IN THIS ARTICLE

Whatever you may call them—smoker’s lines, lip lines, lipstick lines, or barcode lines—these so vividly described wrinkles are not everybody’s favorite feature, though there’s no arguing they’re a common one.

Contrary to what the name suggests, you don’t have to be a smoker to have these lines, and they’re one of the top skin aging complaints out there. There is a wide range of causes behind them—but more importantly, just as many treatments to reverse them.

What Are Smoker’s Lines?

So what exactly are smoker’s lines? They’re the tiny vertical wrinkles that form on the top of your upper lip and run upward toward your nose.

Most of the time, smoker’s lines are extremely small, but many of them can form at once.

Notoriously hard to conceal, they’re often called lipstick lines because of the way that lipstick can settle and “bleed” into the crevices they form around the mouth.

What Causes Smoker’s Lines?

Let’s start with the obvious one: smoking. Smoking of any kind can cause lines to appear around the lips (this includes vapes as well!). It happens in two distinct ways: One is that the toxins in cigarettes accelerate the breakdown of collagen and elastin, two proteins that give structure and bounce to our skin. The other primary cause is the repeated action of sucking through a cigarette that gives way to the formation of dynamic lines—that is, the wrinkles that develop when we repeatedly make certain facial expressions.

But even if you’ve never smoked, odds are that your smoker’s lines are caused by a similar muscle movement—whether your vice is whistling a tune, drinking through a straw, or even taking duck-faced selfies (no judgment). Over time, our skin loses the resilience of our youth and those lines start to stick, even after we’ve stopped pursing our lips. The collagen degradation process is only made worse by external factors, UV rays being the biggest perpetrator. In fact, the sun contributes to 80% of visible skin aging—and since the lips often go unprotected, they’re particularly susceptible to developing fine lines.

Effective Treatments For Getting Rid Of Smoker’s Lines

It takes time to form smoker’s lines, and for the most part, it takes time to get rid of them, too. But if you’re determined, you’ll be able to ditch those lines for good with these simple hacks:

Moisturizing

As early as our twenties, collagen production in the skin begins to dwindle by about one percent each year. For our lips, this translates to a deflating effect, as the lips lose volume and creases become all the more apparent. To make matters worse, the lips have no oil glands at all, and the oil supply of the rest of our skin greatly diminishes with age, too. For these reasons, it’s particularly important to moisturize the lips and surrounding area. In addition to giving off a plump, smooth, appearance, it staves off the dryness that leads to crinkles and folds.

For extra hydration power, introduce silicone patches to your routine as an intensive overnight treatment. SiO Beauty’s Super LipLift is an easy, comfortable option that works while you sleep. It’s a four-pack of medical-grade silicone patches that adhere to the skin, sealing in moisture for a supple, rejuvenated pout by morning—and each set will last about two weeks.

Chemical Peels

A chemical peel is essentially a strong form of exfoliation that actually removes the top layer of the dermis, revealing a fresh, smooth layer underneath. It’s not only useful for all facial lines and wrinkles, but it can clear scars, dark spots, and acne as well. Peels are known to be especially effective for lip wrinkles, stimulating the skin’s natural healing process, improving texture, and buffing out fine lines. Mild chemical peels containing alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids, like those by The Ordinary and Dr. Dennis Gross, can be used at home for noticeable improvements over time, but for faster and more significant results, you’re better off seeing the professionals. A dermatologist’s office has access to strong, medical-grade peeling agents—and they know how to use them for maximum impact. Expect some redness and irritation with any peel you choose and know that it may take a few sessions before you start seeing a difference in your lip lines. Just make sure to start a few times a week and work your way up. Using nightly right away can cause uncomfortable dryness and irritation.

Lip Fillers

Like them or not, needles are considered the quickest fix for facial wrinkles. In the case of lip lines, neuromodulators like Botox are risky (one off-move and you could end up with a crooked smile for months). So for this part of the face, dermal fillers are the injectable treatment of choice. Usually made from hyaluronic acid, a substance found naturally in the skin, fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, and Volbella can have a major smoothing effect on lip lines. And you don’t have to go full Kylie Lip Kit, either. A small amount of a lighter filler, like Restylane Silk, can fill in lines without bulking. Make sure to seek out an experienced, licensed practitioner who is skilled at delivering natural-looking results.

Laser Resurfacing

Laser treatments work by inflicting tiny injuries to the skin that in turn trigger the skin’s natural healing response, which involves—you guessed it—collagen production. A highly effective solution to smoker’s lines, laser treatments are available at doctor’s offices in varying forms and intensities, and they don’t tend to be overly painful, especially when preceded by a numbing cream. But the beauty of stronger treatments, like the full-field erbium resurfacing laser, is that they can often be a one-and-done procedure lasting up to ten years or so—although you can definitely expect some downtime while the skin heals. When all is said and done, you can look forward to a significantly tighter, more youthful appearance.

Tips For Keeping Smoker’s Lines Away & Maintaining Smooth Lips

Seeing results after treating lines that were already there Knowing how to prevent them in the first place. Here are the tricks:

Exfoliate Regularly

You’ve heard it a hundred times, but routinely exfoliating your skin is one of the best ways to prevent wrinkles—and lip lines are no exception. But harsh scrubs and microbeads are things of the past. Look out for modern treatments that contain fruit acids or hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) to gently exfoliate without damaging the skin.

Minimize Sun Exposure

And if you can’t do that, make sure you’re using sunscreen and SPF lip balm that offer broad-spectrum UVA/UVB coverage. Even the most diligent skincare aficionados often leave their lips in the dust when it comes to sun protection. Don’t let them go unshielded—especially if you’re exfoliating or using face acids and retinoid products, as they can make your skin extra sensitive to sun damage.

Be Mindful Of Facial Movements

Easier said than done. But most often, the non-smokers with lip lines are those who tend to contract their lips a lot when they speak, and sometimes even when they sit still! Because lip lines are so often rooted in our facial movements, the less you pout your lips, the smoother they’ll stay. The same goes for avoiding such habits as drinking from sports top water bottles and sipping through straws.

In Summary

Smoker’s lines can be a nuisance, no doubt. But with such simple prevention methods as—hello, not smoking—paired with regular exfoliation and sun protection, those lip lines may never see the light of day. That said, if you’re already seeing signs of those pesky smoker’s lines on the upper lip or around the mouth, it’s not too late to nix them. Intensive hydrating treatments at home, like silicone pads and moisture-rich creams, can help to plump and minimize the look of fine lines, while heavier hitter procedures, like lasers and professional peels, offer deeper and longer-lasting improvement. And of course, for fast action, there are always lip fillers. Whatever is right for you, know that there’s no shame in the anti-aging game!

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