Tired of hearing “What’s wrong?” from co-workers or getting glares from strangers on the street? You just might be suffering from RBF (resting you-know-what face, in case you missed it!). More often than not if you’re over the age of 40, the root cause is marionette lines. Marionette lines are some of the most commonly lamented wrinkles for women middle-aged and older, though they can grace our faces as early as our 20s or 30s, depending on genetic predisposition. Yup, suffice to say, if your parents and grandparents have been endowed with marionette lines, the odds are not in your favor. But even so, there are plenty of solutions to show time and genetics who’s boss.
What Are Marionette Lines?
Marionette lines are one of those aptly named wrinkles that conjure up a pretty clear visual. A marionette string-puppet, of course, has a split jaw so that puppeteers can easily open and close their mouths in order to make them look like they’re talking. Humans develop creases in the very same area over time, running from the outer corners of the lips to the outer corners of the chin. Because of their drooping quality, marionette lines can make a face look perpetually pouty. And, unfortunately, treating them professionally is not as straightforward as some other problem areas—which is why, as always, prevention is key.
Main Causes of Marionette Lines
Outside of hereditary factors, gravity is the main perpetrator when it comes to marionette lines. Over the course of many years, gravity exerts its control over our faces, stretching once smooth-and-tight skin in a downward and inward pattern towards the earth. All of that skin collects at the chin, often forming lines at either side. This is aggravated by a general loss of volume that happens as we age—degradation of soft tissue, fat, and structural proteins like collagen and elastin—which results in a sagging effect. As with any other sign of skin aging, lifestyle factors like tanning and smoking can also have a negative impact.
How to Get Rid of Marionette Lines: 5 Treatment Options
So you’ve ditched the cigarettes and the tanning bed, and you’re totally on top of your cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing. Now what? Outside of those fundamentals, here are the best ways to get a handle on your marionette lines:
1. Chemical Peels
Chemical peels use an acidic solution to deeply exfoliate the skin and stimulate cell turnover, exposing a fresh, youthful complexion underneath. Gentler at-home chemical peels can be an, excellent method for softening shallow marionette lines, but for deep lines, you’re better off seeing the pros. A professional chemical peel solution contains a stronger concentration of acid and can remove skin cells not only from the epidermis but also from the lower layers of the skin for more dramatic results. Research has shown that chemical peeling can smooth wrinkles by increasing the thickness and structural elements that give the skin its strength and elasticity.
2. Topical Treatments
Serums and creams containing peptides, ceramides, vitamin C, vitamin E, and retinol are old standbys that really do improve the tone and texture of the skin, and even fight wrinkles. But the cool newer kid in town is the silicone patch. Silicone has been well-documented as a highly regenerative topical treatment for scars and other skin afflictions. But just as they can help scar tissue to heal, they also can rejuvenate wrinkled skin. SiO Beauty makes the perfect kit for marionette lines and beyond. The Eye & Smile Lift 4-pack comes with two patches to cover everything from the parentheses around the mouth to the jowls on the lower face, plus two more as a bonus, to iron out the smile lines around the eyes. What more do you need?
Dermal fillers like Juvederm and toxins like Botox often get a bad rap when it comes to marionette lines. That’s because they really only help when it comes to mild or moderate lines. In the case of early-stage marionette lines, Botox can be injected into the depressor anguli oris (think of it as the frowning muscle) to keep you from making the kinds of expressions that can cement marionette lines into place. Hyaluronic acid fillers like Juvederm, on the other hand, can be injected below the corners of the mouth to lift the smile and fill out minor creases. Just beware that gravity is not on our side, and adding more and more filler to the chin area over time can result in a puffy, heavy-looking lower face without fixing the initial problem. Patients over the age of 50 who have deeper lines may actually consider surgery to pull the skin taut. Plastic Surgeon Dr. Dean Kane, MD advises that if you can “pinch more than an inch of skin along the jawline in front of the earlobe,” he recommends taking surgical measures to “redrape the underlying soft tissue descent and skin lift with skin excess removal.”
4. Laser Resurfacing
Whether a facelift is in the cards for you or not so much, you can explore laser resurfacing—in addition to or instead of more invasive procedures for your marionette lines. Laser resurfacing is a deep skin treatment that involves using fractional lasers (like CO2, Erbium, and radiofrequency) to refresh the damaged layers of the skin. The lasers work by emitting radiation that targets water molecules within the collagen layer, heating them to a point that they break down or turn to vapor. This triggers our skin’s repair mechanism to kick into high gear. The (science-backed) results: smooth skin and a youthful glow. But there’s always a catch, isn’t there? It’s worth noting that depending on the type of laser and energy output, you can expect some pain and varying amounts of downtime.
5. Thread Lift
If you want to fix a marionette, you might need some strings. The thread lift is more or less what it sounds like: imagine it like a puppeteer that literally pulls the jowls taut from the sides. More technically speaking, it’s a minimally-invasive alternative to the facelift in which a string of fiber studded with small cones is threaded below the skin surface. The cones take hold of the tissue from below, suspending the skin in a more lifted position. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia, and it only requires a few days of downtime, during which you can expect some bruising and swelling. Because the threads are dissolvable, the results will last about six months.
Simple Ways to Prevent Marionette Lines from Forming
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s never too early (or late, for that matter) to take control of your skin.
1. Good Skin Care
Goes without saying, right? Beauty and drug stores can definitely overwhelm with outlandish product claims being thrown left and right, but if you zero in on a few clutch anti-aging ingredients for your creams, masks, and serums, you’ll be well on your way to erasing those marionette lines. Niacinamide, vitamin C, peptides, and hyaluronic acid are just a handful of science-approved wrinkle fighters that can rebuild and restore elasticity to the skin.
2. Sleeping Right
Sleep helps us fight illness and disease, keeps our brains operating at an optimal level, and balances our hormones, among other crucial functions. But did you know that sleep is also vital for skin health? Poor sleep quality is associated with premature aging and decreased function of the skin barrier—so make sure you’re prioritizing those Zs! And while we’re on the subject, try to sleep on your back as much as possible. Stomach- and side-sleepers are more prone to wrinkles, especially on the lower face (read: marionette lines) due to pressure and gravity.
3. Staying Away from the Sun
It’s old news by now, and yet some people still can’t seem to shake the sunshine. The fact of the matter is that UV exposure contributes to a structural breakdown of the skin, which can result in the formation of marionette lines and just about every other wrinkle, too. Make sure to wear a broad-spectrum 30 SPF (or more) sunscreen every single day, and avoid the sun at peak UV hours.
4. Skin Food
We focus on skincare as an outside force—and that makes sense because, well, our skin faces the outside world. But how much are you caring for your skin from the inside? We’re talking about skin food. Eating antioxidant-rich foods like berries, leafy greens, nuts, sweet potatoes, and carrots can help keep your skin strong, vibrant, and resistant to wrinkles.
5. Curbing Weight Fluctuations
Loose skin is a common side effect of extreme weight loss, but the belly and arms are not the only body parts affected. The face can also experience sagging and folds due to a loss of fat, and the lower face gets the brunt of it, as the skin gathers at the bottom. If you experience serious swings in weight loss and weight gain, know that the impact on your skin over time can be significant.
The Wrap Up
Nobody likes to be made a puppet. But let’s face it, marionette lines happen to the best of us. They’re a product of many different internal and external factors—but even though they’re a natural and expected part of the aging process, they can still be delayed and even reversed. A facelift (or simply a lower facelift) is the surest way to tighten the jowls, and if you’re a candidate for a facelift, know that the procedure is much less invasive than it used to be. But if you’re not up to going under the knife just yet, corrective treatments ranging from fillers to thread lifts can diminish the appearance of marionette lines by addressing the underlying causes: collagen depletion and loss of elasticity. There are also simple, everyday wrinkle filler treatments that are less invasive that target wrinkles with skin-plumping peptides and potent blend of ingredients that reduce the appearance of fine lines while providing hydration to volume deficient areas.