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Has your lipstick started to wander? Instead of staying put on your lips, do you find it creeps into those pesky vertical lines above and below the lips? If so, you’re not alone. Many women are bothered by these lines, which are often referred to as smoker’s lines. Not a smoker? Most people that have them don’t. They simply form over time and typically occur through a combination of muscle contraction and volume loss (fat and collagen) around the mouth.
This is how smoker’s lines form. The muscle that encircles the mouth is called the orbicularis oris. It’s shaped like the letter “O” and when it contracts, it pulls the lips into a pucker. We make this expression with a lot of different activities besides smoking—drinking from straws and water bottles, kissing, talking or eating. The thought used to be that repeated contractions alone were responsible for smoker’s lines, but we now know that’s only part of the story. The skin around the mouth thins as we age, and we also lose some of the natural volume or “padding” in this area, which all contribute to their formation. So, you’re ready to give up puckering, right? Don’t do that just yet!
There are several simple and effective solutions for smoker’s lines: laser resurfacing is one of the most effective, Botox (Dysport), and dermal fillers can all improve the condition! Laser resurfacing can eliminate finely etched lines and improve the texture of the skin. Botox (Dysport) is used to relax the muscle and dermal fillers replace lost volume and stimulate collagen production.
Botox (Dysport) is one of the most common methods for treating smoker’s lines. The reason is that it’s quick and easy and you get some softening of the lines within a couple of days. The challenge with using Botox or Dysport for smoker’s lines is that you cannot use too much. If your practitioner places too many units of Botox or Dysport into the upper lip, you will lose the ability to animate (purse the lips, talk or even eat) effectively. So, there is a point at which softening the lip lines does not make sense because of the side effect it creates. At Celibre, we stick to a conservative dose that softens the lines effectively but does not last the full ¾ months that Botox normally lasts. Dermal fillers (and biostimulators like Sculptra) are also used to soften the smoker’s lines. There are a few different techniques used to help improve smoker’s lines with dermal fillers and injecting directly into the lines is one. We can also inject across the upper lip to add volume and finally, we can inject the border of the lip and skin above the lip to soften the lines.
Laser resurfacing is an excellent option for improving smoker’s lines and arguably offers the most improvement of the three we discuss here. With that said, only a deep full field (100% coverage) laser resurfacing with CO2 or Erbium lasers will work to improve smoker’s lines. Trying to treat them with a superficial resurfacing or a fractional resurfacing will lead to disappointment. When we resurface the upper lip for smoker’s lines, proper numbing is absolutely required for proper depth of resurfacing and a good outcome. When we reference a deep resurfacing, this means we are resurfacing through the epidermis and into the reticular dermis.
The depth is often between 600 – 800 microns or .6 – .8 of a millimeter. At this depth, the skin looks raw and pinpoint bleeding is observed as the resurfacing is completed. Recovery from this type of procedure is approximately 2 weeks.
Surgery is also an option to improve smoker’s lines. Many patients these days are getting a surgical lip lift. While a surgical lip lift will not remove smoker’s lines directly, it is a way to tighten the skin underneath the nose and at the upper lip.
When we advise patients on how to address the issue of getting rid of smoker’s lines, we often talk about the timeframe for treatment. If patients need improvement immediately for a wedding this coming weekend, we are going to suggest Dysport (Botox) and some dermal filler like Restylane. On the other hand, if the patient has more time and can set aside two weeks for recovery, then we advise them to consider laser resurfacing.
Regardless of your situation, we’ve got an option to improve your smoker’s lines so call us today.