Although you may not be familiar with the term “nasolabial folds,” you know them by their more common name- laugh lines. These are the lines we all have that run from the side of the nose to the corner of the mouth. They are also called smile lines. As we get older, these lines become deeper and more pronounced. Those laugh lines can also morph into “marionette lines,” when they extend down to the chin. Here’s a look at what causes nasolabial folds, and how to get rid of them.
What Are Nasolabial Folds?
The nasolabial folds come from the Latin words nasus for “nose” and labium for “lip.” The key word is “fold” because they are not wrinkles. A nasolabial fold is just that- the fold of skin between the nose and mouth that is underneath the cheek. They are perfectly normal and natural – and everyone has them. Another way to think about is that these lines form the parentheses around our lips. A nasolabial crease is different, and can be caused from repetitive muscle movement in this area.
Related: How To Get Rid of Wrinkles
What Causes Nasolabial Folds?
Everyone has nasolabial folds apart from newborn babies, as their faces are so plump they lack cheek definition, and anyone suffering from facial paralysis. But laugh lines can become deeper, longer and more pronounced as we get older. This is due to a few different things.
Aging certainly plays a role. As we get older, we lose fat which can make the face look saggy. If our cheeks become flat and hollow, the lines beneath them will also look more pronounced. Rapid weight loss can also make the face look hollow and etched with deep lines. But one of the biggest culprits is sun damage. UV rays can cause the collagen in the skin to break down. Since collagen works like scaffolding for the skin, when it is damaged, skin isn’t as firm and bouncy- which means that facial lines look deeper.
Smoking is a major factor as it accelerates the aging process. The repeated physical process of inhaling deeply on a cigarette also can cause skin to weaken.
How To Prevent Nasolabial Folds
There is no way to prevent nasolabial folds from forming as they are a normal part of a functioning face, but there are certain things you can do to prevent them from looking more pronounced.
The best defense is to protect your face from the sun. This means wearing a sunscreen with a high SPF every single day, along with extra protection such as a hat. If you don’t want to buy a separate sunscreen for your face, the easiest way to remember to wear SPF is to buy a moisturizer with sunscreen. Anyone who doesn’t like the feel of sunscreen or the chalky look it can leave behind can try a tinted sunscreen or SPF drops which can be applied like a serum. For an extra layer of protection, brush on a mineral finishing powder which contains physical sun blockers.
Reconsider how you sleep as “beauty sleep” can sometimes backfire. If you always sleep on your face or on one side of it, the constant pressure on one side can lead to more wrinkles. Try sleeping on your back (which is, admittedly, tough but specialty pillows are available) or buy a silk pillowcase to minimize creasing.
Keep the nasolabial fold area well moisturized. Dry, dehydrated skin can often look more lined than it really is. Your regular facial moisturizer will do the trick but if you feel that you need something more, apply your eye cream to your laugh lines as eye creams tend to be richer and creamier. This will have the added benefit of plumping up any fine lines. Another trick used by makeup artists is to apply crescent shaped eye patches to the laugh lines if you need a little boost before a night out or just want some extra TLC.
How To Treat Nasolabial Folds
Remember that everyone has nasolabial folds apart from babies – they are simply a part of life. But there are a few ways to help improve their appearance, ranging from products to massage and in-office treatments. Here’s a breakdown.
Plump Them Up
Although laugh lines cannot be erased with products, they can look softer with a primer. Primers work by filling in fine lines with skin plumping ingredients like silicone. Special pigments also help diffuse light to the area for a softer look. Another benefit of “filling in” the area with a silicone based product is that it creates a solid canvas for makeup and helps prevent creasing.
Apply a Retinol
Retinol is derived from vitamin A, and is one of the most effective ingredients when it comes to fighting the signs of aging, such as fine lines and dark spots. Retinols work by encouraging cell turnover which reveals fresher, smoother looking skin. Apply a retinol-spiked cream around the mouth area but remember to start slowly to prevent any irritation, and avoid the lips.
Face Yoga and Massage
Your face is full of muscles, and one school of thought suggests that exercising and toning facial muscles will help with the appearance of wrinkles. The analogy is that if a toned, taut stomach doesn’t have any sag, a toned face won’t show as many wrinkles. Facial massage also helps boost blood flow to the face which gives it a little glow. If you’ve ever had a facial that includes massage, you’ve experienced this bright but temporary boost. Since there are no side effects to facial yoga and massage, it could be worth a try. All you need is your hands, and a facial oil (marula or jojoba can be used) to massage your face. Some of the exercises to tone face muscles including puckering up the lips and holding that pose for 15 seconds.
If you want fresher, smoother looking skin, exfoliation is one of the best weapons in any skincare routine. Laugh lines and the area around the mouth should also be exfoliated to help get rid of dead skin cells which not only make the face look dull, but can exacerbate the look of fine lines. Skip the chunky, harsh scrubs which can be too harsh for the face as they can create microtears. Try a chemical exfoliator instead. Look for ingredients such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid which gently dissolve dead skin cells. As with anything, it can be easy to overdo it which will only lead to red, irritated skin. Start slowly by exfoliating twice a week and see how it goes before ramping it up. You may want to start with an alpha hydroxyl cleanser before trying a leave on product which is more powerful.
A deeper exfoliation can be done with microdermabrasion, which is usually performed by a skincare professional at a medical spa or dermatologist’s office. The procedure removes the top layer of the skin using a fine spray of crystals. The result is smoother, softer looking skin and it helps soften the look of fine lines.
Anyone wanting a more dramatic solution to their laugh lines can visit a dermatologist for an injectable filler. As the name implies, fillers literally “fill in” wrinkles and add volume back to the skin. These are injected straight into the skin and typically last around six months to a year although results vary. The fillers are applied just under the nasolabial fold to give the cheek a lift, thereby decreasing the appearance of smile lines. The number of injections and depth of insertion varies depending on the client. According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), the most common fillers contain hyaluronic acid, calcium hydroxylapatite (CaHA) and poly-l-lactic acid.
Another option is autologous fat injections- also called facial fat grafting. According to the ABCS, this involves harvesting the patient’s own fat, usually with liposuction from the buttocks or abdomen, and then purifying it before injecting it into the desired area. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about 50% of the fat injected will survive, and the surviving fat will last forever. Multiple fat transfers are often needed.
A dermatologist can perform a few different procedures with a laser. Some lasers help tighten the skin by encouraging collagen production – which will lead to a softening of the nasolabial folds as (in theory) skin will be firmer and bouncier. Laser resurfacing is another option, which involves removing the damaged skin and encouraging collagen production. Every procedure carries risk, and some possible side effects from laser treatments include skin discoloration and scarring.
Surgical Thread Lift
A thread lift is an option between a filler and plastic surgery – it gives more dramatic results than a filler but isn’t as invasive as surgery. In this procedure, small sutures are inserted under the face which help support the muscles. So instead of cutting the skin, which is done in plastic surgery, the skin is just lifted and supported. To make nasolabial folds look less noticeable, the threads would be applied under the cheeks. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the procedure also helps encourage collagen production as the body will be in healing mode. The ASPS estimates that thread lifts will lift the skin by a few millimeters, and results from a thread lift will generally last from one to three years.
Subcision is the surgical removal of skin. It is normally used to treat acne scars but it can also be used for nasolabial folds. It involves taking a scalpel under the skin in the nasolabial folds and getting rid of any adhesions. It creates a space in the area under the fold which will then fill with blood and make the fold look fuller. As Dr Joe Niamtu, a Virginia based plastic surgeon explained in a YouTube video about the procedure, it is not a definitive approach to nasolabial folds but it can help the right patient.
What Products Can I Use on My Nasolabial Folds?
While no product can make nasolabial folds disappear there are plenty of products to help keep fine lines at bay while leaving the mouth and cheek area moisturized. Formulyst’s philosophy is long-term and effective skincare. The brand wants to help its customers achieve their best looking skin, rather than covering it up with makeup. A few products to consider include Formulyst Clarifying AHA Cleanser, which is designed to give a skin a gentle but effective cleanse. The formula contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) derived from citrus and botanical extracts. These acids work by dissolving dead skin cells and drawing out impurities from the pores to reveal smooth, refreshed skin.
If you want smoother looking skin, skip the harsh exfoliators and add a gentle chemical exfoliation to your routine. Formulyst Retexturing and Perfecting Serum is powered by AHAs which works to dissolve dead skin cells. Packed with plant based acids, it whisks away old skin cells, leaving behind fresher, smoother looking skin. The serum also works to on unevenness and blotchiness.
Another product to add to your routine at night is Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Night Cream, which is crafted with a nutrient-rich blend of plant oils, essential fatty acids and omega oils, including macadamia integrifolia seed oil. But hydrating isn’t the only thing it does. The Anti-Aging Cream does a little bit of everything. It gently exfoliates the skin to reveal a fresher, smoother looking complexion, while soothing the skin. It is gentle enough to be used every night, and also helps to visibly brighten dark spots and soften fine lines. Skin looks softer, smoother and radiantly revived when you wake up.