Forehead wrinkles can be frustrating, but they’re nothing to furrow your brow over. As annoying and stubborn as they may be, lines on the forehead in particular are also very common, because our eyebrows are responsible for so many of our expressions. When it comes to getting rid of wrinkles, it all comes down to collagen; one way or another, your skin needs more of it to fill the lines. (That, or the muscles that created the line in the first place get frozen up.)
Whether you’re looking to smooth your lines via skincare products, or you want to go straight to the hard stuff—i.e. Botox, fillers, and lasers—there’s a forehead wrinkle solution for you.
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WHAT CAUSES FOREHEAD WRINKLES?
From horizontal lines to those pesky “elevens,” there’s one main culprit: simply moving your face. “Forehead wrinkles are caused by repetitive crunching of the frontalis muscle, and are exaggerated in individuals with bulkier muscle mass and those who are very expressive,” explains Brian Hibler, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. But other factors contribute as well: “Sun exposure, aging, thinning skin, loss of elasticity, and genetics are also to blame for these lines,” says Hibler.
These lines reveal themselves at different times for different people. “There is no specific age that forehead wrinkles show up,” says Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. “Everyone is different and can form forehead lines at different ages.”
ARE FOREHEAD WRINKLES REVERSIBLE?
Yes—well, sort of. “In some cases if lines are not deeply set into the skin, you can totally reverse them,” says New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. However, he cautions, “If lines are deeply etched into the skin, you may not be able to completely eliminate them.”
Hibler adds that the more you get ahead of wrinkles, the less likely they are to appear as deeply. “If patients are proactive about treating their wrinkles when they first start, they are able to prevent them from setting in,” he says. “We are seeing more young patients coming in for treatment to prevent these lines from ever setting in, and we have decades of experience to support early treatment to prevent permanent forehead lines.” That said, even if lines are deeper, injectables such as Botox can still make a big difference.
WHAT SKINCARE INGREDIENTS ACTUALLY WORK TO SMOOTH WRINKLES?
The biggie? Retinol. “Retinol stimulates collagen to help the skin resist wrinkling,” explains Zeichner. With any retinol product, it will take at least three months until the skin-smoothing results are fully realized. Retinol can make your skin sensitive, so it’s important to moisturize and wear sunscreen when using retinol products—and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid it altogether, as it can potentially lead to birth defects. Another popular ingredient, hyaluronic acid, can also temporarily plump up the look of lines. “Look for products with hyaluronic acid, which binds water and helps hydrate the skin,” says Hibler.
For those looking for an over-the-counter formula, try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Night Serum with Pure Retinol. It is blended with 0.3 PERCENT pure retinol (the most potent form of retinol) to visibly reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles—even the deep ones. It also contains hyaluronic acid and soybean oil to keep skin moisturized. If you’re looking for a natural alternative, rosehip oil is a plant-based alternative that offers vitamin A (the purest form of retinol) as well as other antioxidants.
As for facial tools, they may be a nice thing to add to your routine, but they are likely not going to make an enormous difference. “At-home tools and devices like microcurrent and gua sha have limited efficacy in treating forehead wrinkles,” says Chang.
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DO INJECTABLES WORK TO GET RID OF FOREHEAD WRINKLES?
If you can stomach the needles, Botox and other neurotoxin-based injectables are highly effective at smoothing away forehead wrinkles. “Injectable wrinkle reducers work by relaxing muscles under the skin,” explains Zeichner. Essentially, if you can no longer make the facial expression, your skin won’t be able to create the wrinkle.
The results typically last three to four months, but if your lines aren’t too deep, Zeichner says that injectables can smooth them away completely. “Just like hanging a sheet on a clothesline and allowing it to unfold in the wind, neurotoxins allow the skin to fill in lines on its own by preventing repeated facial expressions that cause the wrinkles to begin with,” he explains.
Fillers are an option as well. “Deep forehead wrinkles can be treated with hyaluronic acid-based fillers,” adds Hibler. “However, it is important to see a trained expert in this procedure as there is a risk of intra-arterial occlusion due to the very vascular anatomy of the forehead.”
WHAT OTHER PROCEDURES WORK TO REVERSE WRINKLES?
In addition to injectables and skincare, lasers and chemical peels are in-office procedures that dermatologists offer to help get rid of forehead wrinkles. “Resurfacing lasers cause controlled damage to the skin, taking advantage of its ability to heal itself and create new collagen,” explains Zeichner.
On the other hand, chemical peels deeply exfoliate the top layers of skin so that it appears less wrinkled, leaving you with a more youthful tone and texture.
“The earlier you address a wrinkle, the better your outcome will be when it comes to neurotoxins.”
I WANT TO PREVENT FOREHEAD WRINKLES. AT WHAT AGE SHOULD I START?
Skincare is the first line of defense. “The stronger the skin foundation is, the better the starting place for it to age from,” says Zeichner. And that begins with (you guessed it), sun protection. Hibler recommends avoiding tanning, wearing sunglasses to prevent squinting, and, of course, SPF: “Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day and avoid direct sunlight when possible,” says the derm. “Sunlight breaks down collagen and leads to thinner skin which accentuates wrinkles on the face.”
Depending on your skin type, you may begin to incorporate retinoids, as well as other anti-aging ingredients, early on as well. “Antioxidants like vitamin C help protect and repair the skin to prevent collagen loss from free radical damage, which can happen due to sun exposure and environmental pollution,” says Chang. The derm also recommends peptides, which “can help hydrate and plump the skin to help with the appearance of fine lines.”
As for Botox and other injectables, it’s up to you (and your dermatologist). “The earlier you address a wrinkle, the better your outcome will be when it comes to neurotoxins,” advises Zeichner. In other words: If you’re not opposed to Botox, consider doing it when you first see lines popping up. “I recommend considering it when wrinkles begin to stick around, when your face is at rest,” he says. For some that may be in your early or mid 20s, for others it may be later.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.