Some people will tell you that laugh lines are signs of a life well-lived. Perhaps this is true (as the name suggests, they are caused by grinning). That said, prominent laugh lines around the mouth can be decidedly joyless. Perhaps you’ve heard them referred to as parentheses, or nasolabial folds. According to California-based dermatologist, Dr. Anna Guanche, “These lines run from the lateral side of the nose to the corners of the mouth.” (Not to be confused with marionette lines, which run from the lateral corners of the mouth to the chin.)
How laugh lines are formed
As with any wrinkles, laugh lines develop in response to repeated muscle contractions underneath the skin. (Read more about how wrinkles are formed here.) “Every time you smile (or laugh), a muscle called the levator anguli oris contracts,” explains Dr. Guanche. “Over time, this repeated motion deepens the parenthesis [lines].”
How to prevent the parentheses
Of course, you can’t choose your genes; and swearing off smiling is hardly an option. (“It is nearly impossible to stop smiling through life, and I don’t recommend it!” says Guanche.) Luckily, you can take preventive action against parentheses — and other wrinkles — by maintaining habits that support skin firmness and elasticity. First and foremost, Florida-based dermatologist, Dr. Hollie Hickman stresses the importance of sun protection (UV rays can lead to premature skin laxity, including around the mouth). Staying hydrated, eating well, and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle can also help prevent these lines.
How to treat smile lines once they start
If you notice parentheses lines deepening, it might be time to rev up your collagen production. One way to do this is with professional peels and/or laser treatments, which can spur collagen production, and consequently fade parentheses lines. Hickman recommends the Clear + Brilliant® Laser, as well as the Halo™ or broadband light (BBL) lasers. While these treatments work differently (read more about them here), they can ultimately fade the appearance of noticeable lines around the mouth.
How to make bothersome lines look better
If your parentheses lines have become more than a parenthetical concern (i.e. they’re deep etches and/or folds), lasers and/or topical anti-aging products might not be enough to plump them up. In these cases, some makeup pros recommend applying silicone and/or hyaluronic acid primers to the area. These types of products can make wrinkles appear less prominent by creating a smoother, less-creviced canvas for subsequent makeup, i.e. foundation. (Unfortunately, like foundation, these products wash down the drain at the end of the night.)
How to treat moderate to severe nasolabial lines
For a longer-lasting (albeit still temporary) treatment for deep nasolabial folds, Hickman and Guanche both recommend injectable filler — a substance that can be injected below the skin (and consequently lessen crevices) in the nasolabial area. “Injectable filler [temporarily] treats [nasolabial] lines by replacing lost volume,” Hickman notes.
If you’re wondering whether those parentheses lines are severe enough to be plumped with injectables, read more about how to tell when a wrinkle is ready for aesthetic treatment here.
[Editor’s note: Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, it has potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.]