While we consider ourselves experts on everything from double cleansing and hair colour to micro-blading and makeup pilling, when it comes to eye care, we're slightly lost. Perhaps because we're taught not to worry about our eyes until we hit our 30s, or because there's a bigger focus on other skincare areas – either way, the jargon surrounding age-prevention for eyes is often put on the back burner.
There's a wealth of factors to consider when approaching anti-ageing eye care, from diet and vices to sun exposure and sleep – after all, the eyes are the windows to the soul, and you can bet your lifestyle will take its toll eventually. With an array of creams, masks and serums – ranging from sensitive to overnight formulas – it's easy to feel overwhelmed and avoid the subject altogether. But like any part of your body, you'll want to keep it fit to fight Old Father Time. We asked those in the know why, when and how we should start taking care of our eye area, from age 20 and up.
"As we age, the levels of collagen and elastin in the skin begin to decrease naturally, leading to a loss of firmness, density, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in the eye area. The rate at which we age can be accelerated by a number of factors such as genetics, UV exposure, diet and skincare regimen (or lack thereof)," aesthetic dermatologist Dr. Phillip M. Levy explains. "The root cause of this depletion in collagen and elastin is when our dermal stem cells – the mother cells of the skin’s factories of collagen and elastin – become worn out and tired."
In short, our eyes aren't escaping any of the well-known signs of ageing. Much like the rest of our skin, our eyes are affected by the big bad trio: the sun, fatigue and pollution. However, while the majority of us (hopefully) have preventative measures in place to combat these elements (daily SPF, lots of sleep, regular water intake), the skin around our eyes is much thinner – meaning it's far more susceptible. Skincare expert and founder of eponymous brand, Tata Harper stresses as much: "The skin around your eyes is thinner and more delicate, so fatigue, dryness, tugging (when removing eye makeup) and your everyday expressions can play an even bigger role in ageing here."
This all sounds very ticking time bomb... If we haven't started an eye care routine, is it too late? Rejoice – it isn't. "Now that the very source of skin’s regeneration system is known, it is possible to 'turn back' the effects of ageing on these very cells," Dr. Levy tells us, "and hence re-stimulate the skin’s production of ageing-fighting collagen and elastin fibres". So now that we know exactly why our peepers show the first signs of ageing, where do we begin?
"Young people who live in polluted cities should especially focus on taking preventative measures." While our eyes may be the last beauty priority in your early 20s (hello late nights and boozy weekends), it's good to get started early. "It’s so important to keep this delicate skin hydrated to help keep skin looking plump and firm," says Harper. "So start using an all-purpose eye cream in your 20s for hydration." Our favourites? Peter Thomas Roth's Cucumber De-Tox Depuffing Eye Cubes are perfect for calming, toning and tightening hungover eyes, while REN's Keep Young and Beautiful Firm and Lift Eye Cream does what it says on the tin, and is a great all-round product.
"By the time you’re in your mid- to late-20s, you’re ready for a retinol-based treatment," Peter Thomas Roth, founder of the eponymous clinical skincare brand tells us, "which resurfaces your skin overnight to help diminish the look of fine lines and crow’s feet". We're firm believers in the power of retinol-based formulas but remember always to apply SPF when using, as the retinol makes skin super-sensitive to rays. Oskia's gel-like Eye Wonder is light and refreshing worn under makeup, and SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3 is a concentrate that helps reduce fine lines and dark spots while you sleep.
"This is when you might start to see fine lines. Look for products that really target the area, and layer serums with more hydrating eye creams," Harper says. "You can even add in an eye mask for a hydration boost with lifting and firming properties. Personally, I like to layer my Elixir Vitae Eye Serum and Restorative Eye Crème during the day, and at night (or before an event or when I fly) layer on the Boosted Contouring Eye Mask. This reduces the look of fine lines and minimises puffiness, signs of fatigue, and dark circles."
So now you've got your eye-care timeline straight, get protecting!