Marionette Lines 101: Causes & How To Get Rid Of Them

Elderly Person With Mirror

As you get older, you may find it harder to see past the inevitable wrinkles and recognize yourself in the mirror.

Even at your happiest, pesky marionette lines around your mouth can give the appearance of anger or sadness. Marionette lines are the fine wrinkles that extend downward from either side of the mouth. Even at their most minor, marionette lines can make a woman look older and more tired. 

Fortunately, these annoying wrinkles don’t have to be permanent. In this article, we take a look at the causes of marionette lines, ways to get rid of marionette lines, and tips for preventing them in the first place.

Senior woman face, closeup

What Are Marionette Lines?

Marionette lines get their name from the puppets used by ventriloquists. Just like the puppet’s characteristic jaw slits that allow its mouth to move as if it’s really talking, the marionette lines that plague us humans extend from the very corners of our mouths downwards towards our jaw lines.

For some, marionette wrinkles are little more than fine lines. For others, they are deeper wrinkles that can give the appearance of jowls on the lower face.  At the very least, these aptly named wrinkles tend to make us look older. Unfortunately, marionette lines also make us look angrier and grumpier, too. “Sad lines” are a common nickname for marionette lines.

One thing marionette lines are not are nasolabial folds. Though often confused as such, nasolabial folds are the wrinkles that extend from the lower part of the nose downwards towards the corners of the mouth. Marionette lines and nasolabial folds often begin to appear around the same time in a person’s life. 

What Causes Marionette Lines?

The cause of marionette lines is simple: ageing. Though this may be a frustrating answer, it’s the truth. As we get older, our bodies begin to produce less and less collagen and elastin. With less collagen and elastin, our skin loses its elasticity.

We also begin to lose facial fat as we age. This loss of volume tends to emphasize our every wrinkle and flaw. Genetics, diet, general skin care, and sun exposure are other big contributors to marionette lines, and how severely they develop.

At what age do marionette lines appear?  Marionette lines usually appear around age 40, though some people begin to see signs of marionette wrinkles earlier. As frustrating as they may be, marionette lines are a completely normal part of aging.

Because we all age differently due to our unique genetic makeups, marionette lines can appear anywhere from your late 20s to your late 40s and beyond.  If you are bothered by your marionette lines, there are certain cosmetic procedures that can be done to reduce or completely diminish their appearance.

Non-Surgical Options for Treating Marionette Lines

Most people who are unhappy with their marionette lines opt to begin the process of getting rid of them with non-surgical options. There are quite a few non-surgical cosmetic treatments that are easy, affordable, and most importantly, effective. 

Retinoids

Retinoids are perhaps the easiest and gentlest option with which to start when it comes to getting rid of your marionette lines. Retinoids are synthetic derivatives of vitamin A, and are often used to treat acne, wrinkles, and other imperfections having to do with the skin. Retinoids work by encouraging collagen growth in the deeper layers of skin.  Retinol is an especially common retinoid. 

Dermal Fillers

Dermal fillers consist of hyaluronic acid, a natural substance that kicks off the body’s natural process of producing collagen in the deepest layers of the skin. Because the root cause of the appearance of marionette lines is loss of collagen, this treatment option is often a first choice.

Dermal fillers are simple injections that can be given by your practitioner. They can be done quickly, and are injected directly into the target area -- in this case, right into the mouth and jawline areas.

Two popular dermal fillers are Juvederm and Restylane. The former is best for deeper wrinkles, as it plumps up the skin and results in a more youthful appearance. Meanwhile, Restylane is usually used when the marionette lines continuously change as the mouth moves.

It is worth noting that general facial aesthetics and dermal fillers are relatively new concepts. There is not much regulation surrounding either, so it is important that you research any practitioner with whom you discuss dermal fillers.

Botox

Botox is also an injectable, though it works a little bit differently than the dermal fillers described above. Instead of spurring collagen production, Botox cuts off the nerve signals that lead to muscle contractions. In other words, the injected muscles aren’t able to contract and wrinkle.

Botox may be a pricier option, but each injection can continue to work for up to six months. A treatment with a professional can take just 10 to 15 minutes, and you are free to continue your day as soon as it’s over.

Silhouette Soft Thread Lifting 

Silhouette soft thread lifting is an increasingly popular option for treating marionette lines and other wrinkles, though it’s a bit more invasive than either Botox or dermal fillers.

During a silhouette soft thread lifting procedure, a practitioner inserts a suture underneath the skin to hold the areas that have wrinkled. A moveable, absorbable cone allows the skin to continue to move along with the mouth. Silhouette soft thread lifting is not permanent, but it also doesn’t permanently scar any underlying tissues.   

Skin Tightening Treatments 

Skin tightening is another treatment option for marionette lines that is becoming more and more popular. Generally speaking, in a skin tightening treatment a practitioner applies heat to deep layers of the skin around the mouth. This heat encourages the production of collagen, which plumps up the area and lessens any wrinkles.

Procedures are quick and completely non-invasive. Your practitioner might mention two especially popular skin-tightening procedures: Ultraformer and Ultracel. Ultraformer targets sagging, wrinkly skin using High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU).

This targeting improves the skin’s overall tone and texture. Ultracel combines ultrasound, microneedling, and radiofrequency to incite collagen production throughout all layers of the skin. This lifts the skin and tightens any wrinkles.

Woman having lip treatment for the elevation of mouth corners and removing of marionette lines 

Surgical Options for Treating Marionette Lines

In the case of marionette lines, plastic surgery is almost always left as a last resort. Not only are the surgical treatment options quite expensive, but they are also invasive and require a decent recovery period. Because there are so many non-surgical options that work for marionette lines, most people aren’t willing to risk an invasive surgery on such a visible part of the body.

Still, there are options. A full facelift would effectively tighten all of the skin around the mouth and jawline, getting rid of any marionette lines, nasolabial folds, and other wrinkles. However, facelifts require the cutting and moving of full skin layers by a plastic surgeon.  

Another option is laser resurfacing. Laser treatments are not as invasive as full cosmetic facelifts, though they are still considered a comparatively invasive treatment option. Essentially, laser treatments get rid of your marionette lines by removing the top layers of your skin.

Laser resurfacing works for many people, but comes with risks like hyperpigmentation and scarring. It’s also likely that you would need additional treatments every few months, because laser resurfacing is just temporary.

Between the surgical and non-surgical, there are myriad options for treating marionette lines. If you are considering treating any facial wrinkles, then it is important to speak to a qualified esthetician or dermatologist you trust about your best options. 

How to Hide Your Marionette Lines with Your Makeup

If you are unsure about a treatment option or if it’s just not in your budget, then it’s possible to hide your marionette lines with some strategic makeup. Always apply your foundation first. Whether powder or liquid, the foundation will even out your skin, including any wrinkles. Foundation will also hide any complexion or pigment flaws.

Secondly, apply a cream concealer. Like foundation, concealer will even out your skin. If your purpose is to hide marionette lines, dab your liquid concealer into the area around your mouth using a concealer brush or your finger until it has completely absorbed. Lastly, apply a setting powder all around your face using a large makeup brush.

How To Prevent Marionette Lines From Forming

Perhaps you’ve just undergone one of the above treatment options for your marionette lines. Or maybe you are just proactive and want to make sure you avoid these annoying wrinkles in the future. In either scenario, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent marionette lines from forming in the first place.

A Daily Skin Care Routine

Taking care of your skin is the best thing you can possibly do when it comes to avoiding wrinkles of any kind. Wash your face each morning and evening, and always remove all of your makeup before bed. A good facial moisturizer and an anti-aging serum will keep your skin hydrated and elastic.

Take Sun Protection Seriously 

Sun exposure is one sure way to ensure wrinkles. Protect your skin from the sun by applying sunscreen of at least SPF 30 each and every day, and in all types of weather. A ball cap or sun hat to shade your face is also smart, as is avoiding direct sunlight between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. when the sun is at its strongest.

Water and Diet

Keeping your skin hydrated will help it to retain its elasticity. Drink lots of water each day, and fill your diet with anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed grains. Other things that can negatively affect your skin and lead to wrinkles like marionette lines and crow’s feet include:

  • smoking
  • drinking 
  • dehydration 
  • stress
  • not enough sleep
  • caffeine  

Final Thoughts

Marionette lines are the puppet mouth-like wrinkles that extend from the corner of the mouth down towards the jawline. While they may be a natural side effect of ageing, they are also annoying due to their ability to make us look older, sadder, and angrier.

It’s possible to rid your face of marionette lines through treatment options both surgical and non-surgical. While a full cosmetic facelift used to be the go-to for fixing any and all facial imperfections, these days it’s possible to iron out any creases with less invasive options like retinoids, dermal fillers, and Botox.

As frustrating as wrinkles can be, it’s important to remember that marionette lines are a natural part of the aging process.

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