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What Causes Laugh Lines and How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Updated on April 30, 2013
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Laugh lines are the parenthesis-like creases that form on either side of the mouth as we age. In the medical world, they are known as nasolabial folds. While they are a small price to pay for a lifetime of happiness and smiles, they can become a dismaying facial flaw. But is it just aging that causes these irksome creases or are there additional factors that lead to their development? And once you have them, is there any way to get rid of them?

Causes of Laugh Lines

The formation of laugh lines happens in much the same way as any other fine lines and wrinkles. Forehead lines, crow’s feet, nasolabial folds, and the like, come from years of recurring muscle contractions. The underlying muscles that control facial expression push the skin into a repeated folding pattern. This slowly etches the wrinkles in with every frown, with each squint, with all puckers, smiles, and eyebrow-raises.

In addition, the aging process of skin makes us more susceptible to these fine lines. As we age, the skin loses elasticity and tissue volume. It also starts to lose its attachment to the muscle. The combination of these changes causes facial skin to sag with the weight of gravity; especially as the cheeks lose tissue volume. It becomes more difficult for the skin to bounce back from damage, and to ward off permanent laugh lines.

If you have a large smile, or smile and laugh frequently, nasolabial folds will likely be unavoidable for you. However, there are other causal factors that you can avoid to help diminish them in the future.

Wear Sunscreen to Prevent Laugh Lines and Other Wrinkles

The sun is a powerful cause of skin damage. Both natural and synthetic UV rays adversely affect essential biochemical processes within the skin. First of all, harsh, prolonged sunlight breaks down collagen. These protein fibers are the fabric of our skin. When damaged, the skin’s firmness and elasticity is compromised. This broken-down tissue is more susceptible to wrinkles, and incapable of properly repairing damage.

Sunlight also produces free radicals within the skin. Free radicals are molecules that become unstable with the loss of an electron. When this happens, that molecule steals an electron from another molecule in order to return to normal. But this new free radical must then steal from a third molecule, and so forth. This destructive pattern is damaging to skin cells.

Don’t Smoke Cigarettes if You Don’t Want Laugh Lines

The chemicals in cigarettes also damage collagen and elastin while nicotine constricts blood vessels, thus preventing essential nutrients from reaching the skin. It is by these mechanisms that smoking cigarettes causes accelerated aging of the skin. Laugh lines and other wrinkles are only one consequence. A study by the American Academy of Dermatology reveals that chain smoking for ten or more years encourages those nasolabial folds to sag into full-fledged jowls.

Treatment for Laugh Lines

If you already have laugh lines, one of the best ways to get rid of them today is through dermal fillers. This includes hyaluronic acid-based Belotero, Restylane, and Juvederm. It also includes calcium hydroxylapatite-based Radiesse.

The filler that is right for you depends on the severity of the creases, your goals, and possible allergies. These treatments are administered through minimally invasive injections, similar to Botox (which is only used for the top third of the face and not for nasolabial folds). The results last up to 12 months when HA fillers are used and up to 18 months when Radiesse is used. Though slightly different, each of these fillers is effective for temporarily eliminating the appearance of laugh lines.

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    • profile image

      Alex 

      17 months ago

      Are there any OTC medications that can be used?

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