prevent and treat smile lines

Worried about smiling for fear you’ll get smile lines?

Don’t. A smile is the best beauty treatment there is. Nothing like happiness to make you look beautiful.

But… smile lines are real. Repetitive facial movements do leave lines on your face. Stop smiling isn’t an option, so what can you really do to prevent and treat smile lines?

What Are Smile Lines?

The name says it all. Smile lines are the lines and wrinkles that form when you smile:

  • Nasolabial folds: They run from the corners of your nose to the corners of your mouth. They usually appear around the age of 25.
  • Crow’s feet: They appear at the corner of your eyes.
  • Bunny lines: Little wrinkles at the top of your nose that occur when you scrunch your nose when smiling/laughing.

Related: How To Prevent And Treat Crow’s Feet


Struggling to put together an anti-aging skincare routine that reduces wrinkles, brightens the complexion, and gives you a more youthful appearance? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):


What Causes Smile Lines?

Smile lines happen naturally. They’re caused by repeated facial movements when you smile or laugh.

It goes like this: the more you repeat a facial movement, the sooner the tissue underneath thins. Add to this the loss of collagen and elastin (the proteins that keep your skin firm and elastic and allow it to bounce back to its smooth self), and those temporary smile lines are not permanently etched on your face.

Like this weren’t enough, losing facial fat as you get older makes your skin sag, so those fine lines look even worse.

You know what this means? Everyone gets smile lines. They’re a natural part of getting older.

But, some people get them earlier than others. Why?

Lifestyle habits are key here. All the usual culprits can make your smile lines appear and deepen sooner than they naturally would. They include:

  • Diet high in sugar: Too much sugar causes glycation, a fancy way of saying collagen proteins get damaged and can’t function properly anymore. Cue sagging and wrinkling.
  • Pollution: Pollutants trigger a cascade of free radicals, nasty molecules that cause premature wrinkles.
  • Smoking: Smoking robs skin of collagen and elastin; it reduces blood flow to the skin, depriving skin of vital nutrients and oxygen; and the repeated facial movements you make while smoking thins the tissue underneath, making those lines permanent. Research shows that smile lines are 3x worse in smokers than non-smokers.
  • Unprotected sun exposure: UV rays are responsible for up to 90% of premature aging. They deeply penetrate your skin, damaging elastin, collagen, DNA, and everything they find on their path. To add insult to injury, this damage is visible only years later when it’s too late to do anything about it.
  • Stress: Stress causes inflammation and inflammation is the root cause of ALL skin damage, from wrinkles to dark spots to acne and even eczema and psoriasis!

Related: I Went On The Low Glycemic Diet And It Transformed My Skin

bioderma pigmentbio daily care spf 50+

How To Prevent Smile Lines

Wear Sunscreen (Every. Single. Day)

Remember when I said up 90% of premature aging is caused by UV rays?

UV rays are sneaky. Especially UVA rays. They’re present from the moment the sun comes up to the moment it comes down, can penetrate through thick clouds and windows, and even get reflected on snow.

You know what that means? You’re not safe from UV harm because you’re indoors, driving your car, or skiing in the mountains. UV rays will get you there, too.

There’s an easy fix: wear sunscreen every single day. No matter what the whether is like or where you are, pile it on it in the morning and reapply it as needed during the day.

The more religious you are with sunscreen, the more slowly your skin will age. I can’t stress this enough. NOTHING else on this list will work if you skip sunscreen.

Best Picks:

  • EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): available at Dermstore and Walmart
  • Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection SPF 50 Sunscreen + WetForce For Sensitive Skin & Children ($42.00): available at  Nordstrom and Ulta
  • Skinceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 ($34.00): available at Blue Mercury and Dermstore

Related: 13 Sunscreen Myths You Need To Stop Believing Right Now

best vitamin C serum: drunk elephant c-firma day serum

Use An Antioxidant Serum

What makes UV rays, pollution, and inflammation so damaging to skin? They all generate free radicals, nasty molecules that initiate a chain reaction that damages collagen, elastin, cellular DNA, and everything else they find in their path.

Enter antioxidants. They’re the good cops patrolling your body looking for free radicals to neutralise. When they do, they stop the chain reaction in their tracks, avoiding so much damage.

The most common antioxidants in skincare are:

  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Ferulic Acid
  • Green Tea
  • Resveratrol
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • And more…

Which one is better? None. Each antioxidant only neutralises one or two types of free radicals. The more antioxidants you use, the more damage you’ll avoid.

Best Picks:

Related: How Pollution Damages Skin (And How To Fix It)

peter thomas roth retinol infusion pm night serum 01

How To Get Rid Of Smile Lines

Add A Retinoid To Your Skincare Routine

If antioxidants help you prevent smile lines, retinoids treat them and reduce their appearance.

Retinoids is a catch-all term for all forms of Vitamin A, including:

  • Granactive Retinoid
  • Retinalhydede
  • Retinol
  • Tretinoin (prescription only)

There are more, but these are the most common ones in skincare. They all have anti-aging properties that fight smile lines and wrinkles in 3 ways:

  1. They speed up cellular turnover, the skin’s natural exfoliating process.
  2. They boost the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm.
  3. They fight free radicals, the nasty molecules that give you wrinkles and dark spots.

The catch? Retinoids are harsh and irritating. Start with a small concentration a couple of nights a week and increase both dose and frequency gradually.

Best Picks:

Related: Retinol VS Retinoid: What’s The Difference And Which One Is Right For You?

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Facial Lotion

Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise

Truth bomb: you can use all the best anti-aging actives in the world, but if your skin doesn’t have enough moisture, it’ll always look like a shrivelled old prune.

Moisture has a plumping effect on your skin. The more moisture your skin has, the plumper and suppler your skin gets. This, in turn, reduces the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

When your skin’s dry/dehydrated, the opposite happens. Without moisture, those fine lines and wrinkles look 3x deep. That’s your cue to add the moisture in, pronto.

P.S. Anyone can have dehydrated skin, especially if they’re using retinoids and other harsh anti-aging actives. Pile on the hydration!

Best Picks:

Avoid Smoking

Easier said than done. Smoking is one of the hardest addiction to kick. But the results are worth it.

Research shows that quitting smoking rejuvenates skin. For real! An Italian study examined the skin of 64 women before and after quitting smoking.

The results are incredible. While they were smoking, their skin was, on average, 9 years older than their biological age. After quitting smoking, there was “an average reduction of about 13 years in the biological age”.

In other words, smoking makes you look older. Quitting smoking makes you younger than your real age!

Related: How Smoking Damages Skin

Botox And Fillers

Let’s be honest: there’s only so much skincare products can do to get rid of wrinkles. If you’re already doing everything above (including using prescription Tretinoin) and not seeing the results you want, it’s time to use the big guns.

  • Botox: It prevents muscles from movement, so it’s better at preventing smile lines than treating them. It’s also more effective for certain types of smile lines, like crow’s feet and bunny lines, than others (nasolabial folds). You need regular top-ups, which can be expensive.
  • Hyaluronic Acid Fillers: Used in the cheek area, they reduce the cheek sagging that contributes to nasolabial folds.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), both Botox and fillers should be administered by a doctor. Saving money could result in a very botched jobs.

Related: How To Find A Good Botox Practitioner

How Long Does It Take To Treat Smile Lines?

It depends on what treatment you’re using:

  • Moisturiser: You should see a small plumping effect immediately.
  • Antioxidants + sunscreen: They prevent smile lines, so if they do their job right, you won’t see results for a long time.
  • Retinoids: Give them at least 3 months to work their magic. Boosting collagen takes time.
  • Botox: Two weeks.

Related: How Long Does It Take Skincare Products To Work?

The Bottom Line

Smile lines are caused by repetitive facial movements and aggravated by all the usual culprits: UV rays, pollution, and natural aging. Use sunscreen and antioxidants to prevent them, moisturisers to make them look smaller, and retinoids, Botox, and fillers to get rid of them.