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Understanding and treating forehead wrinkles: Expert insights


Extended time spent scowling at screens isn’t good for many things, health-wise (sleep, focus, the list goes on), but it can also expedite the arrival of pesky forehead wrinkles — namely 11 lines, also known as frown lines.

What are the 11 lines?

11 lines are medically known as glabellar lines, or “vertical parallel lines that appear between the eyebrows,” explains Dr. Cula Svidzinski, a cosmetic dermatologist and nanoscientist at Sadick Dermatology. They’re casually referred to as 11 lines because they often come in pairs, resembling the number 11.

“Initially, these lines are visible with muscle contraction only,” Dr. Svidzinski adds. “However, with repeated movements and loss of collagen from aging or sun damage over time, the lines may become permanent.”

Types of forehead wrinkles

There are two main types of forehead wrinkles, explains Dr. Svidzinski:

  • 11 lines or glabellar lines: Vertical lines that appear between the brows due to repeated expression and movement of the brows and forehead.
  • Horizontal forehead lines: Horizontal wrinkles that run across the forehead, often due to repeated raising of the eyebrows.

In general, wrinkles also fall into two categories, adds Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand, a double board-certified dermatologist at Houshmand Dermatology:

  • Dynamic wrinkles: Develop from repeated facial movements and are visible only when making facial movements.
  • Static wrinkles: Appear at rest and can be seen without any movement. Static wrinkles are often caused by sun exposure, loss of elasticity, and aging.

What causes forehead wrinkles and frown lines?

Forehead wrinkles and 11 lines are caused by facial muscle contraction that happens during expression, like frowning and squinting. They may be especially prominent in people who are extra expressive and can be seen at any age, Dr. Houshmand adds. Loss of collagen from aging, sun damage, and smoking can exacerbate them.

Can I get rid of forehead wrinkles and frown lines?

It depends on how static or permanent they already are. “If the lines are deeply etched into the skin, you may not be able to completely eliminate them,” Dr. Houshmand says. “This is why I recommend patients start treatment when they first notice thin, fine lines, as it will prevent them from being fixed.” Prevention is easier than trying to treat the etched-in lines and can make a big difference.

What are the treatments for getting rid of 11 lines?

There are a few different routes you can go to treat and prevent 11 lines and other types of wrinkles:

Botox, lasers, and filler

Dermatology treatments like Botox, fillers, and resurfacing lasers are the most effective treatment and prevention of 11 lines. Botox works by temporarily freezing the muscles that contract to cause wrinkles. Fillers may fill in deepened lines. Laser treatments can help soften the appearance of existing lines by improving skin tone and texture.

One caveat about fillers: “Hyaluronic acid fillers may be injected into static 11 lines to help soften their appearance. However, this approach is not recommended due to high risk of complications including vision loss,” says Dr. Svidzinski.

Topical treatments

There are also topical treatments that, if used consistently, can soften lines and prevent new ones from forming. “Don’t overlook the power of daily and consistent sunscreen use, which will help prevent UV damage and may prevent premature aging,” says Dr. Svidzinski. Other powerful, line-preventing ingredients to include in your skincare routine are retinoids, which promote cell turnover and boost collagen, peptides, which help stimulate collagen production, and hyaluronic acid, which hydrates and plumps skin. “Consistency is key,” and so is staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet, adds Jackie Spagnuolo, an aesthetic nurse practitioner and owner of Beauty Nurse NYC.

Facial treatments

Spagnuolo also recommends getting chemical peels and microneedling — a facial treatment that creates temporary microwounds to encourage collagen production — to enhance skin cell turnover and prevent aging. Chemical peels, specifically, “remove the outer layer of skin, promoting new skin growth,” she adds.