Under-Eye Wrinkles, Crow's Feet & Fine Lines: How To Treat & Prevent Those Micro-Cracks
Tackling under-eye wrinkles can resemble a game of Whack-A-Mole: Once one crease pops up, others tend to surface in its wake. But according to derms, those wrinkles might be easier to treat (and prevent!) than you think. All you need is the right ingredients to naturally fill in those micro-cracks. Here, we outline what causes undereye wrinkles and crow's feet, how to prevent their formation, and finally, what you can do if you have them.
What causes under-eye wrinkles?
Here's the thing: Under-eye wrinkles are inevitable—and we all get them. Think about when even a small child smiles? They get crow's feet and under-eye wrinkles. The concern arises when those lines stick around, even when we don't move our facial expression or muscles.
Eye wrinkles get the lion's share of the attention because they tend to be some of the first to pop up. This is because our skin around the eyes is also incredibly thin; our skin already thins as we age (due to a loss of collagen), so the area under our eyes is usually the first to sag. In fact, according to board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare Ellen Marmur, M.D., our entire eye socket sinks in as we age: "The bones thin, the fat shifts, and the blood vessels wither, providing less vibrant skin and more wrinkles," she tells mbg.
Your eyes also emote quite a bit throughout the day (not to mention throughout your lifetime), making it a vulnerable spot for fine lines. According to Marmur, there are over 10 muscles around our eyes squinting, smiling, and expressing, and constantly contracting those muscles can create wrinkles. It's another reason the area tends to be one of the first places to show fine lines and crow's feet as we age—think of them as signs you've had your fair share of belly laughs throughout your life.
How to prevent eye wrinkles.
The good news is, there are a variety of ways you can delay the onset if you start early:
1. Invest in a moisturizer and slather on SPF.
For celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas, there's a simple prevention formula: "Sunglasses, sunscreen, and keeping the area hydrated," she tells mbg. Minimizing sun damage as much as you can is key here; that's why so many derms and estheticians alike stress the importance of proper sun care. Marmur agrees: "My No. 1 recommendation for preventing these wrinkles from forming is to apply a sunscreen and cream every day," she says. (Marmur also recommends a large pair of sunnies to protect the entire crow's feet area while you're outdoors—this not only helps shield UV rays, but it prevents you from squinting.)
In terms of hydration, you may want to invest in a trusty eye cream to hydrate and tighten the area or slap on an under-eye mask if you're feeling especially dry—some formulas even have microneedling properties to provide deeper penetration and stimulate collagen production. If you don't want to shill out extra money for an eye product? Totally fine—just make sure you are applying your standard moisturizer to the area.
2. Tend to puffiness and dark circles.
While dark circles, puffiness, and bags are not the same thing as under-eye wrinkles, they certainly are all related. Not to mention, when you treat any of these unique eye-specific concerns, you'll help the other issues as well.
To keep the area bright and reduce puffiness, Lamees Hamdan, M.D., a Dubai-based general practitioner with a dermatology background and founder and CEO of Shiffa, recommends a jade rolling ritual for preventing future wrinkles: "When your eye area gets puffy, it pushes the blood vessels under your eyes closer to the surface, making dark circles worse."
Dark circles are an important tell for the under-eye area, as a shadowy pigmentation is also a sign the tissue around the eyes is thin and lacks collagen. Again, you want to keep the pressure light here—trying to forcefully jade roll your fine lines away may do more harm than good. (Check out our step-by-step facial massage tutorial here.)
How to get rid of under-eye wrinkles.
If you already see some fine lines showing up, don't fret—there are expert-approved ways to treat those wrinkles once you've got them.
1. Find the right topical ingredients.
Topicals with vitamin A (like retinoids) can promote cell turnover and gently exfoliate the area (which is what you want, as the process sheds dead skin and replaces it with younger, spry cells). You'll also want "vitamin B to tone and soothe the skin, vitamin C for collagen production, beta-carotene for healing, and anthocyanin for puffiness," says Vargas. Check your labels for these star ingredients—an effective serum can work wonders.
Hamdan agrees: "You'll need ingredients that help increase elasticity and firmness, take away puffiness, and are rich in antioxidants and moisturizing fatty acids that nourish this area." Her favorite go-to's are green tea, hyaluronic acid, as well as some light base oils (think jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and black cumin seed oil).
2. Promote collagen production.*
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Wrinkles pop up when our skin's structural components start to break down—namely, collagen. The most effective way to support your body's collagen is through hydrolyzed collagen supplements, which can help support the body's natural production.* "It can manage skin wrinkling, providing the skin one of its basic ingredients to stay firm and taut," says Taz Bhatia, M.D., an integrative medicine physician and mbg Collective member.* The research shows that these collagen peptides are able to support skin elasticity and dermal collagen density.* How? Well, hydrolyzed collagen peptides have been shown to help promote your body's natural production of collagen and other molecules that make up the skin, like elastin and fibrillin.*
And given that under-eye wrinkles and crow's feet tend to be finer, more shallow lines, you'll likely see a noticeable difference pretty quickly. "You can use collagen to reverse minor things, like crow's feet around the eyes but not once the skin's gotten too leathery and damaged," explains functional medicine doctor Robert Rountree, M.D., in an mbg podcast.
3. Work the muscles.
To prevent further damage, Marmur mentions you can try certain facial exercises to help tighten the under eye. These exercises (commonly dubbed "face yoga") include stretching your facial muscles and pressing or tapping certain points around the eye to promote blood circulation in the skin. Just remember to "avoid pulling and tugging on the area to prevent further damage," says Marmur.
The bottom line.
While there's certainly nothing wrong with fine lines (wrinkles are completely natural, and everyone gets them eventually!), taking preventive measures can ensure they don't pop up super early. Plus, there's no downside to keeping the under-eye area super hydrated; after all, there's nothing more annoying than looking in the mirror midday and seeing your concealer crease among your fine lines.