Lipstick Lines

Lipstick lines are the lines above the top lip, that run between the lip and the nose.

They are sometimes named ‘smokers lines’, although this term is somewhat erroneous. Although smoking will make these lines worse – in the same way smoking makes all wrinkles worse – almost all women develop these lines over time anyway, regardless of whether or not they smoked. One of the biggest complaints I hear in the clinic is ‘I have lipstick lines, but never smoked’. That is because they are not caused by smoking. It is repetitive movement of the skin around the mouth that causes them. Curiously they rarely develop on men, perhaps due to the thicker skin on mens faces. Many women fixate on these lines, usually due to magnifying mirrors used for doing their eyebrows. In generally my advice is that they are only worth treating if they are visible at conversation distance to a casual observer.

Non-surgical treatments for lipstick lines include:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Laser Resurfacing

This is broadly considered to be the gold standard treatment for upper lipstick lines. The CO2 laseworks by burning the top layers of the skin off, which in turn generates a healing response. Traditional laser resurfacing burns the entire surface of the skin off. More recently advances in ‘fractional’ technology means that only a percentage of the skins surface is removed, using microscopic laser beams. This has the effect of still stimulating a healing response, but with a shorter recovery period afterwards. The CO2 laser we use is the CO2RE from Syneron-Candela, which has the ability to work in both full field and fractional mode. For treating lip stick lines we normally use it in full field mode. The down time from this procedure is usually around one week, although it can be up to 10 days with deeper treatments. With the deepest settings, there can be some persistent redness in the skin following this treatment for up to a couple of months, although this can normally be covered using make up. You will normally notice a benefit from this treatment after one session, although occasionally two or three sessions are required to achieve optimal results with the deepest wrinkles.

Injections of Facial Fillers

This works by plumping the skin below the wrinkle, reducing the depth of deeper wrinkles. This is most effective for the deeper wrinkles that are present when the lip is at rest (static rhytids). A lot of women are scared of using dermal fillers in this area for fear of achieving a duck lip or the Marge Simpson look. This will not happen so long as the filler is injected by an experienced and skilled practitioner.


This is an old fashioned method of skin resurfacing using a rotating wire brush. Due to the lack of control with this technique, the results can be unpredictable. There are few doctors who still practice this technique since the advent of laser technology.

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