Sure, we know that sun exposure, dehydration and general aging leads to wrinkles. But what about those other seemingly-harmless habits that are also contributing to the cause, like sipping through a drinking straw? Beauty-wise, we've always thought straws fought off teeth stains, but is this very regular habit actually prematurely aging the skin around the mouth?
In this week's installment of Beauty Myths, we spoke with dermatologists Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, founder of Specific Beauty, and Dr. Rebecca Baxt, to help set the record straight.
"Yes, repeated straw drinking causes people to purse their lips and can create wrinkles from the repetitive muscle motion," Baxt tells us. "Much like frowning causes wrinkles on the upper face."
However, Woolery-Lloyd is wary of placing all the blame on drinking straws. "In general, drinking through a straw should not cause wrinkles," she says. "However, any repetitive movement can increase the risk of wrinkles."
But if there is indeed an issue with repeated movement, how often are we talking? Someone who sips through a straw daily, or less often, such as once a week? To compare, Woolery-Lloyd referred to the much more damaging habit of smoking.
"For example, smoking probably causes wrinkles for two reasons," she says. "One is all of the free radical damage caused by smoking, and two is the repetitive movement of pursing the lips to inhale. Heavy smokers probably do that for five minutes 20 times or more per day. If we apply that example to using a straw, it would be to use a straw to drink at least 20 drinks a day, which most people could not do. In addition, using a straw does not cause any free radical damage to the skin. So, even if someone pursed their lips to use a straw for 100 minutes a day (like the smoker does to smoke cigarettes), they would not have the same effects as the smoker did."
Baxt echoes that sentiment, telling us that she "[doesn't] think once a week or less would be problematic, but in people who are prone to lip and mouth wrinkles, I tell them to avoid straws altogether."
With smoking and now straw sipping on the "avoid" list, what else could lead to lip lines and wrinkles around the mouth? "Some people are mouth pursers as they speak, and I tell them to try to avoid pursing their lips and to try to break the habit," Baxt says. "Also, lots of hot liquid drinking causes people to purse their lips."
Woolery-Lloyd notes the obvious actions, like smiling, which "tends to cause 'laugh lines,' the lines from your nose to the angle of your lips." But she also emphasizes common sense with wearing sunscreen. "Excessive sun exposure leads to photo-aging, so if you have a genetic predisposition to lip lines, then sun bathing without protection would make those lip lines worse."
Conclusion: Repeated movement around the mouth -- which could include sipping through straws, pursing the lips and most importantly, smoking -- can contribute to lines and wrinkles.
For Beauty Myths, we've enlisted the help of pros to help debunk and demystify some of the most popular advice out there. Do you have a myth you'd like us to investigate? Let us know in the comment section, and check out previous questions in the gallery below.