Aesthetic Treatments

What Are Crow’s Feet and How Do You Treat Them?

Smiling woman

Kim Kardashian has famously said that she doesn’t smile often, because it causes wrinkles. But what is a life without laughing and letting it show on your face? That’s literally no fun. So for those of us who want to experience enjoyment and show it, there are ways to do this while temporarily softening those lines etched in your skin.

It’s true that wrinkles can be created by repeated movements — for example, when you grin, you may notice crinkles and folds around the outer parts of your eyes. (They're commonly called crow's feet.) Let’s discuss what crow's feet are and the way many people (and likely even friends of yours) are treating this area, so you can crack up and keep your skin looking smooth at the same time.

First, What Are Crow’s Feet?

Crow’s feet are the fine lines that fan out from the corners of our eyes when we smile and are caused by the repeated contraction of the muscles that surround your eyes. (In case you were wondering, the medical term for these muscles is orbicularis oculi; drop that one on your derm at your next appointment if you’re looking to impress.) As you might have guessed, they get their name because their pattern is nearly identical to that of a crow’s bony feet.

“People who smile a lot or spend a lot of time in the sun may start to notice [crow's feet] as early as their late teens and early twenties, but these lines may become more pronounced as we age,” notes Suzanne Friedler, MD, who serves as clinical instructor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Anita Cela, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, adds, “Unlike wrinkles in other areas of the face, [crow's feet] can show up earlier. I noticed my first crow’s feet on my 24th birthday, and that isn’t unusual. So, from the mid-20s forward, crow's feet [usually] begin to show.” 

The reason crow's feet often appear before other lines is due to the skin around the eyes being much thinner than the rest of the face. The skin in this area also has fewer oil glands that would otherwise help keep that area plump and full. 

It turns out it’s fairly common. Each of the experts we interviewed said that almost everyone will likely develop crow’s feet at some point. With that said, there are a couple ways to delay their onset and some methods for reducing their appearance once they do show up. 

Stocksy United / Liliya Rodnikova

How to Delay Crow’s Feet

Though we can’t entirely prevent crow’s feet — can you imagine a life with less smiling? — we can use certain precautions to help minimize them. 

“When it comes to our skin, sun is the number one culprit that contributes to the worsening of wrinkles, so it’s obvious that we need to make sure the areas around our eyes are well protected,” says Cela. “Using a good sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and wearing sunglasses are the most important things we can do for prevention. Of course, wearing a hat is really good, too.”

If that endorsement isn’t an exceptionally good reason to go shopping for a new pair of sunglasses and a selfie-ready sun hat, we don’t know what is. 

What to Try On Your Own

Regarding topical treatments for crow’s feet, our experts caution against expecting a miracle in a bottle. Gary Breslow, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon and the CEO of Zwivel, says, “Over-the-counter treatments are limited because they focus mainly on the quality of the overlying skin that is part of the orbicularis muscle actions that create the crow’s feet.”

If you do prefer to go topical, seek out creams and serums with ingredients like retinol, peptides, and hyaluronic acid, which can mildly soften the appearance of crow’s feet. Cela explains that retinol and peptides can build collagen and hyaluronic acid plumps wrinkles.

Treat Crow’s Feet with an Expert – Try a Wrinkle Reducer  

An injectable wrinkle reducer is an effective way to temporarily smooth these moderate to severe lines around the eyes. This is because it stops the muscles from contracting.

“[These] treatments [reduce the activity of] the orbicularis muscle so that fewer lines [visibly] form even when smiling,” notes Friedler. “They can be done with a dermatologist in [about 10 minutes] and need to be repeated.” In other words, the results are temporary. They don’t last forever. Generally, wrinkle reducer treatments should be repeated no more often than every three months.

There are risks involved, as with any prescription treatment, so it’s important to talk to your provider to find out if they’re right for you. It’s also a good idea to ask about cost. You can usually expect to pay $400 to $600 for each treatment, but that said, prices vary.   

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“These treatments are very effective at minimizing the appearance of the crow's feet,” Breslow adds. Want to chat about injectable  wrinkle reducers?  Our trained aesthetic specialists are here to help!

Ultimately, crow’s feet are the result of normal, happy expressions. And though many choose to live with them — even love them — you do have options when it comes to reducing their appearance (if that’s your goal). Our best piece of advice is to keep on smiling!