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Luscious Lips by Valentine’s Day: Banish those Smoker’s Lines

Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to do something for someone special. This year, why not make that person you?

Lip lines (aka smoker’s lines) are those wrinkles- sometimes slight, sometimes profound- that point like Cupid’s arrows from your lips to your nose. Take a close look in the mirror, and you might be able to see them.

How did they get there? There are a couple of reasons for this: smoking and natural aging. If you smoke, you contribute to their formation in two different ways. First, the nicotine in cigarettes constricts blood vessels and restricts blood flow to your skin, causing it to age more quickly. Second, the pursing of your lips around a cigarette causes the skin around your lips to tighten. This action reinforces any wrinkles that are already forming there. Hence the term “smoker’s lines.”

So, does this mean non-smokers are immune to lip lines? Sorry, but lip lines can also occur as part of our body’s natural aging process. Over time, our body loses collagen, the natural building block of our skin. As a result, our skin becomes less resistant to the sun’s damaging UV rays. What’s worse, our skin also loses it’s natural oils as we age. And finally, if that’s not enough, even if we don’t smoke, we used the same lip motion whenever we sip from a straw.

Are lip lines inevitable? Of course not. But the older you get, the more likely you are to have them. Isn’t the real question what to DO about them? Knowing how you got them is the first step to preventing and eliminating them. Contact Dr. Chris Livingston today to see what he can do for you.

Your First Treatment- Prevention

Before you treat your existing lip lines, experts advise that you should limit the number of things that make your skin worse. If you are a smoker, the best thing for your skin is to quit or cut back your usage, although we realize that it may be very difficult.

The other step is one that anyone can take, and it’s a lot easier. Moisturizing. Were you aware that not only does a daily regimen make your skin look better, but it also slows the actual formation of wrinkles? Moisturizers don’t perform miracles, but they do make a visible and immediate difference. Talk to your doctor about what to look for in a lotion. Finally, you may also consider avoiding drinking out of straws whenever possible.

Let’s move on to what you can do about those smoker’s (or non-smoker’s) lines staring back at you in the mirror. The good news is that there are multiple skin treatments that diminish and even eliminate lip wrinkles. Overall, they break into two categories: non-invasive treatments that work on your skin’s outer layers and injections that work underneath the skin.

Non-Invasive Treatment- Chemical Peels

The term chemical peel refers to a wide array of chemicals that, when applied to the body, cause a layer of skin to peel off. Why would anyone want one? The outer layers of our skin get the most exposure to sun, wind, and dryness. They’re like the peel of an orange, protecting the goodness of our inner skin’s layers.

When our damaged outer layers peel away, newer, fresher skin awaits underneath. Often, this younger layer shows less wrinkling and little to no damage by the sun’s rays. For shallow, surface-level wrinkles, a shedding of an outer layer of skin is often all that’s needed to make the dreaded lines disappear.

For deeper wrinkles, additional layers of skin need to be removed. Conveniently, skin peel treatments come in varying levels of intensity from light to medium to deep. In turn, the lasting effect of the chemical peel corresponds with the level of intensity that you choose. Also, as you can guess, the cost of the treatments go up accordingly.

Although they’re considered very effective at treating sun-damaged skin, chemical peels are not for everyone. Patients with tan or darker skin risk a complication called hyperpigmentation, which is when certain parts of the skin may darken, creating spots.

Recovery from a chemical peel usually lasts anywhere from a few days to a week. Again, it depends on the depth of the peel. During this time, your skin will be sensitive to sunlight, and you’ll need to follow your doctor’s instructions for moisturizing. Ultimately, your peel can last several months to years, depending on the choice of treatment.

Non-Invasive – Laser Skin Resurfacing

Laser skin resurfacing is a very effective tool to enliven your skin. Laser resurfacing machines have evolved into sophisticated devices that deliver the optimal amount of energy needed to trigger your skin’s renewal.

The system works its magic by emitting enough heat and light in a narrow beam to cause layers of skin to peel off, revealing newer, healthier skin. The tiny micro-injuries make your skin react by shedding the burnt cells.

At this point, you might think it does pretty much the same thing as a chemical peel. But you would only be partially correct. Yes, both treatments do cause the skin to peel. Laser skin resurfacing is different, however, in that it injures the skin in a pattern that leaves some older skin untouched.

This approach stimulates more collagen production than a chemical peel, therefore improving the internal structure of the skin, not just its appearance. When fortified with collagen, our skin is more supple and resistant to gravity.

Depending on the depth of your treatment, you want to take one or more days off work to recover. And you also want to plan on your skin peeling over the next four to seven days and need to avoid direct sun exposure for about three months. Overall results should last about three years.

Finally, from a cost standpoint, laser skin resurfacing may cost as much or more than a chemical peel depending on your needs and the treatments you choose. To be wholly beneficial, a licensed and board-certified plastic surgeon should administer laser treatment.

Injection- Botox

Sometimes, to win the battle against lip lines, you need to attack the problem from the inside. The damaged outer layers of the skin may be where wrinkles start, but the deeper tissue also has a role to play.

By now, most of us have heard of Botox injection. Its name comes from the toxin Botulinum A. Yes, you read the right, Botox contains a toxin. Before you jump back in horror, understand that your skin does a remarkable job of safely carrying and securing the substance. Botox has been used safely for several years. It is one of the highest-rated treatments on the independent plastic surgery site RealSelf.com as being “Worth It.”

To put things in perspective, Botox is also one of the commonly-used therapies in plastic surgery. In the hands of a skilled physician, it’s widely considered safe.

In addition to its safety, patients often choose Botox out of convenience. It’s one of the quickest procedures you can receive, taking only around 10 minutes or so. It works by interrupting the connection between the nerves in your skin and the underlying muscle.

Have you ever noticed how wrinkles can appear when you make certain facial expressions? By suspending the connection of your skin to your muscles, Botox can cause smoker’s lines and other wrinkles to smoothen out.

As lovely as this effect is, it’s not permanent. Botox recipients can expect it’s benefits to last three to four months. That’s because, over time, your nerves gradually reconnect to the muscles as your body eliminates the toxin. One bonus during this time is that your skin gets a break from wrinkle formation. As a result, multiple treatments can build on each other and give your skin an extended vacation from aging.

Compared to the other treatments discussed so far, Botox may be the least expensive option to start with. Consult with your physician for details. Also, keep in mind that Botox only works underneath the skin, so it won’t fix sun damage the way peels and lasers do.

Injection – Juvéderm

While Botox may have caught all the initial attention in the media, another class of treatment has grown in popularity. Injectable fillers like Juvederm have become widely accepted. Allergan, Juvederm’s manufacturer, claims to be the number one selling dermal filler in the world.

Juvéderm Volbella is an injection formulated specifically for use in the lips. But, unlike Botox, it’s not a toxin. Instead, it contains hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring substance in the skin. In the case of smoker’s lines, injections are made directly into the lips using the volume of the solution to provide fullness.

This additional lip volume smoothens wrinkles from the inside out. Instead of interrupting the communication between nerves and muscles, Juvederm simply fills and widens the space inside the skin. It’s like creating a tiny gel-filled balloon under the skin.

As with Botox, patients appreciate that they can receive Juvederm treatments and return to work the same day. Some patients, however, may prefer Juvederm because no toxins are involved, and its effects are said to last about six to eight months.

Lastly, from a cost perspective, Juvederm starts at a higher price per procedure than Botox, but again, it lasts twice as long. It’s important, before going price shopping, to consider that a licensed, board-certified plastic surgeon like Dr. Livingston will give you the best possible results.

Combining Treatments

Yet another reason to work with an experienced plastic surgeon like Dr. Livingston is that he will offer the best combination of treatment options that are right for you. Some patients might combine Juvederm with a laser resurface or Botox with a chemical peel. Factors like cost, comfort, and your personal aesthetic goals will ultimately decide what treatments are right for you.

To learn more about these and many other treatments offered by Dr. Chris Livingston, contact his staff to set up your appointment at (281) 501-1812. But hurry, Valentine’s Day is coming. It’s not too late to treat yourself!