As you enter your late 20s, 30s and 40s, it’s common for fine lines and wrinkles to develop on the skin under, next to and between your eyes.
Like other wrinkles, eye wrinkles develop as a result of natural changes in your skin that occur as you get older, as well as important factors such as your level of direct exposure to sunlight, sleep habits and use of tobacco and alcohol.
Although it isn’t possible to completely stop wrinkles from developing, the right combination of treatments and healthy habits can slow down the formation of eye wrinkles and keep your skin fresh and youthful as you get older.
Below, we’ve explained how eye wrinkles appear, as well as the best over-the-counter products and prescription treatments that you can use to slow down the development of wrinkles and fine lines around your eyes.
We’ve also listed several habits that you can use to limit damage to your skin and stop wrinkles from worsening as you age.
Eye Wrinkles: The Basics
- Wrinkles around your eyes develop due to a combination of natural skin aging, repeated use of your facial muscles and photoaging caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
- Other factors, including smoking, poor sleep habits and excessive alcohol consumption, may contribute to eye wrinkles.
- Although eye wrinkles are a natural, unavoidable part of aging, the right combination of skin care treatments and habits can slow down their development and make them less visible.
- Eye wrinkles are treatable using a range of products, including over-the-counter creams and prescription medications such as tretinoin.
- If you already have deep, visible wrinkles around your eyes, cosmetic procedures such as Botox® and dermal fillers may help to make them less visible.
- Simple habits such as using sunscreen, limiting your sun exposure and avoiding making repetitive facial expressions can help to slow down the effects of aging on your skin.
How Do Eye Wrinkles Develop?
Wrinkles are a natural sign of aging that develop as you get older. You may first notice wrinkles developing around your eyes, on your forehead or in other areas of your face as you enter your 30s, 40s or fifties.
As you get older, your skin gradually changes. The aging process that affects your skin involves a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors.
Intrinsic skin aging happens naturally. As you get older, your skin slowly decreases in thickness, particularly in areas such as your face, neck and the back of your hands.
Important structural proteins, such as collagen and elastin, gradually degenerate, reducing your skin’s ability to retain moisture. Your skin also becomes less elastic, causing it to sag in certain areas.
At the same time, your epidermal turnover cycle -- the process by which your skin maintains and repairs itself -- becomes slower, affecting your skin’s ability to heal from damage and replace old cells with new ones.
These changes all result in the classic appearance of aged skin, including wrinkles that develop under and around your eyes.
In addition to the natural changes to your skin that happen as you grow older, certain habits and lifestyle factors can speed up the effects of aging, causing you to develop eye wrinkles earlier in your life.
This side of the aging process is referred to as extrinsic aging. A range of factors can speed up your skin’s aging process, including UV radiation from sun exposure, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and others.
How to Treat Eye Wrinkles
While it isn’t possible to completely stop wrinkles from forming as you grow older, a combination of healthy habits, skin care products and medications can have a major positive impact on your skin and make eye wrinkles much less visible as you age.
There are several different steps involved in treating eye wrinkles. The first step is practicing the right habits to prevent extrinsic skin damage.
The second step is actively taking care of your skin using a combination of over-the-counter skin care products and medications.
The third step, which is optional, is reversing the signs of aging using cosmetic procedures such as dermal fillers, Botox and other treatments.
Habits & Lifestyle Changes
While good habits won’t necessarily reverse the effects of aging, they can stop eye wrinkles and other common signs of skin aging from getting worse. Use the following habits to avoid damage that can cause your skin to age prematurely:
- Protect yourself from sunlight. Spending time in direct sunlight exposes your skin to UV radiation, which is responsible for up to 90 percent of the visible changes that occur in your skin as you age.
Protect the skin around your eyes from direct sunlight by wearing sunglasses and a hat whenever you’re out during the daytime, spending time in the shade and taking steps to limit your time in the sun during peak sunlight hours.
To further limit UV-related skin damage, make sure to apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen to your skin whenever you’re outside playing sports or at the beach.
- Don’t tan. Any type of tanning, whether it’s outside in the sun or indoors using a tanning bed, can damage and prematurely age your skin.
- Avoid squinting and other facial expressions. Squinting contracts the facial muscles around your eyes, causing your skin to develop into folds. Over time, these can turn into fine lines and eventually deep, easily noticeable wrinkles.
- If you smoke, try to quit. Research shows that smokers tend to have more advanced facial wrinkles than non-smokers. This is because many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage your skin cells and accelerate the aging process.
Our guide to quitting smoking goes into more detail about how you can give up smoking for good, as well as the numerous health benefits associated with quitting.
- Get enough sleep. Research shows that poor quality sleep is associated with several signs of aging, including wrinkles and fine lines, hanging eyelids and dark circles under your eyes.
Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night -- the minimum amount recommended by the CDC. If you’re a habitual poor sleeper, our list of science-based tips for a better night’s sleep may help you to sleep easier and wake up feeling more rested.
Inexpensive products available online and from your local drugstore or supermarket can have a surprisingly large impact on your skin’s health and appearance. Consider the following products to lighten eye wrinkles and reduce the signs of aged skin:
- Moisturizer. Moisturizer helps your skin to retain moisture, giving it a more youthful look and providing extra volume that makes wrinkles and other signs of aging near your eyes and in other parts of your face less visible.
Many moisturizers also provide mild protection from the sun. It’s especially important to use moisturizer if you’re prone to dry skin. Try to apply moisturizer as soon as possible after you shower to trap in as much moisture as possible.
For optimal results, choose a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid and other active ingredients to improve moisture retention, such as our Everyday Moisturizer.
- Over-the-counter retinoids. Retinoids are medications derived from vitamin A that are used to slow down and reverse the effects of aging. They work by increasing the speed at which your skin produces new cells to renew and repair itself.
Although the most effective retinoids are only available with a prescription, you can buy mild skin care products containing mild retinoids over the counter.
Popular over-the-counter retinoids include retinol and adapalene. These are available in a variety of forms, including creams, serums and moisturizers, from your local drugstore, supermarket or online.
- Alpha and beta-hydroxy acids. Alpha and beta-hydroxy acids are exfoliants that work by stripping away dead skin cells. Research shows that they can reverse the effects of aging and improve wrinkles, skin tone, hydration and elasticity.
Popular alpha and beta-hydroxy acids include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid and malic acid. You can find these as active ingredients in many over-the-counter cleansers, facial washes and other skin care products.
Although some over-the-counter products can have an immediate effect on the appearance of your skin, most take time to start working. After you start using any over-the-counter treatment, be patient and give it two to three months before you assess your results.
If you have visible wrinkles around your eyes that you’d like to lighten, or if you’d like to prevent the effects of aging on your skin as much as possible, using prescription medication may be the best option.
One of the most effective prescription medications for improving the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging is tretinoin.
Tretinoin is a topical retinoid. Like other retinoids, it works by increasing the speed at which your skin replaces cells. Compared to over-the-counter retinoids, tretinoin is both more powerful and supported by a larger amount of scientific research showing its anti-aging effects.
Numerous studies conducted over the course of several decades have found that tretinoin helps to improve the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, wrinkles, roughness and other skin issues that develop as a result of the aging process.
Most studies of tretinoin show that it takes two to three months to produce improvements. While it can cause some side effects, particularly in the first few weeks of use, it’s generally a safe and effective medication that’s used regularly by millions of people.
Tretinoin is one of several active ingredients in our Anti-Aging Cream. You can learn more about how tretinoin works and how you can use it to treat wrinkles around your eyes in our full guide to using tretinoin for wrinkles and skin aging.
Several cosmetic procedures are used to treat eye wrinkles. Some of these treatments involve the use of injectable medications, while others make wrinkles less visible by stripping away the top layers of your skin to stimulate the growth of new cells. Common procedures include:
- Botulinum toxin (Botox®). Botulinum toxin, or Botox, is an injectable medication that’s used to treat wrinkles. It works by blocking nerve signals to your facial muscles. This prevents your muscles from contracting and makes wrinkles lighter and less visible.
Botox is typically used to treat wrinkles that develop at the sides of your eyes (known as crow's feet), as well as the frown lines and glabellar lines that can develop between your eyebrows.
Treatment with Botox can cost several hundred dollars and needs to be repeated every three to four months to maintain your results.
- Dermal fillers. Dermal fillers are injectable medications that are used to treat wrinkles and other signs of aging. Unlike Botox, which prevents your muscles from contracting, dermal fillers work by physically filling in lines and adding volume to your face.
Several dermal fillers are available, including products made using hyaluronic acid and calcium hydroxylapatite. Fillers are used to treat a variety of wrinkles around the eyes, including frown lines, crow’s feet and the tear trough crease under your eyes.
Treatment with dermal fillers can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars and usually needs to be repeated every few months or years for lasting results.
- Chemical peeling. This is a cosmetic procedure in which a chemical solution is applied to your face. The chemical solution strips away the outer layer of your skin and makes wrinkles, fine lines, scarring and other signs of aging less visible.
Chemical peels can vary in depth, with deeper peels typically used to treat deeper, more visible wrinkles.
- Other skin resurfacing procedures. Several other resurfacing procedures, including dermabrasion, laser resurfacing and microneedling, can be used to treat wrinkles that form around your eyes and other signs of skin aging.
For more information about cosmetic procedures for eye wrinkles, it’s best to contact a plastic surgeon or dermatologist in your area.
Eye wrinkles and other fine lines are a common, normal part of aging. Although it isn’t possible to completely prevent them, a skin-friendly lifestyle and smart use of the right over-the-counter treatments and prescription medications can slow down the speed at which they appear.
If you already have noticeable eye wrinkles, actively treating them can help to make them less visible and prevent them from getting deeper over time.
To get started, talk to a healthcare provider to learn more about the anti-aging options that are available to you. You can also learn more about taking care of your skin and slowing down the effects of aging in our detailed guide to anti-aging skin care for men.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.