Beauty Basics: Bright Eyes

You can learn a lot about a woman by examining her eyes. They express love, joy, excitement. But at the same time, more than anywhere else on the body, the eyes show early signs of sun damage, stress, and illness.

"The skin around the eyes is some of the thinnest you have," says holistic cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Jeanette Jacknin, author of "Smart Medicine for Your Skin." Pair that fragility with a small pad of underlying fat that all but vanishes with age, and you're left with little to guard against wrinkles or disguise veins. As a result, the slightest damage readily becomes visible.

Store shelves are packed with conventional treatments specific to the eye area. But no single, perfect product exists, says Dr. Thomas Le, director of facial rejuvenation procedures at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

The best solution? Take a holistic approach. Natural and nature-inspired remedies supply you with a powerful arsenal, say Jacknin and home-spa doyenne Janice Cox, author of "Natural Beauty at Home." Restorative ingredients such as vitamins, antioxidants, and essential oils extracted from herbs, teas, and other plants can help mend this vulnerable area.

Here, our experts offer simple lifestyle changes, quick fixes, and product suggestions to tackle puffy eyes, dark circles, crow's feet, crinkled lids -- and send those bags packing.

Puffy Eyes

The Cause
Fluid pools around the eyes while you sleep but should drain during the day. Persistent swelling may result from dilated blood vessels, allergies, or a diet that promotes water retention.

Essential Steps
Avoid heavy creams; they trap moisture, says Cox. Drink plenty of water and limit salty foods and alcohol to reduce water retention.

Quick Fix
Splash your face with cold water and pat dry with a soft towel. Follow with a cold compress of chilled tea bags (black, green, or white), cucumber slices, or witch-hazel-soaked cotton balls; rest with the compress for 15 minutes. This will help constrict blood vessels and absorb excess fluid. Rinse, dry, and then apply a lightweight eye gel (store products in the fridge to enhance calming action).

Ingredients to Look For
Cucumber extract and witch hazel to tighten skin and absorb excess fluid
- Caffeine, cat's claw, coffee extract, grape-seed extract, tannins, or tea for mild blood-vessel constriction
- Allantoin, alpha-lipoic acid, calendula, chamomile, comfrey, licorice, milk thistle, and vitamin B to reduce swelling

- White Tea Eye Gel by Neal's Yard Remedies, $49, nyrusa.com
- Yellow Hibiscus Eye Serum by Korres, $38.50, korres.com
- Eye Solace by Dr. Hauschka, $29.95, drhauschka.com


The Cause
With age, cells produce more free radicals, which indirectly break down collagen and elastin, causing skin to lose elasticity and structure. A pad of fat, the eye's "shock absorber," bulges outward, while fat below the eye thins. Water retention amplifies the problem.

Essential Steps
Eat vitamin C-rich foods to support collagen production.Tap the eye area lightly while moisturiz-ing to help dissipate excess fluid, says Cox. To reduce water retention, drink water, limit alcohol, and get more rest.

Quick Fix
Place cucumber slices (for astringency) or chilled caffeinated tea bags (for tannins) on eyes for 15 minutes to tighten skin and absorb fluid.

Ingredients to Look For
- Tea to diminish excess fluid
- Vitamin A to boost collagen
- Vitamins C and E to help block collagen-degrading enzymes and sweep up free radicals
- Cucumber, oatmeal, persimmon, or witch hazel to tighten skin
- Yeast extract to limit free-radical damage and promote cell renewal

- Firming Eye Gel by John Masters Organics, $28, johnmasters.com
- Lumessence Rejuvenating Eye Creme by Aubrey Organics, $23.50, aubreyorganics.com
- Organic Expressions Brighter Eye Creme by Derma E, $19.50, dermae.net

Dark Circles

The Cause
Nasal congestion widens surrounding veins; related inflammation may lead to dark pigment deposits. Stress and poor diet can weaken blood vessels, which may break, creating a bruise-like undertone. Fatigue strains eyelid muscles, engorging blood vessels, and can produce a wan complexion, making circles appear darker by contrast. For some, dark circles are genetic.

Essential Steps
Eat foods rich in vitamin K, says Jacknin, because it helps fortify blood-vessel walls. And use a daily topical treatment with vitamin K. Also aim for more downtime and sleep.

Quick Fix
Only cosmetics deliver instant results. Cox says to look for a concealer that's close to your natural complexion -- lighter tones will make circles look gray. Or try "plumping up" thin skin with a fast-absorbing oil like jojoba.

Ingredients to Look For
Vitamin K or green tea (which contains vitamin K) to fortify blood vessels; vitamin A, which bolsters vitamin K activity
- Vitamin C or vitamin C-rich carrot, grape-seed, or rose-hip extracts to help strengthen and repair tissue
- Kojic acid to inhibit melanin production

Organic Erase Corrective Makeup by Nvey, $30, econveybeauty.com
- Evening Primrose Eye Cream SPF6 by Korres, $31.50, korres.com
- Smoothing Eye Concentrate by Juice Beauty, $29, juicebeauty.com

Crow's Feet

The Cause
Sun exposure and aging diminish skin's elasticity; UV rays and pollution cause inflammation and cell damage. As a result, repeated expressions (smiling, squinting) form creases.

Ingredients to Look For
- Evening primrose, jojoba, and sesame oils to hydrate skin and maintain flexibility
- Aloe to speed healing
- Antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E to help fight free radicals and sun damage
- Hyaluronic acid to help boost the absorption of vitamin C
- Allantoin, alpha-lipoic acid, calendula, chamomile, licorice, milk thistle, tea, or vitamin B to reduce inflammation

Eye Contour Oil-Serum by Huiles and Baumes, spacenk.com
- Under Eye Nourishing Creme by von Natur, vonnatur.com

Crinkled Eyelids

The Cause
Skin produces decreasing amounts of oil over time, so eyelids tend to become dry and fragile. Loss of elasticity and fat, plus thinning skin, compound the problem and contribute to small folds in the lids. Eye shadows and cleansers can dry, too. With diminishing protection, too much scrubbing and overly absorbent powders can make matters worse.

Essential Steps
Use a light eye cream in the morning and a rich cream at night; tap the eye area lightly with your finger until the product is absorbed to stimulate circulation, says Cox. Use a gentle, hydrating makeup remover or cleanser. Don't scrub harder to remove stubborn makeup; instead, gently wash the area again. Eliminate talc-based eye shadows, which sap moisture.

Quick Fix
Use a cream eye shadow, advises Cox, or apply a hydrating primer underneath your usual powder to help retain natural moisture.

Ingredients to Look For
- Almond, apricot kernel, castor, or grape-seed oils for light moisture
- Aloe, antioxidants, and vitamin C to promote healing

- Red Elements Lifting Eye Creme by Jason, jason-natural.com
- Daily Revitalizing Eye Cream by Dr. Hauschka, drhauschka.com
- Green Apple Nutrient Eye Cream by Juice Beauty, juicebeauty.com

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Comments (2)

  • aplaceinntime 12 Jan, 2008

    A dot of glycerin on each eyelid smoothed into the crease behind and to eac of the outer corners of the eyelid has helped during winter weather

  • Funnyme 10 Nov, 2007

    Great Ideas, will try some.......thanks

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