There are plenty of nice things about getting older, but wrinkles on and around the lips are, unfortunately, not one of them. Whatever you may call them—lip lines, lipstick lines, or smoker’s lines—they’re all the same: pesky creases that surround the mouth as we age, which are greatly exacerbated by lifestyle factors. Although the mouth is one of the first spots to start showing signs of aging, we so often neglect it. We buy fancy toners, moisturizers, and face masks, yet we place them everywhere but the lips. It’s no wonder that they punish us. But the good news is it’s not too late to change your ways. Here’s everything you need to know about why lip lines show up—and how to make them leave as quickly as they came.
What Causes Vertical Lines & Wrinkles on Your Lips?
The drinking straw ban popping up in cities all over the US is not only great for the turtles; it also might be preventing your lip lines! Turns out the way we move our faces has a lot to do with how quickly we’ll see lip wrinkles appear. But there are a handful of other reasons that make the list, too. Here are the main causes:
- Pursing the Lips: Pouting, drinking from a straw, smoking, whistling, taking duck-faced selfies… They all contribute to the kind of facial contortion that creates lines on the mouth over time.
- Compression: If you’re a side- or tummy-sleeper, you might be squishing your face in a way that creases the lips and surrounding areas.
- Cigarettes: Those vertical upper lip wrinkles are called smoker’s lines for a reason. In fact, a study on identical twins showed a clear correlation between smoking and lines on the lower half of the face. This is mainly due to nicotine’s effect of constricting the blood vessels and damaging collagen and elastin, which give the skin strength and resilience.
- The Sun: Sun exposure is the number one cause of premature skin aging (not just UV rays!) and the lips are no exception. For this reason, those with pale or sun-sensitive skin are extra at-risk.
- Aging: As we get older, our lips, just like the rest of our skin, lose volume and moisture and start to deflate, giving them a shriveled appearance.
Right, you’re probably thinking, “I can’t go back in time and slather sunscreen on my 19-year-old self or undo the cigarettes of my youth… So, now what?” We got you.
Best Treatments for Lip Lines & Wrinkled Lips
If your current routine consists of a swipe of lip balm a couple of times a day, there’s a lot more you can be doing to bring that pout back to life. Here are five treatments to help you smooth those lip lines and wrinkles:
Anti-aging Products: They’re for Lips, Too!
You don’t have to subject yourself to needles to get a fuller pout (but if you’re into that, scroll on down!) There are a wide range of topical products that can plump the lips, reducing the appearance of lines on and around the mouth, whether you’re looking for a dramatic quick-fix, or you want something that will fill out the lines over time. Temporary lip plumpers containing capsicum (a derivative of chili peppers), cinnamon, or other minor irritants drive blood flow to the lips and cause them to swell for an hour or two. But if you really want a deeper fix, look for hydrating products that contain water-binding ingredients like hyaluronic acid and nourishing oils, like jojoba and coconut, to prevent dryness. The lips don’t produce oil on their own, so it’s super important to keep them moisturized, especially in dry winters or when you’re spending a significant amount of time in the sun. Other ingredients to look for in a good lip balm are antioxidants like vitamins C and E, which fight free radical damage; peptides, which support your body’s natural collagen production abilities; and of course, SPF, which protects lips from the sun’s daily abuse.
Sometimes you need more than the daily routine to stay on top of your lip lines. Just as they exist for the rest of the face, there’s also a number of lip treatments that can be done after hours. A silicone patch is a great place to start because it works while you sleep, so there’s no need to waste a half-hour of your day nursing a face mask. Silicone is used widely in the medical industry to heal scars and wounds because it has the unique ability to draw moisture from the deep layers of the skin and hold it at the surface, resulting in smooth, hydrated skin. SiO Super Lip Lift patches hug the perimeter of the lips, holding them in place to prevent you from squashing the delicate skin into the pillow and creating lines—but also to iron out existing lines by creating a healing environment that refreshes tired skin. Although overnight is best, you can also pop the patches on for a couple of hours if you need a little glow-up on the fly.
Peels, Lights, and Lasers
For more heavy-hitter solutions than beauty creams and potions, look no further than your dermatologist’s office. Lip lines can be addressed—needle-free—with superficial procedures like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, radiofrequency, and laser resurfacing, among many others. They’re usually pretty painless, with no more than a little numbing cream needed to anesthetize the area. Peels and dermabrasion (which range widely in intensity) work well on fine lines because they essentially remove the skin’s very top layer and reveal smooth new skin cells underneath. They may result in a couple of days of redness, but it’s usually nothing a little makeup can’t handle. That said, going in for regular treatments is recommended for long-lasting results. For more deeply etched lines, lasers might be a better option, as they can reach deep tissue and are deemed especially effective on the skin around the lips. Although they may result in a little more downtime than peels, they’re usually one-and-done, so no need to come back for a repeat. According to 2016 reports from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the average USD cost of in-office procedures like these ranges from $138 for microdermabrasion to $1665 for laser resurfacing—with dermabrasion and chemical peels falling in between at $1400 and $604, respectively.
This is a promising treatment that’s been getting some buzz lately, and it’s an excellent solution for those who are willing to spend a little money but not quite ready to go the filler route. PRP, or platelet-rich plasma, is a component of our own blood that’s primarily used by the body for clotting and wound healing. It also happens to be rich with proteins that support cell growth. When injected around the lips, it’s said to have a sort of spackle effect on the skin, filling in lines from the inside out. The first step involves a healthcare professional drawing your blood and placing it in a centrifuge to extract the plasma. They then inject your own plasma into your skin with tiny pricks all over the area in question. After about three treatments spaced a month or two apart, patients report very positive results. Scientific testing has validated it, too, with research confirming thicker skin and tissue rejuvenation post-procedure. Expect to spend anywhere between $500 and $3000 USD a session.
It’s often considered a last-resort option for tackling lip lines, but know that you don’t have to go full Kylie Jenner to enjoy the smoothing effects of a few surface injections. Fillers are the fastest solution for lip wrinkles. They’re generally made from hyaluronic acid (HA), which is produced naturally by our own cells. That means it’s highly unlikely to cause a reaction, and the body will eventually absorb it over time. Some HA fillers like Juvederm and Restylane are used to bulk up lip volume, but others, like Restylane and Volbella, are thinner, in order to fill out lines without adding size. Derma-fillers average about $500-800 USD for a 1mL injection, but the cost varies depending on such details as the type of filler and even the location of the medical practice.
To Sum Things Up
The easiest lip line hack of all is simply to treat the skin around your mouth the way you treat the rest of your face (assuming you have a solid skincare routine in place, of course). With the exception of ultra-strong retinoids, most serums and treatments can be applied to the outside of the lips with very little extra effort. Replace your regular lip balm with one containing SPF, and you’re already ahead of the game. For an added boost, try an intensive overnight lip treatment, or go pay the pros a visit for resurfacing treatments and injectables. Just make sure you always see a licensed and trained healthcare professional for any kind of advanced procedure.