Why These Aren’t Called ‘Smoker’s Lines’ Anymore and How to Treat Them

Why These Aren’t Called ‘Smoker’s Lines’ Anymore and How to Treat Them featured image
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Historically, the vertical lines that form on the lips as we get older have been referred to as “smoker’s lines,” but that term seems antiquated now says Delray Beach, FL facial plastic surgeon Miguel Mascaró, MD. “In general, the main reason why patients get those lines is just from losing volume as they get older. Even now that people don’t smoke as much as they did 10, 20 or 30 years ago, we’re still getting them. Now we call them ‘barcode lines,’” he says.

While the U.S. smoking rate has declined to 14 percent in recent years, far from the 40 percent it once was 1960s, those pesky lines continue to be a common concern, especially in today’s age of personalized metal straws and daily iced coffees. “Genetics, sun damage, and drinking from straws are other contributing factors we can blame for lip lines,” notes New York facial plastic surgeon Dilip Madnani, MD. 

Ladies First

Typically, lip lines are more commonly found in women. “Men don’t get them because we’ve got hair follicles which gives a little bit more cushion, so you don’t see striation of the muscle. In women however, as you start to lose some of that volume, you start noticing,” says Dr. Mascaro.

Filler Fix

While filler is the go-to treatment to add volume to the lips themselves, Dr. Mascaro says it’s not for the best solution for everyone. “The issue with filler in this area is that the skin is very thin in general, even in younger patients, so the filler itself has to be somewhat thin,” he notes. “Even though a thicker filler is going to get rid of the lines, it’s also going to become obvious. So, a thinner filler is best for patients in their mid 40s who are starting to see some lines start to creep up. However, the best way overall to fix those lines to thicken the dermis, or to try and improve the thickness of those little lines, is with resurfacing.”

Buffing Them Out 

Removing the top layer of skin can remove or help improve the look of barcode lines. “In my practice, I recommend laser treatments like CO2 and Erbium, chemical peels and a good skin-care regimen,” explains Dr. Madnani. 

“Fractionated CO2 will thin the the epidermis and thicken the dermis. It’s almost like buffing out a knick in the furniture,” adds Dr. Mascaro. “It’ll polish down the little lines, improve the skin quality and overall tighten those fine lines and wrinkles really well.”

The best way to keep lip lines from getting deeper is to avoid sun exposure and wear a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 or more whenever you go outside. Reach for a balm with an SPF to protect, hydrate and condition lips and the skin around them.

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