What do your lips and lip contour say about your age?

One of the questions I get most often about caring for one’s skin is if it is ok to use an eye contour cream on the lip contour. Indeed, both contours give away our age: the former (eye) through the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, droopy eyelids, and dark circles; the latter (lip) through the appearance of those “smoker’s lines,” bleeding lipstick, loss of volume and sometimes even loss of color. How can we best protect and enhance our lips and lip contour?

First, a review of vocabulary:

– The vermilion border is where the lips (upper and lower) meet the surrounding skin of the mouth

– The vermilion border of the upper lip is often referred to as Cupid’s bow (given its shape)

Second, an anatomy lesson:

– The skin of the lips is much thinner than any other skin on our body, containing many fewer layers

– Because it is so thin, the underlying blood vessels are highly visible, which is what gives lips their pinkish or reddish color (this effect is less pronounced on darker skin types)

– The skin of the lips contains fewer melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) than the rest of our skin (again, this is less true of darker skin types)

– There are no hair follicles on the skin of the lips (gross!)

– There are no sweat glands on the skin of the lips (re-gross!)

– There are no sebaceous glands on the skin of the lips (ok, stopping with the gross now)

– As we all know, the skin of the lips is very rich in nerve endings however…

Because of all of these differences (fewer layers, no protection via sweat or oils), the skin of the lips dries out faster.

The skin of the lip contour, however, is not that different from the rest of our facial skin. It is, however, much thinner than the skin of the eye contour area. While using an eye contour cream in the lip contour certainly will do no harm, it is not that different from using your anti-aging facial moisturizer on your lip contour.

In terms of protecting and enhancing lips and the lip contour area, here are a few of my father’s (dermatologist Dr. Polla) favorite tips:

Lip contour

  1. Avoid smoker’s lines by not smoking
  2. Don’t drink with a straw: did you ever notice the shape your moth makes when you drink with a straw? Very comparable to the shape you make when you smoke… (the same thing could be said, although to a lesser extent, about to-go cups with lids)
  3. If need be, don’t hesitate to turn to electrolysis or laser hair removal (rather than plucking any pesky hairs in the lip contour area)
  4. When need be, given the potential appearance of the vertical lines in this area, do go to your dermatologist to explore the option of filling in these lines

Lips

  1. Exfoliate your lips with your facial scrub, as you do the rest of your face
  2. Protect your lips with an SPF during the day, as you do the rest of your face
  3. Don’t lick your lips repeatedly, as this will dry them out
  4. Don’t believe the myth that is you use lip balm regularly, your lips will end up drier than if you didn’t
  5. When need be, given the usual loss of volume with age, do go to your dermatologist to explore the option of adding volume back with fillers
  6. Do not go overboard with fillers and end up with “duck lips”

And, as my Mom always said and continues to believe, when all else fails (bad hair day, bad heart day, overall bad day), wear bright red lipstick. My current favorite: Cruella by NARS.

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