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Do you have smoker’s lines, but you’ve never smoked

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Chronological age and biological age are two different things. The process of aging is only remotely connected to your true age. Your physical appearance is sometimes an indicator of your biological age, which sometimes can be deceptive especially if you have smoker’s lines.

Smoker’s lines, lipstick lines or vertical lines – whatever you call them, are one of the signs of ageing. These stubborn wrinkles may appear around the lips and mouth. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of smoker’s lines. In the U.S. alone, 17.8% of all adults (42.1 million people) smoke cigarette.[1] Regular smoking constricts blood vessels and reduces the oxygen supply to different body tissues, making them age faster and contributes to the development of smoker’s lines.[2] However, you do not have to be a smoker to get smoker lines. In fact, smoker lines mostly affect females whether they smoke or not. The exact cause of the higher incidence in females is not known but they may be related to several factors such as the following:

Light skin: People with light skin are prone to higher level of sun damage, which can accelerate the development of wrinkles such as smoker lines.

Genetic factors: If your parents develop wrinkles or smokers lines earlier, your chances of developing it are significantly higher. Sometimes it’s just the actual mimicking of parent expressions that is the cause of these lines.

Exposure to UV rays: Sunlight can damage the elastin (helps to keep skin flexible and tight) and collagen (helps in firmness, suppleness and constant renewal of skin cells) in the skin. People whose jobs expose them in the sun for long periods of time are at greater risk of developing wrinkles, smoker’s lines and other skin impurities. These jobs include fishermen, farmers, golfers, sailors, gardeners and tanning booth employees.

Repeated facial expressions: People who repeatedly pout usually develop wrinkles and smoker lines earlier than others who do not express emotions often. Interestingly enough, we only see female smokers with these lines. Male smokers tend to purse rather than pout. Approximately half of the females we see are non smokers and hence we can conclude this expression is one of the few expressions predominantly in females. Each time you use a facial muscle, a groove forms under the skin surface. When you are young, the skin springs back, but over time it loses its flexibility to spring back and becomes harder, resulting in more permanent grooves.[3]

Sleeping Positions: The way you sleep may actually result to the formation of smoker lines. No matter how soft your pillow, it puts additional pressure on your face. Over the years, this can etch lines into your cheeks, chin or forehead. Pattern of these lines depends on how you rest your face on the pillow.

Yo-yo Dieting: According to experts, yo-yo dieting (losing and gaining back large amount of weight) can damage the skin. This is due to the repeated stretching of the skin when you gain or lose weight, which damages the elastic structure of the skin.[4] Over time the skin starts to sag and skin impurities occur.

Peri-oral lines are difficult to treat when they become deep, early treatment is recommended. A combination of medical approach and self-help strategies can treat smoker lines:

Botox: This procedure uses Botulinum toxin injection into the muscles to relax them and stop the development of facial wrinkles.

Dermal fillers: They are injected into the target area to fill-in lines, define its appearance and replace lost volume.

Polydioxanone (PDO) threads: This makes use of a fine needle with special dissolvable threads made of Polydioxanone (PDO) to be injected into the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production.

Retinol creams: These creams thicken deeper skin layers and thin out the superficial layers to relax smoker lines and make them look smoother. For long term results, use retinol creams that contain collagen-boosting ingredients.


  1. Smoking & Tobacco Use. Available at:
    http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/. Accessed November 27, 2015.
  2. Tapley, D. (1994). The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide, page 125.
  3. Lees, M. (2012). Skin Care: Beyond the Basics, page 463.
  4. Perry, A., et al (1997). Are You Considering Cosmetic Surgery?, page 7.

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