Isn’t it ironic (and incredibly frustrating) that the more we smile and laugh, the more pronounced the lines around our mouths become? Known as smile lines, laugh lines or nasolabial folds, these are the lines that extend from either side of your nose down toward the corners of your mouth. But that’s not the only factor at play: “Smile lines are caused by a loss of facial volume that occurs with aging,” says Washington, D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD. “Essentially, the facial foundation sags and leads to development and deepening of the nasolabial folds. Facial volume loss can be caused by intrinsic aging, genetic predisposition, rapid weight loss, running—with a loss of total body fat—and certain medications.”
Other factors that can cause more pronounced nasolabial folds include smoking, environmental pollutants and sun exposure. “UV exposure speeds up the aging process, leading to wrinkles and an uneven skin texture,” adds Dallas dermatologist DiAnne Davis, MD.
So which treatment approach should you take if your smile lines have become that thing you can’t stop staring at in the mirror and you want them to disappear? Beverly Hills, CA dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD says it depends on the severity of the lines. “Topical skin-care products can help temporarily in many cases if the wrinkles are mild or moderate, but if they are deeper—they extend from the corners of your nose to the corners of your mouth like fully demarcated parentheses with resulting shadows around your mouth—in-office procedures like fillers and lasers will be necessary for a noticeable result.” These are nine treatments to know about if smile lines are a concern.
At-Home Skin-Care Treatments
For those people whose smile lines fall on the more moderate-to mild side, Dr. Shamban says there are topicals that may help alone or in combination for temporary improvement. These are ones to try.
1. Acid-Based Products That Smooth and Plump
“A chemical or physical exfoliant, including combinations of alphahydroxy acids, like lactic acid, and betahydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, will help smooth the area,” says Dr. Shamban. “Polyglutamic acid will infuse hydration to keep the skin plump and make the lines less visible around the mouth.” The INKEY List Polyglutamic Acid Hydrating Serum ($15) is a good place to start.
Vitamin C is also technically an acid—ascorbic acid—and Dr. Davis recommends incorporating a good vitamin C product into your routine for not only collagen-boosting effects that can benefit the smile lines, but also antioxidant properties. Here is a comprehensive list of vitamin C products recommended by dermatologists as the best money can buy.
2. Medical-Grade Silicone Patches
Medical-grade silicone patches can create an environment that helps skin retain moisture. “This keeps the area hydrated and appearing plumper, reducing the visible signs of fine lines and wrinkles,” Dr. Shamban says. Two types of patches we like for smile lines are SiO Beauty Eye & Smile Lift Patches ($30) and Frownies Corner of Eyes & Mouth Wrinkle Patches ($24).
3. Microneedling Patches
“Patches with micro-cones or ‘needles’ infused with peptide serums, retinol and hyaluronic acid or polyglutamic acid can give smile lines a temporary boost and smoothing effect,” says Dr. Shamban. Two to try: Dēpology Deepcare+ Serum-Infused Micro Dart Patches ($72), which contain 1,000 micro-darts that penetrate the skin to deliver serum full of hyaluronic acid and argireline, and RoC RETINOL CORREXION Deep Wrinkle Targeted Patches ($20), which add retinol into the mix. During clinical testing, 97 of participants had visibly reduced wrinkles in two hours.
4. Retinol and Vitamin A Derivatives
“The best topical products to address smile lines are those that are vitamin A derivatives,” says Salt Lake City facial plastic surgeon P. Daniel Ward, MD. “These products, including retinoids, retinol, etc., are going to be the very best option, as they help smooth the appearance of lines and boost collagen and elastin. I like the FormRX skin-care line, which is medical-grade and effective at treating this area topically. Always remember to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen when using retinol—and even if you’re not—as well.”
Beverly Hills, CA facial plastic surgeon Kimberly J. Lee, MD adds that the reason why we get smile lines is because we lose elasticity and collagen, causing the skin and tissues to sag, so products that bolster collagen formation—or slow its breakdown—like retinol, can help delay this process.
You may recall seeing the “Botox Trick” go viral on TikTok back in 2021, which can have some temporary topical benefits, like minimizing the appearance of smile lines. The “trick” involves mixing a 10-percent argireline solution (argireline is a potent biomimetic peptide) and 10-percent Matrixyl, a peptide that has been shown to stimulate collagen production to create thicker dermal tissue over time. “Cosmetic ingredients like these can interact on some level at the synaptic junction and work well with injectable neuromodulators to help relax muscle contraction to improve lines,” Dr. Shamban says.
In-Office Solutions for Longer-Lasting Results
For those in search of achieving visible results quickly, seeing a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon for an in-office treatment will be your best bet.
1. Hyaluronic Acid Fillers
“Over the last two decades, hyaluronic acid (HA)‐based fillers have become the material of choice for dermal correction in our soft tissue based on their ability to produce immediate, predictable, and in most cases, natural‐appearing results in key areas of the face like the smile lines,” says Dr. Shamban. “Each brand has a product category with a range of HA filler options in terms of viscosity and density, which, when injected properly, have exceptional outcomes with excellent safety and tolerability profiles for this area.”
“My personal favorite filler for the smile lines is Restylane,” says Dr. Ward. “This is the first non-animal hyaluronic acid filler that was produced—it’s made of non animal–based HA—and I still think it is the best one.”
Dr. Shamban also loves another classic, Juvéderm, and two newer options, Revance RHA 3 and RHA 4. “RHA is particularly great in this area, and all dynamic areas of the face,” she says. “It uses a gentle manufacturing process with only a few chemical modifications, resulting in a gel that closely mimics the natural HA found in one’s own skin. They also have a high ‘stretchability.’ Think of it like a trampoline: a material with a spring that expands or stretches and has the ability to rebound with each smile or expression, keeping a natural look. RHA 3 can be used for moderate nasolabial folds, and RHA 4 is best for deeper folds.”
Dr. Lee says fillers have become extremely sophisticated over the past several years. “With faces, I prefer a natural look, so I favor fillers that have some elasticity to accommodate for the dynamic movement of the mouth and laugh lines when talking, smiling or laughing,” she says. “For the smile lines, I like Restylane Refyne and Defyne because they just don’t sit in the laugh lines when talking, but rather they look natural and part of the face.”
Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley C. Loss, MD favors Revance’s RHA 3, as well as Restylane Defyne. “These are great for nasolabial folds because they are more dynamic and not as stiff as some of the first-generation fillers.”
2. Biostimulatory Fillers
Another group of fillers known as collagen biostimulators—they boost your body’s own collagen production—provides longer-lasting results than hyaluronic acid fillers. “I like Radiesse, which is made of calcium hydroxyapatite gel and can be used to help erase more moderate smile lines, or even severe ones in some cases,” says Dr. Shamban.
3. Cheek/Upper Face Fillers
Dr. Alster says fillers are the best treatment for prominent nasolabial folds, but some patients may benefit from injections elsewhere on the face for a balanced result. “Not just in the folds themselves, but more importantly, the upper portions of the face to replace dermal volume,” she explains. “If injections are only performed in the smile lines, the root cause—volume loss—will not be addressed, and the cosmetic result will not hold. It’s like putting a new roof on a house foundation that isn’t stable. The whole house will cave in.”
Dr. Loss also finds that treating the cheek area and revolumizing the upper face helps with the nasolabial folds. “Hyaluronic acid fillers Restylane Lyft and Restylane Contour, or even biostimulatory filler Sculptra is great for the cheeks.”
4. CO2 Laser Treatments
“I personally think there is nothing better for smile lines than a CO2 laser,” says Dr. Ward, who uses the Candela CO2RE laser. “CO2 laser treatments often take aggressive settings with multiple treatments, but they work amazingly well. They tighten the skin and also produce additional collagen in the skin to help diminish the lines and pigment in these areas.”
Radio-frequency microneedling is another noninvasive option for improving the appearance of smile lines, which involves delivering energy into the skin to stimulate collagen and tighten skin. “Treatments like Vivace and Morpheus8 can help boost collagen and elastin in the area around the mouth for smoother, firmer skin,” Dr. Shamban says.