Give yourself a big, toothy grin in the mirror. Do you notice creases forming on the sides of your nose and mouth? Say hello to your smile lines! Others call them laugh lines, or “nasolabial folds,” if you know your medical jargon. While you can have them at any age, they typically appear more prominent when you’re older. Given this, they have a reputation for being a sign of ageing. Gasp!
Since modern beauty standards dictate you should never look anything but youthful, many people panic at the sight of these harmless lines. They’ll go to great lengths to banish them, like buying expensive skincare, going to dermatologists for treatment, and resorting to other “age-defying” measures.
Of course, there’s no shame in wanting to get rid of smile lines – but it’s okay to embrace them as a unique facial feature, too. Which way are you swaying? Learn more about these curious creases, what causes them, how to prevent them, and why they’re worth celebrating.
What Causes Smile Lines?
To be clear, almost everyone has these lines. They inevitably form and become noticeable when you grin. But when you’re younger, they flatten out as soon as you drop your smile.
It’s when you’re older that they become more permanent. You’ll notice them staying put even when you have a neutral expression. That’s because collagen production naturally slows down as you age, making skin less supple, bouncy, and more prone to wrinkles.
Are you wondering if you can keep them at bay by not smiling altogether? Not exactly. While repetitive facial movements can contribute to fine lines, they’re not the biggest culprit. New York-based dermatologist Dr. Marc Glashofer explains to Time Magazine, “[Ultraviolet radiation exposure from sunlight] is actually the number-one cause.”
The sun’s rays break down collagen and elastin much faster than you can say “cheese.” The best way to shield your skin is by diligently wearing sun protection. Unfortunately, most people still incorrectly apply sunscreen – or, worse, skip it entirely.
According to Cancer Council Australia, 80% of Australians aren’t using it enough. Meanwhile, Channel News Asia reported that only 23.9% of Singaporeans use sunscreen. Australia and Singapore are both known for their bright, sunny environments, so residents from these areas should be extra mindful of sun exposure. Too much sun wreaks havoc on your overall health, not just your skin.
Should You Embrace Your “Smile Wrinkles”?
So, what do you do with these wrinkles once you have them? You can go the self-love route by embracing them and everything they symbolise. Yes, these lines come with ageing, but that’s not necessarily bad. Are smile lines attractive? They can be if you flaunt them with confidence.
Take inspiration from popstar Ariana Grande, who told Vogue audiences in 2023 she wanted “to see [her] well-earned smile lines,” and she hoped they’d “get deeper and deeper.” For Grande, these creases are telltale signs of a life filled with laughter and joy. As she’s matured, she’s grown to appreciate them instead of “hiding” them with Botox and filler.
There’s also supermodel Paulina Porizkova, who proudly shows off her wrinkles and encourages others to do the same. “Look, a woman with wrinkles on the cover of a magazine,” she wrote in an Instagram caption in September 2023. “To look at media today, one would assume women with wrinkles only exist as crones. […] How do we change it? By leaning into it. By accepting the changes that come with time.”
No matter how much sunscreen you wear or how “good” your genetics are, smile lines are inevitable. You may as well learn to love them, right?
Smile Lines Treatment and Prevention
It takes time to develop a more positive self-image and outlook on ageing. No one can blame you for wanting to maintain a youthful glow, given how society vilifies people – especially women – for “looking old” or “tired.” So, what can you do to manage smile lines? Start with these realistic tips.
1. Wear sun protection daily.
The more sunscreen you wear, the healthier your skin will be. Go for a formula with at least SPF30, broad-spectrum defence (to block UVB and UVA rays!), and water resistance. Be sure to reapply every two hours or more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming. And consider putting a wide-brimmed sun hat on during particularly bright-hot days!
2. Quit smoking.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), smoking speeds up skin ageing, causes wrinkles, and gives skin a dull, sallow look. And that’s on top of the other health risks associated with tobacco use, like lung disease, chronic bronchitis, and compromised immunity.
3. Add retinoids to your skincare routine.
Retinoids are a family of vitamin A compounds. Many dermatologists say they’re some of the only active skincare ingredients that can transform skin. You can get prescription or over-the-counter retinoids, with options varying in efficacy. Regular use of a skin-compatible formula can increase collagen production, which helps smoothen fine lines and plump up skin.
4. Consult a professional.
If at-home remedies aren’t cutting it for you, consider getting advice from a professional. A dermatologist might recommend facials and other treatments to tighten skin, while a cosmetic surgeon might suggest going under the knife to get results. Of course, you should only undergo procedures you’re comfortable with. Work closely with a doctor you trust to look out for you.
Should you get rid of your smile lines? Ultimately, it’s up to you and what will make you happy. For some, they’re a welcome reminder of their best days. For others, they’re an unpleasant consequence of growing older. But love or hate them, these wrinkles are a fact of life.
And since you can’t stop ageing, make the most of it by smiling as much as your heart desires. Here’s another option: why not focus on enhancing your smile to draw attention away from these smile lines? Maintain excellent oral hygiene by brushing and flossing, and visit your dentist regularly. Or, you can consider aligner therapy with ClearCorrect to straighten your teeth. Go ahead and smile those worries away!
American Academy of Dermatology Association. (n.d.). 11 ways to reduce premature skin aging. AAD.org.
Cancer Council Victoria. (2019, February 13). 4 in 5 Australians don’t apply enough sunscreen – are you one of them? Cancervic.org.au.
Heid, M. (n.d.). You Asked: Can Smiling A Lot Really Cause Wrinkles? TIME Magazine.
Soh, K. J. (2022, September 11). Commentary: Why aren’t we using sunscreen in sunny Singapore? Channel News Asia.