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relaxed skin tension lines

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Tension is present in all directions in the skin but mainly in one direction, which follows the relaxed skin tension lines (RSTLs) first described by Borges (1)

  • RSTLs follow furrows when the skin is relaxed; they are not visible features of skin like wrinkle lines
    • relaxation is achieved by joint mobilization, muscle contraction, or pinching
      • of these three methods, pinching is the most reliable
        • furrows formed with joint mobilization or muscle contraction can be unreliable, depending on the type of joint mobilization or on which muscle is contracting
        • furrows formed by pinching are best created by applying the pinch at a right angle to the RSTLs
          • RSTLs exert a constant tension pull in a certain direction and are altered only temporarily by muscle action


  • Borges AF: Relaxed skin tension lines (RSTL) versus other skin lines. Plast Reconstr Surg 73:144-150, 1984.

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