As we age we see changes in our skin, particularly around the eye area. Wrinkles and fine lines are an inevitable part of getting older, and have many contributing causes.
“The skin around the eyes is extra thin, delicate and vulnerable, which is why this is one of the first areas that people will notice fine lines settling in,” Connecticut-based dermatologist Dr. Rhonda Klein told HuffPost. “Fine lines around the eyes are caused by a combination of collagen and elastin loss as well as volume and fat loss ― natural effects of aging skin.”
Frequent usage of the orbicularis oculi muscle around the eyes tends to create these lines, Dr. Joyce Park, a dermatologist in Northern California, noted.
“As we squint and emote throughout the years, these repeated actions cause lines to form,” Park explained. “Aging skin is also less able to hold onto moisture, and dry skin wrinkles more readily. Additionally, environmental exposures to UV radiation or smoke over time can cause wrinkling.”
These wrinkles and fine lines are completely natural, but they can be a source of insecurity for many ― even impacting everyday lives.
“When I was a medical student, I rotated at a cosmetic practice where the female medical assistants refused to laugh or smile in efforts to prevent the development of crow’s feet,” said Dr. Karan Lal of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Hillsborough, New Jersey.
The good news is you don’t have to give up on smiling or laughing to address wrinkles around your eyes. Below, experts share their advice for preventing and treating these fine lines.
Apply a retinol-based eye cream
“One of the things that helps to prevent and treat wrinkles is retinol,” said Dr. Papri Sarkar. , a dermatologist in Brookline, Massachusetts. “Using a retinol or retinoid cream here helps to stave off the aging process. I recommend a retinol that’s formulated with the eye area in mind, as it’s more sensitive. But diluting an eye cream with a moisturizer can also do the trick.”
Lal also advises retinol and offered a product recommendation.
“There are many retinol-based eye creams, which can stimulate collagen and prevent the development of the crepey appearance around the eyes,” Lal said. “One such example is RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Eye Cream.”
New York City dermatologist Dr. Hadley King endorsed Pond’s Rejuveness Lifting and Brightening Eye Cream, which she advised using nightly.
“It contains moisturizing ingredients, as well as niacinamide to help improve tone and texture, and retinol to help stimulate collagen,” King noted.
Be gentle when touching the area
“Rubbing the eye area can cause lines and pigmentation,” Sarkar said. “That’s why I generally recommend handling this area very gently! Don’t rub or pick your eyes or the skin around them.”
While it’s overall best to avoid touching your eye area (or face in general), we learned from the pandemic that it’s not always easy to do this. Plus, there are daily tasks that require us to come into contact with our eye areas. In these instances, the key is to be mindful.
“Use care when washing your face and applying makeup/products,” said Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital. “Avoid repeated tugging on this delicate skin.”
Use products with peptides
Retinol gets a lot of attention in the skin care world these days. But when it comes to tackling fine lines, many experts also tout the benefits of peptides. Peptides are basically short chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins like collagen and elastin.
“My recommendation for preventing fine lines is to start using peptides that will build collagen and relax the muscles that contribute to fine lines,” Lal said. “An affordable product is The Ordinary’s Argireline Solution, which helps reduce muscle contraction and its effects on the skin. Another great product I like is Revision’s Revox Line Relaxer, which has GABA and other peptides that help soften those fine lines around the eyes.”
“One of the only clinically proven topical products that helps smooth the appearance of expression lines, this serum contains seven different anti-aging peptides,” King said of Revox 7. “Their studies show that it softens the appearance of seven types of expression lines: forehead lines, glabella frown lines, crow’s feet, bunny nose lines, nasolabial laugh lines, lip lines, marionette lines.”
Don’t forget sun protection
“Sun exposure or UV radiation is another preventable cause of fine lines and wrinkling,” Sarkar said. “Making sure this area and the rest of your skin is protected is important.”
Protect against sun damage by applying a mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and wearing UV-blocking sunglasses.
“A large, wide-brimmed hat also helps to provide shade to the eye area and is sometimes easier to keep on than remembering to reapply sunscreen as often as you need it,” Sarkar added.
Hats and sunglasses also help prevent squinting in the sun, which further exacerbates fine lines.
“You can’t really change your genes or stop the years from marching by, but you can make some important changes to prevent fine lines,” Sarkar said. “Smoking is bad for every organ system, including the skin. If you’re smoking, take this as a signal that it’s time to kick that habit to the curb.”
In addition to putting down the cigarettes, Dr. Melanie D. Palm ― a board-certified dermatologist and medical director at the Art of Skin MD in Southern California ― emphasized being kind to your body in other ways and practicing good self-care.
“Appropriate sleep, rest, physical activity, stress management, and nutrition all play a role in the look of the area around our eyes and the overall health of our skin,” Palm said.
Focus on boosting hydration
“A good, hydrating eye cream or moisturizer with hyaluronic acid can help plump the skin around the eyes resulting in fewer lines,” said Dr. Brian Hibler of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “I always have patients apply a thick moisturizing cream at night to the skin around the eyes, especially if they are also using a topical retinoid, which can be drying to the skin.”
When choosing a product, talk to your dermatologist to determine the best options for your skin type.
King recommended No7 Youthful Eye Serum, which contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, and Olay Total Effects Eye Transforming Cream, which is “rich in moisturizing ingredients and antioxidants, as well as niacinamide.”
Make sure you’re staying hydrated as well. In addition to the other health benefits of drinking water, it’s great for the skin.
“Although this is a temporary cause, dehydration or dry skin can also cause undereye lines to be more pronounced,” Sarkar noted.
“If the wrinkles have already formed, you can consider Botox in the crow’s feet area to soften the lines,” Park suggested.
Botox is a neuromodulator, which can relax the muscle activity in areas of the face and thus soften the lines created by muscle movement and reduce their appearance at rest. Other common neuromodulators include Dysport, Xeomin and Juveau. Younger people are increasingly turning to Botox treatments for so-called prejuvenation ― minimizing movement and treating wrinkles before they are fully formed to prevent deep creases.
“It is normal to have expression around the eyes, but if we can relax the muscles so that the movement is not as strong or dynamic, we can reduce the appearance and onset of these lines and prevent them from becoming etched deeper into the skin, at which point they become more difficult to treat,” Hibler said.
King recommended trying dermal fillers if Botox doesn’t offer satisfactory results.
“If the lines were etched in and do not sufficiently disappear after a neuromodulator, then a superficial filler like Belotero can create great results,” King said. “This may be approximately $700-1,500.”
Sarkar also suggested the filler route, with a couple of caveats.
“Filler can be used to volumize the area to mimic the fat and bone loss this area goes through,” Sarkar said. “I recommend very small layers of filler, as this area has a propensity to swell. Undercorrection is definitely better than overcorrection here.”
Invest in laser treatment
“Laser resurfacing is the gold standard for static fine lines that are etched into the skin,” Lal said. “It is usually a one-time treatment that removes the skin layer by layer around the eyes and reverses time.”
Lal noted that the laser option isn’t for everyone, as it requires one to two weeks of downtime and is associated with redness that can last for one to two months after the procedure. It’s important to go to an expert, as there is potential for scarring as well.
“Laser skin resurfacing can be very helpful in reducing crepiness,” King added. “This is a great way to stimulate collagen production and improve the skin texture.”
King noted that a brand of laser treatment called Clear and Brilliant requires minimal downtime and costs about $400 to $500, while a more aggressive laser option called Fraxel requires more downtime and may cost as much as $5,000, depending on how much of the face is treated.
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