The Truth About Aging Eyes

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The Truth About Aging Eyes featured image
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This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Why do my eyes look bad in photos? Do eye creams really work? Can fillers help? You’ve got eye questions, we’ve got answers.

Why Our Eyes Age So Fast
With the amount of screens we stare at all day, our eyes are working overtime. But, blue light and eye strain aside, the mere natural progression of aging takes its toll on the delicate skin around them. “As we get older, the skin around our eyes starts to become thinner and lose collagen and elasticity,” says Torrance, CA plastic surgeon Linda Swanson, MD. We also lose precious hyaluronic acid, which keeps our skin supple by locking in moisture.

The aging effects happening right underneath our eyes also play a factor on how well-rested and fresh-faced we look: “The underlying fat pads in our cheeks start to become ptotic, which is a fancy way of saying they sag or drop. Bone also starts to resorb, which shrinks the facial framework on which the fat, muscle and skin sit,” adds Boston facial plastic surgeon Jaimie DeRosa, MD.

These underlying structural changes age the eyes, and because the skin is thinner, there can also be increased discoloration under the lower eyelids, which can make volume loss look even worse.

It’s not uncommon for a patient in their mid- to late-30s to have eyelid surgery.”

When to Expect to See Changes
There is no specific age when we can expect our eyes to start looking like our mothers’ or our grandmothers’. For many people, aging eyes become more noticeable in photos. “It really depends on the patient, genetics and the anatomy of their orbit, their eyes— eyeballs and eyelids,” explains Lake Oswego, OR facial plastic surgeon Mark A. Petroff, MD. “Some patients have very puffy, tired-looking eyes in their 30s. It’s not uncommon for a patient in their mid- to late-30s to have upper or lower eyelid surgery to correct concerns like drooping eyelids or lower-eye bags. There really is no age limit.”

La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD notes that external elements can also contribute to early eye aging: “Factors like smoking and sun exposure will play a significant role. Those living in Florida or California may experience signs of aging around the eyes much faster than those in different geographic areas who are not in the sun as often.”

Common Concerns

Puffiness
An excessive accumulation of fluids can cause swelling in the skin tissue surrounding the eyes. The buildup of fluid overnight can result in bags and puffiness in the morning.

Dark Circles
Dark circles can be one of two things, or both: The area can appear darker due to pigmentation in the skin, or due to a shadow created by the orbital fat pushing the eyelid tissue out.

Under-Eye Bags
The “bags” we typically see under the eyes or in the inside corners of the upper eyelids are made of fat deposits. When the orbital septum, a fibrous layer on the lower eyelid, stretches out it allows the fat to become more visible.

Droopy Lids
Ptosis—or heavy, fallen droopy eyelids—occurs when the upper eyelids droop downward, which can be due to genetics, damage to the eyes, or more commonly, the natural effects of aging.

Crow’s-Feet
Squinting and smiling can cause the orbicularis oculi muscle around the eyes to contract, creating perpendicular pull lines where the muscles insert into the skin.

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