As we age, it is common to see the first fine lines appear around the eyes. The skin here is thinner than the rest of the face, and collagen loss that comes with age will typically show under the eyes first. Other concerns come with this decrease of collagen like dark circles, puffiness, and sagging.
Before treating, I always like to identify the root causes of the above concerns and treat accordingly. This is your guide to the prevention and treatment of the under eye area:
Lack of sleep and poor circulation are two commonly cited causes of dark under eye, but this is most common in fair or thin-skinned individuals. Other causes include nutrient deficiencies and food allergies, UV damage causing hyperpigmentation, or lower levels of collagen in the skin. One test is to very gently stretch the skin under the eyes - if the colour becomes darker, the darkness may be a result of diminished collagen and thinner skin. If it does not change, UV rays could be the culprit.
Regardless, solutions include applying a zinc oxide based mineral sunscreen daily, using serums that contain vitamin C to help with collagen synthesis, and green tea to quench free radicals. Ensure you are getting 8 to 9 hours of quality sleep most nights. Consume leafy green vegetables and herbs (which are rich in B vitamins and vitamin K).
Swollen or puffy eyes typically have some connection with allergies. Lack of sleep, stress and hormones also play a role. At certain times in a woman’s cycle, she may notice more puffiness around this area. Seasonal allergies or the consumption of high-histamine foods like wine, cured meats, olives, and chocolate can also cause puffiness, as well as individual foods one may be sensitive to.
In order to reduce puffiness, remove foods you are sensitive to or those that contain high histamines. Consume adequate water daily (~2L filtered or spring daily as well as 8 to 12 servings of fruits and vegetables which are naturally hydrating). Consider rebounding, skipping, and/or walking daily in order to promote healthy circulation of the lymph. Face taping is a great technique to help promote circulation of fluid while you sleep. Address allergies with your naturopath or functional medicine doctor.
Sagging and Eye Bags
As we age, the muscles and ligaments of the face tend to descend and/or weaken. Under the eyes, there are ligaments that hold the fat pockets of the face in place; however as we age and these ligaments weaken, the fatty tissue can begin to form bags under the eyes. Along with age, genetics play a big role in the way our ligaments and muscles age.
Other causes of eye bags include factors that hinder circulation and cause pooling of fluid under the eyes; these include not enough movement during sleep, stress and sleep deprivation.
Promoting circulation and avoiding habits that promote fluid retention are key for management. Elevate your legs above your heart for a few minutes per day and elevate your head while sleeping. Avoid alcohol and processed sugars, salt, and processed foods (white flours, fried foods, etc.). Applying products that contain vitamin C under the eye can also be helpful, especially when gently and lightly massaged in, without pulling the eye area, to promote lymphatic drainage.
Fine Lines and Crow’s Feet
Collagen stores decline as we age, leading to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. A genetic predisposition to thinner skin may also be a cause, along with facial movement patterns; squinting and smiling can cause repeated folding of the skin around the eyes and, when paired with a decline in collagen, fine lines and wrinkles can appear.
Protecting and promoting collagen stores are imperative to prevent lines around the eyes. Avoiding sun exposure that causes squinting and damage to collagen and elastin fibres is key, along with always wearing a zinc oxide based mineral sunscreen daily, focusing around the eyes. Avoid excess screen time, taking regular breaks.Topical application of vitamin C is important to help with collagen synthesis and maintenance as well as oral vitamin C and other antioxidant supplements.
Being cautious of how you apply and remove eye makeup is key; use gentle eye makeup and oil-based cleansers and/or makeup removers that lead to easy removal without pulling or rubbing excessively. As with under eye puffiness, you may also consider facial taping using a gentle kinesiology tape over crow’s feet while you sleep. Very gently and slowly remove upon waking.
Fu, Victoria et. al. Skincare Decoded: The Practical Guide to Beautiful Skin.