We are all aware of how ageing wrinkles in the forehead, between the eyes, and around the eyes can be. One of the areas that people don’t often think about when it comes to facial ageing are upper lip wrinkles & upper lip lines and how to get rid of them.
These wrinkles above the lips can be extremely ageing, are often overlooked, and tend to creep up on us without us really noticing them before they are already well established and very hard to treat. These lip lines are especially noticeable when wearing lipstick, as the lipstick can cake and crack in the lines.
What are upper lip wrinkles or upper lip lines (vertical lip lines) and why do we get them?
Lines or wrinkles on and above the upper lip can be thought as being similar to “crow’s feet”, or the lines around the eyes.
In fact, the muscles around the eyes and the muscle around the mouth are quite similar. They are both “rings of muscle”, which when contracted pull inwards and cause a creasing or “puckering” of the skin.
Try squinting your eyes, then compare it with puckering your lips like you are about to kiss someone or put on some lip stick: both movements cause an upper line of wrinkles or lines radiating outwards.
We tend to notice the lines and wrinkles around eyes more than those around or lips and are more conscious of doing something about them.
As with most lines and wrinkles, upper lip wrinkles come from repeated movement. The two kinds of lines are “static lines” and “movement lines”. Movement lines, as the name suggests, only appear when a particular muscle contracts and the skin above the area creases. When the muscle relaxes, the skin goes back to normal and the line disappears.
With enough contractions over many years, movement lies can turn into static lines; lines that are visible at all times, even when the muscles are not contracted. And once movement lines turn into static lines, they can be very difficult to get rid of! And as with most kinds of lines, upper lip wrinkles tend to get deeper and worse with age.
There’s two reasons for this; the first is simply that over the years all those movements add up. The second reason is that as we age our skin produces less collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep our skin tight and firm, and prevent and minimises the appearance of facial wrinkles.
Over the age of about forty the amount of collagen and elastin produced by our skin starts decreasing and fine lines and wrinkles become much more obvious. Of course, not everyone develops noticeable upper lips lines, so why are some people much more prone to them than others?
What causes upper lip wrinkles and vertical lip lines?
Of course, the most important factor in wrinkle formation is age. As we age, the amount of elastin and collagen in the skin decreases. We also lose fat and bone in the face.
All these mean that the skin becomes much looser and starts to sag, increasing wrinkle formation. The lips themselves also lose volume, becoming thinner and wrinkled. Another factor is genetics, as some people are unfortunately just more prone to wrinkles than others, no matter what they do.
Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do to turn back the clock or to change our genes, so we need to examine the preventable causes of wrinkle formation and see how we could get rid of them.
To put it simply, the two most common preventable causes of upper lip lines are cigarette smoking (smokers lips) and sun exposure. Apart from all the other reasons why smoking is bad for you (and it is terrible for you), it is very damaging to the skin and reduces the amount of collagen and elastin in the skin, as well reducing the amount of blood flow to the skin.
Smokers will start getting fine lines (smokers lines) many years earlier than non-smokers: smoking is incredibly ageing to the skin, especially to the upper lips which are constantly being pursed to puff on a cigarette. As if anyone needed any more reasons to stop smoking.
The second major factor in facial and body wrinkle formation is sun exposure. This goes for all the skin in all body areas, not just on the face and the lips, although the face tends to be more exposed to the sun than other body areas.
The ultraviolet (UV) light in sunlight is also very damaging to skin and decreases the amount of collagen and elastin in the dermis (the second layer of the skin). Without the support and flexibility of these proteins the skin tends to sag, which predisposes to wrinkles.
Not only does wearing a good quality SPF 30+ sunscreen everyday (without exception), wearing a hat and sunglasses, and minimising your sun exposure decrease the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma, it also minimises wrinkle formation.
How to prevent upper lip wrinkles
As we mentioned above, repeated movement of muscles and skin can turn movement lines into static lines. Prevention of movement lines is therefore prevention of future static lines.
Stopping puckering your lips to smoke cigarettes is a great idea, but most people would agree that they don’t want to stop kissing. This is where anti-wrinkle injections can play a role.
Anti-wrinkle injections can be used to mildly relax the muscle around the mouth (“a muscle named “orbicularis oris”). This wrinkle prevention is one of the reasons that many people start getting anti-wrinkle injections into the crow’s feet, frown lines and forehead even before they have static lines.
The only difference is that anti-wrinkle injections into the upper lip is an advanced technique and should be performed by an experience cosmetic injector: too much muscle relaxing anti-wrinkle medication in the orbicularis oris can really affect the movement of your mouth, so it’s important to start with very low doses and build up slowly over time.
Apart from anti-wrinkle injections, regular collagen stimulating treatments can also keep the upper lip free of fine lines and wrinkles.
Our favourite treatment for minimising the appearance of deep fine lines is Laser Genesis. A laser is used to gently heat up the dermis, which the second and deeper layer of the skin, just underneath the epidermis. The heating stimulates the formation of new collagen as well as treating small vessels, veins and redness.
Laser Genesis is truly one of our favourite treatments, as not only are the results amazing but the treatment itself feels lovely. Another added benefit of the non-surgical laser treatment is that there is very minimal downtime; your skin will have a youthful glow for a short time, and there’s no reason why you can’t return to work or your normal activities immediately post-treatment.
How to get rid of upper link wrinkles?
Once the deeper lines and wrinkles have been established in and above the upper lip, they can be very difficult to get rid of, which is why we place so much emphasis on prevention.
However, all hope is not lost, as there a number of the best wrinkle filler for lines around mouth which can help to minimise their appearance and regain those beautiful lips that everybody wants.
The first and best option for upper link wrinkles is lip filler. As I mentioned above, lip volume loss is a major factor in the development of upper link wrinkles and vertical lines. Replacement of volume is key to regaining a youthful appearance, not just in the lips but in the entire face.
The problem is that when so many people hear the words “lip filler injections”, they only think of those huge, overfilled, “duck-face” lips. What I’m speaking about is something much subtler.
I’ve previously written about my lip filler injection technique in a way that replaces volume and aims to accentuate the natural anatomical points of the lips, restoring a more youthful appearance. One of the key points here is the vermillion border, the boundary between lip and skin.
This is the area that can really make the lips “pop” and can really help to smooth out the lip lines and wrinkles. If the lines are deep, we can even inject slightly above the lip to enhance volume and smooth out the lines. If the lines are deep it may require more than one ml of lip filler, but I tend to only inject one ml at a time, as I find that replacing volume is something that should be done slowly, over a period of months to achieve a more natural looking appearance.
Anti-wrinkle Injections are the second weapon against even established lines and wrinkles in above the upper lip. Even if the movement lines have turned into static lines, their appearance and the worsening by movement can be minimised by judicious use of anti-wrinkle injections just above the upper lip.
By reducing the inwards pull of the orbicularis oris muscle, we can even increase the amount of outwards pull, giving what is known as a “lip flip”. The lip pouts outwards ever so slightly more, showing more of the pink, filled lip. Only small amounts of anti-wrinkle injections are needed here.
We’ve already spoken about Laser Genesis as an option for preventing fine lines and wrinkles, and it can also be used in the case of established lines and wrinkles too. Any increase in the amount of collagen and elastin will help to give more structure and elasticity to the skin of the lips.
As Laser Genesis gets quite hot, you’ll need to wait two weeks after getting lip fillers to have the area treated with Laser Genesis. An added bonus of Laser Genesis is it is an effective acne treatment as well.
The final treatment in the fight against upper lip lines is Dermapen. Dermapen is a skin microneedling technology where a series of thin needles create a controlled micro-trauma to the skin and the underlying dermis.
Unlike Laser Genesis however Dermapen does have a few days of “down-time” associated. This is because the treatment is deeper; as a general rule the deeper the treatment, the more collagen and elastin will be stimulated to grow, and the better the results with regards to wrinkles and scarring.
The flip-side of the coin is obviously that the deeper treatments create a longer lasting injury with more down-time. It’s a trade-off that many people feel is worthwhile however, as the results of Dermapen treatment for deep wrinkles and scarring (especially acne scarring) can be quite spectacular.
What is the best option for me?
There’s no one size fits all treatment for upper lip lines and wrinkles, as every face is different; in some people the problem may predominantly be one of volume lost using the best wrinkle filler around the mouth.
In others it may be years of sun damage that will respond well to Laser Genesis or Dermapen, while for some it may be more a case of “prevention is better than treatment”.
The treatment of upper lip lines and upper link wrinkles is a specialised area, and is best seen a team effort and my advice would be to seek a clinic which has both experienced injectors and experienced dermal therapists who can give you an individualised facial assessment and formulate a personalised, multimodality treatment that will address the causes of your wrinkles as well the wrinkles themselves.