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  Dry Eye   · Ocular Blood Flow  Ocular Skin Care      

Caring for The Skin Around the Eyes

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.

Antioxidant Vitamins including Vitamins A, B-complex, C, D and beta-Carotene provide protection against free radical damage. Free radicals are “off balanced” microscopic molecules usually found in groups of thousands. They have the power to do extensive damage to the cell membrane as well as complete destruction to normal cells by robbing them of oxygen. Pollution, UV light, smoking, large quantities of alcohol and daily stress can trigger the production of free radicals. Antioxidants render free radicals harmless before they damage the skin’s healthy cells.
Moisturizers such as sodium hyaluronate help reduce fine lines caused by dehydration. Sodium hyaluronate is the most effective humectant available, and has the ability to bind moisture in the amount of one thousand times its molecular weight.
Herbal Extracts and Liposomes including chamomile, cornflower, bisabolol and lecithin decrease redness, puffiness and act to nourish, revitalize and rejuvenate the skin.
Tips for Keeping the Skin Around The Eyes Healthy
In addition to choosing the proper skin care product, other things are important in maintaining healthy skin around the eyes:
Drink plenty of water. Water plays a crucial role maintaining the elasticity of skin.
Avoid smoking cigarettes. Nicotine constricts blood vessels in the face and under the eyes. Constricted vessels also make it difficult for nutrients to be absorbed, which leads to a breakdown of collagen.
Stay out of the sun. Overexposure to ultraviolet rays causes melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, to mature abnormally. This results in age spots and uneven pigmentation. UV rays are responsible for up to 90% of aging and can add several years to your appearance.
Wear sunglasses to avoid squinting.
Get plenty of rest. Fatigue can cause skin to look pale and gaunt.
Limit alcohol intake. Excessive drinking can cause dehydration, so limit yourself to a glass or two of wine every week
Use cotton balls when removing makeup to avoid unnecessary tugging and pulling on the delicate tissue.
Use a quality professionally recommended skin care product for the area around the eyes.

Following the tips listed above and choosing a skin care product with the right combination of ingredients will help keep the skin around your eyes looking younger and feeling better!

Note: All information on this website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for a specific medical condition. Please consult your physician if you have questions or concerns regarding your health.
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