Crow’s feet. Eleven lines. Crepiness. Crinkling. Heavy brows. Dark circles. Saggy lids. Puffiness. The signs of aging around our eye area make for no short list. Here’s the reason: “The skin in this area is very thin, and as a result, more susceptible to sun and aging,” explains Robert Anolik, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
In addition to direct exposure to sunlight, perpetual muscle movements — things like squinting, blinking, and smiling — are a major contributor to lines and wrinkles around the eyes. “Even for people who are aging really well, it’s almost inevitable that [they’ll] notice signs of aging around their eyes, because there are so many factors at play,” adds Elizabeth Hale, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “And because the skin is delicate, even a little collagen loss and loss of elasticity presents itself sooner,” she says.
So, what can you do? First off, as you probably already know, a commitment to wearing sunscreen is crucial. It’s also important to keep skin in this area hydrated with a regular application of eye cream, as well as wear sunglasses year-round to ward off future sun damage. To provide you with even more options, we consulted with derms and plastic surgeons about non-invasive treatments, surgical options, and skincare formulas. We also chatted with celebrity makeup artists, who offered their top tips for camouflaging common eye area concerns. Read on for the top solutions for dealing with the biggest issues around the eyes.
To help improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles: For lines and wrinkles around the eyes, doctors have several treatments to choose from. Dr. Anolik is a proponent of injectable wrinkle reducers to combat dynamic wrinkles (like the elevens and crow’s feet) caused by years of squinting and eye muscle movements. “So many of these lines are the consequence of muscle contraction, and when performed well, the lines and wrinkles [temporarily] diminish,” he says. Patients can usually expect minimal downtime, minimal bruising, and some results starting to appear in a few days post treatment, with final results visible in about a month’s time.
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.
If your wrinkles are due to reasons other than muscle contraction, doctors often turn to fractional laser resurfacing, which helps your skin build new collagen and elastin. Depending on the depth and coarseness of your wrinkles, doctors can recommend either non-ablative or ablative fractional resurfacing options like Fraxel® or AcupulseTM. “They both work, it just depends on the severity of the lines,” explains Dr. Hale, who uses both devices in her practice. Skin can appear pink, dry, and scabby for a week or up to a month, depending on the intensity of the treatment; results can take up to three months to a year in order to fully show.
At home, protect your investment with a strong skincare lineup. Dr. Hale advises applying broad-spectrum SPF during the day (she likes the easy-to-use Isdinceutics® Mineral Brush Sunscreen). Keep up the smoothing results by using a peptide-infused eye serum like Alastin Skincare® Restorative Eye Treatment and a retinoid at night. (Discover dermatologists’ favorite retinols on Amazon here.)
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
To address dark circles: Dark undereye shadows can be the result of pigmentation or a vascularity problem. The first step is to figure out which one is the culprit. If what you see under your eyes appears as dark pink, purple, or blue discoloration, that signals you may have a vascular issue due to congested veins and pooling of blood, says Dr. Hale. “Because the eyelid skin is so thin, it tends to be more translucent, so you see underlying vessels more than you would in other parts of the face and body,” she explains.
To treat it, ask your provider if you’re a candidate for fat transfer. For this treatment, microdroplets of fat harvested from other areas of your body are injected into the undereye hollows, which helps diminish dark circles and makes the area look brighter. At home, you can help tackle discoloration by investing in an eye cream containing caffeine like Neostrata® Intensive Eye Therapy. “The vasoconstriction helps improve the appearance of dark circles that are vascular in nature,” she says.
Light to dark brown spots, can be caused by either sun damage or chronic irritation, like rubbing the eyes due to allergies. If your dark circles are due to pigmentation, lightening serums, such as Goldfaden MDTM Bright Eyes ($55), as well as low energy, non-ablative lasers like LaseMD or Clear + Brilliant® can be helpful.
Keep in mind that when treating undereye discoloration, “nothing is ever one and done,” says Dr. Hale. “In fact, especially with [discoloration] around the eyelids, because the skin is so sensitive, less is more.” Laser treatments that are too intense can backfire, causing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The best route is to plan for one to five conservative sessions with gradual results of breaking up and lightening of pigment. Consult with your provider to work on a treatment plan that’s best for you and your needs.
To shrink bags and decrease puffiness: There’s really one primary option for this common eye concern: “The gold standard for treatment of bags and puffiness around the eyes is a blepharoplasty,” says Adam Kolker, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City. When performing this surgical procedure, your doctor will reposition excess fat around the eyelids, either with or without removal of skin. To further restore youthfulness to the eyelid region, continues Dr. Kolker, adding autologous fat to the tear trough and cheek complex is another common treatment in conjunction with blepharoplasty. Downtime can range from ten days to two weeks.
For a tighter, lifted look: For a significantly droopy brow, a surgical lift may be necessary to see improvement. While no single surgery will fit every patients’ needs, “One of the most effective procedures for brow elevation is an endoscopic or limited incision brow lift,” Dr. Kolker says. During the procedure, small incisions are made in the scalp behind the hairline, and the forehead skin and lateral eyebrows are repositioned. Recovery is approximately two to four weeks.
For the upper and lower eyelids (and even the area between the brows), Thermage®, a monopolar radio frequency treatment is a popular choice. While Dr. Hale notes that the results just don’t compare to going under the knife, she believes it to be the best nonsurgical option. How it works: using a specially-designed eyelid tip, the device delivers hundreds of pulses of heat in the form of radiofrequency, which helps tighten by stimulating collagen production. Downtime is minimal (prepare to look pink for a few hours after treatment) and results take two to six months to show. According to Dr. Hale, you’ll see tightening, and ideally, in addition to less loose skin, a little elevation of the brow. “It won’t look as heavy,” she adds.
Makeup Artist-Recommended Tips
To help improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles: When attempting to camouflage fine lines in the eye area, keep in mind that hydrated skin always looks less wrinkled than parched skin. Thus, it’s best to moisturize before applying makeup. Makeup artist Matin Maulawizada, who’s worked with everyone from Angelina Jolie to Gwyneth Paltrow, is a fan of Laura Mercier® Repair Eye Serum ($83) for “hydrated, glossy skin,” and going very light on concealer.
“Less is definitely more,” agrees Dior® makeup artist Sabrina Bedrani, who advises using a primer as a first step. “It will fill in lines so makeup sits on top and doesn’t crease,” she says. We like Smashbox® Photo Finish® Hydrating Undereye Primer ($29), because it contains peptides and caffeine to help firm up this delicate area.
When applying concealer, choose liquid formulas over powders, since powders have an easier time settling into fine lines. Furthermore, you should avoid frosty or shimmery eyeshadows, which tend to accentuate wrinkles. For an option that “won’t emphasize lines,” Chanel® makeup artist Kara Yoshimoto Bua, recommends applying Chanel Longwear Concealer ($43) on the brow bone to create a sheer, natural-looking highlight. The secret is to use small amounts, and then pat several times with your ring finger to blend, she says.
To address dark circles: The best way to visually erase darkness under the eyes is with a peach-toned formula, which Maulawizada advises you apply only where needed. “The less texture you use, the better your skin will look,” he adds.
Yoshimoto Bua concurs: “The most common mistake is to apply a heavy concealer under the entire eye.” Instead, dab it on closer to the bridge of the nose and blend well, avoiding overapplication. We’re particularly fond of Pixi® Correction Concentrate ($12), which comes in two hues (peach and apricot) to brighten up darkness under the eye on complexions ranging from fair to deep.
To shrink bags and decrease puffiness: If you’re looking for a temporary fix to relieve puffy skin at home, our experts say that tools are crucial. Try the MDNA® Skin Beauty Roller, or gua sha and roller tools to provide a sculpted look. For best results, you should pair your tool of choice with a DIY lymphatic massage. To do this, start using your device at the center of your face, working your way outward along the contours of your cheekbone and jawline. Then, move from the outer face down the neck to improve drainage.
[Editor’s note: If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using a gua sha or rolling tool.]
For an even simpler solution, toss two metal spoons in the fridge to chill overnight and place them over your eyes in the morning. “The oldest trick in the book is to use cold spoons around the eyes to get rid of puffiness,” agrees Bedrani, who always carries spoons in her kit for clients.
Undereye patches are also a quick (albeit temporary) fix. Some of our artists’ favorites include Skyn Iceland® Hydro CoolTM Firming Eye Gels ($30) and the SiO Super EyeLift® ($25), both of which gently grip the undereye area to deliver smoothing, cooling benefits without slipping off.
For a tighter, lifted look: While it’s not realistic to assume you can achieve tightening effects with makeup, Bedrani recommends prepping skin with microcurrent and radiofrequency facials. “I can actually see a difference in the elasticity of my skin right after a facial,” she says. She’s also a proponent of Elevare® Plus by Elevare SkinTM ($4,699), an at-home red and infrared LED light and heating device that claims to fill fine lines, increase collagen and elastin production, and reduce inflammation.
Paying attention to your brows and lashes may also help fake a more lifted appearance. “As we grow older, we often lose the fullness of our brows, especially the outer half, which tends to lose density,” explains Yoshimoto Bua. To counteract these effects, she recommends investing in two brow pencils — a shade lighter and a shade darker than your natural hair color — to create a soft inner and fuller outer brow. Use the lighter shade to fill in the entire shape, Yoshimoto Bua says, then define the arch to the outer corner with the darker color pencil. (Discover more eyebrow shaping tips here.)
To give your lashes a lift, try Maulawizada’s secret: “I usually create a line with dots between the lashes underneath the waterline with a sharpened black pencil or cream shadow. This creates the look of thick lashes,” he says. Bedrani takes the prep one step further by adding a lash primer. She recommends Diorshow® Maximizer 3DTM ($30), an oil-serum base that coats the lashes to improve the appearance of thickness and curl.
Finish with two coats of mascara. We’d recommend looking for a lengthening or volumizing formula like Marc Jacobs® Velvet NoirTM Major Volume Mascara ($26), which, in our experience, rivals falsies.
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