The Aging Process of Eyes Explained

Are the laughter lines around your eyes suddenly turning into less joyful, creepy, crinkly crow’s feet?
Is the thinning skin showing up dark circles and discolored eyelids?

One of the first places where visible signs of aging begin to emerge is around the delicate eye contour. The skin in this area is not just extremely delicate, but becomes thinner and more fragile as we age and, as a result, becomes particularly vulnerable to the unsightly changes that accompany aging.

The Eyes Aging Process

eyes | Longevity LiveThe epidermis around the periorbital area is just 0,04mm thick, compared with 1mm on the rest of the face. It is, in fact, structurally 10 times thinner. This area goes through a lot of wear and tear from rubbing, smiling and squinting. We also put a great deal of stress on our eyes and the area around them: heavy and often irritating makeup, cosmetics such as cleansers and eye creams, harsh lighting (neon lights in offices and stores, car headlights, computer screens and television screens). Tiredness rapidly shows up in the eye area, resulting in dark circles or bags under the eyes.

Dark Circles

Dark circles are abnormal coloring of the lower lids, a direct consequence of problems with microcirculation. As we grow older, the capillary walls slacken. Blood no longer circulates normally. The result is accentuated subcutaneous pigmentation that is all the more noticeable under the eyes, as the skin here is very thin. Dark circles fall into one of two categories:

  • Hereditary dark circles caused by hyperpigmentation of the skin; and
  • Circulatory dark circles, an occasional problem caused by poor blood circulation. They appear during periods of fatigue or lack of sleep.


The eye area contains very little subcutaneous fat tissue, which also becomes less plump as we age. As a result, it is especially sensitive to stress from repetitive facial movements, which ultimately contributes to wrinkle development.

Fine lines and wrinkles, the first signs of aging, appear at the outer corner of the eye to form “crow’s feet”. They are the result of the depletion of collagen and elastin levels (the support fibres) within the dermis, itself the result of intrinsic aging. They grow more noticeable over the years, also as a result of exposure to environmental stress factors such as the sun and free radicals.

As we age, the thick collagen network that gives the skin its structural support begins to lose its integrity. External factors, of which sun exposure is the biggest culprit, increase the level of enzymes that break down collagen in the skin. Both the upper and lower lids are lined with fatty pockets in order to absorb any shocks, and thus protect the eyeballs.

Under-eye puffiness is, in fact, excess swelling of the lids. It has two distinct causes:

  • Oedematous puffiness: caused by stagnating lymph. This type of puffiness, which is most noticeable on waking, tends to diminish during the day. Poor microcirculation and the use of greasy cosmetics make the problem worse.
  • Hereditary puffiness: the result of excess fatty cells building up in the area under the eye. This hereditary problem can be completely solved only by surgery. Hereditary puffiness is made worse by skin slackening, which is part of the aging process. Effective treatment of sagging skin will also give satisfactory results with respect to this type of puffiness.

eyes | Longevity LiveAn educational presentation by the renowned Ericson Laboratoire explains: “Muscles enable the eye to move, as well as draining surrounding tissue. By activating microcirculation, they promote lymphatic and venous return.

That explains why the eyes can appear puffy on waking, as the muscles have rested all night. Because of its extremely fragile nature, the eye contour area is quick to develop telltale signs. It can also ‘overreact’ to environmental stress factors.”

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