Focus on the Eyes: Five ways skin ages around the eyes, and how to slow it way down

by Marie Veronique Nadeau

As an older woman with fair, thinning skin, I silently applaud the tireless workers in the Department of Aging Skin: Eye Division—they never discriminate on the basis of age, color or gender. Folks blessed with flawless, collagen-dense skin come to me almost daily to show me their (invisible to me, but my eyesight may be failing) eye wrinkles, accompanied by the plaint, “I'm getting old!" While part of me thinks, “join the club," I really do sympathize. Sighting your first wrinkle isn’t cause for celebration, like losing your first tooth and being gifted a dollar bill (or is it $5 now?) from the Tooth Fairy. In contrast, the Eye Bag Hag bestows changes that can happen unexpectedly early and seemingly overnight—especially around the eyes.

Here's why: Skin surrounding the eyes is thinner and more delicate. Less collagen means wrinkles and fine lines appear around the eyes first, but that’s not all. As collagen decreases, veins show through more prominently, increasing the advent of dark circles. In addition thin skin fills more easily with fluid, which can lead to eye puffiness.

Fortunately we can thwart early onset eye aging with a few easy fixes. Read on for five common problems, causes and solutions.

1) Crow’s Feet

Causes: Thin skin, diminished collagen

Life-style solutions: Adapt a daily healthy, low-salt diet; take antioxidant supplements to build collagen, and get sufficient sleep.

Topical solutions: Apply serums containing antioxidants, especially vitamin C, to rebuild collagen.

Additional tips: Remove eye makeup with oils or oil-based cleansers that do not irritate eyes, and be careful not to stretch your skin.

2) Fine Lines

Causes: Loss of collagen, too much squinting from direct sun exposure or excessive work in front of the computer.

Life-style solutions: Avoid direct sun; wear sunglasses; and if you do a lot of close work in front of the computer, take frequent rests—five-minute breaks every 30 minutes.

Topical solutions: Wear sunscreen around the eyes every day; use serums containing age-defying ingredients like aminoguanadine to prevent glycation and protein cross-linking, or L-carnosine to fight aging processes that weaken skin integrity.

Additional tips: We make many of our expression lines while we’re dreaming. To prevent squinting at night, tear off 1/2-inch strips of paper medical tape. Place the strips directly on the squint lines before getting into bed. Keep the tape on overnight. Remove the tape when you wake to reveal a serene, bright-eyed appearance.

3) Dark Circles

Cause: To determine the cause of your dark circles, gently stretch the skin under your eyes. If the area becomes darker, then the circles are probably due to thin skin and diminished collagen. If the color doesn’t change, UV rays causing hyperpigmentation are probably the problem. Blood that accumulates under the eyes, often due to poor circulation or lack of sleep, can be more obvious in fair or thin-skinned people, especially as fragile capillaries stretch and leak.

Life-style solutions: Get sufficient sleep; take vitamin C supplements; eat vegetables and herbs high in vitamin K like basil, spinach and collard greens.

Topical solutions: Apply sunscreen with zinc oxide every day around the eyes; use serums containing antioxidants such as vitamin C and green tea, and skin brighteners such as niacinamide, N-acetyl glucosamine.

Additional tips: The enzyme catecholase found in potatoes has skin-lightening properties that help reduce under-eye circles. Follow the steps below as often as every evening to soothe eyes and fade dark circles.

  1. Peel, wash and dry a medium-sized potato
  2. Grate the potato, put the shavings in a clean cheesecloth bag and tie it up.
  3. Place this cloth over your eyelids for several minutes.

Save the bag in your refrigerator, changing the potato shavings every week.

4) Puffy Eyes

Cause: Stress, lack of sleep and hormones, as well as allergies that trigger the release of histamines in the body, which in turn inflame blood vessels and cause swelling.

Life-style solutions: Get sufficient sleep; take allergy remedies and use a Neti pot to clear sinuses.

Topical solutions: Apply serums containing dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline to tighten skin.

Additional tips: Because lactic acid in milk restricts blood flow, it will lighten the area and make any remaining swelling less noticeable. You may do the suggested routine below every evening if desired.

  1. Soak two cotton balls in cold milk and squeeze out the excess.
  2. Lie down; place one cotton ball under each eye for three minutes. Rest your eyes while the milk sets in.
  3. Remove the cotton balls; gently wipe away any remaining milk from the eye area with a clean cloth.

5) Sagging and Bags

Cause: Heredity and age are the major causes. With age, the ligaments underneath the eyes that hold back fatty tissue begin to weaken, and the tissue can fall forward to form under-eye bags. Yet another cause is the stillness of sleeping—your circulatory system moves more slowly during sleep, leaving excess fluid beneath the eyes. A stressed or sleep-deprived body can prevent your circulatory system from flushing out this extra fluid—even after you've been awake for a while.

Life-style solutions: Avoid foods and beverages that encourage fluid retention including alcohol, coffee, white sugar, fried foods, white flour and salt.

Topical solutions: At night, use your ring finger to pat a dime-sized amount of eye serum under each eye bag. Use a carnosine, vitamin C, aminoguanadine-rich eye serum to strengthen collagen and inhibit aging processes. Eye serum travels up as it is absorbed, so placing it just below the bags will ensure that the proper area is treated.

Additional tips: Elevate your head while sleeping to let gravity do the work of preventing fluid buildup.

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