After researching possible treatments -- lasers (too unpredictable), fillers and Botox (pricey and don't last long for the money) -- I learned about microneedling. I got a derma roller and a dermastamp, both with 1.5 mm needles, the length recommended for the upper lip area in order to reach the dermis, the layer beneath the epidermis where collagen is produced. I also got a tube of 5% lidocaine numbing cream.
This morning I started the process. I forgot to take a "before" photo, so the ones you see were taken about 4 hours afterward. You should be able to see it -- it's like the San Andreas Fault.
First, I soaked the roller and the stamp in alcohol for 15 minutes, and then set them up to air-dry. Then I applied the lidocaine generously to my upper lip area and let it sit for 30 minutes. The area felt pretty numb. I cleansed off all traces of it so it wouldn't be driven into my skin by the needles. You must start with clean skin, because any substance on your skin will end up IN your skin, and if you're allergic to any of the ingredients, you could end up with a bad reaction.
Then I went to work on that wrinkle, as well as the rest of my upper lip area (but not the lip itself)!
Well, I don't consider myself a wimp, but it hurt like hell! First I used the derma roller, and worked in thirds (left side, middle, right side), moving the roller about 10 times back and forth, 10 times up and down, and ten times in both diagonal directions. I didn't use to heavy pressure or go too fast. I could see in the mirror the entire length of the needles was penetrating my skin, so I knew the pressure was just right.
I had to stop several times to take some deep breaths and wipe my eyes, which were watering like mad because of the stinging. I patted the blood off with a cotton pad (at 1.5 mm, you WILL have pinpint droplets of blood wherever the needles have punctured your skin), and then used the derma stamp specifically on the wrinkle. I pressed the stamp into the wrinkle several times. I patted the area again, and then applied tretinoin (in the form of Retin-A). Whatever you choose to apply afterward will enter the microchannels, so again, be careful. The channels close up in a few hours.
I was so glad to be done, and to know I'd have a 4-week break before the next self-torture session! Good grief!
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the very strange popping/crunching sound as the needles went in to my skin. It was a bit unnerving.
The treated area was bright pink at first, with burning and tingling. Now it's been about 5 hours and it's mildly pink and has a tingly/itchy feeling, but it's not bad.
I rinsed the equipment afterward and plopped it back into some alcohol to soak.
I used a DRS Titanium Dermaroller that contains 200 needles (I bought a set of three, as I intend to do other areas, like my neck, if this works) and a DRS derma stamp with 40 titanium needles.
Be careful about the type you buy. Many of the super-cheap derma rollers don't even have actual needles -- they're more like triangular knives, which will tear or slice your skin up. That's not the goal of derma rolling -- you do NOT want to create injuries that fill in with scar tissue -- you want to create "micro-channels" (straight punctures) that stimulate fibroblasts to produce collagen through your natural healing process. The loss of collagen is what produced the wrinkle in the first place, caused by movement of the lips, sun exposure, and age. It makes sense to replace it.
I will take photos after 4 weeks, and post them here. I expect to need several treatments over several months. I can only hope it will become more tolerable! I'm going to apply lidocaine twice, over an hour, the next time I do this. The upper lip area is very sensitive.
Lip wrinkles are tough, but I'm determined! Wish me luck!