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Nasolabial Folds: A Guide for Best Solutions & Treatments

Nasolabial folds, commonly referred to as "smile lines," are the prominent creases that run from the sides of the nose down to the corners of the mouth. They are a natural part of facial anatomy, but their appearance can become more pronounced with age. This comprehensive guide will delve into the nasolabial fold, exploring its structure, causes of deepening, and methods of treatment.

What Are Nasolabial Folds?

Nasolabial folds are created by the repeated movement of muscles as we smile, laugh, or speak. These lines are typically visible on all faces but may vary in depth and visibility among individuals.

Nasolabial Folds on Womans Face

The Anatomy of Nasolabial Folds: A Detailed Exploration

The nasolabial folds are much more complex than they seem at first glance. These facial creases are composed of various layers and components that contribute to their visibility and prominence. Understanding their anatomy can provide insight into why they change over time and how they can be treated.

1. Skin

The skin in the nasolabial fold area consists of three primary layers:

  • Epidermis: The outermost layer, made up of keratinocytes, provides protection and gives the skin its appearance.
  • Dermis: The middle layer contains collagen and elastin fibers, which provide strength and elasticity to the skin. Over time, the dermis can thin, contributing to the deepening of the nasolabial folds.
  • Subcutaneous Layer: This innermost layer contains fat cells, providing a cushioning effect.

2. Subcutaneous Fat

The subcutaneous fat in the nasolabial fold area acts as a cushion and provides volume. The distribution of this fat varies among individuals and can change with age, leading to a more pronounced appearance of the folds.

3. Muscle and Connective Tissue

Several muscles and connective tissues interact to form the nasolabial folds:

  • Levator Labii Superioris: Raises the upper lip and deepens the fold.
  • Zygomaticus Major and Minor: Contributes to smiling, pulling the corner of the mouth upward.
  • Orbicularis Oris: The circular muscle around the mouth, impacting the appearance of the folds.
  • Connective Tissue: This includes fascia and ligaments that bind the muscles and skin together.

4. Blood Vessels and Nerves

The blood vessels in the nasolabial fold area supply nutrients and oxygen, while the nerves control muscle movement and sensation.

Woman with Smile Lines

Factors Affecting Nasolabial Folds

The appearance of nasolabial folds is influenced by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Understanding these factors can help individuals make informed decisions regarding skincare, lifestyle choices, and potential treatments.

1. Age

As we age, various changes in our skin and underlying tissues contribute to the deepening of nasolabial folds.

  • Loss of Collagen and Elastin: These proteins provide skin firmness and elasticity. With age, their production decreases, leading to sagging and deepening of the folds.
  • Fat Redistribution: The redistribution and loss of facial fat can lead to a more pronounced appearance of nasolabial folds.
  • Bone Resorption: The facial bones may resorb over time, contributing to a change in the facial structure, influencing the folds.

2. Sun Exposure

The sun's harmful rays can significantly impact the skin, including the area around the nasolabial folds. Using sunscreen for skin health is one of the best things you can do to be proactive about your youthful glow.

  • Ultraviolet (UV) Damage: UV rays break down collagen and elastin, causing premature aging and deepening the folds.
  • Pigmentation Changes: Sun exposure can lead to uneven skin tone and texture, accentuating the appearance of nasolabial folds.

3. Smoking

Smoking is known to cause premature aging, causes smokers lines and affects nasolabial folds in specific ways.

  • Reduction in Blood Flow: Smoking narrows blood vessels, reducing oxygen and nutrient supply to the skin, causing it to age faster.
  • Collagen Breakdown: Certain chemicals in tobacco can break down collagen, contributing to deeper folds.

4. Genetics

Our genetic makeup can determine how our nasolabial folds will develop.

  • Family Traits: If your family members have prominent nasolabial folds, you may be more likely to develop them as well.
  • Ethnic Background: Different ethnicities may have variations in skin thickness, fat distribution, and muscle structure, affecting the appearance of nasolabial folds.

If you want to learn more about how genetics affect your skin health, you can click this link.

How Genetics Affect Skin Health

5. Weight Fluctuations

Changes in weight can influence the appearance of the nasolabial folds.

  • Weight Loss: Losing weight, especially rapidly, may cause the skin to sag, deepening the folds.
  • Weight Gain: Conversely, weight gain might fill in the area, temporarily reducing the appearance of the folds.

6. Facial Expressions

Repeated facial movements and expressions can contribute to the formation and deepening of nasolabial folds.

  • Smiling and Laughing: Regularly engaging these muscles may cause the skin to crease over time.
  • Frowning: Constant frowning may also impact the appearance of these folds.

7. Sleep Habits

Believe it or not, the way you sleep may affect your nasolabial folds.

  • Sleeping Position: Sleeping on your side can press the skin together, potentially deepening the folds over time.

8. Diet and Hydration

What you eat and drink can also play a role.

  • Hydration: Proper hydration keeps the skin plump and may lessen the appearance of nasolabial folds.
  • Nutrition: A balanced diet rich in antioxidants and vitamins can promote healthy skin.

Woman Hydrating Herself with Juice

Natural Treatment Options Nasolabial Folds

Red Light Therapy

As a cutting-edge treatment for skin rejuvenation, red light therapy offers specific benefits for nasolabial folds.

  • Collagen Stimulation: The red light penetrates the skin, stimulating collagen production. This improves elasticity, reducing the appearance of folds.
  • Increased Blood Flow: Enhanced circulation brings oxygen and nutrients to the area, helping the skin heal and rejuvenate.
  • Accessibility: It's a treatment that can be done in a professional setting or at home with specialized devices such as the Glowastica or the LunaWave
  • Safety: Generally well-tolerated, it provides a non-invasive option without the need for recovery time.

Woman Using Red Light Therapy Wand

Facial Exercises

Regular facial exercises can have a positive impact on nasolabial folds.

  • Toning Muscles: Specific exercises target the muscles around the mouth and cheeks, toning and lifting the area.
  • Improved Circulation: Working the facial muscles increases blood flow, nourishing the skin.
  • Non-Costly: Facial exercises are free and can be done at home, making them an accessible option for many.

Skincare Products

Investing in quality skincare products with active ingredients can benefit nasolabial folds.

  • Hydration: Products containing hyaluronic acid can hydrate the skin, giving it a plumper appearance.
  • Nourishment: Peptides and vitamins nourish the skin, promoting collagen production and cellular turnover.
  • Convenience: Many of these products are available over the counter and can be incorporated into a daily skincare routine.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Emphasizing healthy habits can indirectly improve the appearance of nasolabial folds.

  • Diet: A balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals supports overall skin health.
  • Hydration: Drinking enough water keeps the skin hydrated and may reduce the appearance of lines and folds.
  • Avoiding Harmful Habits: Avoiding smoking and excessive sun exposure preserves the skin's natural elasticity and appearance.

Massage Therapy

Facial massage therapy is another natural approach to treating nasolabial folds.

  • Stimulation: Massage stimulates blood flow, encouraging nutrient delivery to the skin.
  • Lymphatic Drainage: It aids in lymphatic drainage, reducing puffiness and improving skin texture.
  • Relaxation: Regular massage helps in relaxing facial muscles, which might soften the appearance of nasolabial folds.

Surgical/Cosmetic Treatment Options


Injectable fillers provide a non-surgical but medical approach to treating nasolabial folds.

  • Volume Addition: Fillers add volume to the skin, filling in the nasolabial folds and giving the face a youthful appearance.
  • Various Options: There are different types of fillers like hyaluronic acid-based (e.g., Juvederm) or calcium-based (e.g., Radiesse) that offer various results and longevity.
  • Quick Procedure: This treatment is usually done in a short office visit, with immediate visible results.
  • Temporary Nature: Fillers are temporary, requiring re-treatment to maintain the results.


Botox, or Botulinum toxin, is another injectable option but works differently from fillers.

  • Muscle Relaxation: Botox relaxes the muscles that contribute to nasolabial folds, smoothing the skin's appearance.
  • Precision: It requires skilled administration to target specific muscles without affecting others, preserving natural facial expressions.
  • Duration: The effects last for about 3 to 6 months, and ongoing treatments are necessary for maintaining results.

Using Botox on Smile Lines

Surgical Options - Facelift

A facelift is a more permanent and significant intervention for treating nasolabial folds.

  • Comprehensive Approach: A facelift addresses not just nasolabial folds but overall facial aging, lifting and tightening the skin.
  • Permanent Results: Unlike fillers and Botox, a facelift offers long-lasting results, often for many years.
  • Recovery Time: Being a surgical procedure, it requires downtime for recovery, potential scarring, and carries general surgical risks.
  • Cost: Facelifts are typically more expensive, reflecting the complexity and permanence of the procedure.

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing can be used to target nasolabial folds by stimulating collagen production.

  • Collagen Stimulation: The laser's heat stimulates collagen production, improving skin elasticity and reducing the appearance of the folds.
  • Controlled Damage: By causing controlled damage to the skin's surface, it encourages new, healthy skin to form.
  • Professional Supervision: This procedure should be performed by trained professionals as it requires precision and care.
  • Recovery Time: Some downtime is required for the skin to heal and reveal its improved appearance.


Microneedling is a minimally invasive procedure that can enhance the skin's appearance, including nasolabial folds.

  • Collagen Induction: By creating micro-injuries in the skin, microneedling stimulates collagen and elastin production.
  • Combination with Serums: It can be combined with nourishing serums to provide deeper penetration and enhanced results.
  • Multiple Sessions: Typically, multiple sessions are required for noticeable improvements in the appearance of nasolabial folds.

Embracing the Nasolabial Folds

While treatments exist, it's essential to remember that nasolabial folds are a natural part of the human face. They add character and are a sign of a life filled with emotions and expressions. Some cultures even celebrate these lines as a symbol of wisdom and maturity.

Woman Embracing Nasolabial Folds

FAQs About Nasolabial Folds

What Age Can Nasolabial Folds Start Appearing?

Nasolabial folds are a natural part of aging and can start to appear as early as in the late 20s or early 30s. Genetics, lifestyle choices, and sun exposure can also influence their development.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Red Light Therapy for Nasolabial Folds?

Red light therapy is generally considered safe and non-invasive. However, overuse or improper use may cause skin irritation or damage. Consulting a professional or following the device's instructions is essential for safe application.

Can Facial Exercises and Massage Therapy Replace Surgical Options?

Facial exercises and massage therapy can help in improving the appearance of nasolabial folds, but they may not provide the dramatic results that surgical options can achieve. They are best suited for those looking for non-invasive and natural means of managing nasolabial folds.

How Often Should Fillers or Botox be Reapplied?

Fillers typically last between 6 to 18 months, while Botox effects last around 3 to 6 months. Regular maintenance is needed to sustain the desired appearance. The exact timing varies depending on individual factors and the specific product used.

Is Laser Resurfacing Suitable for All Skin Types?

Laser resurfacing may not be suitable for all skin types, especially darker skin tones, as it may lead to discoloration or scarring. A thorough consultation with a skincare professional is essential to determine if this treatment is appropriate for your skin type and needs.

Two Women Laughing with Great Skin


The nasolabial fold is more than just a line on our face; it's a reflection of our expressions and emotions. While some might seek to reduce its appearance, others may embrace it as a symbol of experience. Understanding its structure, factors that influence its appearance, and available treatment options can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their appearance. Whether to celebrate or soften these lines, the choice is deeply personal and should be made with consideration and care.

Tatiana Danchenko

Tatiana is a certified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture with more than 15 years of experience in the field. She earned her TCM Diploma from the Canadian College of Holistic Health and is an active member of the CTCMPAO. Tatiana's expertise lies in addressing joint and muscle pain, emotional and digestive issues, insomnia, and stress management. She runs a beauty clinic in Richmond Hill, Ontario, dedicated to providing natural solutions for a youthful appearance.

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