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Skin aging is a natural process that is generally characterized by the development of fine lines and wrinkles. These skin aging signs develop as the skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin, the proteins that maintains the youthfulness of the skin, declines over time.
Crow’s feet refer to such perpendicular fine lines that develop around the eyes, at areas where the muscles are attached to the skin. (1) These wrinkles in the corner of the eye are generally more prominent and deeper than other facial expression lines.
Aside from natural aging, various other factors can lead to the formation of crow’s feet, including UV exposure, repetitive facial movements, and skin dryness. It is a common desire to keep the skin looking youthful and fresh, and crow’s feet can therefore be bothersome, especially if they develop early. However, these can be prevented or reduced with treatment and preventive measures.
It is vital to be aware of the factors that cause crow’s feet and take steps to protect your skin from their development. Additionally, you can go for treatments that help plump up your skin and reduce the appearance of these early signs of aging.
More importantly, although crow’s feet are not entirely avoidable, improving your skin care regimen with a focus on the delicate skin around your eyes, paired with some preventive measures, can help reduce and delay the appearance of crow’s feet.
Causes of Crow’s Feet
The skin is formed of three layers, namely, the outer epidermis, the inner dermis, and the subcutis layer underneath. Wrinkles appear on the epidermis, but they are in fact formed within the dermis.
The dermis consists of blood vessels, sebaceous glands, and hair follicles, along with collagen and elastin fibers. Therefore, factors that affect the dermis, essentially collagen and elastin, contribute to the formation of crow’s feet, (2) along with the muscle action of the orbicularis oculi, which is a circular muscle that surrounds the eyes.
The following biological processes are responsible for crow’s feet:
- Contracture of the orbicularis oculi muscle. This muscle is used for smiling and similar facial expressions. The frequent contraction of this muscle eventually causes the overlying skin to form wrinkles, first dynamic, then static. Drooping of the lateral brow and zygomatic muscles adds to the formation of these wrinkles.
- Protein breakdown. As you age, the rate of collagen degradation increases, while the production of collagen slows down. These changes result in low collagen in the skin, leading to the development of wrinkles.
- Sebum reduction. Reduced sebum production by the sebaceous glands is another factor for skin aging. It causes skin dryness and brittleness, making the skin prone to structural changes such as crow’s feet.
- Fat loss. Fat loss from the face can cause the skin to sag as, due to volume reduction, the skin has a lesser area to cover. As a result, the skin tissue folds over itself, creating wrinkles and folds.
- Menopause. Menopause is characterized by low estrogen levels that can also lead to the development of crow’s feet.
Besides the biological processes, other factors contribute to the development of crow’s feet, including:
- Dehydration. Skin dehydration is caused by a lack of fluids and dry winds, indoors or outdoors. This affects the skin regeneration processes and leads to the formation of crow’s feet.
- Sun exposure. The UV rays from the sun can damage your skin by increasing free radicals, which affect the collagen and elastin fibers, increase hyperpigmentation, and speed up the skin aging processes, resulting in the development of wrinkles and crow’s feet. The premature skin aging caused by sun exposure is known as photoaging and constitutes about 90% of premature aging. (3)
- Smoking. Smoking is harmful to the body, including the skin, as it constricts blood vessels, lowers oxygen supply, and (4) limits nutrient distribution, therefore speeding up the aging processes.
- Repeated facial expression. Smiling, squinting, scowling, and other similar facial expressions can lead to the formation of grooves under the skin over time, which eventually develop into wrinkles as you age.
- Sleeping habits. Sleeping on the same side of the face can also contribute to crow’s feet. Moreover, sleeping on cotton pillows can cause friction on your skin. It is suggested to use silk pillowcases instead.
Treatment for Crow’s Feet
The treatment for crow’s feet is aimed at reducing the shallow fine lines around the eyes. It is best to start the treatment as early as possible, as the lines deepen with age and can then be difficult to fade.
There are several treatment options that help reduce crow’s feet, including:
1. Topical creams
A wide variety of creams, lotions, and ointments can improve crow’s feet.
- Consult your doctor for tretinoin or retinoid eye creams that not only reduce wrinkles but also lighten pigmentation, fight acne, thicken skin, and improve skin texture.
- Apply antioxidant serums that boost skin repair and improve skin health in the area of application.
- Use vitamin C-containing creams that prevent signs of sun damage, such as fine lines and sunspots, and increase collagen production.
- Creams containing peptides are useful in the treatment of crow’s feet as they stimulate collagen production and support essential cellular activities.
2. Botulinum toxin (Botox)
Botulinum toxin is a muscle relaxant that works by inhibiting the release of acetylcholine, which is the chemical responsible for muscle contraction. (5)
When injected into the orbicularis oculi muscle, Botox helps prevent the formation of the expression lines that further develop into crow’s feet, (6) for approximately 3–4 months.
Microneedling involves the use of a Dermapen to create needle-sized punctures on the outermost layer of the skin, boosting collagen synthesis in the targeted area. A hyaluronic acid microneedle patch can improve wrinkle formation safely without irritating the skin. (7)
4. Dermal fillers
Dermal fillers generally refer to hyaluronic acid injections that plump up the skin around the eyes, raising depressions and improving crow’s feet.
5. Chemical peels
You can consult your doctor for glycolic peels that exfoliate the top layer of skin, contributing to increased collagen production. This, in turn, helps smooth out fine lines and adds volume to the dermal skin. The procedure takes about 10 minutes to perform. (8)
6. Laser resurfacing
Laser resurfacing is a dermatological procedure used to remove the superficial skin layers, tightening and rejuvenating the skin. (9) It also boosts collagen production and stimulates skin cell generation. Generally, a CO2 laser is used. The treatment procedure may be associated with a certain level of discomfort.
7. Skin tightening
There are different devices using radiofrequency waves or thermal energy that tighten the skin, (10) thereby reducing the appearance of crow’s feet. The radiofrequency waves penetrate deep into the skin, which, when combined with massage, boost circulation around the eyes.
The treatment procedure, which lasts for 10–15 minutes each sitting, can show effective results within 4–6 hours and is generally pain-free.
8. Eye mask
You can find different eye masks that not only relax your eyes but also plump up your skin. While their effects are not long lasting, these eye masks are excellent for hydrating, softening, and smoothening your skin.
You can use these eye masks just before applying your makeup to prevent the foundation from settling in your crow’s feet and making them more prominent.
Temporal lift surgically can also help. Blepharoplasty can be done in very deep lines that do not respond to minimally invasive methods such as botulinum toxin and fillers.
Home Remedies for Crow’s Feet
Besides medical treatment, you can also opt for home remedies using natural ingredients that hydrate the skin, giving an illusion of reduced crow’s feet. Here are some of such at-home remedies.
1. Apply a whole-milk compress
Milk is rich in nutrients and beneficial compounds such as amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and lipids, all of which contribute to skin health.
Amino acids help in collagen production, (11) and vitamins A and E stimulate cellular skin renewal. Milk also contains antioxidants that prevent photodamage and chemical-induced skin tissue damage.
In addition, the fat in milk helps keep the skin moisturized, making it soft and radiant.
How to use:
- Soak a clean washcloth in whole milk. You can also add 1 tsp of almond oil or 1 tbsp of honey to the milk for added benefits.
- Place the washcloth over your eyes and on the sides of your face.
- Remove the washcloth after 15 minutes and wash your face.
- Repeat this remedy twice a day.
2. Use an egg white and vitamin E facial mask
The application of egg whites can help tighten your skin, causing a reduction in the appearance of crow’s feet. Moreover, eggs are rich in proteins that aid in tissue repair, magnesium for skin renewal, and potassium that helps hydrate the skin.
Vitamin E is used with egg whites for its antioxidant nature that promotes tissue regeneration. (12) Thus, an egg white and vitamin E facial mask can improve crow’s feet by tightening the skin around the eyes while keeping it moisturized, soft, and young looking.
How to use:
- Beat one egg white until frothy and break 1 vitamin E capsule into it.
- Apply the mask to your face, taking care that no facial muscle is tense.
- Once dry, apply a second layer of the mask.
- Wash your face with soap and water after 15 minutes.
- You can repeat this remedy 3–4 times a week.
3. Prepare a papaya and yogurt mask
Papayas have a high amount of antioxidants such as carotenes and vitamin C, which are useful in preventing damage caused by free radicals. Moreover, they promote collagen production in the skin.
In addition, papaya contains papain, an enzyme that helps tighten and exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells. Papaya is also nourishing to the skin, owing to its abundance of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and copper.
Yogurt is used for its lactic acid, which helps remove dirt, dead skin cells, and germs from the skin, mildly exfoliating it. Additionally, yogurt can help fade blemishes and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
How to use:
- Mix 1 tbsp each of yogurt and mashed papaya to form a smooth paste.
- Apply the paste to your face.
- Wash your face with lukewarm water after 10 minutes.
4. Apply an avocado and castor oil mask
Avocado is a highly nutritive food source containing vitamins A and C and minerals such as potassium, iron, and magnesium, (13) all of which are beneficial to skin health.
In addition, the high fat content of avocados moisturizes the skin and increases the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Castor oil is used for its emollient and moisturizing properties, which help reduce crow’s feet.
How to use:
- Add 2 tbsp of mashed avocado to 1 tsp of castor oil and mix properly.
- Apply the paste to your skin.
- Wash your face with lukewarm water after half an hour.
5. Dab some lemon essential oil
Lemon essential oil can inhibit elastase, an enzyme that causes degradation of elastin fibers leading to wrinkles and aging. (14) The use of lemon essential oil can delay the formation of crow’s feet.
How to use:
- Dilute 1–2 drops of lemon essential oil with 1 tsp of jojoba or sweet almond oil. You can also substitute lemon essential oil with grapefruit essential oil.
- Apply the oil blend to the affected areas.
- Wash after half an hour or leave it to dry.
6. Use cucumber and aloe vera gel eye patches
Cucumbers are a rich source of vitamins such as vitamin B5, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine, which are all potent skin nutrients.
The nutrients in cucumber are easily absorbed by the skin and help lower oxidative damage while boosting collagen production. Cucumbers also soothe the skin, aiding in the reduction of wrinkles.
Aloe vera is an excellent moisturizing, nourishing, toning, and skin-brightening agent and also contains antioxidant properties.
How to use:
- Grate or crush a cucumber to extract its juice. Mix 5 tsp of the freshly extracted cucumber juice with 2 tsp of aloe vera gel. Soak a couple of cotton balls in this mixture, and place them on your crow’s feet. Remove after 10–15 minutes. Repeat this remedy 2–3 times daily for a few weeks until you see results.
- Alternatively, you can directly apply aloe vera gel around your eyes and place a thin slice of cucumber over the eyes. Allow the ingredients to work for about 10 minutes, and then wipe them away. Repeat this remedy daily as a part of your skin care routine.
7. Use a yogurt and honey mask
Yogurt is a natural exfoliator and helps cleanse the skin, owing to its lactic acid content. Honey acts as a moisturizing and humectant agent.
Using honey and yogurt as a mask exfoliates and nourishes the skin, together contributing to the reduction in fine lines, wrinkles, and crow’s feet by making the skin soft, plump, and healthy.
How to use:
- Mix equal amounts of plain yogurt and honey and add 1 tsp coconut oil to it.
- Apply the paste to your face.
- Wash your face with cold water after 10 minutes.
Preventing Crow’s Feet
While crow’s feet cannot be completely prevented, you can take measures to delay their development or reduce the depth and severity.
Here are some preventive measures for crow’s feet.
1. Consume a healthy diet
Your skin health is often a reflection of what you eat. Therefore, consuming a well-balanced, healthy diet can help keep your skin healthy, glowing, radiant, and young.
In general, it is suggested to consume plenty of healthy fats, that is, mono- and polyunsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease risk, and (15) keep your face voluminous and soft. Consume omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, nuts, seeds, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil.
In addition, consume foods that hydrate your skin from inside. These include water-rich foods such as oranges and berries rich in vitamin C, leafy vegetables containing vitamin K, and nuts with vitamin E.
Moreover, avoid foods with high salt content as these can cause puffiness and bloating. Similarly, avoid processed foods as they have high amounts of preservatives that increase free radical concentration in your body. (16) Such foods include bacon, salami, sausages, refined sugars, and processed snacks/foods.
2. Quit smoking
Cigarette smoke and the nicotine in it can inflict damage on your skin, reducing collagen production. Thus, it is vital to quit smoking to prevent the appearance or worsening of crow’s feet.
Additionally, cigarette smoke can cause irritation and skin dryness, also speeding up the aging process. In fact, smoking is one of the most common causes of premature skin aging.
3. Always apply sunscreen
Using a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily is highly essential to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, especially since the skin around your eyes is thin and delicate.
Consider using sunscreens that contain zinc or titanium oxide. (17) Moreover, opt for a waterproof sunscreen if you have an active lifestyle or are going into bodies of water. It is essential to apply sunscreen even when it is not sunny outside, as the UV rays are very much present and can even penetrate windows and glass.
4. Use sun-protective gear
Aside from using sunscreen, you must wear hats, sun-protective eyeglasses, or sunglasses to prevent crow’s feet. These not only protect your skin from sun rays but also prevent squinting of the eyes caused by exposure to sunlight.
Repetitively squinting your eyes can break down the elastin and collagen fibers, leading to the development of wrinkles and fine lines.
5. Moisturize around the eyes
Moisturizing is an essential part of any skin care routine, helping nourish, hydrate, and soften the skin. It also helps reduce fine lines, especially around the delicate eye area.
Therefore, it is essential to moisturize your face, including around the eyes, daily. You can also use special eye creams that contain collagen-boosting peptides. Such creams can also boost skin cell activities and contain humectants such as hyaluronic acid.
Other ingredients that you can look for in eye creams include retinol, vitamin C, and niacinamide. Make sure to apply the cream gently, without rubbing. Instead, pat the cream onto your skin for better absorption.
6. Stay hydrated
In addition to using skin moisturizers, it is necessary to consume plenty of water throughout the day to hydrate your skin from within. Consume 8–10 glasses of water a day to prevent skin dryness, which increases the chances of developing crow’s feet.
7. Avoid overwashing your face
Keeping your skin clean is important for good skin health, but overwashing can strip the natural oils, moisture, and protective lipids of the skin. This contributes to wrinkle formation.
When washing your face, avoid using hot water. Make sure to apply a moisturizer afterward.
8. Refrain from rubbing your eyes
When you rub your eyes, you create friction, which can damage elastin and collagen fibers, leading to the development of crow’s feet. Therefore, it is essential to be gentle on your skin.
It is also suggested to eliminate the factors that irritate your eyes and create the urge of rubbing them, such as lack of sleep, allergies, and leaving makeup on for too long, in order to get rid of the damaging habit.
9. Get ample rest
Your skin rejuvenates and repairs itself while you sleep. Moreover, proper sleep lowers the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause collagen loss.
In addition, getting 6–8 hours of sleep boosts the production of human growth hormone, which contributes to skin repair and improving skin elasticity.
Makeup Tips to Conceal Crow’s Feet
If you have developed crow’s feet and wish to conceal them, the following makeup tips may come in handy:
- Apply a lightweight moisturizer as a base before putting on any makeup.
- Use a silicone-based primer to give your skin a smoother appearance.
- Refrain from applying heavy makeup as it can accentuate the fine lines.
- Blend the foundation using a damp sponge to give it a light finish.
- Avoid using loose powder as it can accumulate in the wrinkles, highlighting them more.
- Apply a bold lipstick to shift the viewer’s attention away from the eyes.
Most people desire smooth, young-looking skin. However, wrinkles and fine lines such as crow’s feet are inevitable with increasing age. Fortunately, there are several treatments that you seek to reduce the appearance of such fine lines.
It is best to consult your doctor for a suitable treatment depending on the intensity of the crow’s feet and your skin type. In addition to medical treatment, you can also try home remedies that help reduce crow’s feet.
Moreover, it is important to improve your skin care routine and make healthy choices that can prevent premature aging and delay the development of crow’s feet.