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What is the Nasolabial Fold?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 29, 2024
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The nasolabial fold is a crease which runs from the side of the nose to the corner of the mouth, sometimes wrapping partially around the base of the mouth as well. While everyone has nasolabial folds, the depth of a nasolabial fold varies, and this feature tends to become more pronounced with age, for a variety of reasons. Because this facial feature becomes more prominent with age, many people associate it with age and aging; actors applying makeup for older parts, for example, often add a nasolabial fold to make their faces seem older.

There are several reasons the nasolabial fold becomes deeper with age. One of the most common reasons is the slow migration of cheek fat down the face. At birth, cheek fat is high and tight on the face, but as the decades go by, it starts to slowly slide down, deepening the nasolabial fold. Older people also often struggle with thinned, more fragile skin which can wrinkle more deeply than younger skin, and their faces are typically already wrinkled from sun exposure and a lifetime of smiling, laughing, and other expressions.

Some people find the nasolabial fold aesthetically undesirable, because of the associations with age. There are some ways in which the deepening of the nasolabial fold can be reduced; using regular moisturizers on the face, for example, and doing face exercises to keep the muscles toned. Wearing good sunscreen on the face also helps, not only with the nasolabial fold but with other signs of aging; it is also a good idea to get in the habit of wearing a hat while outdoors to protect the skin of the face.

There are also several surgical options for treatment of the nasolabial fold. Some facelifting techniques can be used to bring the cheek fat back up the face, making the fold seem less pronounced. Other cosmetic surgeons offer treatment with dermal fillers, which are designed to fill the wrinkle out, making it less deep. These treatments, however, only work temporarily; dermal fillers will reabsorb into the skin, while the fat on the cheek will eventually slide back down.

Other people find the nasolabial fold distinguished, along with wrinkles. These marks of age testify to a long life filled with a wide range of experiences and emotions, with the face acting like a road map of the adventures in someone's life.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SZapper — On Jul 07, 2011

@JessicaLynn - I hear what you're saying about aging gracefully but I think it can be difficult in our youth-obsessed society. I can definitely understand why some people try to erase the signs of aging from their faces.

That being said, I'm a little bit leery of facelifts myself. I think in a few years I may try this acupuncture facelift that I heard about. Supposedly it's very effective but it's just acupuncture! No scary surgery, no cutting into the face. Sounds great to me!

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 07, 2011

I'm definitely trying to take good care of my face now to avoid having too many wrinkles and a pronounced nasolabial fold later. I don't go tanning, I always wear sunscreen, and I moisturize faithfully.

That being said, I think I'm just going to say no to wrinkle fillers and facelifts even if when I do start showing signs of aging. I've seen plenty of facelifts gone wrong out there and I don’t want my face to look like that. I think it's better to just age gracefully than risk looking like some kind of space alien.

By anon70289 — On Mar 13, 2010

once you have had cellulitis of the face, can it return on a regular basis?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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