No matter how strategic and efficient your skincare routine is, signs of aging are unpredictable. Although you can speculate about how your skin will age based on genetics and lifestyle, there is no way to truly know until it happens. One area of the face where the effects of Father Time may appear suddenly and noticeably is the nasolabial region — or those parentheses-like laugh lines in the fold between your nose and mouth. With age, those creases start to deepen and droop, which can also impact the appearance of the cheek and the lower face as a whole (think: mouth, jawline, etc.).
Unlike some other facial concerns, treating nasolabial folds is rarely as simple as targeting the lines themselves. Because there is such a synergy between them and the rest of your visage, your provider will evaluate the entire face and recommend a treatment plan accordingly. To find out everything there is to know about nasolabial fold rejuvenation, we spoke to a board certified dermatologist and plastic surgeon to get their thoughts on the best treatments and procedures to revive the region.
What Are the Nasolabial Folds?
Also known as laugh lines, the nasolabial folds are the creases that run from the outer corners of the nose to the corners of the mouths on both sides of the face. Depdneding on how you feel about them, the laugh lines may be no laughing matter. Some people are born with more pronounced folds than others, but, as the skin ages, everyone’s nasolabial folds become deeper and more noticeable.
With age, the buccal fat in the cheeks starts to “lose volume and support from the surrounding structures in the skin,” explains Rachel Ho, MD, a board certified dermatologist. “These changes cause hollowing of the cheeks and deepening of the nasolabial folds.” But it’s not the just the cheeks that are to blame. The changes in the nasolabial fold region happen “when the tissues of the cheek start to descend and you lose volume of the upper lip,” notes Stafford Broumand, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstrucive surgeon and founder of 740 Park Plastic Surgery. “It looks like a deep fold or wrinkle.”
How Nasolabial Fold Treatments Work
Whether you’ve always felt like you have prominent nasolabial folds or you just started to notice your laugh lines, don’t be discouraged. There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options to rejuvenate the nasolabial folds (and surrounding features), and what works best will depend on your age, anatomy, and aesthetic goals. Below, a few of the most effective:
1. Dermal Filler
Perhaps the most popular treatment for nasolabial fold concerns, hyaluronic acid (HA)-based dermal filler, like Juvéderm®, Restylane®, and Belotero®, can be artfully injected to lift and smooth the creases without simply plumping up the lines themselves. In some cases, filler is “injected in the piriform fossa — or inferior to the nasolabial fold — to gently lift it and soften the appearance of the laugh lines,” Dr. Ho explains.
For other patients, cheek filler, like the new Restylane® Contour, may be a better option. “When cheek fillers are placed in a strategic manner, the filler can lift the cheeks and surrounding soft tissues and the nasolabial fold,” Dr. Ho shares. By restoring the appearance of a more sculpted cheekbone, the laugh lines will be less prominent. Cheek enhancement can be done alone or as part of a larger liquid facelift. Regardless of the placement, HA filler gives instant — albeit temporary — results that lasts six to 12 months.
2. Thread Lift
Thread lifts in “the mid-face can reduce the prominence of nasolabial folds,” Dr. Ho says. The minimally invasive treatment is popular due to its ability to provide both short- and long-term effects. “In this procedure, fine, dissolvable threads are placed under the skin to mechanically pull up the skin and soft tissues such as the cheeks and nasolabial folds,” she explains. The suspension of the sutures in the skin offers a subtle lift immediately, but it’s how the threads work over time that makes them so desirable.
Internally, a thread lift stimulates the body’s natural collagen production. While the threads break down over the course of a few months (think: three to six) and get absorbed by the body, the collagen remains for a smoother and more youthful appearance.
3. Non-Surgical Skin Tightening
For patients with mild to moderate skin laxity that is effecting the appearance of their nasolabial folds, non-surgical, engery-based skin tightening can help boost collagen production and rejuvenate the skin. Dr. Ho is a fan of high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) treatments because they “transmit [HIFU] energy to the skin of the cheeks and nasolabial folds to remodel the collagen and build collagen in the skin.” Ultherapy®, which is a micro-focused ultrasound (MFU) technology, is another skin tightening option, while radiofrequency-based skin tightening treatments, like Morpheus8® and Thermage®, have also gained popularity in recent years.
Regardless of the technology employed, some swelling, bruising, and/or redness is common after non-surgical skin tightening procedures. Because the treatments stimulate collagen production, it takes three to six months to start seeing the effects. The number of treatments needed will depend on the device and the patient.
Dermal fillers, thread lifts, and non-invasive skin tightening can be very effective nasolabial fold treatments, but, for some patients, a surgical facelift is the most efficacious option. Different techniques, including a mid-facelift, can be employed to specifically target deep creases around the mouth by repositioning displaced fat and removing excess skin in the cheeks and lower face. After a facelift, fat grafting or filler may be recommended to restore volume and further rejuvenate the face.
The Best Candidate for Nasolabial Fold Treatments
If you are bothered by the prominence of your nasolabial folds, you are likely a candidate for at least one of the treatments we’ve discussed. “Patients with volume loss can benefit from the fillers, as fillers can restore volume loss in the face,” Dr. Ho notes. For those who are concerned about skin laxity, both thread lifts and non-invasive skin tightening treatments can boost collagen prodction for a smoothing and firming effect. If you are experiencing more significant signs of aging and sagging in the nasolabial region, a surgical facelift may be your best bet. Consulting with a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon will help to determine the best treatment protocol for your anatomy and aesthetic goals.
More Related Articles
‘Try on’ aesthetic procedures and instantly visualize possible results with AEDIT and our patented 3D aesthetic simulator.