Common problems with the skin around the eyes
There is a saying that “eyes are the window to the soul”. Equally, we could say the the skin around them is a window to our lifestyle. Just by looking around their eyes you can tell straight away if a person has slept badly, if their diet contains a lot of salt, or if they suffer from eczema or allergies.
Here are some common problems:
1. Dark circles
Remember when your mum used to say “Go to bed, you’re going to look like a zombie tomorrow” or more eloquently said by Shakespeare “Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care”. Well, they were at least partially right. Lack of sleep and tiredness are amongst the most common causes of the dark circles around our eyes. Dark circles are actually a result of light reflected by blood vessels in the skin. This is how thin the skin around the eyes actually is. However, the problem is more complex than this. There are several factors contributing to the appearance of dark circles. Genetic factors, like the thickness of the skin around your eyes, will influence how visible they can be. Age – unfortunately an important factor. As we age our skin looses its firmness as the collagen in it deteriorates, which can make the blood vessels more visible. Fatigue/lack of sleep. This is the interesting factor as it’s the one we can (easily?) control. I say easily… but who doesn’t like the occasional late night with a good box set, a crazy night out dancing, or a crazy night in doing a limbo competition. No? Just me then 😀 ! I found many reports on why the dark circles appear more prominent after a bad night’s sleep. One of the simpler explanations is that tiredness makes you look pale and washed out meaning the dark circles will be more pronounced. The more complex explanation is that your body increases a production of cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) to try to keep you going, which stimulates blood flow and increases the size of the blood vessels making them more visible. As the levels of these hormones change throughout the day, the blood flow decreases. Other factors may include melanin overproduction due to periorbital hyperpigmentation or sun exposure, or oxidation of blood vessels.
So, solutions? Unfortunately, because of the complexity of this issue, a miracle cure simply doesn’t exist. Bummer, right? But don’t be sad, there are things you can try out:
- Have plenty of quality sleep. I underlined quality, because purely being in bed for 12 hours isn’t enough and it can make the problem worse.
- Extensive drinking contributes to the fatigue and overall condition of your skin, so it’s not going to be anything new when I suggest you limit your alcohol intake.
- Use a moisturiser with a SPF during the day to fight sun damage and melanin production. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses!
- Use an emollient-based product before bed. It would be ideal if it contained antioxidants like Vitamin E or Vitamin C as they can strengthen blood vessels and protect the collagen from oxidation. Vitamin C can also brighten the skin.
- Do I even have to mention to always cleanse before bed? Make sure you thoroughly remove all products applied during the day and make up. Cleansed skin is more absorbent to those useful substances that we’re going to be applying. If you haven’t yet tried, I can sincerely recommend the Oil Cleansing Method (you can read about it here).
2. Dry Skin
The skin around our eyes is very thin and delicate. It doesn’t have as many sebaceous glands (excreting oils and waxes) as other parts of our face and body, and it’s strained by many muscles and constant blinking. Therefore it can seem drier and more fragile than on other parts of your face. This can effect anyone, but it’s even more common for people suffering from eczema or allergies. This problem can be inflated by the use of harsh chemicals or inappropriate cleansing routine involving soap or facial wash, and very hot water. Climate can be a contributing factor, too. Radiator heating and cold air in winter, or air conditioning in summer can dry out your skin very quickly.
How to fights this? Don’t worry, this one isn’t a lost battle…
- Always inspect the label of every product you buy, make sure it doesn’t contain any irritants known to trigger an allergic reaction to your skin. Some Vitamins and Essential Oils, even though have excellent properties, can be sensitising. If you’re unsure what works and what doesn’t, test it first.
- Don’t use any products containing alcohol as alcohol is well known for drying out the skin.
- Give yourself a break from make up from time to time, allow your skin to breathe and regenerate.
- Try not to use very hot water on the skin around your eyes, it can dry it out. Also, pat it dry gently.
- If your skin feels dehydrated drink plenty of water, especially if you’re spending time in a controlled environment like an air conditioned office.
- Use a moisturiser that’s suits your skin and time of day. It is worth using an emollient-based moisturiser overnight to help regenerate cells and restore the skin barrier. During the day, choose a moisturiser containing a humectant like glycerine or hyaluronic acid that will draw in the water to the surface of your skin. But don’t worry! This doesn’t mean you need to have 7 billion moisturisers in your cupboard. A well designed face moisturiser, suited to your needs and skin type, can be successfully used on the eye area.
3. Itchy and irritated skin
This can be a really annoying issue. I experienced it myself while suffering from eczema (you can read about my eczema struggles here). Even now, if I wear a lot of make up for a couple of days in a row, the skin around my eyes can get irritated, itchy and red. For me, this is mainly caused by allergies, so an anti-histamine tablet and a soothing moisturiser usually do the trick. Also, I started using the Oil Cleansing Method, which has completely changed my cleansing routine. Since I started using the Face Cleansing Oil to remove the make up, I suffer much less from irritated skin around my eyes. But this is a serious issue for many and can be caused by eczema or atopic dermatitis, perioral dermatitis, or blepharitis. Just like above, to make this common problem better, try to avoid any irritants, harsh soaps and chemicals. Use soothing and delicate products that will restore the natural skin barrier. In more advanced cases you might need to see a specialist.
Puffy and swollen eyes are usually caused by fluid retention from a salt-rich diet, changes in hormone levels or more benign things like weather and climate. This can also be caused by skin irritation or allergies. Our old friends, age and fatigue, can make this more prominent too. As we age the fat tissue that provides the plumpness to our skin degrades, the same happens to the collagen and muscles keeping the skin tout. This can give an impression of “bags” under the eyes. The same goes for the lack of sleep.
To improve the appearance of puffy eyes:
- Sleep, sleep, sleep. I know – boring, right?
- Cut your salt and alcohol intake to prevent water retention.
- Try a cold compress (ice cubes, a bag of frozen veg, etc.) to constrict the blood vessels and remove excess fluid.
- Avoid allergens and irritants. If it’s necessary then reduce allergy symptoms by the usage of anti-histamine products.
- Use soothing agents like calendula extract, aloe vera gel or cucumber extract.
So as you can see, after doing a lot of research, my conclusion is that there isn’t just one magic cure for all the eye-related problems. But there are nice and easy solutions to keep it in a generally good condition. First of all, invest in a moisturiser that works for you. But please, don’t just go and splash the cash on something that claims to be a miracle worker (*whisper they don’t exist). If you have a good quality face moisturiser that is rich in vitamins and free of irritants, you could try using it on the skin around the eyes. For something more restorative or soothing to use before bed invest in products with emollients and antioxidants. If you’re looking for a new purchase I can whole-heartedly recommend our new product; Calendula & Lavender Soothing Eye Treatment. It certainly ticks all the boxes and more, and it won’t break the bank! It’s based on several plant oils, butters and extracts, which include sweet Almond Oil to restore the protective skin barrier, emollients Shea Butter and Coconut Oil to supplement the skin with fatty acids and vitamins, and extracts of Calendula and Lavender to soothe irritations. But, sometimes a good night’s sleep can be the only remedy you will need! I am repeating myself, I know, I’ll stop.