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THE DELICATE UNDER EYE AREA

Our eyes are one of the greatest areas of concern as our skin changes with age. Sagging, hallowing, fine lines, wrinkles, and dark circles are common aesthetic problems that men and women seek to address, but they are notoriously difficult to treat with topical products. The unique composition of the periorbital area, along with its proximity to the eyes, is why specialized products are most beneficial in a daily skincare routine before any observable signs of aging develop. 

The skin of the lower eyelids is the thinnest you can find on the body. Facial skin is approximately 2 mm thick, while the infraorbital skin thickness averages only about 0.5 mm. It is also softer, more fragile, and more translucent. The difference in thickness results in much shallower subcutaneous capillaries and a decreased volume of collagen and elastin within the area. The orbital fat pad, located between the lower lash line and the orbital floor (the boney ridge of the eye socket), is a superficial fat compartment which cushions and volumizes the undereye region. Muscles and ligaments beneath the fat are connected in an extensive system responsible for all facial movement. These components are also at a lesser depth underneath the eyes than in other areas, so they are more likely to be visible. The anatomical structures which shape the periorbital region are genetically determined, and may predispose some individuals to specific aesthetic problems.  

Aesthetic concerns of the periorbital area are typically exacerbated with age. The thinness of the skin and fat makes the undereye particularly susceptible to atrophy, and the underlying ligaments are some of the first in the face to suffer from laxity. Along with bone resorption, these are the most common causes for the gradual sagging and hollowing that is often observed. Increased subcutaneous vascularization and venous pooling are often culprits of bluish/purple shadowing. Discoloration of this variety is most notable on those with thinner, more translucent skin and lesser fat volume, as these factors increase the visibility of the underlying muscle and capillaries. Shadowing that is browner or redder in nature is usually caused by hyperpigmentation due to UV exposure. UV radiation is also capable of breaking down the delicate skin’s elastin and collagen, which are responsible for keeping skin taut and resistant to wrinkling. Fine lines and wrinkles develop as these fibers disintegrate with aging and sun exposure. All of these factors, as well as shadowing from the browbone, upper eyelid, and nose contribute to the constantly changing appearance of the periorbital region.

Intrinsic factors, such as bone structure, fat volume, and depth of the subcutaneous blood vessels and muscles, are beyond the control of topical treatments. However, the speed at which the infraorbital area shows visible signs of aging can be slowed by keeping the overlaying skin healthy and equipped to heal itself. Concerns relating to the under eyes are notably difficult to reverse, so it is best to begin using anti-aging eye products before noticing any changes. Peptides and antioxidants (such as Vitamin C) aid the body’s natural healing processes by providing the necessary micronutrients for collagen and elastin production, as well as promoting skin cell regeneration. Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, draw water into the skin for hydration and increased volume. Topical caffeine can have a similar effect as a cold compress, restricting the capillaries in order to reduce bluish pigmentation and puffiness caused by venous pooling and blood stagnation. Finally, Vitamin A, or retinol, is a common but controversial active ingredient for the undereye area – despite its efficacy in increasing cell turnover and collagen production, it can be sensitizing to the skin or an irritant to the eye itself. Bakuchiol is emerging as a gentler retinol alternative, as well as licorice root and rosehip oil. These active ingredients are most effective as a preventative measure, but can improve the appearance of the infraorbital area with time and consistency. 

The eyes are popularly considered the most important feature of the face. The surrounding region is uniquely delicate and therefor subject to specific aesthetic concerns. Adding an eye cream to your daily beauty regime is encouraged at as an early an age as you are comfortable with. Early application serves as a preventative measure, so that your skin is consistently equipped to repair and rebuild itself rather than combating a deficit later in life. When selecting a product, keep in mind that the infraorbital area may be more sensitive than the rest of your face. If an eye cream burns or causes irritation, or you notice increased sensitization to the sun and other products, discontinue use for a gentler formula. Additionally, check for a product’s approval from an optometrist or ophthalmologist in order to protect your eyes. Eye creams are a small addition to your daily routine that can have huge benefits in your years to come, so go ahead and find one you like before aesthetic concerns arise. And remember, your best anti-aging product is still your sunscreen! 


References:

  1. Gendler, E. C. (2005). Treatment of Periorbital Hyperpigmentation.Aesthetic Surgery Journal,25(6), 618–624. doi: 10.1016/j.asj.2005.09.018
  2. Niforos, F., Liew, S., Acquilla, R., Ogilvie, P., Safa, M., Signorini, M., ... & Sithamparanathan, M. (2017). Creation and validation of a photonumeric scale to assess volume deficiency in the infraorbital region. Dermatologic Surgery43(5), 684-691. doi: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000001088
  3. Ranneva, E., Siquier, G., & Liplavk, O. (2016). New medical approach for rejuvenation of the periorbital area.Clinical and Medical Investigations, 1(1), 27-30. doi: 10.15761/CMI.1000106
  4. Vrcek, I., Ozgur, O., & Nakra, T. (2016). Infraorbital dark circles: a review of the pathogenesis, evaluation and treatment. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery9(2), 65. doi: 10.4103/0974-2077.184046

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