As skin ages, it loses elasticity. This natural decrease in collagen and elastin causes wrinkles to look more pronounced, especially around the mouth area. Doctors often treat patients for three common types of wrinkles around the mouth. Lipstick lines, also called smoker’s lines, are the fine wrinkles that extend vertically from the top lip. Marionette lines extend downward from the corner of the mouth and give it a puppet-like appearance, and parentheses lines are the shallow, curving lines at the corners of the mouth.
The least invasive method of treating minor wrinkles around the mouth is a prescription or non-prescription topical ointment. Prescription-strength Retin-A gives skin a smoother appearance. According to Dr. Melvin L. Elson, medical director of the Dermatology Center in Nashville, Retin-A increases blood flow to the areas around the mouth and causes collagen-making cells to collect at the surface of the skin. However, patients must stick with a Retin-A regimen once they begin, or wrinkles will return. Over-the-counter cleansers and lotions containing alpha-hydroxy acids are popular and more gentle alternatives to Retin-A.
During a method called dermabrasion, doctors use a small tool called a dermabrader to sand away the topmost layer of skin. Although effective in reducing wrinkles around the mouth, dermabrasion can leave a scab lasting seven to 10 days. Dermabrasion also affects skin pigment in the treated area, giving it a blotchy appearance.
Doctors use trichloroacetic or glycolic acid to remove superficial layers of skin and to stimulate new growth in a procedure called a chemical peel. Patients usually experience a slight burning sensation as the acid penetrates the skin. Following the procedure, skin is red and flaky as the wrinkled skin literally peels away. Doctors occasionally perform deep chemical peels using phenol acid on patients with severe skin damage. However, phenol acid can be damaging to the kidneys and heart. Because of the dangers of phenol acid, doctors perform the procedure in the operating room so they can closely monitor the patient.
Non-ablative laser treatments are a relatively safe and pain-free way to treat minor wrinkles around the mouth, causing little damage to the surface of the skin. Because the results are gradual, patients usually opt for multiple treatments. Ablative laser treatments are more aggressive and fast-acting because they remove the topmost layer of the skin.
Injectables and Fillers
As opposed to treating surface wrinkles, injectable neutotoxins in the form of Botox and Dysport relax and temporarily immobilize the muscles underneath the skin. Similarly, doctors can inject collagen fillers such as Restylane, Juvederm and Perlane to the areas around the mouth to plump and fill. Occasionally doctors use injectables and fillers simultaneously if the wrinkles are more deep-set, as in the case with marionette or parentheses lines. These treatments typically last four to 15 months.
Though you can’t completely get rid of wrinkles around your mouth, you can prevent them from getting worse. If you smoke, stop. Smoking prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the surface of the skin and can give it a weathered appearance. Also, the constant lip-puckering of smoking contributes to the fine wrinkles above the lip. Drink plenty of liquids. Water hydrates the body at the cellular level and makes the skin more elastic. Finally, apply liberal amounts of moisturizer and sunscreen to rehydrate skin and protect it from sun damage.
- mouth image by Connfetti from Fotolia.com