There's no denying the fact that aging can cause the thinning skin around your eyes to wrinkle and sag. The good news, though, is twofold. First, some of the damage is reversible. And second, certain factors that contribute to creases, puffiness, and dark circles have nothing to do with getting older and everything to do with lifestyle and general well-being. Here's how to keep your eyes as young-looking as possible as the years go by:
Coping With Crow's Feet
Nothing etches the skin around your eyes more surely than too much exposure to direct UV rays from the sun. The light not only breaks down the connective tissues that provide elasticity and strength but it also makes you squint. Your best defense is the trifecta of sunscreen, sunglasses, and a broad brimmed hat. Over time, if you also treat the skin around your eyes to nourishing moisturizers – especially those with retinol – the new cells you're always making will surface and look better than the ones that were "photoaged."
Speaking of squinting, however, watch out for three other situations in which you could be scrunching up your eyes. One is reading in dim light, another is straining to read without glasses, and the third is smoking. If you like to read in bed and your partner snoozes off before you do, invest in a bright but targeted light. And if you think that whipping out a pair of readers to get a better look at a menu or a playbill makes you look like a little old lady, think again! You can put the glasses away but the wrinkles from squinting aren't so easy to lose. As for smoking, what can we say? You know you should quit, not just to avoid crow's feet but for a host of health concerns. Please do yourself a huge favor and get cessation support if you haven't been able to go it alone.
Get Rid of Under-Eye Bags and Droopy Eyelids
Surprise. All that unsightly puffiness may not a sign of age. Instead, it could be caused by allergies and sinusitis. You might not even have other symptoms such as sneezing or a stuffy nose. If you have bags under your eyes even though you're getting enough sleep and eating well, a trip to the doctor may be in order to find out if you need allergy medications or any other type of relief.
On the other hand, puffy and droopy eyes that come with age do run in families. Even a healthy lifestyle can't outsmart your genes in this case, so you may decide that surgery is your best bet. A procedure called blepharoplasty – popularly known as an "eye tuck" – can take years off your looks. It can also improve your peripheral vision if yours is an extreme case. So if the pictures in the family album show that your mom and Aunt Maude and your grandmother all sported those telltale bags, you may want to seek out a board-certified plastic surgeon and discuss your options.
Dark Under-Eye Circles
Shadows under your eyes make you look ill as well as older, but they're actually almost never a sign of exhaustion or underlying disease. As mentioned above, nasal congestion may be the culprit, but you may also have fair skin that lets the blue of your veins show through. In that case, you can try camouflage with concealers. Look for a shade lighter than your foundation and test it on the obvious blue veins inside your wrist.
General Tips to Keep Your Eyes Ageless
Beyond that, here are some strategies that can help with all the problem areas around your eyes:
Use Cold Compresses. Crushed ice in a zippered plastic bag is ideal. So is a bag of frozen peas. Other time-honored choices are slices of chilled cucumber and cooled bags of tea, especially green.
Sleep Slightly Propped Up. Add an extra pillow or two so that fluid won't collect around your eyes during the night but will drain away instead.
Get Enough Sleep. You need at least 6 if not 8 or 9 hours a night to look and feel your best. Otherwise, you're courting a hollow-eyed look complete with shadows. Naps are good supplements, too, especially if you are something of an insomniac. Just 15 minutes of mid-day shuteye can work wonders.
Finally, notice that we haven't touted injectable fillers or muscle paralyzers such as Botox and Dysport. All of our research points to the fact that these solutions don't really help with correcting the look of your eyes. Explore those possibilities for the rest of your face if you want to do that, but the suggestions we've outlined here are best for regaining and maintaining the ageless eyes you want and deserve.
Sondra Forsyth is a Senior Editor at ThirdAge.com.