It usually starts in our 20s: as we grow older, a few fine lines and wrinkles begin to form under our eyes. There's nothing to be frightened of, as they can be a just sign that our skin cells are losing collagen and reducing their ability to renew themselves. Those under-eye wrinkles—actually, most of the wrinkles we do or will have in life—also comes with having an exceptionally expressive face, for example.
Also called crow's feet, they don't need to be a reason to make you lose sleep at night, but some might be concerned that they will stretch and deepen, making a face look older or more tired than people actually are, as they can be accompanied by puffiness and dark circles. That begs the question, what can one do to prevent eye wrinkles from forming and treat those that already exist? Dermatologist Lily Talakoub, MD, FAAD, of McLean Dermatology Center, and estheticians Renée Rouleau and Rhea Souhleris Grous have the answers on how to get rid of these lines. Keep scrolling to learn everything you'll ever need to know about under-eye wrinkles.
Meet the Expert
- Lily Talakoub, MD, FAAD, is a dermatologist at the McLean Dermatology Center in Virginia. She is also the cofounder of LANARI Skincare and an educator for several universities.
- Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician and the founder and creator of her eponymous skincare line.
- Rhea Souhleris Grous is the founder of La Suite Skincare at Union Square Dermatology and an aesthetics specialist with more than two decades of experience. She's also part of Byrdie's Beauty & Wellness Review Board.
Start Using Retinol
Let's get right into the thick of it, shall we? Talakoub says the single most effective skincare ingredient for getting rid of wrinkles is none other than retinol, so there's a good reason it's dominated the skincare market as of late. Retinol itself is a derivative of vitamin A. According to Rouleau, "It can stimulate the metabolism of skin cells and encourage collagen production." Collagen is what makes the skin look plump and smooth. Generally speaking, the less collagen in your skin, the more wrinkles and lines you'll have. "Retinol can be absorbed within the skin and, when combined with certain enzymes, it's converted into tretinoin (the acid form of vitamin A, also known as retinoic acid). Using a well-formulated and stable product with retinol will visibly reduce the appearance of sun damage, brown spots, lines, wrinkles, and large pores. Its magic is in its ability to resurface the skin's texture for a smoother, more even-toned look," she says.
Step one in your ever-waging battle on wrinkles is to incorporate a retinol-rich product into your routine. Talakoub recommends using "a low potency Retin-A or topical retinaldehyde mixed with a deeply hydrating moisturizer." For a deeply hydrating moisturizer, she likes Erno Lazlo Firmarine Cream. It's formulated with hydrating jojoba oil and hyaluronic acid.
Moisturize Your Under-Eye Area
Polypeptides can best be understood as small chemical compounds composed of short-chain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Peptides tell your cells to produce more collagen, one of the primary building blocks of the skin.
When it comes to a standard eye cream that doesn't require a prescription to purchase, Talakoub recommends iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex. This is no surprise, considering that the brand is beloved by many dermatologists and skincare experts alike. The eye cream has a long list of wrinkle-fighting ingredients like retinol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, and peptides.
Even so, Talakoub says eye cream isn't enough—in fact, there isn't a single eye cream on the market that she's deemed "enough" for effectively treating wrinkles. They aren't as hydrating on their own, which is why super-rich moisturizers, like the Erno Lazlo pick, are necessary.
Seal in Hydration with an Oil
Speaking of rich face creams, Talakoub emphasizes the importance of keeping the under-eye area well hydrated, as dry and dehydrated skin is more prone to succumbing to fine lines and wrinkles. A hydrated eye area, on the other hand, will look healthier, younger, and plumper. "Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate," she says. Do this by applying a rich cream then sealing it in with an oil. The oil will prevent any water from evaporating, locking in moisture and plumpness: "Oils are my favorite. Argan, marula, sunflower—you name it. The key to avoiding wrinkles is oil and hydration." Josie Maran's 100 percent pure argan oil is a good option for its multitasking moisturizer; It's vegan, cruelty-free, and comes from ethically sourced, UNESCO-protected argan nuts.
Using oils also allows us to incorporate natural and holistic products into our skincare routines. Apply a thin layer of face oil over your moisturizer every single night for a bouncy and radiant skin look in the morning.
Consult a Professional
If you're currently following a dermatologist-recommended routine to a T, yet you still see new wrinkles pop up, then it might be time to book an in-clinic appointment. Certain professional treatments have the power to make a massive difference in the appearance of the skin. For example, Talakoub's clinic uses "a radio frequency tightening device paired with yearly gentle resurfacing treatments to build collagen around the eye." Grous also relies on a laser treatment called Periocular Fraxel. "It improves fine lines and wrinkles and stimulates new collagen and elastin formation. It also visibly tightens the skin around the eyes," she says.
Try Facial Massages
For those with minimal issues, facial exercises prescribed by a qualified skin care professional can help stimulate a little blood flow and help depuff. Grous recommends a gentle Acupressure massage that will help stimulate circulation and lymphatic drainage to depuff, relax, and tone.
"Applying a small amount of eye cream to your ring finger, start at the outer corner working your way to the inner corner under the eye along the orbital bone. Gently tap the cream into the skin, giving a little double-tap just before reaching the inner corner to 'pump' lymphatic fluid away," says Grous. This technique also enhances product penetration.
Apply Face Masks
All masks are designed to nourish, balance, and restore the skin—and we know all that is good to prevent wrinkles, right? Grous says she loves to use a targeted eye mask that tackles everything from wrinkles to dark circles to puffiness. The expert explains that the main difference between sheet masks and cream masks is the ability to penetrate the skin. "Sheet masks are serum-infused fibers that allow deeper penetration, whereas cream masks tend to hydrate the skin's superficial layers."
One of her favorite eye masks is Exquisite Brightening Anti-Puff Eye Mask, a formula infused with active peptides and plant extracts to visibly smooth lines, brightening under the eyes and gently diminish puffiness. She also indicates MBR Awake and Lift Eye Patches ($132), with Hyaluronic Acid to immediately plump lines and wrinkles, and collagen mask Valmont Eye Regenerating Mask Treatment ($330), a booster with caffeine, arnica, and green tea to tight and firm the skin.
Never Forget SPF
These things can help diminish existing wrinkles, but it's important to remember that prevention is the best treatment. Never forget to apply SPF each morning before heading out the door. It goes for preventing wrinkles and also discoloration and dark spots—other enormous consequences of sun damage. It could also include a loss of collagen.
That's why Talakoub recommends always wearing sunscreen. Glossier's Invisible Shield has a lightweight SPF 35 water-gel formula that feels like a serum, making it perfect for daily protection. Pair your SPF with a good pair of protective sunglasses, which will protect your eye area from UV damage while also preventing you from unnecessary squinting.
Be Gentle with Application
Follow the prevention theme by being gentle when you apply products. Don't pull on the skin. Instead, use your ring finger to carefully pat in a product. As Talakoub warns, "Don't rub, scratch, or touch your eyes. Even pulling on the eye to put in contacts can loosen the eyelid skin. People who rub their eyes often get deep wrinkles."
Eat a Healthy Diet
First and foremost, drink lots of water to keep your system hydrated and promote regular elimination. Eat the rainbow! Grous says that eating foods rich in antioxidants like berries, nuts, and dark green vegetables helps support healthy skin. Look for omega-rich foods like salmon, avocado, and walnuts that support a healthy skin barrier, which helps prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Collagen-boosting foods like bone broth are also a part of a healthy skin diet.
Quit Bad Habits Like Drinking Alcohol and Smoking
Drinking alcohol results in inflammation and dehydration. Alcohol consumption interrupts good sleep and leads to the dreaded "hangover face" and puffy eyes. Skincare and professional treatments aim to restore a healthy, plump appearance to the skin—alcohol does the opposite.
Grous says smoking is another thing anyone can do to sabotage fair skin. "Smoke is a carcinogen that damages every cell in the body, including skin cells. It also inhibits the ability to carry fresh, oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the skin cells leading to a dull, sallow look, aka 'smoker's skin.'"
When done properly under the care of a qualified skin care professional, microneedling can produce great results that help promote the penetration of beneficial ingredients and encourage collagen production. Grous explains that microneedling helps tighten, plump and retexturize the skin, ultimately reducing the visible signs of under-eye wrinkles and dark circles. At her clinic, she also performs Fractional Radiofrequency Microneedling, a procedure using needles and heat energy that creates a wound and stimulates the skin, creating new collagen and making the skin taut and reduces fine lines.
Although injectables are one of the most sought out wrinkle treatments, we left this one at the bottom of the list to show they're not the only solution. Especially for the under-eye area, that's is too sensitive. Botox and fillers are a safe way when indicated by your trusted professional. "Botox pauses the muscle movement that causes fine lines (a line you never make is a line you never get!)," says Grous. For lines at rest, hyaluronic acid fillers revolumize, smooth, and plump up these fine lines.
How do I avoid irritation from retinol?
It's normal (and expected) for a retinol product to cause irritation. That's why starting slowly (and discontinuing use if the irritation persists and skin doesn't adjust) is so important.
In what order should I layer retinol?
Products should be applied in terms of thickness so oily, water-based products first (oils and serums), following by retinol, followed by thicker creams (lotion or under-eye cream, for instance).
How long will it take to see results?
You have to work up with retinol, so expect to see a change in your skin around week 12 (though long-term results are still seen after as long as a year of continued use).