Smile Lines: Causes and Treatment Options
Smile lines, clinically known as nasolabial folds, are creases that appear between the nostrils and outer corners of the mouth and eye. These fine lines typically start showing up in our 20s and 30s and are most visible when we laugh or flash a smile.
Now that you’re familiar with nasolabial folds, let’s take a closer look at what causes them.
What Causes Smile Lines?
Ageing is a part of life – and so are the wrinkles, including nasolabial folds, that come with it. After the age of 20, the skin’s collagen and elastin (responsible for firmness and flexibility in the skin) production significantly slows down. The diminished production of these essential substances results in the formation of nasolabial folds.
Age-related mid-face atrophy also plays a major role in the development of nasolabial folds.
- Sun exposure
Constant or prolonged sun exposure is another culprit in the development of smile lines. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays not only slow down the deposition of new collagen but also activates the enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) which break down collagen. As a result, the firmness and flexibility in the skin lessen.
Experts say that cigarette smoke causes accelerated aging of the facial skin – signs of aging may appear 10 – 15 years before they appear among non-smokers. The chemicals in cigarette degrade the collagen and elastin beneath the skin. When these fibres are damaged, the skin loses its firmness and flexibility, resulting in wrinkles and skin texture changes. Additionally, the nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products constricts blood vessels, thus reducing blood supply to the skin.
- Weight fluctuations
Significant weight gain or weight loss can cause thinning of the fatty layer beneath the skin as well as the stretching of the ligaments that support the facial muscles. This results in sagging and wrinkling of the skin.
- Improper sleeping habits
Improper sleeping habits is another culprit for wrinkles. Prolonged sleep deprivation is often accompanied by a sharp rise in cortisol, a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to skin problems – the hormone breaks down collagen and can inhibit the growth of fibroblast cells, a tissue that produces collagen.
Side sleeping also plays a role in the development of smile lines. If you rest your face on the pillow the same way every night for years, the side of your face that rests on the pillow is at greater risk of wrinkling.
- Poor diet
A healthy diet will keep your skin clear and glowing; however, an unbalanced diet can have a detrimental effect on your skin. Researchers have found that a diet that’s high in simple carbohydrates can encourage glycation, a process where excess sugar molecules bind to the wrinkle-fighting proteins (collagen and elastin) and damage them. Consequently, your skin will be more susceptible to lines and wrinkles.
How to Delay the Appearance of Smile Lines
While the appearance of nasolabial folds may seem inevitable, there are several things you can do to delay or treat existing smile lines. Here’s what you can do to delay their appearance:
- Revisit Your Diet – If you want to delay smile lines, pay attention to your diet. Consume fruits and vegetables that are high in carotenoids. Studies have shown that carotenoids can help protect the skin against premature aging caused by UV exposure. You should also get enough proteins as your body needs them to replace dead cells.
- Quit smoking – If you already smoke, stop. Smoking can rob off the wrinkle-fighting proteins from your skin even at a young age. Additionally, nicotine can constrict blood vessels, thus lessening blood flow, which ultimately affects the overall health of your skin.
- Avoid sun damage – Repeated sun exposure eventually leads to wrinkles and sagging skin. Always use sunscreen and physical sun barriers such as hats if you plan on being outdoors in the sun.
- Stay active – Exercise promotes healthy blood flow – this helps to deliver nutrients to the skin, leaving you with a clearer and more radiant complexion.
- Sleep well – Proper sleep will give you healthy skin and help prevent accelerated aging and wrinkles. A lack of proper rest can trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that breaks down the collagen in the skin.
- Exfoliate often – This is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Exfoliation promotes skin cell renewal, unclogs pores, and makes the skin brighter and healthier.
- Drink enough water – One of the best ways to prevent smile lines is drinking plenty of water. Water plays an important role in hydrating the skin and making it suppler and more elastic. Unfortunately, the skin is the last organ in the body to receive hydration from the water you drink. This is why it is essential to drink plenty of water to ensure your skin gets its fair share.
Treatment Options for Smile Lines
Now let’s look at some of the options for treating smile lines.
- Dermal fillers
Dermal fillers, also known as injectable fillers, are one of the safest and most effective ways to reduce the appearance of smile lines.
Many injectable fillers contain hyaluronic acid, a natural substance found in the skin. This substance protects skin cells, delivers nutrients to the skin and maintains skin volume. However, as we age, the skin’s ability to produce hyaluronic acid decreases resulting in a loss of firmness and elasticity of the skin.
Dermal fillers restore levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin. Therefore, they help to rejuvenate and add volume to the skin, thus reducing the appearance of nasolabial folds. Some of the most popular hyaluronic acid fillers include Restylane, Juvéderm, and Sculptra.
Botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, is used to rejuvenate the skin and reduce the appearance of smile lines. When injected into the skin, the substance weakens the muscles in the affected area causing smile lines to relax and become less noticeable. Some people use the treatment in conjunction with skin resurfacing treatments to further enhance the quality of the skin.
The results of a Botox treatment are visible a few days after the procedure and may last approximately 3 to 4 months.
- Laser skin resurfacing
Laser resurfacing is a popular cosmetic procedure that is meant to reduce the appearance of smile lines, scars, wrinkles, and irregular skin pigmentation. During the treatment, the dermatologist utilizes a resurfacing laser to remove the top layer of skin cells. This encourages the production of new skin cells during the healing process, giving the skin a tighter and younger look.
The most common side effects of laser treatments include swelling, itching, soreness, and redness.
- Collagen induction therapy
Collagen induction therapy (CIT) is a minimally invasive skin rejuvenation procedure that is aimed at increasing the production of collagen in the skin. The treatment uses tiny needles to create tiny, evenly-spaced wounds on the skin, triggering the body’s natural healing process. During this process, new collagen is produced.
The procedure is also known as micro-needling or medical skin needling.
- Facelift surgery
Surgery is an ideal option for people who want satisfactory and long-lasting results. The procedure involves removing excess skin, tightening underlying muscles and redraping the skin. It is performed to improve the visible signs of aging on the face including smile lines, marionette lines, mid-face sagging, and wrinkles.
This treatment option is costly and requires a long recovery time – approximately three months. Additionally, it comes with several risks including infection, bleeding, bruising and changes in skin sensitivity.
- OTC creams
Over-the-counter creams can also be used in the treatment of smile lines. For the best results, use a cream that contains retinol, kinetin, alpha hydroxy acids, copper peptides, or Coenzyme Q10. These ingredients plump up the skin, making smile lines less pronounced.
The biggest disadvantage of using OTC creams is that they take so long to work. Retinol creams, for instance, take about three to six months to show noticeable results, with the best results showing after a year. The possible side effects of OTC creams include redness, dryness, rashes, and pigmentation.
- Essential oils
Essential oils are another treatment option that can help reduce the appearance of laugh lines. The proteins and nutrients found in essential oils promote the growth of new cells and help the skin to remain firm and elastic.
When using essential oils to treat your smile lines, be sure to dilute them with a carrier oil such as avocado oil, jojoba oil or coconut oil. This is because essential oils can cause skin irritation when used in an undiluted form.
Depending on your opinion, nasolabial folds can be seen as appealing or unappealing. However, many people consider them a problem. These fine lines can make you look older than you are – this is why most people choose to get rid of them. To delay the appearance of smile lines, sleep well, quit smoking, eat a balanced diet, and maintain a healthy weight. If you already have smile lines, talk to your physician. There are several treatments options that can help smooth out smile lines.