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Barcode Lip Lines

Written by: Alice Hart-Davis

Last Updated: 22 September 2023

The ‘barcode’ lines are the little vertical lines above the upper lip that run vertically downward into the lip. These lip lines are also called ‘smoker’s lines’ – no prizes for guessing why – or, more formally, ‘perioral’ lip lines, where ‘peri’ means ‘around’ (rather than ‘genie’ or ‘fairy’ or something to do with Nandos) and ‘oral’ means ‘relating to the mouth’, as usual. Scroll down for answers to all the FAQs about barcode lip lines.

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FAQ ABOUT Barcode Lip Lines

Are barcode lip lines the same as lipstick lines?

Yes, barcode lines are often known as ‘lipstick lines’ because lipstick has a tendency to ‘bleed’ into these little lines, which is really annoying and not a good look

What causes barcode lip lines?

In a nutshell: age and abuse.

You start to notice barcode lip lines as the skin ages, the collagen degrades, and the levels of elastin in the skin drop, so that the patch of skin above the upper lip — which is always being stretched when we open our mouths or smile — becomes less able to spring back into shape and starts to collapse into tiny wrinkles.

Barcode lines tend to be much more obvious in smokers because smoking is appallingly bad for directly ageing the skin. Smoking will affect the skin all over your body, but these lines are some of the first to show up on the face, which is why they’re often thought of as smoker’s lines.

Another reason that barcode lines are more visible in smokers is that pursing the lips around a cigarette or holder puts extra stress on the skin of the lips. So do other pursed-lip activities, such as drinking through a straw, whistling, or taking duck-face selfies.

Barcode lines also show up more as lip volume decreases, because the body of the lip is no longer holding the skin taut, so it sags a little. For that reason, lip enhancement of any sort in the upper lip usually softens the look of these tiny vertical lines.

Can I use retinol to treat upper lip lines?

Yes, retinol can help to treat upper lip lines by stimulating cell renewal and collagen production. Prescription-strength products, such as tretinoin (Retin-A), will have a greater effect. Consult your go-to aesthetic practitioner for advice about which product to use and how frequently to apply it.

How much filler should I use for smoker’s lines?

I’d leave that for your practitioner to decide. How much filler you’ll need to treat smoker’s lines depends on how deep the lines are and how your practitioner is treating them.

There are two main ways of treating smoker’s lines with filler. The first way is to inject small amounts of filler very precisely along the lines and along the lip border, but not plump up the lips themselves. The trouble with this is that it has to be done with a very lightweight filler, so that it doesn’t make the area look lumpy, and it won’t last very long.

The second way is to plump up the lips with filler, which stretches the skin and so reduces the lip lines. This approach uses more filler than injecting just the lines and the lip border. Some practitioners combine both approaches.

What is the best treatment for upper lip lines?

There is a variety of ways to treat the upper lip lines. Here are two of the most popular and effective:

  • Profhilo, and other injectable moisturer treatments, can hydrate the skin from within. They also encourage the skin to regenerate from within and produce more of its own collagen (which gives it firmness) and elastin (which gives it springiness) and even tighten the skin a little, all of “https://thetweakmentsguide.com/tweakments/profhilowhich is great news for reducing the appearance of lip lines.
  • Skin tightening treatments, such as radiofrequency, or a heat treatment, such as Tixel, have a direct effect on the skin. The heat generated in the skin by these treatments makes the collagen contract — so you get a small shrink-wrapping effect — then, over time, the treated area produces more of its own collagen, which will strengthen the skin and makes those annoying barcode lip lines less apparent.

What other ways can you treat barcode lip lines?

There’s no single answer to this question, because it depends how bad the upper lip lines are and how you want your lips and face to look.

Usually, the best place to start is with skincare and see how much difference it makes for you. Skincare is especially important if your upper lip lines haven’t yet appeared and your goal is to delay their appearance as much as possible.

Follow these three essential skincare steps:

  1. Keep your skin hydrated. This will help to minimise upper lip lines once they’ve appeared and to keep them at bay if they haven’t yet appeared.
  2. Apply a moisturiser once or twice every day. If you decide to apply moisturiser only once per day, apply it in the morning so that it can give your skin the most protection against the rigours of the day.
  3. Protect your skin, including your lips, with high-factor SPF.

If skincare gets you the results you need with your lip lines – great, and keep up the good work! If not, you can escalate with a wide variety of treatments, including the following:

Read the rest of this page for more information on toxins, filler, and laser treatment.

Can I use toxins to help upper lip lines?

Yes, toxins can help to reduce upper lip lines. As you may already know, injecting toxins into muscles has the effect of temporarily weakening or even paralysing them. So, toxins injected into the muscles around your mouth can relax the muscles somewhat, which reduces the lip lines that the muscles produce. toxins may also help prevent the lip lines from becoming deeper.

Your practitioner will use only a minimal dose of toxins to relax the muscles that produce the lip lines. Too much toxins, and you might be mumbling for months, as well as unable to purse your lips.

This is also the treatment that practitioners do to create a ‘lip flip’ effect, because weakening the orbicularis oris, the muscle around the mouth, encourages the border of the top lip to roll upwards a little, which makes it look larger and can help to disguise the barcode lip lines.

Does laser work with upper lip lines?

Yes, laser resurfacing can help reduce upper lip lines and wrinkles around the mouth. Fractional lasering fires the laser beam through a grid to create micro-channels of skin damage, which stimulate the growth of new skin.

Many practitioners use Erbium lasers for this type of resurfacing, as Erbium lasers produce fewer side effects than CO2 lasers.

What does it mean to have lines on my lips?

To be frank, lines on your lips indicate that time is catching up with your skin. As you likely know, your body’s collagen production declines with age, particularly after 30, so by the time you reach 40 your skin is getting much less collagen to keep it firm, smooth, and elastic. The elasticity aspect matters because your lips are so often in motion, talking, eating, stretching and contracting all the time. Your skin also produces less oil as it ages, so it gets drier. The effects of less collagen and less oil are compounded by ‘photoageing’ caused by sun exposure if you don’t protect your lips with SPF all the time.

So, sooner or later, lines are likely to appear on your lips. You might want to take any of several messages from this unwanted phenomenon:

      • It’s time to improve your skincare regime.
      • You may want to augment your skincare regime with aesthetic treatments, such as toxins, fillers, or laser resurfacing.
      • If you smoke, this would be a really good time to stop.
      • If you have other habits that involve pursing your lips frequently – like using a straw for every drink or whistling all the time – and this is a big concern for you, then you can make a change to your behaviour.

What is the best lipstick for lip lines?

Liquid lipstick is usually better at staying in place than regular, stick-type lipstick. Experiment with different types of liquid lipstick to find one that works for you and doesn’t melt or bleed.

Make sure you give your lipstick time to dry fully. That means not eating or drinking anything for ten minutes after applying the lipstick.

How can I stop lipstick spreading into lip lines?

One of the problems with having vertical lip lines is that your lipstick will look messy if it spreads into them. To avoid your lipstick bleeding like this, try the following moves:

      • Moisturise your lips.
      • Exfoliate your lips and apply lip balm to them to seal in the moisture.
      • Apply lip liner around your lips. I find I need to do this with my mouth half-open, to get a smooth line all the way around the edge.
      • Apply the lipstick. As I mentioned in the previous section, you may want to try liquid lipstick. If you need to apply a second coat of lipstick, blot your lips with a tissue before applying the second coat.
      • Give the lipstick time to dry and settle into place.

If the above doesn’t stop lipstick spreading into your lip lines, you can add one other move: try using a clear lip liner to draw a line around the outside edge of your lips. This won’t show under make-up, but will act as a barrier to keep the lipstick on the lips and prevent it creeping upwards into the lip lines.

What can I do at home to reduce or remove upper lip lines?

Apart from practising good skincare – wash, exfoliate, hydrate, moisturise, use sunscreen – you can use various moves at home to reduce your upper lip lines. Here are four suggestions:

      • Try a home-use device such as the NuFace Fix, a small pen-shaped device which puts small electrical microcurrents through the area it is working on. These improve the circulation in the area and, used with a hydrating serum, can soften the appearance of lip lines, though only temporarily.
      • Using a home-use LED light mask will soften the appearance of wrinkles, including lip lines, if you use it regularly enough. The CurrentBody Skin mask claims a substantial reduction in wrinkle depth if used regularly over the course of four weeks.
      • Increase your intake of antioxidants. Don’t go head-over-heels for the latest superfood claims, but do eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, including as full a rainbow of colours as possible. These help your skin to work and repair itself to its best ability.
      • Relax. Stress does nothing to smooth your skin.


Alice answers your question. Want to ask Alice a question? Pop it in here and check back in a few days for the answer.

Hi Alice, my question is about barcode lip lines. I've had toxin there and supposedly it needs to be repeated every 2 months. What's your feedback on toxin in that area?

Hmm, you only want the tiniest bit of toxin in the upper lip to avoid overly weakening or temporarily paralysing the muscles so you can't properly move your mouth. If you're happy with the results then great, if not there are other options like RF microneedling, resurfacing laser, and dermal filler.

I desperately need to get rid of smoker's lines and pigmentation – what do you recommend? Thank you.

Hiya, TTG editor Georgia here. There are a few options that work for smoker's lines (also known as barcode lip lines), but you really need to find a great practitioner who will be able to suggest the best one for you. RF microneedling, certain skin boosters and some resurfacing lasers can all work really well depending on the depth of the lines. You may be able to kill two birds with one stone and tackle the pigmentation at the same time with laser treatment, but this is totally dependent on the type and severity of the pigmentation. Download our free factsheets on barcode lip lines and pigmentation on those linked pages for more detailed...

Hello, I am 48 and really starting to look old, especially when I look at photos. What do you recommend as the most effective way to look fresher and better without toxin or filler? Is it HIFU or profound or another treatment? Or would I really need...

Hiya, TTG editor Georgia here. Dr Strawford will be best placed to answer all these questions for you once he's assessed your face and talked to you about your exact concerns. He is an expert practitioner with a great deal of experience. The tweakments you mention – HIFU, Profound (RF microneedling), toxin, and filler – all do different things that work towards making you look fresher and younger, but not in the same ways. Toxin for example won’t do anything about sagging skin but HIFU will, Profound will stimulate collagen production to tighten and plump the skin, but won’t replace lost volume in the ways filler will. So it all...

Could you recommended a good retinol to help with quite deep smokers lines, please?

Hi there, this is a great one – lots of info on that link as to why I like it so much (I put some of my favourite products in the shop on The Tweakments Guide). It’s a step-up system, so if your skin is fine with this, you can move onto this one. It will help with all of your skin including smoker’s lines, though tweakments, if you were up for them/ had the budget for them, would help more – here’s a link to the info on the site on smoker's/ 'barcode' lip lines....

Can you recommend the best home device for wrinkles and texture for smoothing the skin on the face, please?

Hiya, TTG editor Georgia here. There aren't really any devices as such for treating texture at home. Aside from DIY microneedling with a roller – which Alice and I rarely advise – your best bet will be a home peel and active skincare, something with smoothing AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) to regulate textural issues. This will also help address wrinkles at the same time, as will a retinol product – which you should absolutely be using in your daily routine. If you did want to invest in a device for your wrinkles alone, you could try the NuFace Line Fix Smoothing Device, which is particularly good around the eyes and mouth, but it's not...

Best treatment for 70-year-old barcode lines?

You could consider injectable moisturisers like Profhilo to hydrate the skin from within and help with collagen regeneration to give the skin back its 'springiness', filling out the lines. Radiofrequency microneedling is also a good bet to build collagen and smooth skin texture by tightening. Visit our Barcode Lip Lines page and download the factsheet for more advice....

Hi, I have smoker's lines above my lips from smoking in the past. I feel like they’ve gotten really bad lately and I need to improve them. I have heard that laser resurfacing would help. Can I have this done in just one area or does it have to be...

Yes, laser resurfacing is great for smoker's lines or 'barcode lip lines' around the mouth. RF microneedling can help a lot, too, but laser will do more. And while you could have treatment just on the top lip, the treatment may make that patch of skin look out of sync with the rest of your face. Laser treatment burns away the top layers of the skin but that is as hardcore as it sounds, and recovery time is several weeks, depending on how deep the laser goes. Find a great practitioner in your area and discuss with them what they could do for you, and whether they're be prepared to treat just your lip area....

Hi, I am 64 and my biggest bugbear is smoker's lines; I was a sun worshipper in my youth! I have tried lots of serums that claim to help but none I have tried make the slightest bit of difference. Anything you would recommend?

Most of us end up with 'smoker's lines' or 'barcode lip lines' over time, just because we are opening and stretching the skin around our mouths so often as we talk and eat, and over time it loses its strength and elasticity. And you're right, it takes more than skincare to soften them. If you're up for tweakments, two things that can help are radiofrequency microneedling, which remodels the skin, and injectable moisturisers, which sit inside the skin and hydrate, smooth and strengthen it from the inside. The most effective thing is laser treatment which burns away the top layers of the skin, but that is as hardcore as it sounds, and recovery...

Hi Alice, I've just watched your video on Secret RF. I'm having the treatment in a few weeks. Did you think it's worth the money for the results seen? Thank you.

I only had one round of Secret RF when filming it (at my age, I'd need about three sessions to see proper results) so I only saw a bit of skin-smoothing. But I know from practitioners who have the device that they absolutely love it for the results it gives, so yes, I'd recommend it.

Hi, I am 64 and feel that the lines above my top lip are making me look old and tired. What treatment would you recommend and could you recommend a practitioner in the Nottingham area please?

Hi, take a look at our free factsheet on treating barcode lip lines – downloadable here – which will give you all the options. To find a great practitioner in your area, go to our practitioner finder and put in your postcode, which will come up with our trusted practitioners in your area.

Hi Alice. Is it worth investing in NuFACE as I've seen mixed reviews. I’m 50 with deep wrinkles above lip - do you think microneedling, fractional laser or biorevitalisation?

Hi, yes the NuFACE is a great device, as long as you commit to using it enough. It helps to tone the muscles in the skin and improve circulation but it won't give you a facelift, nor will it get rid of deep upper lip lines. For those, I would suggest having a read of my factsheet all about barcode lip lines – which you can download on the associated tweakments page here. Recently, I have seen good results from both Belotero Revive (which is a type of injectable moisturiser) and the Halo laser. The deeper your practitioner is prepared to go with a laser like this, the better the improvements that you can see, but there's a period of...

What is your absolute no. 1 tweakment for barcode lip lines?

This is a tricky one, because there is no one-size-fits-all tweakment, sadly. I would suggest having a read of my factsheet all about barcode lip lines, which you can find on the associated tweakments page here. Recently, I have seen good results from both Belotero Revive (which is a type of injectable moisturiser) and the Halo laser. The deeper your practitioner is prepared to go with a laser like this, the better the improvements that you can see, but there's a period of downtime and recovery afterwards....

I am considering Morpheus8 treatment. I am 59 my neck and jowls are very saggy. I have deep smoker's lines both above and below my lips. Would you recommend this treatment?

Yes, radiofrequency microneedling treatments like Morpheus8 are  great (though for saggy neck and jowls, they're not going to give you anything like the effect of a lower facelift). And yes it's good for treating those 'barcode lip lines' around the mouth. Have a chat with your practitioner and get their honest opinion on how much difference the treatment will be able to make for you - it will probably take three or four rounds of treatment. The other option that's fab for lip lines (and saggy skin and pigmentation) is laser.  ...

Is there a good alternative to lip fillers? I’ve been to two doctors (including Dr Harris) and both said no due to the line of my upper lip and it wouldn’t look natural. I don’t want a surgical lip lift (yet) and want to combat signs of...

If top docs are saying 'No'... you need to listen to that. There are no-needle lip plumper treatments like Perk, which is an attachment to the Hydrafacial magazine, which exfoliates and super-hydrates the lips which gives a plumping effect. It doesn't last long but that, plus clever makeup, may be your best bet for now,. .


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