What to Do About Marionette Lines

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

This column first ran in Valerie Monroe’s newsletter, How Not to F*ck Up Your Face, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

Q: I turned 59 in November — yikes! I already decided I’d never get a facelift after I saw what my mom went through 39 years ago. I’m sure things have changed, but the way she looked post-op is a vision I’ll never forget. I have olive skin and I’ve had surgery resulting in scars. But my question is about my marionette lines, which seem to be getting deeper. I lost about 40 pounds, so my elasticity has seen its day. What can I do for this? Which of the thousands of serums out there could help but won’t cost $500 a bottle? There has to be a product that’s both reasonably priced and can actually help.

A: When I think about responding to some of your questions, dear Readers, I’m afraid HNTFUYF will feel like doom scrolling. I ultimately confessed to this reader that I could offer her nothing: No cream, serum, or lotion would relieve her of her deep marionette lines. I’m sorry! So sorry! Why should you believe me? I’m a 73-year-old editor who has decades of experience reporting on the beauty industry.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, marionette lines are the lines that extend from the corners of your mouth to your chin. Everyone usually starts to develop them after around age 40, but sun exposure and a history of smoking can make them more pronounced.

“Unfortunately, the results of a 40-pound weight loss won’t be improved significantly with any topical product,” said HNTFUYF DermDiva Heidi Waldorf. “If you’re looking for a visible, lasting change, you’ll need to consult with both an experienced cosmetic dermatologist and a plastic surgeon to determine your surgical and nonsurgical options.”

As for the nonsurgical options (which may include strategically injected filler or an ultrasound or a radio-frequency tightening procedure), that will depend on your chronological age, your apparent skin age (based on how you’ve been caring for your skin and the effects of any treatment or procedures you’ve had), and what percentage of your original body weight 40 pounds represents. You may find, however, that a lower facelift is the only option that will give you the tightening and lifting you’re aiming for, said Waldorf. So be very attentive during the discussion with your dermatologist or surgeon of realistic expectations.

“The scars you mention are another issue,” said Waldorf. “Unless they’re in areas that would either be removed during surgery or can be surgically removed without leaving more scarring, they can be treated with combinations of energy-based devices like laser and radio frequency; device-assisted drug delivery; or injections including corticosteroids, fluorouracil, botulinum toxin, plasma, and biostimulators and fillers. All of those options can require multiple treatments and can also improve both skin tone and scarring. But there’s no one procedure — and certainly no topical cream or lotion — that will address everything.”

Oof. In my personal email to the reader, I ended with this:

“I’m going to give you more of my broken-record advice: No one looks at you with the same critical eye you see yourself; what’s noticeable to you might not be noticeable at all to others, or barely. Please try to keep that in mind when you look at your reflection. And avoid scanning your face for flaws!”

Originally published January 30.

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I’m Almost 60. What Can I Do About Marionette Lines?