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With thin skin, the eyes become a beauty target
This photo provided by La Mer shows the The Eye Concentrate from La Mer. (AP Photo) HO

NEW YORK (AP) — First impressions start at the eyes — they’re what sparkle when you smile.

There’s a price for that, though: The skin around the eyes isn’t particularly well-equipped for all that attention (or the lines that are a side effect of smiling). The skin is thinner and more delicate than the rest of your face, and aging leads to a loss around the eyes of collagen and elastin, which are like the springs that move skin back into shape.

“Think of onion-skin paper, think of the transparency when skin is so thin. It reflects whatever is going on underneath, whether you’re tired or sick or have sun damage,” says Loretta Miraglia, senior vice president of product development for La Mer.

There’s also puffiness and dark circles, largely caused when blood pools naturally under the eye socket because of its shape. But when skin is inflamed or irritated, blood flow is further hindered. Also, the skin gets pulled in unnatural directions when the eyes are rubbed. And each of the thousands of times you blink daily — a natural way to protect your eyeball — the skin is called into duty, says Caroline Debbasch, scientific communication director for Vichy Laboratoires International, a division of L’Oreal.

Lots of nerves are located around the eye, which is why the skin feels so sensitive, Debbasch explains, but there are few sebaceous glands, so there’s a poor lipid barrier, making it hard to keep the skin hydrated.

Still, it’s not necessarily a lost cause. The beauty industry is steadily increasing the weapons in its arsenal with all sorts of eye-specific products, ranging from all-natural formulas to nanotechnology.

“The cosmetics industry is working a lot on the eye area — there’s enormous demand from consumers,” says Debbasch, whose company research finds half the women in its focus groups complained of dark circles, one in three was concerned about slackened skin, and three in 10 worried about swelling.

“In terms of eye cream, especially as our skin ages, it becomes quite necessary to use,” says Kristin Petrovich, founder of Sjal skin care.

You’re unlikely to damage your eye-area skin by using a traditional face moisturizer, but you’ll be using some ingredients that might not be needed and missing out on others.

Most eye creams have a heavier, creamier texture, Petrovich notes, because there isn’t the problem of worrying about too-oily skin or acne. The Sjal eye cream, in particular, uses gingko biloba, cucumber and aloe in an effort to reduce puffiness and amino-acid compounds to break up fatty deposits, none of which are in the facial moisturizer.

La Mer’s The Eye Concentrate targets increased circulation with sea kelp; and Relastin’s Eye Silk focuses on rebuilding elastin, sort of like the skin’s elastic, with a zinc complex. “Elastin is not replaced over time, it stops being produced about the time of puberty,” says Niquette Hunt, vice president of over-the-counter products for parent company Revance Therapeutics. “We want to switch back on the biological pathways that get turned off.”

“Eye skin tends to look baggy — for lack of a better word,” says Hunt. “It loses the ability to spring back. … You want the skin, when pulled, to retract and go back.”

Cor’s Silver Eye Cream uses a patented nanotechnology to deliver silver (an anti-bacterial agent), peptides, vitamins C and E, and macadamia oil, among other ingredients. By shrinking the molecules to a size smaller than the skin’s pores, they can reach the dermis layer of the skin, according to company founder Jennifer McKinley.

All-natural Emergin C has four different eye products targeting more specific problems — one focuses on dark circles with vitamin K and plant-based lighteners; one with vitamin C to encourage collagen production; a cellular energizer with antioxidants and vitamins E and H, believed to tone the skin; and a “quick fix” formula with cucumber, licorice root and green tea to cool and soothe tired eyes.

Soon, says founder Ian Lirenman, the company will introduce a product that incorporates stem cells from a rare Swiss apple that can aims to regenerate collagen.

Working on the surface of the skin is the Skin Renew Anti-Puff Eye Roller by Garnier Nutritioniste. Limited amounts of caffeine are distributed around the eye area as the ball itself helps with puffiness by stimulating circulation, explains Dr. Diane Madfes, a New York dermatologist who consults for Garnier. There’s also a cooling effect.

Obviously the proximity to the eyes means there’s always a risk that a product intended for around the eyes will end up in them instead. Vichy’s Debbasch suggests products that have been tested on contact lens users, those without fragrance and using a separate sunscreen — or, better yet, sunglasses.

In addition to protecting yourself from the sun, there are other lifestyle decisions that could also help curb the initial appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration that all these eye creams are supposed to make disappear.

Cooling the area around the eye, even with a cool compress or cucumber, will improve appearance within minutes. However, rubbing your eyes is a no-no. “When you rub your eyes, you’re sort of creating a bruise, and then there’s a snowball effect: because the skin is thin, you see the blood vessels,” says La Mer’s Miraglia.

Debbasch notes both tobacco and alcohol use contribute to dark circles because circulation becomes more stagnant, causing swelling.

And, she adds, beauty sleep isn’t an old wives’ tale: Circulation also slows down when you’re tired.


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