Look in the mirror, push your eyebrows together, and you may see two lines form in between your brows. These, ladies, are often referred to as “the elevens.” The elevens are vertical frown lines that sit between your brows and look exactly like the number they’re named after. Not everyone gets them, but many people do and for them, trying to figure out how to minimize their appearance is par for the skincare course. With dermatologist insight, we’ve broken down what the elevens are, how they form, and how to minimize them.
A Quick Lesson on The Elevens
Dr. Sejal Shah, a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of NYC’s SmarterSkin Dermatology, explains that the space between your eyebrows is called the “glabella”, and the elevens that appear there are referred to medically as glabellar lines. Once formed, they’re considered dynamic wrinkles, or wrinkles that develop from repeated muscle movements, notes Dr. Shah. She explains that they differ from static wrinkles, which are the result of gravity and time.
“A primary cause of these lines is repeated muscle movement, so people who are very expressive may see them earlier than individuals who are less expressive,” says Dr. Shah. “[Also], when you are young and furrow the brow, the skin generally bounces back. But as you age and as your skin loses collagen and elasticity, it doesn't bounce back as readily so the lines become more ingrained.”
When you can expect them to appear is ultimately a not-so-perfect storm of genetics, adding more candles to your birthday cake, and exposure to factors known to cause premature aging, such as excessive sun exposure and hygiene, explains Dr. Shah.
It’s possible you may notice them at any age, adds Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist with NYC’s Schweiger Dermatology Group. She notes, “It depends on your own personal facial expressions, the strength of your muscles, and how frequently you make the facial expressions that contract that central muscle.”
How to Prevent The Elevens
The best way to help prevent or delay the elevens from forming is a proactive skincare routine that involves religious protection from the sun, including daily SPF and consistent use of hats and sunglasses. Not only will this help prevent wrinkling and fine lines, it will also delay loss of elasticity, development of leathery or crepey skin texture, and hyperpigmentation.
How to Treat the Elevens
While addressing the issue — before it’s an issue — is key, you've still got options if you’ve already developed the elevens.
One of the most effective treatments is the administration of injectable wrinkle reducers, which temporarily smooth the appearance of these moderate to severe lines on the face. The treatment should be administered by a professional (usually a dermatologist or plastic surgeon) when you first notice the lines or when they have deepened beyond the point of your comfort zone.
“Generally, the first-line treatment for these lines is a wrinkle reducer, also called a neurotoxin,” says Dr. Shah. “These treatments relax the muscles and reduce their movement, softening the lines overall.” She also shared that like any prescription treatment, there are potential risks that you should discuss thoroughly with your healthcare provider, ranging from common to serious side effects. She adds that it is not a permanent solution and retreatment is not more often than every three months.
“Essentially these wrinkle reducers temporarily reduce muscle activity so that it stops tugging on the skin,” explains Dr. Brian Eichenberg, a plastic surgeon based in Southern California.
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You can also try other in-office treatments, such as microneedling, radiofrequency, or lasers. Dr. Shah says these treatments are sometimes used for deeper, etched-in lines.
What You Can Do Yourself
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, or even if you’re not, you might want to incorporate over-the-counter products that delay signs of aging into your skincare routine. “Many over-the-counter creams contain an ingredient called retinol, a vitamin A derivative, which stimulates the skin cells to make more collagen and minimizes the look of fine lines,” explains Dr. Nazarian. “Alternatively, using products with glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) will speed up the cell renewal process through exfoliation, also decreasing the appearance of wrinkles and lines.”
Ultimately, checking in with your dermatologist or your preferred plastic surgeon can help you determine the best steps forward in either preventing or treating the elevens. Like most things, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, and you’ll want a personalized plan to delay the formation of the elevens or reduce their intensity if they’ve already made an unwelcome appearance.