|The skin around the eyes displays expression and emotions that are an important part of our individuality. Proper care of this area can provide long term benefits. Changes to the skin around the eyes, also known as the periocular area, can have functional, cosmetic and psychological ramifications. Since the eyes are the focal point of the face, having bags, bulges and wrinkles can not only interfere with vision, they can give an individual a tired, sad appearance.
The skin around the eyes is ten times thinner than the skin on the face. As we age, skin loses its elasticity and becomes even thinner due to a breakdown of collagen. This can be further aggravated by sun exposure, smoking, and other environmental exposures. The skin of the eye contour is constantly moving, blinking alone produces 10,000 movements per day! Other facial movements and expressions such as smiles, squinting, and stress can also affect the eye area, creating fine lines or crows feet – lines that appear on the outside corner of the eye. Under eye puffiness can be exacerbated by salty foods, allergies and internal dehydration. Rubbing and tugging of the delicate skin under the eye due to allergies, crying, eye makeup removal and insertion and removal of contact lenses can contribute to sagging of the this area. The skins elasticity is similar to a rubber band - constant tugging and pulling eventually causes loss of elasticity. Because the tissue around the eyes has very few oil glands, it lacks the natural moisture present on other parts of the body.
The Anatomy of the Skin Around the Eyes
The anatomy of the skin around the eyes, also referred to as the adnexa is unique to the face and body. In order to properly care for the skin around the eyes, it is important to understand not only the anatomy of this area, but also the process of skin cell renewal.
Eyelid skin is composed of several layers. The deepest, the subcutaneous layer contains a thin layer of fascia which lies on top of
the orbicularis muscle, a muscle that allows the eyelid to move. Next, the dermis, which forms the support layer of the skin, is made up of threadlike proteins including bundles of elastin and collagen, fibroblasts, nerves and vessels. The top layer, the epidermis, is made up of basal cells,
melanocytes, Langerhans cells, keratinocytes and on top, the dead cell layer (also known as the stratum
corneum) made up of corneocytes. The epidermal layer gives the skin its appearance, color, suppleness, texture, and health.
Basal cells reproduce new cells every few days. As these cells migrate upward, they become
drier and flatter. Once they reach the surface of the skin, they are no longer alive, and are referred to as corneocytes. This process of migration from basal cell to corneocytes is what gives the epidermis the ability to regenerate itself. This skin renewal process is known as desquamation. Desquamation is an ongoing process that takes about two seeks in a young person, and significantly longer – about 37 days for individuals over 50. The build up of corneocytes gives skin a callous or dry, aged and thickened look. The skin feels and looks rough and its ability to retain water becomes impaired.
Maintaining Healthy Skin Around the Eyes
Caring for the skin around the eyes is a delicate process. Because it is thinner, it not only tends to be the first place to show signs of aging, but also is more sensitive than the rest of the skin. Therefore, extra care needs to be taken when choosing a skincare product for this area. Products that contain gentle, non-irritating compounds that reduce the appearance of wrinkles (exfoliants), along with a wide range of vitamins, antioxidants, and skin-plumping substances are ideal choices.
In choosing a product, it is important that it be oil-free. Products containing oil increase the likelihood of clogged glands around the eyes that can lead to styes and other ocular problems. Contact lens wearers in particular, should avoid products containing oil. The oil not only sticks to the lens causing blurred vision, but can also cause permanent staining. To minimize the potential for contamination, people should avoid products packaged in a manner that requires “dipping” fingers into a jar.
Common skin exfoliants are alpha hydroxy acids, often referred to as AHA’s. AHA’s are a group of naturally occurring substances found in a variety of fruits, sugar cane and milk. They cause a loosening of the outer dead cell layers, which leads to exfoliation (sloughing of dead skin cells), thereby combating the buildup of corneocytes. The accelerated turnover allows the epidermis to become smoother and softer, and reduces the appearance of fine lines. By thinning the dead cell layer, AHA’s enhance the penetration of other important ingredients. AHA’s also act as superb moisturizers due to their hydroscopic (water binding) ability. Only
products containing a very mild AHA formula should be used on the delicate periocular area.
In addition to AHA’s, other ingredients such as moisturizers, antioxidant vitamins and herbal extracts are important for caring for the skin around the eyes.