As a newly-minted 26-year-old, wrinkles are on my B-list of skincare woes. Which is to say, my facial lines aren’t problematic enough to overshadow my oversized pores, but they’re certainly a lurking concern. I’ve always thought the path to prevention was paved with retinol (and it is, partially), but if there’s anything I’ve learned through my wrinkle research at SpotlyteTM, it’s that facial folds can be attributed to repeated muscle contractions. One such contraction is the brow furrow — and I’m all too familiar with it.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
The knitted brow is a natural response to confusion, stress, or intense focus, notes Miami-based plastic surgeon, Dr. Carlos Wolf. In an age where all three of these things — plus smartphone screens — play a role in our daily lives, it’s no wonder many of us have assumed the “tech scowl” as our resting faces. I certainly furrow more than I should — but am I really accelerating wrinkle formation?
Unfortunately, yes. “Constant ‘expression’ movement of the muscles creates lines [over time],” says Florida-based plastic surgeon, Dr. Kailash Narasimhan. Forehead lines in particular go from being dynamic (only present during movement) to being static (present even at rest) over time, he notes. “This includes those ‘eleven’ lines that appear when we knit our brows together.” (Narasimhan notes that many of his patients in corporate, medical, and tech fields are prone to furrowing and squinting because they rely on screens for work.)
How to prevent furrowing
So, how does one calm the furrow — aside from asking a trusted friend to point out when one is scowling at their screen? (Guilty.)
“First off, make sure you use your tech devices in good lighting,” says Narasimhan, who notes that ambient natural light is best. “If you must use your device at night, you can switch your smartphone or tablet to a ‘night mode,’ which is much gentler on the eyes and eyebrows.”
Secondly, check your stress levels. Because chronic stress can cause overall facial tension (including furrowing), Narasimhan points to relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and exercise to inadvertently help slow wrinkle formation. While a calm demeanor won’t directly prevent forehead wrinkles, it certainly can contribute to loosening stress-related tension.
Lastly, you might want to swap that venti coffee for a bottle of water. According to Narasimhan, “Excess caffeine intake and dehydration also contributes to muscle movement, spasm, and [ultimately] deepening of lines.” (This spasming can happen when electrolytes are out of sync from dehydration — which could be a side effect of too much caffeine consumption.) Yikes!
Incidentally, some facials, like this acufacial I tried, are meant to have muscle relaxing effects, both in the long and short term. By targeting and massaging overly-tensed muscles, they can conceivably soften the appearance of facial folds.
I have wrinkles — now what?
While the aforementioned techniques can help slow the development of furrow-fueled lines, those dynamic lines will likely become static lines. And, once they’re “set,” what is one to do? Both pros suggest considering injectable wrinkle reducers as an option for temporarily smoothing the appearance of those wrinkles.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.]
“[Injectable wrinkle reducers can] be [considered] when you notice that your furrow is permanent, even when you’re not making a facial expression,” Wolf says. Ultimately, if an etched-in furrow is apparent enough for you to notice it everytime you look in the mirror, he notes, it might be time to consider injectables. Specifically, injectable wrinkle reducers can temporarily reduce the muscle activity that’s causing the wrinkle, which allows it to appear smoother.
My forehead furrows are not the first thing I notice on my face — yet. When the time is right, though, I’ll certainly consider injectable wrinkle reducers. But for now, I’ll be heading to hot yoga and (trying!) to cut down on my cold brew addiction.