What Causes Under-Eye Wrinkles + 8 Best Treatments, Baked By Derms
It's perhaps one of the most common makeup-related questions out there: How do you avoid under-eye concealer creasing? Even the most skilled makeup fans have trouble creating a perfectly smooth canvas from time to time, and more often than not, under-eye wrinkles are to blame.
It raises the question: What causes these fine lines, and more importantly, can you get rid of them naturally? Here, we tapped dermatologists for the 101 on the very best under-eye wrinkle treatments.
What causes under-eye wrinkles?
It's not uncommon to develop under-eye wrinkles before spotting fine lines elsewhere on the face or body. "The skin around the eyes is thin and delicate, and signs of aging often first become apparent in this delicate tissue," board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., tells mbg.
Not only is the skin thinner, but it's also more dynamic due to facial expressions around the eyes, King says (think smiling, squinting, etc.). This makes the under-eyes more prone to expression-triggered types of fine lines and wrinkles.
Not to mention, "The skin tends to be drier and more prone to sensitivity and irritation," board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., FAAD, adds. And a lack of hydration plus frequent irritation is a perfect recipe for accelerated skin aging.
Best under-eye wrinkle treatments.
To sum up: The skin under your eyes is special; therefore, it deserves special attention. Here, find the best derm-approved ingredients to look for in your next eye cream, plus a few strategic tips to follow:
Peptides are varied and complex—there are more than a few different peptides out there (check out this story for the full breakdown). According to King, "The anti-aging potential of peptides was first shown years ago," when this study1 was published showing their ability to stimulate collagen production in the skin.
"Today, further studies on additional peptides continue to generate news," King says. Not to mention, peptides also help smooth texture and strengthen the skin barrier—a win-win for the delicate under-eyes.
Retinol is another popular eye cream ingredient, similarly because of its ability to stimulate collagen production2. However, as noted previously, the under-eye skin is a bit thinner, which means the retinol you use on this area should be gentler than the retinol you use on other portions of your face (or body).
"[Retinol] should be used with caution by newcomers, as retinol has the potential to cause skin irritation, such as redness, dryness, and flaking," double board-certified dermatologist Brendan Camp, M.D., explains.
If you opt for a retinol-infused eye cream, make sure you take precautions and stop using it if too much irritation occurs. One pro tip: Apply a hydrating eye cream or face lotion before your retinol product to sandwich the active. This should mitigate some irritation.
The ultra-buzzy hydrator, hyaluronic acid, is another A+ addition to under-eye creams. "Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant, so it can be helpful in hydrating the skin—which can give it a plumper, smoother look," King says. However, hyaluronic acid won't hold on to enough moisture on its own. "It must be combined with emollients and occlusives in order to lock in the moisture,” King says. So opt for an eye cream with hyaluronic acid in the formula rather than just an HA serum for maximum benefit.
Topical vitamin C is good for more than brightening the complexion. "Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralizes free oxygen radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules that can damage cellular structures like DNA, lipids, and proteins," Camp says. This helps protect the under-eye skin from accelerated skin aging.
Under-eye brightening is a notable bonus, Garshick notes. So if you're dealing with under-eye wrinkles and dark circles, a vitamin C eye cream might be your next favorite product.
UV radiation can lead to accelerated skin aging3, especially when the skin is exposed sans barrier. "In addition to protecting the skin of your face with SPF, it is important not to forget the eyelid skin and other sensitive areas," Camp says—under-eyes, lips, and scalp included.
Some eye creams do contain SPF, but if they don't, your typical face sunscreen will do. Just be sure to strategically apply the lotion, avoiding the orbs themselves to mitigate any stinging or irritation.
If you wake up with puffy eyes, you may want to consider adding facial massage to your morning routine. Not only will this feel great (especially if you use ice globes), but it's one way to address under-eye wrinkles, too. "Because eyelid skin is thinner, it is more susceptible to changes related to swelling," Camp says. So if you can minimize puffing, it's not a bad idea.
Be sure to apply an eye cream or face oil before going in with your hands or any kind of facial massage tool. This way, you avoid pulling your skin too tight or causing unnecessary flushing. When you massage your under-eyes, go from the outer corner to the inner corner, Camp says, as that's the eye's natural drainage point.
Eye masks are typically packed with hydrating ingredients, many of which we already named above (like hyaluronic acid, peptides, etc). Not only will the serum on these masks provide a moisture boost, but the material of the mask itself (silicone, a biodegradable base, etc.) will act as an occlusive layer, helping to lock in the very moisture your skin soaks up.
If you're prepping your under-eyes for makeup, this might be one quick way to rehydrate the delicate skin. Bonus tip: Apply your under-eye cream and then follow up with your eye mask for double the hydration.
Visit a dermatologist.
If your under-eye wrinkles just won't let up, you may want to visit your dermatologist. These experts have access to prescription-grade products and some in-office treatments, like radiofrequency and microneedling, that may be of assistance.
Under-eye wrinkles (while completely expected and a natural part of aging) can be frustrating, especially when it comes to applying makeup. This delicate area has thinner, more sensitive skin than the rest of your face, so it may need some extra TLC. A few of the tips and hero ingredients above will get you on the right track, and always visit your dermatologist if you're concerned. If you're ready to shop, here are our 14 best picks for natural and clean eye creams.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.