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Smile Lines: What They Really Are and What You Can Do About Them

If you're healthy and full of life, odds are you smile a lot. But as you hit your 30s, small lines tend to appear around said smile, sometimes making you look older than you really are. So we chatted with two skin experts—Troy Surratt, makeup artist and founder of Surratt Beauty, and Sejal Shah, cosmetic dermatologist and founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology—to see if there’s anything you can (or should?) do about them.

What exactly are laugh lines and are they avoidable? First off, they aren’t really smile lines. “Nasolabial folds are the parenthesis-like creases that can run from the nose to the corners of the mouth,” says Shah. While they can become more pronounced when you laugh or smile, they aren't necessarily caused by these facial expressions. It turns out that lines can be caused by genetics and even just sleeping on your side or stomach. Bottom line: They aren't avoidable because they’re due to intrinsic skin aging.

So how can I prevent them from deepening? Because aging is involved, one way to prevent lines from worsening is to—you guessed it—slow the signs of aging. The best method of protection is always to wear sunscreen. And Shah says it’s also a good idea to stop smoking, get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. Oh yeah, and definitely change your sleep position to your back.

Is it safe to use fillers to soften the lines? “Yes, fillers are a great treatment option because these nasolabial folds tend to become more noticeable as volume is lost in the cheeks,” says Shah. Fillers can be used to replace lost volume in the cheeks lifting the fold up. They can also be used directly into the folds to reduce their depth. Especially if the lines are very deep, you’ll benefit from this kind of in-office procedure, or others like ultrasound or radio-frequency treatments.

What about over-the-counter products? If fillers and procedures are out of the question, you’ll want to opt for makeup to soften lines. Surratt says to make sure your skin is well-hydrated with a serum like Crème de la Mer to fill in and tighten the skin. “One of my favorite products for diminishing lines is YSL’s Touche Eclat [highlighting pen],” says Surratt. “It’s miraculously light-refracting, so it creates the illusion of smoothness.”

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