How To Get Rid Of Lip Lines: 6 Effective Strategies, Backed By Derms
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
We wholeheartedly believe that lines and wrinkles are part of a beautiful, expressive life well lived. At the same time, though, we understand that many flock to topicals and treatments to maintain a plump and supple complexion. Enhancing your skin texture and embracing the natural process of aging do not have to be mutually exclusive!
So in the case of lip lines, you by no means have to address them if you don't want to. Live your life! But if the etchings do bother you, derms have some pretty solid advice on what to do about it. Allow us to walk through their recommendations.
What are lip lines?
Lip lines refer to the vertical lines above your upper lip (note: not the tiny grooves or chapped cracks on your lips themselves). Technically, they're a type of expression wrinkle: "We have a muscle that circles the mouth, which when contracted, allows us to open and close the mouth. The direction of the muscle runs along our mustache line," says Rachel Westbay, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical. "Thus, the wrinkles created are perpendicular to that and become lines that run straight up and down around the mouth."
Just like how constantly furrowing your brow can lead to forehead lines (or commonly referred to as "the elevens"), frequently puckering your lips—like, say, from drinking out of a straw or pursing your lips around a toothbrush—can result in lip lines over time.
When you're young and your skin is chock-full of collagen, these lines tend to fill out rather quickly. However, as your natural collagen levels start to decline, your skin isn't as able to bounce back from these movements. "Over time, the lines become etched and are present at rest. You have creased the clothing, so to speak, and created 'lip lines,'" adds Westbay.
While lip lines do happen naturally as you age, "these lines tend to be particularly prominent in smokers," says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D. "They are sometimes called 'smokers' lines.'" See, when you smoke, you're not only constantly puckering your lips but also exposing your skin to free radicals, which can lead to oxidative stress and accelerated skin aging. In other words: You'll start to see the natural effects of aging (like lip lines) much, much younger.
How to get rid of lip lines.
No one can evade lip lines forever, but you can delay their arrival for as long as possible. Below, find the best derm-backed strategies:
Keep them moisturized.
Like any type of wrinkle, keeping the skin well moisturized can improve barrier function, which protects your skin against external aggressors that contribute to oxidative stress. (It's why improper hydration can lead to premature aging.)
Plus, hydrating humectants can help "plump" up the skin and ease the appearance of lines, especially in the lip area. Specifically, look for a lip balm with hyaluronic acid: "You can use products with hyaluronic acid in order to plump the skin," Nicole Hatfield, a certified esthetician for Pomp and founder of Radiant Beings Wellness & Beauty Coaching, previously told us. Then to make sure all that hydration stays put, opt for formulas with shea butter, antioxidant-rich oils (like moringa and sunflower seed), vitamin E, and vegan waxes.
"Gentle exfoliation with alpha-hydroxy acids can also help," says King. AHAs (like lactic acid and glycolic acid) are simultaneously exfoliating and hydrating; in fact, they have been shown to1 increase skin cell turnover, improve the moisture content of the skin, and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Glow Recipe's Glow Lip Pop Lip Balm, for example, contains flower-derived AHAs to gently slough the skin without disrupting the barrier (with a petal pink tint, to boot).
"If you can tolerate a retinoid in that area, this will help with very superficial fine lines and wrinkles by blending and thickening the skin," says Westbay. It might not erase those deep-etched lines (topical methods rarely can; more on that later), but it can certainly speed up cell turnover, stimulate collagen production, and keep future lines from settling in.
Just know your limits here. The skin around the lips is one of the thinnest regions of your whole face (aside from the delicate under-eyes), which means it may be more sensitive to heavy-duty actives. Retinoids can easily cause irritation in the area, and people often mistake the flakes and tenderness for the average winter chap. Pro tip: Dab an eye cream around the lip area before applying your retinoid, and it will buffer the active without sacrificing its potency.
Protect your lips from the sun.
"Protecting your lips from the sun is just as important as protecting your face," says aesthetic nurse practitioner Shawna Jones, PA-C, about how to keep your lips plump and supple. Since the lips are already so thin, they are quite vulnerable to harmful UV exposure.
Those UV rays can also dehydrate that delicate skin: "The sun can dry out the lips and compromise the lips' ability to hold water and hydration," Michelle Henry, M.D., founder of Skin & Aesthetics Surgery of Manhattan, previously shared with mbg. And as we discussed earlier: Improper hydration can lead to premature skin aging. All the more reason to invest in a moisturizing SPF lip balm.
Mind your movements.
Repeatedly contracting your lip muscles can lead to those expression lines over time, which is why experts say to avoid constantly puckering or pursing. That's not to say you can never drink out of a straw ever again, but if you really want to avoid those lip lines, you might want to sip from the rim more regularly.
Also: Stop smoking if you currently are. It's one of the best things you can do for your skin (and your overall health).
Topical and lifestyle methods are great for softening fainter lines and keeping those etches at bay—but if you're dealing with deeper lip lines, you might see better success with in-office treatments. "You want to focus on thickening the skin to make it less thin, flimsy, and more likely to wrinkle," says Westbay. "For this you can do laser and microneedling, which work great." Depending on your preferences, skin type, and lifestyle, your derm might suggest a different in-office route, so you should always consult a professional you trust.
The skin around your lips is one of the most sensitive, fragile portions on your face, which means it's common to see signs of aging (like lip lines) crop up sooner than you'd like. Of course, skin aging does not only result in fine lines—lips also lose their volume and color as you grow older, but just like lip lines, there are a few ways to delay the process.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.