Dead skin cells can build up under your eyes just as they can on any other part of your face. Poor skin cell turnover can contribute to fine lines, dull skin tone or even tiny white keratin cysts called milia. Gentle exfoliation under the eyes can give the delicate skin there a fresh, healthy start.
Even vigorous makeup removal can tug and damage under-eye skin, so the idea of scrubbing your under-eye area is just as unpleasant as it sounds. Despite the harsh-sounding name, chemical exfoliants or acids are your best bet for encouraging cellular turnover in this delicate area. Look for toners or lotions that contain alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), beta hydroxy acid (BHA) or glycolic acid. All of these ingredients not only help to soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but they also enhance the penetration of other potentially anti-aging ingredients. Applying lotions or toners with these ingredients also help to keep milia at bay if you suffer from the occasional onset.
For those looking for products that do all the work for you, look for eye masks that are saturated with active treatments that you place under the eyes. Think of these as a high-tech, targeted version of kicking back with cucumber slices on your eyes. Exfoliating eye peels are gently applied with a fingertip and massaged into the skin. Follow the instructions on the product to determine whether the treatment is meant to be left on overnight or removed after a certain period of time.
Give the skin under your eyes a healthy drink of moisture after exfoliation. Pick an eye cream that contains alpha hydroxy acids to plump thin skin and help battle dark circles, or a formula with vitamin C to help brighten skin. You can get anti-aging benefits from a moisturizer that stimulates or protects collagen production, the best being those that contain some form of retinoic acid. Make sure you’re making lifestyle choices that keep the skin around your eyes healthier. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water; get a full night’s sleep, use a daily facial or eye cream that includes sun protection and don’t smoke.
Choose products specifically tailored for use under the eyes—check labels to make sure there’s no warning against using the product near the eyes. Only exfoliate the skin under the eyes and on the corners where crow’s feet form, not the eyelids or directly under the lash line. Different skin types react differently to exfoliation, and the delicate skin around the eyes is no exception. Use just enough product to get the job done. Make sure you don’t get any in your eyes, and stop if you experience skin or eye irritation or redness.
This article has been reviewed by oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Matheson Harris.