Rumor has it that a smile requires half the muscles than a frown does—although experts are less than convinced (spoiler alert: it depends on the kind of smile).
Either way, there’s no arguing that they both create lines on the face over time; it’s just that frowning can make you look constantly frustrated or mad when those wrinkles set in—and smiling is much more fun! So, put on a happy face, and in the meantime, we’ll teach you how to ditch those frown lines for good.
What Are Frown Lines?
Frown lines make their presence known in a few ways. They form the shape of the number eleven between the eyebrows, they create horizontal lines across the forehead, and they even appear as a drooping effect at the corners of the mouth.
They generally develop over time as we habitually contract the muscles that make us squint or pout, forcing the skin to gather and form lines. Tack genetics on to the equation—as well as skin thinning and a loss of elastin and collagen as we age—and you’ll find that the skin just stops bouncing back to its original shape after you make certain faces.
Before long, those pesky creases have made a permanent home on your precious face. And frown lines, more than other lines, can really impact your resting expression, making you look irritated or cranky even when you’re not.
What Causes Frown Lines to Form?
- Repeated movements. Turn that frown upside down! Every time you furrow your brow or scrunch your forehead, you’re folding the skin, eventually leaving permanent grooves in the wake.
- Genetics. DNA influences whether your skin is thin or thick, fragile or resilient. It also has a say in whether or not you get wrinkles and where they appear.
- Sun exposure. This one is twofold. Repeatedly squinting into the sun can physically lead to lines that won’t go away—and UV rays themselves break down the skin, contributing to about 80% of the signs of premature skin aging.
- Smoking. Inhaling tobacco causes skin aging because it constricts blood vessels, which results in less oxygenated blood being delivered to the facial tissues and therefore a loss of elasticity.
- Stress. Not only do you tend to tense up your face when you’re stressed, but stress also triggers a chemical release of cortisol, which can induce skin aging over time.
Effective Frown Lines Treatment Options
Here are some great treatments for frown lines, from DIY home care to professional procedures:
1. Cleansing, Exfoliating, and Moisturizing
(AKA good old-fashioned skincare.) These are just the fundamentals for everyday prevention and minimization of frown lines. Cleansing removes toxins you may absorb through the skin, like from air pollution or smoke, that contribute to signs of aging. Then exfoliating, whether with a scrub or an acid like lactic or glycolic, removes the top layer of skin to brighten and trigger cell renewal for a fresh, glowing face. Lastly, moisturizing is key to avoiding dry, crepey skin that’s prone to wrinkles. Make sure you don’t miss the spots between your eyebrows and around the mouth! And, of course, always wear sunscreen (30 SPF at least) in the daytime to protect against UV exposure.
2. Stick-On Pads
Because frown lines are caused by repeated facial movements more than anything else, silicone pads are a particularly effective solution for this kind of skin aging. Made of 100% medical grade silicone, they physically block you from making the faces that contribute to frown lines, while simultaneously hydrating, healing, and filling in lines to give off a youthful radiance. The SiO SuperLift Pack is a great starter kit because it has just about every nook and cranny covered: eleven lines, forehead creases, and even frown lines by the mouth. Just press on a few patches at bedtime and wake up with a smooth, supple face. The difference is pretty immediate—but over time with consistent use, you’ll see long-term improvement in those frown lines.
The term “retinoids” encompasses a large family of vitamin A-based products, including prescription tretinoin (Retin-A), tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin)—as well as over-the-counter retinol. It’s no wonder that they are some of the best known topical anti-aging ingredients available. As a group, they’ve been studied widely for decades and are proven to speed up skin cell turnover and increase the production of collagen, diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. The only downside is that they take three to six months to start showing improvements, and the skin may need some time to adapt, often experiencing irritation side effects for the first few weeks of use. Start slow, introducing it only once or twice a week before working up to the daily application. It’s worth the wait!
A newer treatment to hit the skincare scene, microneedling is quickly gaining a fanbase—and for good reason. It involves using ultra-fine needles to prick tiny holes that trigger the skin to heal and regenerate, resulting in a thicker, stronger structure. It can be done at home with a dermal roller or at a dermatologist’s office with a professional machine. Although it can be a little bit painful, the pros will usually give you a numbing cream to help offset the discomfort.
Neuromodulators like Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin just might be the most popular professional procedure for frown lines—especially those between the brows and on the forehead. Just a tiny bit relaxes the overactive muscles in the area to prevent the kind of scrunching that causes wrinkles. They take about a week to work, but the results are pretty unbeatable when it comes to fine lines. Deeper, more pronounced frown lines often do best with a combination treatment of Botox and hyaluronic acid fillers like Juvederm or Restylane, which simultaneously lift and fill.
6. Facial Massage
Facial massage techniques can help benefit a variety of muscles in the face. For this one, we'll focus on the frontalis muscle, which is what makes or breaks those horizontal wrinkles. For a silky smooth forehead, place your left palm on the left side of your forehead and your right palm on the right side of your forehead. Hold the skin firmly in place with your left hand as you move the right hand clockwise in a circular motion for about two minutes. Repeat with the left palm, keeping the right palm still as you move in a counterclockwise motion for two minutes. Repeat a total of three times.
As our skin ages, we lose the elasticity of our youth that once allowed it to spring back to its usual state after frowning and pouting. But all hope is not lost! Being mindful of your facial expressions, wearing sunglasses in the sun, and supplementing with strong topical skincare, like Retinol products and silicone patches that hold the skin in place, can be a game-changer for frown lines. For those looking for a quick fix, injectables like Botox and fillers are highly effective solutions, but there’s also a variety of topical remedies and at-home exercises you can do to non-invasively kick frown lines to the curb. Yes, getting older is unavoidable, but frown lines just don’t have to be.