Crow’s Feet: The Eyes Have It

(February, 2011) Some of us are proud of our eye wrinkles, like my 98-year-old friend Mary Jan, living in Sedona, Arizona. She salutes the sun every morning sans sunglasses. Not even a dollop of SPF lotion. But since I spent 20 years of my life on television, crow’s feet are the first things I notice in pictures taken of me today, and I can’t seem to gracefully accept them like my wise old friend. You can blame crow’s feet on smiling, grimacing, laughing, or crying. The fact is, eye wrinkles are a part of aging. That doesn’t mean we should try to keep our faces placid to avoid moving an eye muscle. How many lines we acquire and how deep they become depends, in part, on how we treat our bodies and our skin. Lifestyle Strategies Lines around the eyes occur even in our 20s when skin begins to lose its elasticity. Our body’s production of the proteins elastin and collagen diminish, and the connective tissue can no longer “bounce back” from the facial movements we create thousands of times a day. Coupled with our daily dosage of UV ray exposure, it’s no wonder our facial skin gets zapped of its resiliency and why sunscreen and sunglasses are essential, even on cloudy days or winter ones. Regular exercise and a diet that includes antioxidant-rich foods and plenty of water is the foundation for healthy, glowing skin. But there’s one muscle you’ll want to ease off exercising—your orbicularis oculi, which makes you squint. Squinting causes the skin rimming your eyes to crease, contributing to periorbital wrinkling. Smooth Them On! Water, healthy living, and sunscreen can create an even more powerful barrier against laugh lines when combined with the regular use of eye creams packed with peptides and retinoids and other antioxidants—in both vitamin and botanical form. Peptides are amino acids that entice the skin into producing reparative collagen. The most common peptide found in moisturizers is Matrixyl. Coupled with copper, peptides have demonstrated a noticeable improvement in the reduction of crow’s feet. Eye creams containing vitamin A or retinol—even low-dosage, over-the-counter products—can have a positive effect in reducing eye wrinkles within eight weeks of daily use. Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) keeps skin healthy and soft, according to Linda Miles, LAc, DOM, vice president of derma e. “Both the natural aging process and environmental influences cause the barrier (of the skin) to break down, allowing it to lose moisture and become dry. Vitamin E helps restore and maintain the barrier function.” Plant-based antioxidants, which, like their vitamin counterparts, curb free radicals that compromise our skin cells, have added benefits. Green tea extracts perform double duty not only as free-radical fighters, but as a sunblock, reducing the number of sunburn cells and DNA damage. And early studies suggest that an extract from a coffee berry is more potent than green tea, pomegranate, and even vitamins C and E. Because the eyes are surrounded by delicate skin tissue, it’s essential to choose gentle yet effective natural formulas without harsh chemicals, says Dr. Miles. She suggests products infused with antioxidants like green tea, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and Pycnogenol—taken from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. Dr. Miles says Pycnogenol works well with vitamin C to rebuild collagen and elastin. When it comes to topical antioxidants, the power of one doesn’t apply. Creams containing several have increased potency, and combinations like vitamins E and C work better together than alone. Even ingesting antioxidants while dabbing them around your eye can multiply your chances of seeing wrinkles diminish. That’s good news for me when, at family gatherings, there’s always a photographer.