The skin under and around our eyes is among the body’s most delicate. It’s thin and contains numerous blood vessels but no oil glands to produce and maintain moisture.
Starting around age 25, our natural collagen production starts slowing down. The gradual decline in collagen causes a loss of elasticity that results in fine lines and wrinkles, as well as puffiness and dark circles.
What causes eye wrinkles?
Although inevitable as we age, wrinkling around the eyes can be hastened and deepened by these nine factors:
1. Dry and Dehydrated Skin
Dry and dehydrated skin is the most common cause of eye wrinkles. When your skin lacks moisture, the texture suffers.
Those of us with naturally dry skin are more likely to develop wrinkles around the eyes. Dehydration, although a temporary condition caused by a lack of water in the body, is often the culprit when there’s a sudden deepening of the lines around our eyes.
2. Dirt and Pollution
In addition to clogging our pores, dirt, pollution, and other environmental factors suck the moisture out of our skin, contributing to dryness and dehydration.
3. Facial Expressions
Repetitive facial expressions, such as smiling, eventually lead to wrinkles and lines around the eyes. Any movement of facial muscles helps develop grooves beneath the skin, especially those that cause the eyes to crinkle. As we lose collagen during the aging process, these grooves turn into creases that grow deeper over time.
Our genes play a significant role in how we age, including how quickly and deeply we develop wrinkles around the eyes. However, skin exposed more to external and environmental factors, such as the face, neck, and hands, nearly always ages more quickly than other body parts.
5. Not Sleeping on Your Back
Sleeping with your face against the pillow can lead to crow’s feet around the eyes and other facial imperfections, according to a study in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. That’s not good news for those who prefer to sleep on their sides or stomachs.
6. Rubbing Your Eyes
Do you rub your eyes when you’re tired? Make a conscious effort to stop. Remember that the skin under our eyes is thin and delicate, and frequent rubbing can stretch it too much. Overstretched skin leads to a breakdown in elastin, creating lines and wrinkles.
7. Smoking and Vaping
Tobacco smoke hastens our natural decrease in collagen production, leading to thicker, less elastic skin. Smoking and vaping can both create wrinkle-causing free radicals.
The act of grasping a cigarette or vape pipe between the lips also causes a repetitive pucker that eventually creates a pattern of wrinkles around the mouth, particularly above the upper lip.
Just as smiling crinkles up the skin around the eyes, so does squinting. Eyes are naturally averse to ultraviolet glare and will squint if not protected. Problems with eyesight also lead to squinting.
Another good reason we need to wear our glasses or contact lenses (if prescribed) and wear sunglasses with good UV protection during daytime outings.
9. Sun Exposure
In addition to the glare from UVB rays, sunshine emits UVA rays which damage the skin. UV radiation forms free radicals, which break down elastin and trigger melanin. Sun-damaged skin is more prone to discoloration, fine lines, and wrinkles, especially the delicate skin around the eyes.
How can I prevent and treat eye wrinkles?
Some of us are lucky enough to have avoided developing any significant wrinkles and lines around our eyes yet. Others have plenty of both. Both camps want to lessen the appearance of anything we have and prevent creating more if we can.
Whatever your status, take the following 7 steps to keep your delicate eye skin smooth and supple.
Follow a Daily Skin-Care Routine
Wash your skin daily to remove dirt and impurities. Exfoliate to remove dead surface cells to help your skin renew itself more quickly.
Use an excellent daily moisturizer and consider investing in creams or serums that can plump the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eye.
Products that contain hyaluronic acid and retinol are proven effective in preventing dehydration and supporting cell renewal.
Hyaluronic acid can absorb up to 1,000 times its weight in water and draws water in from the environment. Among other helpful effects, retinol supports collagen production and can help the skin retain water.
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It can be argued that sunscreen is the most effective anti-aging skincare product you can buy. Contrary to popular belief, your skin can be damaged by UV rays even on the cloudiest of days. Coat the skin around your eyes with a sunscreen developed explicitly for delicate facial skin, and wear sunglasses with high UV protection or both. A wide-brimmed hat is good, too.
Adopt Good Habits
Drink at least one ounce of water daily for every two pounds of body weight. Stop smoking or vaping. If you’ve been prescribed eyeglasses or contacts, wear them. Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
What you eat also has a direct impact on your skin. Foods high in antioxidants and vitamins, like avocados and salmon, can help support skin elasticity and help prevent wrinkles.
Small changes can lead to significant results over time. The impact of big changes can sometimes appear even more quickly than you expect.
Rest Your Eyes
Do you look at a computer screen, television, or cell phone for long periods of time? Your eyes need a break! Walk away from the screen for at least brief periods throughout the day. Instead of rubbing your eyes in response to fatigue, pamper your eyes with a cooling eye mask instead. That will help reduce puffiness and eye irritation, too.
Give Yourself a Facial Massage
Gua sha is a traditional Chinese facial massage that can help reduce wrinkles by stimulating blood circulation and supporting the body’s natural collagen production. Gua sha also releases tension in your facial muscles, which can help smooth the appearance of wrinkles. Better yet, it’s something you can do yourself. Find a tutorial on YouTube and give it a try!
Take a Skin Supplement
Some dermatologists recommend supplements containing beneficial skin-boosting ingredients like vitamin B, hydrolyzed collagen, and MSM to promote firmer, more lifted skin.
Consult a Professional
Lastly, treat yourself to the occasional facial by a professional aesthetician. If the wrinkles around your eyes continue to be a source of concern, make an appointment with a dermatologist to discuss additional measures you can take.