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Do you see the number 11 between your eyes when you look in the mirror? Say hello to your frown lines. Frown lines develop over time and are a natural part of the aging process, but they can be bothersome for some. Read on to learn what causes frown lines and your treatment options—plus, tips for preventing them in the first place.
What are frown lines?
Frown lines, or worry lines, are the vertical lines and wrinkles you see between your eyebrows when your forehead furrows. Some people also see horizontal lines on their foreheads (Kim, 2021). Frown lines fall in the category of eyebrow wrinkles, or glabellar lines, which includes wrinkles between and above your eyebrows (Kaufman-Janette, 2021).
Frown lines develop when you furrow your brows, which you might do when frowning, pouting, squinting, or worrying. They are a type of expression line that appears when you make a facial expression, like smile lines when you laugh or forehead lines when you raise your eyebrows. When you frown, the facial muscles between your eyes squeeze inward, causing these lines to appear. When you are young, your frown lines may disappear after you stop frowning, but as you age, these lines may turn into wrinkles that are visible even when you are not making a frown (Kim, 2021; Kaufman-Janette, 2021).
What causes frown lines?
In a word, aging. Your skin changes as you age. On your face, you may notice less elasticity and firmness. It doesn’t spring back as well as it used to and may start to sag. Your skin cells regenerate more slowly and collagen production slows down. Thanks to fat loss, you have less youthful plumpiness, and the skin gets thinner and looser. Combined, these effects cause your expression lines to become more pronounced, including your frown lines (Ganceviciene, 2012; Park, 2015).
In addition to aging, other factors can contribute to frown lines, including:
Genetics impact your skin type, thickness, and how susceptible your skin is to frown lines and wrinkles (Wong, 2021; Manríquez, 2014; Park, 2015).
Too much time in the sun
Sunlight is no friend to the skin, causing photodamage and negatively impacting the size of your blood vessels (Lee, 2021). The sun’s powerful UV rays attack elastin and collagen, causing frown lines to deepen and be more visible (Wong, 2021; Manriquez, 2014).
Your stress levels
If you’re under a lot of stress, you may feel it physically in your body, including on your face. Walking around with tension on your face is the perfect storm for frown lines to bloom (Ganceviciene, 2012).
Your favorite facial expressions
Making the same facial expressions over and over again—especially ones that involve your frown lines, like being worried or skeptical—can help those grooves deepen (Fujimura, 2012).
Smoking is associated with more wrinkles. Some research suggests 10 years of smoking ages you by 2.5 years (Park, 2015).
Can you prevent frown lines?
The aging process affects us all, but there are some simple lifestyle changes you can take to prevent frown lines, starting with reducing your stress. After all, the happier you are, the less reason you’ll have to frown or furrow (Ganceviciene, 2012).
Eat and drink well
Keeping your skin hydrated is key to good skincare. To protect against frown lines, drink plenty of water and follow a skin-friendly diet packed with vegetables and foods rich in fatty acids (Wong, 2021).
Sleep is important to full body health, including your skin health. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, and try sleeping on your back. Some research has found that sleeping on your side or stomach leads to more fine lines and wrinkles, due to the compression of your face against the pillow (Anson, 2016). Other studies have found no correlation between sleep position and wrinkles, so don’t fret too much if you’re not a back sleeper (Manriquez, 2014).
Protect against sun exposure
Use sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy or gray out. You can take it a step further by wearing sunglasses, offering your eyes further protection and keeping you from squinting and deepening those wrinkles (Ekiz, 2012).
Take care of your skin
Adopt a good skincare routine that includes cleansing your skin daily to remove the debris, air pollutants, and other toxins that prematurely age your skin (Manriquez, 2014). Apply facial moisturizer daily, too, giving the skin between your eyebrows some extra TLC (Rodan, 2016; Ganceviciene, 2012).
How to get rid of frown lines
Some people worry that frown lines make them look angry or upset when they’re not. Others simply don’t like their appearance. To get rid of frown lines, you’ll want to see a health professional like a dermatologist or plastic surgeon for treatment options. Treatments for frown lines include:
Topical adhesive pads
Studies have found that using adhesive pads for 30 minutes improved the appearance of crow’s feet one hour later (Mazzarello, 2018). Adhesive pads prevent your muscles from moving and can create a temporary effect that reduces eleven lines. You stick the pad on the area of your face you want to target, like the frown lines, and leave it on according to the instructions.
The A in vitamin A may as well stand for anti-aging. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that have made a name for themselves as wrinkle reducers. They treat frown lines by boosting collagen production. You can find retinoids in over-the-counter and prescription serums, creams, and other skincare products (Ganceviciene, 2012).
Microneedling describes a procedure where tiny, ultra-thin needles prick your skin via a dermal roller or machine. The procedure looks similar to getting a tattoo, except that no ink is applied. The idea is that the tiny injuries kickstart your skin’s natural healing process, boosting collagen and elastin production, and making your skin less prone to deep wrinkles like eleven lines. Side effects usually only last a few hours to a few days, and typically include redness, irritation, and some pain (Litchman, 2022).
Botulinum toxin (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin) injections are the most popular non-invasive treatment for wrinkles. Botox relaxes your muscles and prevents them from contracting. For frown lines, a healthcare professional will inject the solution in several spots to target the muscles between your eyebrows. The skin between your eyebrows will look smoother, but it can take up to two weeks to see the full results (Small, 2014).
Botox procedures are minimally invasive, causing minimal stinging or burning that should only last a few minutes per injection. Side effects are rare and mild, usually consisting of bruising or headaches that go away within a few days or weeks (Small, 2014). Results can last as long as three to nine months (Kaufman-Janette, 2021).
As opposed to botox, which stops the muscle from moving, dermal hyaluronic acid fillers like Juvederm and Restylane minimize frown lines by adding volume to the skin between your eyebrows. Before the procedure, the health professional may apply a numbing cream to relieve pain. While botox takes a few weeks for the final results, the effects of dermal fillers can be seen immediately and last longer, up to a year (Ganceviciene, 2012).
Surgery for frown lines includes full or partial facelifts. Facelifts tighten the skin everywhere on your face, while a brow lift or forehead lift only tightens the skin on the upper half of your face. The surgical procedure smooths the forehead, minimizing frown lines and other eye wrinkles, and giving you a more refreshed and alert appearance (Hafezi, 2011; Park, 2015).
You will need to undergo general anesthesia for the procedure, and recovery often takes weeks, during which time you may experience pain, swelling, and bruising. Once the swelling relieves, you can see the results (Park, 2015).
Frown lines are just one of the many signs of aging, and they’re very normal. If you don’t like the appearance of frown lines, talk to your healthcare provider about one of these treatment options.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.