The irony of laugh lines, AKA nasolabial folds or marionette lines, is that they're not actually caused by years of laughter or smiling. According to Dr. Arash Akhavan, MD and founder of The Dermatology & Laser Group, these things don't even play a role in the deep folds in the skin, which occur from mid cheek to chin and form parentheses around our lips.
"For some people they are a genetic characteristic—my nine year old daughter has laugh lines!" explains Dr. Akhavan. "But for many they can appear as we lose elasticity and fat in the mid face."
Whether you're looking to treat existing laugh lines or just want to take preventative measures, here are five things you can do.
1. Don't sleep on your side. "If you sleep on your side or face down, pressure on the face literally causes the skin to wrinkle," explains London-based plastic surgeon Dr. Alex Karidis. "This is particularly true of the nasal-labial fold, which is the line that runs from the nose to the mouth. Laughter lines can also form from sleeping this way as the skin around the eyes is particularly thin."
If you're a diehard side sleeper, there is a strategic way to do so *without* exacerbating your wrinkles. Allow celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau to demonstrate. "I'm a side sleeper for the most part, and I use a firm pillow and strategically position my head so the lower half of my face never touches it," she says.
2. Wear SPF and don't smoke. As any anti-aging enthusiast knows, excess sun exposure and smoking contributes to loss of collagen and skin elasticity. These are among the primary causes of marionette lines as we get older, so wear SPF everyday and remember—it's counterintuitive to anti-age the laugh line area when smoking directly contributes to wrinkles there!
3. Apply eye cream to the outer lip area. Just as it does for the undereye area, eye cream can plump up lines and seal in moisture so that laugh lines are less pronounced. Apply it morning and night as you would to your dark circles. It's also worth using moisturizers and night creams that regenerate the skin at several levels while you sleep. Take for example La Prairie's Line Interception Power Duo, which works to stimulate the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid to strengthen the extracellular matrix and visibly reduce all kinds of wrinkles, including those that are vertical.
Another trick we love? Placing eye gels on the corners of our lips as such before we apply makeup.
4. Try fillers. At Dr. Akhavan's office, the go-to treatment for laugh lines is using fillers such as Juvederm, which contains hyaluronic acid to lift these lines back up. "Done correctly, the results look completely natural and the procedure typically takes no more than 10-15 minutes to complete," he says. As with most fillers, they're injected into the skin using a tiny needle and there's typically no downtime.
5. Conceal them. You can't exactly mask deep vertical "gravity" lines, but you can diffuse them. To do so, prep the area with a smooth "clouding" primer, like Milk Makeup's Blur Stick, and pay extra attention when you're applying your precisely-color-matched concealer and foundation that doesn't settle into lines.
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