Your eyes may be the windows to your soul, but the skin underneath them gives a clear picture of your age. This thin, delicate skin is some of the first to show signs of aging. Many assume that all skin is the same and wonder why products formulated for specific parts of the body are even necessary. But as it turns out, this area deserves special treatment to combat typical problems of dark circles, wrinkles, dryness and swelling.
How Under-Eye Skin Differs
The skin under the eyes has very little fat lying underneath it, and what fat there is, shrinks as you age. Without this fat to plump it up, the skin is prone to wrinkling. Collagen keeps the skin and muscles taut and springy, but as you age, collagen starts to diminish and you don’t spring back as easily. Facial movements such as squinting in the sun or laughing happen multiple times a day and can cause lines and wrinkles to appear at an accelerated rate. The skin under the eyes is also thinner, and thus more translucent than other skin on your body. As a result, any veins or blood vessels underneath this skin appear as dark circles.
The skin around the eyes contains no oil glands, so it’s prone to dryness. During the day, use a moisturizer with sunscreen to help protect this area from sun damage. In the evening, apply an especially rich emollient that doesn’t contain sunscreen; the skin can soak up extra moisture as you sleep. Apply just a pea-sized amount—the under-eye area is quite small and concentrated—and dab it gently with your ring finger.
To boost your skin’s ability to produce collagen, look for creams with peptides. If you’re plagued by dark circles caused by hyperpigmentation, choose a cream with nicotinic acid, which comes from the B vitamin niacin. Darkened, discolored skin under the eyes may be treated with creams containing retinoic acid, azaleic acid, kojic acid and glycolic acid, but use them with caution as they can be harsh and cause irritation.
Stretching and scrubbing the under-eye area can exacerbate thinning and encourage inflammation, which shows up as redness or as dark circles. Be careful when you remove eye makeup—don’t rub. Sleep on your back, to discourage fluid buildup underneath your eyes and the look of under-eye bags. Cold items, such as an ice pack, cucumber slices and cold tea bags can also be used to temporarily shrink blood vessels that appear as puffy dark circles.
This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.