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How to treat smile lines

  • Story Highlights
  • Wrinkles come with age because of less fat, loss of elasticity
  • Injectable fillers can replace volume and diminish wrinkles
  • Botox can relax muscles, lessons appearance of lines
  • Protect skin from sun to prevent skin damage
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By Alysia Poe
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(InStyle) -- Life is full of reasons to smile, but expressing joy can cause lines to form around your eyes and mouth. Luckily, you don't have to grin and bear it. Read on for tips to keep creases at bay and make skin look smoother and younger

Naomi Watts confidently flashes her radiant smile.

Why wrinkles form

1. Decreased volume

Over time, skin loses fat and produces less hyaluronic acid, a substance that retains moisture. As a result, mature skin is thinner and drier than young skin.

"Like a helium balloon the day after a party," says Beverly Hills dermatologist Mark Rubin, "when skin is not filled to the same degree, you'll see crinkling on the surface."

Minimize the effects

Apply moisturizer to temporarily rehydrate (and plump up) the skin. For more help, try filler injections.

2. Loss of elasticity

As skin ages, the collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis break down, reducing skin's ability to "snap back" from smiles and other facial expressions. Exposure to sunlight accelerates this process, especially UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB rays.

Minimize the effects

Wear broad-spectrum sunblock (look for such ingredients as Mexoryl, Helioplex and avobenzone), and apply an antioxidant cream daily. To build collagen, try products with vitamin A, peptides or growth hormones.

3. Repetitive motion

Dynamic movements that cause the skin to repeatedly crease in the same place, such as smiling, will wear down the underlying tissue in that specific spot, creating a line that remains after muscles relax.

Minimize the effects

Smiling is essential, but you can limit other motions that deepen crow's-feet. For example, wear sunglasses to keep from squinting in bright light. For the most dramatic results, consider Botox.

Expert help for smile lines

For fast results, consider in-office procedures for trouble spots.

1. Injectable fillers

Collagen and hyaluronic acid fillers (like Restylane) can be injected directly into wrinkles to restore volume loss. Collagen is thin and more viscous, making it easier to apply under thin eye skin. By contrast, hyaluronic acid, which is denser and lasts longer, is better suited for filling the nasolabial area (the lines from mouth to nose).

Primary area of use: Crow's feet and nasolabial folds

Costs: Collagen: $250--$550 per area; hyaluronic acid: $300--$850 per area

Lasts: Collagen: 3--4 months; hyaluronic acid: 6--12 months

Downtime: Swelling can last 1--2 days; some slight redness.

Risks: Bumpiness and bruising

Our experience: These deep injections hurt, but our tester saw immediate improvement in nasolabial folds. She had no swelling.

Insider tip: If you get a bump, massage the area within 24 hours to smooth it out.

2. Botox

Botulinum toxin, aka Botox, "relaxes the muscles, so when you smile, the skin won't crinkle up in the area around your eyes," says Michigan dermatologist D'Anne Kleinsmith. Limiting repetitive movements prevents the formation of wrinkles in those areas and lessens the appearance of existing lines.

Primary area of use: Forehead, brow lines and crow's-feet COST $200--$500 per area

Lasts: Approximately 3--4 months

Downtime: Virtually none, but slight swelling (that looks like a welt) may last a few hours following the injection.

Risks: Drooping of the eyelid or brow (rare)

Our experience: Slightly painful. It takes three to four days for dynamic wrinkles (that appear when you make facial expressions) to disappear.

Insider tip: Avoid blood thinners such as ibuprofen or aspirin before treatment; they increase the risk of bruising.

At-home treatments

Use topical products to look better today -- and tomorrow.

Instant fix

"Anything you can do to hydrate your skin softens the appearance of fine lines," says dermatologist Susan Weinkle of Bradenton, Florida. For spot treatment of wrinkles, a product with a thick, cushiony feel fills in cracks better than a thinner cream or serum.

Try: Estée Lauder Perfectionist Correcting Concentrate for Deeper Facial Lines/Wrinkles.

Long-term help

Nothing will turn back the clock or erase damage caused by sunbathing, but you can stimulate the production of new collagen to bolster the skin's thickness and firmness. Look for products with retinol (like Clinique) or peptides (like Olay).

Try: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting cream or Clinique Zero Gravity Repairwear Lift. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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