Though we’re quick to get self-conscious about them, laugh lines — those parenthesis-shaped indentations that form around our mouths — point to a life that’s been full of happiness. They even tend to get more noticeable, albeit temporarily, after a particularly uproarious evening. Over time, though, they can become deeper and even remain a permanent fixture on our face. While there are obviously worse things to contend with, sometimes smoothing out those laugh lines can help make you put your best face forward.
Why We Get Laugh Lines
Wrinkles tend to form in areas of repetitive movements, explains Dr. Suzanne Friedler, a board-certified dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology PC. This is why the area surrounding our mouths is so susceptible to wrinkles. Everyday activities like talking, puckering, laughing, smiling, smoking, and even drinking out of a straw make those muscles contract, which can eventually lead to the formation of permanent lines.
“Smoking is extra harmful because the pollutants directly damage the skin and contribute to the fine lines and coarse texture,” notes Dr. Anne Chapas, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology. Ultimately, though, she says that the “depth and severity really depends on heredity and lifestyle.”
Though we’d never recommend that you quit smiling, avoiding excessive repetitive movements such as smoking or puckering, and religiously wearing sunscreen, can help slow the formation of these unwanted lines.
Two Effective Treatments for Laugh Lines
We’re lucky enough to live in a time when we have enough knowledge to not only slow down the formation of wrinkles (three cheers for SPF and scientifically advanced skincare!), but to actually minimize them via a bevy of treatments once they form.
To help you decide the best way to smooth your laugh lines, we asked our dermatologists what treatments they felt were effective.
“Lasers and injectable treatments [may] provide the best solution, [for some patients]” says Dr. Chapas. "We resurface the skin with Fraxel Repair or Fraxel Dual to stimulate collagen production and heal the lines. We fill deeper lines with hyaluronic acid fillers.” (Injectable fillers are a temporary, injectable treatment that instantly delivers volume to areas like the cheeks, lips, and deep wrinkles around the lips.) Keep in mind that, if you opt to do both treatments, they should be staggered to allow time for your skin to recover. Consult with your doctor to find out if these procedures are right for you and to create the best treatment plan. Thinking about a consultation? Chat with a trained aesthetic specialist to find providers near you!
She says that these prices vary across the country, and also according to your doctor and specific needs. On average, you can expect to pay between $600 and $1,000 for filler. Fraxel Dual starts at $1,750 for a full face and Fraxel Repair starts at 5,000 for a full face, respectively. In terms of longevity, Dr. Chapas notes that the effects of the Fraxel Repair can last for several years.
Dr. Friedler agrees with considering different treatments to minimizing laugh lines. She says, “Laser treatments are the longest lasting and will look good for many years, and fillers [can last up to a year].”
Regarding over-the-counter treatments, both dermatologists recommended daily SPF usage, along with creams that contain vitamin A, also known as retinol. With consistent usage, vitamin A can help reduce the appearance of fine lines. We like Kate Somerville® RetAsphere™ 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream ($85). If you're pregnant, be sure to consult your physician before using retinol products. (Learn more about what retinol can do for your skin here.)
Creams and serums that contain collagen, niacinamide, and peptides — which all help to build and repair — can also be effective over the long term. However, products containing hyaluronic acid (a skin-plumping hydrator) and caffeine (which works to constrict and firm) can be temporarily effective. Fresh Black Tea Instant Hydrating Face Mask ($92) contains both hyaluronic acid and caffeine to help make skin look tauter and plumper after application.
However, the most effective way to smooth existing laugh lines is maintaining a thorough at-home skincare regimen to help improve skin’s texture, while using the in-office treatments outlined above to correct deeper lines. Applying skincare products that enhance the results of your doctor’s handiwork will likely help you achieve your desired results. Also, when you’re spending time in the sun, go above and beyond to shield yourself from harmful UV rays. That means wear a large hat, steal some shade, and always re-up on the SPF. And like all anti-aging techniques, these methods work best if you start as early as possible.
“If you’re starting to notice fine lines, be proactive,” adds Dr. Chapas. “These lines are much easier to treat when they are milder and shallower. Once they are ‘etched in,’ they become very difficult to fully eradicate. And of course, don’t smoke or vape.”
Ultimately, laugh lines are the result of one of life’s best gifts: having a damn good time. Keep grinning, but make sure you’re looking out for your skin, too.