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MO Clinical | EYE TREATMENT

A Specific Guide
to Caring for the Skin Around Your Eyes

how-to-care-for-the-skin-around-your-eyes-722x406.jpg

This sensitive area requires different care than the rest of your face does. Follow these do’s and don’ts for tending to it, and find out how to fix common problems from fine lines to puffiness.

By Jessica Migala 

Medically Reviewed by Ross Radusky, MD

Reviewed: August 5, 2020

If your eyes are a window into your soul, well, you’re going to want to care for the skin around them the best you can. “The area around your eyes is one of the thinnest, most sensitive areas of your body. It’s also among the first to reveal the very first signs of aging, like fine lines,” says Lauren Fine, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology in Illinois.

If your eyes are a window into your soul, well, you’re going to want to care for the skin around them the best you can. “The area around your eyes is one of the thinnest, most sensitive areas of your body. It’s also among the first to reveal the very first signs of aging, like fine lines,” says Lauren Fine, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology in Illinois.

3 Do’s and Don’ts for Tending to the Skin Around Your Eyes

 

1. Do Commit to Treating Your Eye Skin

“Eye creams are one of the things that people forget about and don’t often use,” says Michele Green, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “You need a moisturizer that can penetrate the area to deliver the hydration it needs.”

2. Don’t Rely on Your Regular Facial Moisturizer to Get the Job Done

Many patients ask Dr. Fine if they can just use their regular moisturizer on their eyes, and most of the time the answer is no, she says. “You need an eye cream that is specifically designed for eyelid skin,” says Fine. Face serums and moisturizers may contain active ingredients, such as retinoids, that are too strong a concentration for under-eye skin.

3. Do Opt for Actives When Choosing an Eye Cream

Just because it’s a delicate area doesn’t mean you need a bland moisturizer. One of the best to look for is an eye cream that contains retinol, a vitamin A derivative, says Dr. Green. An eye cream that contains retinol will differ from a typical facial cream with retinol. Because of the risk for irritation, it will be specifically formulated with a lower concentration of retinol and in a more emollient base (meaning moisturizing; look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid) to boost hydration while lessening the risk for irritation.

Tips for Addressing Common Eye-Area Skin Problems

Here are some of the top eye-area concerns that dermatologists hear about — and their suggestions for addressing them.

 

Dark Circles

While they’re connected to lack of sleep, sometimes consistently logging eight hours a night won’t get rid of them. That’s because there’s a genetic component to dark circles, says Fine. “These are hard to erase completely, but there are some nice topicals that contain caffeine or vitamin K, which can help with circulation to lighten circles,” she says.

Puffy Bags

If you wake up puffy, it may be because of fluid that accumulated under your eyes while you slept, according to the Mayo Clinic. If this is a common scenario for you, buy a jade roller and keep it in your refrigerator. (Buy one that’s shaped like a small ball, so it’s suited for this smaller area.) In the morning, dip the roller into the eye gel and gently roll across the bags, suggests Green. While there’s no scientific proof that jade rollers will definitively reduce puffiness, some dermatologists, including Green, recommend using them on the eye area when they’re cold, as the cooling action will help reduce puffiness. Cold temperatures reduce blood flow to reduce eye-area swelling, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Go for a retinol or a peptide-packed eye cream. Retinol and retinoid are vitamin A derivatives that stimulate skin cell turnover and collagen production. “Retinol helps with overall texture and goes deeper into skin structures to revitalize wrinkles and improve the appearance of fine lines,” says Green. Use a retinol-containing eye cream at night. As for the morning, she recommends an eye cream that “contains green tea, an antioxidant-packed ingredient that protects skin against the environmental stressors that contribute to aging.” According to a review published in February 2019 in the journal Nutrients, green tea polyphenols, which are antioxidant compounds, neutralize aging free radicals in the body, lessen the risk of sunburn, and decrease the activity of an enzyme that degrades collagen in your skin. The result: less UV damage and fewer lines and wrinkles. 

Redness and Irritation

“Given the thin, sensitive nature of skin here, it can take longer to recover,” says Fine. If you’re sensitive to an ingredient in one of your products, like fragrance, preservatives, or natural plant extracts, eyes are often the first area that will erupt in irritation, or the irritation can be more extreme here, she says. In this case, see your dermatologist. “It’s better to treat it immediately [and identify the offending product]; otherwise, it can take weeks or months to go back to normal,” she says.

Are Eye Creams or Eye Gels Better?

This question all depends on your skin type or main concern. If you have naturally dry eyes, then you’re going to want to choose a cream, which contains a lower amount of water than a gel, allowing it to hydrate better. “A gel alone will not be moisturizing enough,” says Fine. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with under-eye bags, then a gel may be perfect for you, adds Green. “I love eye gel. I keep mine refrigerated. When you apply it, any puffiness goes away immediately,” she says.

How to Apply Your Eye Cream or Gel Properly

As for how to apply an eye cream or gel, Green recommends using the finger with the lightest touch, usually your pinkie. Gently pat across your under-eye area until it is covered. This ensures that you don’t tug on this delicate skin like you would if you smeared it.

Dermatologic Procedures for Addressing Eye Concerns

Sometimes, an over-the-counter solution just won’t do the trick. Fortunately, there are more powerful solutions available in your dermatologist’s office. Here are some procedures and treatments to ask about.

For Under-Eye Darkness, Hyaluronic Acid Fillers Can Help

According to an article published in January 2015 in Clinics in Plastic Surgery, injecting a small amount of hyaluronic acid, a common filler, can fill in the little groove near the tear trough. Because the skin here is very thin, as research has shown, this procedure should be done by a skilled provider. For people in their twenties and thirties, their “dark circles respond beautifully to this treatment,” says Fine. By filling in this space, it changes how light reflects off this area, making eyes look lighter and brighter. With a topical anesthetic, the injections produce minimal pain and last 9 to 12 months, she says.

A different approach may be warranted for people in their forties and fifties, she says. “There are often bony changes that occur, as well as slipping of deep fat pads due to a loss of fat and collagen, which serve as support for the area,” Fine says. What you’ll see in the mirror are pretty significant under-eye bags, and filler in the tear trough area won’t be able to correct the problem. “In this case, I find that most robust fillers in the mid and lateral cheek can help improve the overall appearance,” she says.

For Undereye Puffiness or Bulges, Surgery May Be the Only Fix

“With the loss of collagen as skin ages, the fat pad surrounding the eye can slip, creating a bulge that people perceive as bags around the eyes,” explains Fine. While a filler can sometimes help, the more reliable fix is surgery. Eyelid surgery is referred to as blepharoplasty, which can be done on either or both of the lower and upper eyelids to address bags under the eyes, wrinkles, and puffiness, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). In 2019, there were more than 211,000 eyelid surgeries, which on average cost $3,300 each, according to the ASPS. The greatest factor in recovery is swelling and bruising, which lasts up to two weeks.

For Fine Lines or Dark Circles, Try a Laser Treatment

In her office, Green treats patients with eMatrix Laser Skin Resurfacing to stimulate collagen renewal. (The laser has a tip specifically suited for the eye area to target fine lines and dark circles, she says.) This sublative laser uses radiofrequency to treat skin. Per an article published in 2014 in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, radiofrequency uses electromagnetic energy to heat up skin tissue, which triggers collagen production. Thermage, another radiofrequency treatment, and Fraxel Resurfacing Treatment are other options.

They require commitment, though, as these have to be done every four to six weeks, says Green.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Remedy Eye Problems

Poor health habits, most notably smoking, can contribute to under-eye problems, says Green. Excess alcohol consumption can bring on bags and dark circles, as well as affect the quality of your sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. (Stick to the one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Speaking of sleep, make sure you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours per night. Research shows that a fatigued face has hanging eyelids, swollen eyes, and dark circles, which reveals to people just how tired you are — a message you probably don’t want to send. Last, drink enough water: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends consuming ½ ounce (oz) to 1 oz of fluid, which includes water, for each pound of body weight each day. Why it matters for your skin health: Dark circles can be a product of sipping too little H2O, according to a study published in April 2014 in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. Eating a high-sodium diet will also provoke puffiness, so keep water retention down by reducing salt in your diet, the researchers advise.

One Last Thing About Caring for the Skin Around Your Eyes

The skin around your eyes tends to be drier and more delicate than the rest of your face. While some issues are hereditary, like under-eye bags, many topical remedies and in-office treatments can smooth lines, brighten the under-eye area, and reduce bags and puffiness. While it may be tempting to use your existing facial moisturizer around your eyes, it’s best to opt for a specifically designed eye cream or gel to slow down the signs of aging and reduce the risk of irritation. “Always give this area a little extra TLC,” says Green.

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