By now, we know to use eye creams to help reduce the appearance of puffiness, dark circles, and fine lines. What we're less knowledgeable on, though, is the importance of extending that same care to the upper-eyelid area. "Upper-eyelid skin is prone to some of the same problems as lower-eyelid skin," says Amy Ross, board-certified dermatologist. "It is thin and delicate, loses elasticity with age, and is frequently subject to more makeup application." Needless to say, crepes and folds can make things like smooth eyeshadow application and taught skin feel like an all-too distant desire. To learn about how to take care of our upper eyelids (and the wrinkles that often accompany them), we spoke with another dermatologist in addition to Ross, Rita Linkner of Spring Street Dermatology.
Below, find out what our experts had to say about the causes, treatment, and prevention of upper eyelid wrinkles.
Meet the Expert
What Causes Eyelid Wrinkles
Between harsh makeup application and skimping on hydration, there are a number of reasons why eyelid wrinkles form:
- Tugging or pulling: "The skin on the eyelid is much thinner than anywhere else on the body," notes Ross. "The epidermis and dermis are only a fraction of the depth of other areas on the face, and therefore can be more prone to insult." For this reason, it's crucial to put an end to rubbing, tugging, and pulling on your eye area when you apply and remove makeup, and even when you're popping your contacts in and out.
- Blinking: Though it's a normal bodily function, blinking can be the source of crepey lids. "Think of how many times you blink in a minute," says Linkner. "This thin-skinned area is over-utilized and is why I treat crow’s feet oftentimes earliest than any other area of the face."
- Dehydration: In some, eyelid wrinkles might form due to puffiness and a lack of hydration. While some anti-aging eye creams may be too harsh to use on the upper eyelid, Ross notes that certain creams are deemed safe to use on the contours of the eyes and can be used to boost hydration.
- Sun exposure: We know the damaging effects of sun exposure on our skin as a whole, but especially to our delicate eyelids, it can speed up aging and, thus, saggy skin. Linkner says that because this area of the eye is so thin, it ages very aggressively, given the addition of sun exposure to the face.
Skin loses elasticity over time, and although we can't replace elastic fibers, there are some things we can do to alleviate upper eyelid wrinkles. Our tips, below.
Use a Gentle Eye Makeup Remover to Avoid Tugging
While it may be tempting to rub your eyes raw while removing your eye makeup after a long evening, this can cause some serious distress to your lids. Ross notes the actual makeup products you use doesn't inherently cause wrinkles, but the application and, even more importantly, the removal of it can be traumatic to this delicate area of the skin. "Finding a gentle, but effective makeup remover that doesn't strip the eyelid skin of natural oils or require manual scrubbing to be effective is important," she says. This makeup remover, as recommended by Ross, melts away makeup with natural fruit acids and oils.
Do Eyelid Exercises
The orbicularis oculi are the muscles that wrap around the eyes and are responsible for maintaining our upper and lower eyelids. Targeting this area with a tightening exercise might help iron out those folds naturally—think of it like yoga, but for your eyelids. To perform, press the Face Ball to the outer corner of the eye (underneath your brow bone) lifting up your skin to encourage that position. Then, fiercely blink your eye ten times. Work against the tension of your ball, and feel the muscle around your eye get stronger. Next, move the ball to the other side and repeat the same exercise. Do this four times a week to try to help tighten those muscles.
Use a Hydrating Eye Serum
"Some of the tips we recommend for improving crepey skin—such as exfoliation—can not be applied to the eyelids because of the delicate nature of the skin," says Ross. That said, she still stresses the importance of keeping this area hydrated. "This is the most important thing we can do to improve the appearance of crepey skin." This serum from Tatcha features Okinawa red algae as well as caﬀeine from green tea meant to reduce the look of puﬃness and ﬁrm skin,
Apply a Collagen-Boosting Eye Cream
Linkner notes the importance of peptide-boosting ingredients, as they can make a huge difference in stimulating collagen production in this most delicate area. She recommends applying eye cream twice a day—in the morning to create a barrier from all the other actives that touch the facial skin, and at night to rejuvenate. This one from Colleen Rothschild features botanicals and peptides to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Use Eyeshadows with SPF
We apply sunscreen to nearly every part of our face, except our upper eyelids. On days that call for eyeshadow, you can keep your lids protected with Supergoop!'s SPF cream shadows. They're long-wearing, impressively opaque, and feature a mix of protective mineral and clean chemical ingredients. One caveat: Ross explains that for those who don't apply eyeshadow every day, the protection an SPF eyeshadow provides would be inconsistent. She recommends the use of UV-blocking sunglasses to offer protection as much as possible.
Avoid Using Retinol Products
Both experts advise against the use of retinol eye products. "Retinols can cause irritation and if applying to the eyelid skin, the risk of irritation is higher because things absorb so much easier," explains Ross. "In addition, retinols thin the epiderms, so if you are someone who waxes their eyebrows, you need to be extra cautious." Linkner agrees, adding that using eye creams containing retinol can potentially create an eczematous reaction. In terms of application, it's important to know that because this area is so thin, whatever is applied on top will absorb quickly. "The quick absorption allows us to apply only a small amount of a product in order to achieve an effect, so we should use products sparingly around the eyes," she advises. We recommend this hydrating formula by Elina Organics—it's enriched with phyto-collagen boosters and vegan hyaluronic acid and nourishes the delicate eyelid area.
Relieve Puffiness Around the Eyes
"Puffiness around the eyes can lead to a crepey appearance," says Ross. "Think of your mother or grandmother with cold cucumbers over their eyes—the idea being the ascorbic and caffeic acids could reduce the puffiness." Opt for eye products that safely deliver actives to combat crepey skin around the eyes, like this one from Epara Skincare. It features a slew of skin-loving ingredients (think: bamboo silk, niacinamide (vitamin B3), and frankincense oil). Pro tip: store it in your fridge (or skincare fridge, if you're fancy) and reap the de-puffing benefits.