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Like any type of wrinkle or spot that naturally comes with aging, smile lines (also known as laugh lines) are completely normal. In fact, everyone has them—they just become more apparent over time, explains Ari Hoschander, M.D., board-certified plastic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. Some people’s may appear more prominent due to a combination of genetics, facial expressions, and environmental stressors, he adds. That said, figuring out how to get rid of smile lines is a tricky task—and one that has no single, universal solution. But dermatologists do have a few tips that can help minimize those lines while maximizing your glow.
Meet the Experts: Ari Hoschander, M.D., board-certified plastic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School; Karan Lal, D.O., M.S., F.A.A.D., double board-certified dermatologist and member of the Society for Pediatric Dermatology; and Leah Ansell, M.D., F.A.A.D, a dermatologist based in Rye, NY.
What are smile lines?
Smile lines, or laugh lines, are also known as the nasolabial crease, says Karan Lal, D.O., M.S., F.A.A.D., double board-certified dermatologist and member of the Society for Pediatric Dermatology. “This is the crease between the nose and the cheek,” he adds. “It’s normally only visible during laughing and smiling when we are younger, but as we age, this crease sets in due to recurrent facial movements, skin thinning, genetics, and facial fat loss.” Leah Ansell, M.D., F.A.A.D., a dermatologist based in Rye, NY, adds that smile lines are connected to the eye contractions made during smiling, which also contribute to crow’s feet.
Smile lines are “dynamic wrinkles,” explains Dr. Ansell, meaning they’re accentuated when you move your face in the form of smiling or laughing.
How to get rid of smile lines
While there is no one way to make smile lines magically disappear, there are products that can address the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. And there are some skincare products that can certainly prevent them from deepening.
Injectables like Botox
The most effective way to get rid of laugh lines is to stop said movement with injectables and cosmetic procedures like Botox, Dysport, Jeuveau, Xeomin, or Daxxify, which temporarily freeze muscles and inhibit their contractions, Dr. Ansell says.
Dr. Hoschander says that dermal fillers comprised of hyaluronic acid can help plump and smooth skin, but results only last up to four months.
In-office laser procedures like Halo and Fraxel can stimulate collagen production by initiating the skin’s healing response with small ablations, Dr. Lal says. This can help thicken the skin and potentially make laugh lines less noticeable, he adds.
The most permanent (and likely most costly) solution to laugh lines is plastic surgery in the form of a facelift, Dr. Hoschander says.
Retinol and retinoids
“Retinoids have the most data to support the reduction in fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Ansell. Dr. Lal adds that they can help stimulate collagen and thicken skin, but you have to be consistent with application. “Not one month, two months, but usually after three months of consistent use, does skincare truly help,” he says. You can use retinoids in the form of a cream or serum—Dr. Lal recommends prescription-grade Altreno, and as for over-the-counter products, he likes RoC’s Derm Correxion Fill + Treat Serum, which contains both retinol and plumping hyaluronic acid.
Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum
Adapalene Gel 0.1%
Derm Correxion Fill + Treat Advanced Retinol Serum
Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
Skincare with peptides
“Peptides help hydrate your skin,” says Lal. “They also are building blocks for collagen.” He says StriVectin High Potency Wrinkle Filler is a “great product” for this, as well as Drmtlgy Needle-less Serum, which contains peptides, niacinamide, and moisturizing ceramides. “In a six-week study, it made 91% of patients feel like they had firmer skin,” he adds.
High-Potency Wrinkle Filler
How to prevent smile lines naturally
This is the golden rule of skincare—it doesn’t just help prevent wrinkles, but it fights against skin cancer and hyperpigmentation. “Wearing sunscreen will prevent skin thinning from sun damage,” says Lal. “This will keep your skin taught.”
Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
Ace The Day Natural Face Lotion SPF 30
Multimodal Defender SPF 30
Mineral UltraSheer Dry-Touch SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion
Be wary of weight loss injectables
Skip the face tape
If you’ve been tempted by the videos of anti-wrinkle face tape floating around the internet, dermatologists are here to say: Don’t bother. Essentially, consumers believe the tape can prevent wrinkling by inhibiting facial movement, but you would have to wear it 24/7 to actually see results. “These are a great way to do nothing,” Dr. Lal quips, adding that the tape doesn’t address facial fat loss and skin thinning that will inevitably happen over time.
Similarly, some swear by gua sha facial massage to prevent fine lines, and while the tool and technique may temporarily de-puff and tighten skin, Dr. Lal says those results aren’t permanent. However, if you enjoy doing it for relaxation and temporary results, it shouldn’t cause any harm.
Wear protective eyewear
Dr. Ansell recommends wearing sunglasses and readers when it’s bright out or you need to see close-up, so you don’t squint or furrow your brow more than you need to.
Don’t stop smiling!
Most importantly, don’t let a few lines keep you from expressing your happiness. Life is short, embrace joy. “People will tell you not to smile, but that too doesn’t work,” Dr. Lal says. As previously mentioned, skin thinning and fat loss inevitably come with age. And if smiling is what causes the lines, it’s worth trying to change your perspective—look at them as evidence of good memories and a life being lived.
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