What causes crow’s feet wrinkles?
Crow’s feet wrinkles are caused by muscle movements. When you’re young and your skin is strong and springy, it will crease up when you use the muscles around your eyes, but will look smooth as soon as your face relaxes. But as you get older and your skin becomes less firm and less elastic, the creases around your eyes slowly settle into visible wrinkles. This section discusses the effects of age on your skin; other sections further down this page discuss the role of muscle movements.
As your skin ages, the collagen—the structural protein that acts as the scaffolding for the skin—gradually degrades, so it provides less support for your skin. At the same time, your level of elastin—the protein that gives your skin its bounce—drop, so there’s less of this stretchy protein to keep your skin taut.
Another factor that contributes to your skin loosening is that, as you age, the lower layer of skin in your face (the subcutaneous layer) gradually loses the fat that has been helping keep your skin plump. Worse yet, the bones in your face gradually lose some of their bulk through bone resorption, which costs your face yet more volume. Losing this volume from the bones and the fat means that your skin begins to hang loose, like a balloon that is deflating.
What age do you get crow’s feet?
This depends on your genes and how well (or otherwise) you have treated your skin over the years, but crow’s feet wrinkles generally start to show up before the age of 30. They’re some of the first lines to set in on the face, partly because we make so many expressions involving our eyes, so the skin around them is constantly being stretched and scrunched, and also because the skin around the eyes is finer and drier than elsewhere on the face, and fine, dry skin is quick to wrinkle.
What muscle causes crow’s feet?
The muscle that causes crow’s feet is the one that surrounds your eye socket. This muscle is called the orbicularis oculi muscle (where orbicularis means ‘ring-shaped’ and oculi means ‘eyes’, as in ‘oculist’). When the orbicularis oculi muscle contracts, it pulls the skin inwards toward the eyes, causing wrinkling, especially at the corners of the eyes.
Does smiling cause crow’s feet?
Yes, up to a point – but don’t stop smiling, because that would be a sad thing and it won’t help your crow’s feet much. Squinting, frowning, and any other expressions or activities that cause you to contract your orbicularis oculi muscle will also contribute to causing crow’s feet. Even blinking, which most of us do something like 20,000 times a day, works your orbicularis oculi muscle and has a knock-on effect on your skin.
How do I prevent crow’s feet?
Try the following to prevent or reduce crow’s feet:
- Start with appropriate skincare — The right skincare is really helpful for the eye area. Skincare is especially important if your crow’s feet lines haven’t yet appeared—in other words, you need skincare before you think you need it. As you know, the eye area has delicate skin, so you need to treat it gently. Don’t overload this skin with rich, oily creams, because those can lead to clogged white spots called milia; and be cautious before you reach for hardcore ingredients. Instead, use hyaluronic acid serums to keep the skin hydrated, and seal this into place with a lightweight moisturiser. You can also use specialised hydrating eye-mask patches—the sort of tear-shaped ones that you stick onto the skin below the eye—which give a quick hydrating boost.
- Protect the skin around your eyes with sunscreen — Don’t forget to apply sunscreen around your eyes – especially since the eye area is so vulnerable to ageing. You may be able to just use the same sunscreen that you use on the rest of your face. But if your eyes are sensitive, make sure your sunscreen is fragrance-free – most eye products should be fragrance-free, but some aren’t, and they can be irritating.
- Use specialised eye creams for an extra boost — If standard skincare serums aren’t enough to keep the skin around your eyes hydrated and smooth, look for a specialised eye cream. On the high street, Olay’s Pro-retinol Eye Cream comes with studies to show that it does what it claims, and so many of my doctor-friends use iS Clinical’s Youth Eye Complex that it must be good.
- Wear large sunglasses — Not just a fashion statement, oversized sunglasses protect more of the eye and block out more of the sun’s rays. UV radiation is well known to accelerate wrinkle formation through sun damage.
- Sleep on your back, or use a silky pillowcase — Sleeping on your side presses your face into the pillow, which is thought to dehydrate the skin overnight, and also to press the face into lines. A slippery silk or satin pillowcase reduces this effect.
When prevention comes up short, you can turn to treatment. See the ‘What is best for crow’s feet wrinkles?’ section, further down this page, for tweakments that can help banish your crow’s feet.
Can you get rid of crow’s feet?
If your crow’s feet wrinkles are just starting to appear, you may be able to get rid of them temporarily – but they will come back as you age.
If your crow’s feet are already well established, you will likely be able to reduce them significantly but not get rid of them.
What is best for crow’s feet?
Various tweakments can make a big difference to your crow’s feet wrinkles. Among the most promising tweakments are red light therapy, wrinkle-relaxing injections such as Botox, and skin-tightening treatments such as radiofrequency or Tixel.
Red Light Therapy
Lying down under a canopy of warm red lights feels too easy to be effective—but in fact, LED red light therapy can work wonders on your skin. The effects of red light therapy include reducing inflammation, encouraging cell renewal, and smoothing the skin. For best effects, you will need to repeat the treatment every few weeks.
Red light treatment kicks your wound-healing response into life, causing newer, healthier skin cells to grow over several weeks after the treatment. These new cells are firmer thanks to new collagen, and absorb and retain fluid better than the old, damaged cells they replace. The fluid retention plumps up your skin, reducing lines and making it look and feel smoother.
Many practitioners offer red light therapy. If you find it hard to attend regular appointments, try a home-use device instead. They’re less powerful, so you’ll need to use it more often, but it can be a practical alternative. Have a look at the Currentbody Skin LED Mask if you’re interested.
Anti-wrinkle or wrinkle-relaxing injections, such as Botox, are really effective at softening crow’s feet wrinkles. The toxin needs to be injected into the muscles around the edge of your eyes, to deactivate the lively muscles that are so good at crumpling your skin up into creases. The fact that the treatment lasts for several months means that, during this time, it will discourage new lines from forming, as well as making existing lines less obvious. The full effect of the Botox takes one to two weeks to appear, so don’t expect an instant softening of lines in the first few days.
Radiofrequency energy has a ‘shrink wrap’ effect on the skin. It works by heating up the collagen within the skin to the point where it contracts—so you will see a small improvement immediately after treatment. The main improvement, though, comes over the next two or three months as the collagen, which rightly assumed it was being attacked, remodels itself and produces new collagen, which means tighter skin. Many versions of radiofrequency treatments can be used around the eye, and can help soften the appearance of crow’s feet wrinkles by firming up the skin and making it that little bit tighter.
Tixel is a relatively hardcore treatment option for skin resurfacing. It is not comfortable, and it requires a few days of downtime afterwards. But it is certainly effective in dealing with problems such as crow’s feet wrinkles and can be used all around the eye area, including over the eyelids.
Rather than using radiofrequency, focussed ultrasound, or another sophisticated technology to create trauma in your skin, Tixel simply uses heat. The treatment head of the device is 1cm square, and packed into that space are 81 titanium rods with gently pointed ends. These are heated up to 400 degrees C, then lightly touched onto the skin to create the necessary trauma. The rods cause tiny pinpoint burns, leaving fractions of skin intact in between them, which helps the treated skin to heal swiftly.
After the Tixel treatment, your skin will likely feel fiery-hot and look pink and puffy; you can’t wear make-up for at least 24 hours, until healing starts, so you may want to avoid public spaces. The grid-mark of burns gradually heal over the next week, leaving fresh, smoother skin.
Are crow’s feet attractive?
You might not think that crow’s feet are attractive, but if you had no evidence of movement around your eyes when you smiled? That would look downright weird, wouldn’t it? So the jury is out on this question, and you shouldn’t expect it to return soon.
Crow’s feet wrinkles make your face more expressive, and studies have shown that people judge smiling faces that include crow’s feet as more spontaneous and authentic than smiling faces without them. People also consider faces with crow’s feet wrinkles more intelligent and more attractive than faces without them.
So there’s a good chance your crow’s feet wrinkles are making you appear more intelligent, authentic, spontaneous, and attractive. But even if you prefer to try to reduce or remove your crow’s feet wrinkles for now, you can be sure that they will return with time, so you will be able to enjoy these improved perceptions later.