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Understanding How Our Eyes Age and What Can Be Done To Address It

Eyes can be our most cherished feature or our most frustrating facial attribute.

The eyes are by far, the most scrutinized aspect of our face. They are the focus of attention of anyone with whom we are talking to. Our eyes convey our emotions to our audience. They show whether we are sick or healthy, rested or tired.

Striking eyes are mesmerizing and the reason why so many women spend so much time mastering the art of makeup application that accentuates their eyes. On the other hand, eyes that look perpetually tired due to hollowness, unrelenting dark circles, or sagging lids can be very frustrating, especially if you’re neither tired nor at an age to have droopy eyelids.

The skin and tissues around the eyes are so delicate that the first visible signs of ageing appear as early as in our mid 20’s.

What are the Signs Associated with Aging Eyes?

  • Fine Lines and Wrinkles
  • Sagging Skin and Crepiness
  • Sunken Eyes / Deep Tear Troughs
  • Dark Circles / Hyperpigmentation
  • Venous Congestion
  • Eye Bags
  • Thinning Lashes

What Factors Contribute to Aging Eyes:

Genetic Factors

  • If your parents showed early signs of aging around their eyes or lid hooding, chances are you will too.
  • Individuals of certain skin types and ethnicities are more prone to hyperpigmentation of both upper and lower lids.
  • Individuals with ocular rosacea have even more fragile skin around the eyes and are prone to redness, visible vessels and venous congestion.

Environmental Stressors

Repeated exposure to allergens causing one to rub their eyes can result in repeated irritation, swelling, and hyperpigmentation.

Repeated exposure to cigarette smoke and the 4,000 toxic chemicals released with every exhalation; environmental pollution and free radicals; unprotected exposure to UVA, UVB, Infra Red light; and extreme cold and strong winds all lead to premature ageing of the delicate skin around the eyes.

Repeated Dynamic Movements

The average person blinks up to 20 times per minute, 1,200 times per hour and over 28,000 times per day! This adds up. Repeated movements such as squinting, smiling, and blinking cause crow’s feet and deeper wrinkles to form. Think of your favourite leather shoes, belt, or purse.

With repeated use, wear and tear occur, and lines and creases form where the material folds repeatedly. The same phenomenon occurs with the delicate skin around the eyes.

Volume Loss (Image 1)

The face is composed of several fat compartments that act as support for our subcutaneous tissues and skin. As we age, we start losing this support. Some lose it sooner than others, but we eventually all do so in a predetermined sequence. Over time, we sequentially lose volume in our cheeks, forehead, facial contour, temples, laugh lines, marionette lines, and lower face.

But as we see in Image 1, the very first area affected by this volume loss is around the eyes. This provides one explanation as to why we start to notice dark circles, hollowness, and fine lines around the eyes as early as our mid-20s.

Skeletal Resorption (Image 2)

Like fat loss, we also lose bone volume over time. This results in a larger and bonier ocular aperture (as shown in Image 2) and causes our eyes to gradually move deeper in our eye sockets. This eventually leads to sagging eyelids and makes our eyes look smaller as we age.

As we age, our eyes gradually sink, in part due to bone resorption.

Image 1

A closer look at the effects of bone resorption on the ocular cavity.

Image 2

Collagen and Elastin Depletion

This not only makes the delicate skin around the eyes thinner and creepier, it can also render the skin almost translucent. This, combined with the loss of the protective fat pad and of the layer of natural Hyaluronic Acid, exposes the bluish vessels and the greyish muscles underneath the thin skin of the lower lid. This creates the dark circles that make them look chronically tired even though they are not.

Thinning of Lashes

As with the rest of the hair on our body, lashes and brows start to become thinner and sparser. This phenomenon further contributes to making our eyes look duller and less youthful.

Non-Surgical Cosmetic Solutions

There is no single treatment that addresses all aspects of eye ageing. And as is the case with almost all health and cosmetic issues, prevention and maintaining good life habits are always the first recommendation. However, I do offer several in-office treatment options, each providing a solution to a specific aspect of eye ageing:

  • Botox:
    • Smooths dynamic lines and wrinkles such as crow’s feet;
    • Raises the tail end of the brows by 1-2 mm, providing the feminine brow arch desired by so many; and
    • Opens the eyes when injected in the lower eyelids.
  • Fraxel Laser Resurfacing stimulates collagen growth and helps diminish deeper wrinkles around the eyes.
  • Thermage CPT Skin Tightening treatments reduce skin sagginess and crepiness of the upper eyelids.
  • Dermal Fillers such as Redensity II (Teosyal) or Volbella (Juvederm) restore volume loss in a patient who presents with permanent sunken eyes, dark circles and deep tear troughs. The results obtained with filler injections for the correction of tear troughs are immediate and can be quite striking. Fillers in this area typically last longer than other areas of the face and do not usually need touch-ups for 6, 12 and sometimes even 18 months.
  • Latisse is a topical medication that makes your own natural lashes thicker, longer, and darker, restoring vitality, glamour, and pizzazz. Results can be seen as early as 4-6 weeks with maximum results after16 weeks of use.
  •  Sunscreen, sunglasses and hats should always be used to protect your eyes when outdoors and exposed to the elements of nature.

Before (top) and after (bottom) dermal filler treatment.

Before (top) and after (bottom) dermal filler treatment.

Our eyes may be one of the first features to show signs of ageing, but you can restore youthful appearances with these treatment options, good habits, and healthy living.

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Dr. Caroline Tosoni pursued her Medical Degree at McMaster University and completed her post-graduate medical residency in Family Medicine through the University of Ottawa in 1998. Fluently bilingual in French and English, she opened her medical practice in Ottawa in July of 1998. Since 2000, Dr. Tosoni has focused her medical practice on Cosmetic Dermatology and has received extensive training and obtained multiple certifications in various medical cosmetic enhancement procedures such as Phlebology, Botox® Cosmetic, Dermal Fillers, SoftLift,™ BeautiPhication,™ Belkyra injections, CoolSculpting,™ Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Laser Medicine. Dr. Caroline Tosoni is also proficient in the treatment of Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) and Migraine Headaches with Botox® Therapeutic. In 2015, Dr. Tosoni’s practice officially received a Focused Practice in Dermatology designation by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Ontario Medical Association.