botulinum toxins (Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin) are also injectable fillers, though they work differently. Your dermatologist injects the substance with a small needle into the area of concern. The substances work by weakening the muscles in the given area, which makes lines and wrinkles more relaxed and less noticeable. You can see results within a few days of the initial injection.

Botox injections may be performed by a dermatologist, ophthalmologist, or plastic surgeon. Recovery time is relatively short, and you should be able to resume your normal activities (including exercise) after 24 hours. Some common side effects include headaches and redness or irritation at the injection site.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Botox injections last approximately three months. To maintain the desired results, you’ll need to see your doctor for additional treatments. The cost depends on how many units your doctor uses, but can be up to hundreds of dollars per treatment. Compare the costs, uses, and side effects of Botox and fillers.

Surgery

Surgery may be an option if you want more significant results that last longer. A facelift (rhytidectomy) is the most all-inclusive and permanent solution for smile lines. This can address lines around your mouth and your eyes all in one procedure. Your plastic surgeon might recommend eyelid surgery in conjunction with a facelift.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of a facelift in 2016 was $7,048. Aside from being among the most expensive options, facelifts also take the longest to heal, with a total of three months on average.

The greatest risk associated with a facelift is infection. Rare side effects include scarring, pain, and nerve damage.

Laser treatments

Laser treatments refer to a type of skin resurfacing technique that removes the top layer of skin cells. The procedure is meant to decrease skin spots and wrinkles by revealing the lower layer of new skin. Swelling and pain are common side effects, but these subside after a few days. Scarring and infection are also possible.

According to the ASDS, recovery time is one to three weeks. You’ll likely need another treatment within a few months, and the cost can range between $1,750 to $2,300 per treatment.

Collagen induction therapy

Collagen induction therapy (also called microneedling or skin needling) aims to increase natural collagen production in your skin. As you age, your skin loses collagen and therefore loses elasticity, so the thought behind needling is that more collagen can fill in wrinkles, such as smile lines. For the procedure, your doctor will use a roller with small needles, such as the Eclipse Micropen.

The American Academy of Dermatology says that the results from needling are gradual, with the full results expected within nine months. As your skin heals, you might see some bruising and redness. Most people need three to six treatments total.

OTC creams

OTC creams offer more affordable wrinkle treatment options. Retinol is among one of the more studied ingredients because of its claimed ability to break down the free radicals that can lead to wrinkles. One study published in the Archives of Dermatology reported significant results in patients with fine lines and wrinkles who used retinol treatments of 0.4 percent. Participants used retinol lotion three times per week for six months.

Vitamin C, peptides, and hydroxy acids are also used to treat wrinkles. The downside to OTC creams is that they can take months to work, and you won’t get permanent results. Side effects can include redness, rashes, and burning.

Home light treatment

Aside from OTC creams, there are also light kits available on the market that you can use at home for smile lines. One such product is the SpectraLite Eye Care Pro, a device approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that uses LED lights to increase collagen around the eye area. The product can be used every day for three minutes at a time. While there are no reported side effects, the efficacy of at-home light kits is questionable.

Essential oils

Essential oils are another potential option in wrinkle treatment. These are made from plants that are touted as offering natural skin benefits. A 2009 article in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine discussed the testing of 23 different plants and their potential to help increase collagen, antioxidants, and elasticity in the skin. Of the 23 plants, the authors noted the most promise in 9 of them:

If you’re interested in using essential oils, be sure to dilute them with a carrier oil, such as olive or almond oil. You will also need to test them on a small part of your skin to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.

You can find many of these essential oils already made in OTC skincare products. Look at ingredient labels to see which plants are included. For the best results, you’ll need to keep using the products daily. Smile lines might appear more noticeable again once you stop using the products.

The takeaway

Smile lines are a normal part of the aging process. As you get older, any lines or wrinkles you have can deepen or multiply in number. Still, there are steps you can take to minimize this process.

Treatment options for laugh lines abound. Talk to your doctor about the options that are best for you based on your specific needs. Surgery is an option, but it’s not always necessary.

You may be able to prevent smile lines from getting worse as you age. Keeping your skin hydrated and taking care of your overall health goes a long way.