If you’ve recently glanced in the mirror and noticed a deepening of fine lines around your eyes, you’re just one of many members in the crow’s feet club. It’s not an exclusive club by any means: Eventually, we’re all susceptible to developing those pesky eye-framing wrinkles. Unfortunately, some of us are more prone to developing crow’s feet than others, and there are certain habits that can cause them to appear prematurely. If you’re curious about what causes crow’s feet — and eager for a way to treat them — we have answers. Below, we sourced advice from a dermatologist and plastic surgeon on how crow’s feet form and how to help smooth them.
You’re Guilty of Squinting
In short, crow's feet form because of overuse of muscles in the eye area. “Crow’s feet are caused by the repeated wrinkling of the skin outside of the eyes due to the underlying muscle,” explains Marcelo Antunes, MD, a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon at The Piazza Center℠ in Austin, Texas. “This muscle is called the orbicularis oculi, and is the muscle that helps us close the eyes.” When we squint — whether it’s due to bright sunlight, poor vision, or otherwise — the skin and muscles wrinkle, and, over time, crow’s feet develop and deepen.
You’re a Smiler
Smiling causes crinkling of the skin over the orbicularis oculi muscle as well. Over time, the wrinkles stick. There’s really no fix for smiling because you should never stop grinning and laughing (though some people swear by maintaining a neutral facial expression at all times to avoid wrinkling). It’s just a common cause of crow’s feet, and a sign that you’ve had lots of happy moments.
You Didn’t Win the Genetics Draw
In the same way some of us are more apt to develop banana rolls or bacne, some people are especially prone to developing crow’s feet due to their genetic makeup. You can write an angry letter to your parents and grandparents about this one, but there’s unfortunately nothing you can do to change the gene lottery.
You Haven’t Been Wearing Your SPF
You’ve heard it all before, but you really shouldn’t be neglecting SPF, regardless of what season it is. In addition to causing painful burns and increasing your chances of developing skin cancer, excessive sun exposure also leads to a breakdown of collagen. If you haven’t found a sunscreen you love, search every shelf — virtual or otherwise — until you come across one that you actually look forward to using.
“Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen or use it regularly because they feel it is too thick, don’t like the feel or smell of the product, or think that it doesn’t look good on their skin,” says Jeanette M. Black, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Skin Care and Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills℠. “Find a sunscreen that looks and feels great on your skin so you will apply it generously and use it frequently.” Try one of these newer SPF formulations — including powders and oils — and see if any of them are your sunscreen holy grail.
You’ve Been Prey to Free Radical Damage
The sun’s potent UV rays isn’t the only environmental factor you need to worry about. Free radicals, which are unpaired atoms that attach to your skin and cause a chain reaction of damage, are also an issue. They exist everywhere, though they’re more common in urban or super sunny environments.
Your best line of defense against free radical damage is daily topical antioxidants, specifically vitamin C and E. Paula’s Choice® Boost C15 Super Booster™ ($49) contains a powerful dose of 15 percent vitamin C, plus vitamin E, ferulic acid, and peptides to help smooth the look of skin while fighting free radicals.
Your Skin Is Parched
Dehydrated skin isn’t so much a direct cause of crow’s feet, but it can exacerbate their appearance. A dry complexion appears more wrinkled than one that is properly hydrated. A solid moisturizer is a key step in anyone’s skincare regimen, no matter their age and regardless of skin type. Look for products that contain fruit and nut oils and butters, as well as hyaluronic acid, which helps plump up fine lines so they’re less noticeable. We’re fond of Herbivore® Moon Fruit® Superfruit Night Treatment ($58), which is loaded with kokum and shea butters, prickly pear and raspberry seed oils, and hyaluronic acid to thoroughly nourish skin. Consistent moisturizing isn’t an all-solving fix, but it does help!
You’ve Simply Gotten Older
There are things we can do that help curb signs of aging, including a lot of what we just mentioned: daily SPF application, chilling in the shade as much as possible, wearing sunglasses and hats to avoid squinting, and applying antioxidant-rich products. Eventually, though, time catches up to us, and bam, we’ve got crow’s feet to contend with.
How to Improve the Look of Crow’s Feet
One of the most effective ways to improve the appearance of moderate to severe crow’s feet is by treating them. According to Dr. Antunes, treating the underlying muscle with an injectable wrinkle reducer will help temporarily smooth them out. “[This will reduce the activity of] of the muscle so when we do squint or smile, the wrinkling won’t be as significant,” he explains.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.]
After getting your crow’s feet treated by a licensed provider with injectable wrinkle reducer, you should start to see an improved, smoother-looking appearance after a week, with the full effects kicking in about a month. Interested in learning more? Talk to our team of trained aesthetics specialists, who can answer your questions and help find a licensed provider near you.
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