Taking care of your undereyes is key to anti-aging.
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Close-Up Portrait Of Young Woman applying serum to her eye area
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Reader question: What are the best ways to prevent wrinkles and dark circles under the eyes? —@mktesta85

They say your undereyes are the first place to show signs of aging, yet so many of us neglect that area in our skincare routine. So it's a very good thing that you're already getting a head start—preventative skincare is the best approach to anti-aging. 

While having lines under your eyes is a normal, completely natural part of getting older, you can take steps to minimize them by incorporating anti-wrinkle eye creams into your skincare routine and by practicing preventive lifestyle methods.

Anti-aging skincare ingredients to look for

Retinol

When it comes to products that target the eye area, using the right ingredients is key. Your best best for preventing undereye wrinkles is retinol, which you're probably familiar with because a) we've talked about it countless times before, and b) it's the main active ingredient touted in the vast majority of anti-aging products. This undisputed anti-aging champion will boost your skin's collagen production, making your overall complexion look firmer (read: younger). 

Vitamin C

If dark circles are a concern, you want to look for an eye cream with vitamin C. Things like sunlight, blue light, and just life in general create oxidative stress, which plays a major role in aging and pigmentation. Antioxidants like vitamin C neutralize free radicals and aid in the skin's natural rejuvenation cycle, brightening undereyes in the process. 

SPF

And speaking of sunlight, always make sure to apply SPF before any sun exposure if you want to minimize signs of aging—yes, even to your undereyes. UV rays can burn the skin and reduce its elasticity, causing the skin to produce more melanin and leading to premature aging. You don't necessarily need to get a separate sunscreen exclusively for your undereyes, but looking for one that includes it definitely doesn't hurt. 

The good news: "You can absolutely use vitamin C, sunscreen, and retinol together!" says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Retinol is focused on accelerating skin cell turnover and repairing signs of aging such as fine lines, while the combination of vitamin C and sunscreen improves skin protection from sun damage." 

Once you're equipped with the right arsenal, it's time to think about technique. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about chronically dark circles because it's largely genetic, although a dermatologist can prescribe cosmetic treatments like laser therapy or a skin-lightening cream with hydroquinone to help with the issue. The good news, however, is that there are methods for preventing wrinkles under your eyes without resorting to expensive or painful procedures. Keep reading to see what experts had to say.

Tips for preventing wrinkles under the eyes

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1 Facial exercise 

Certain facial exercises—also dubbed face yoga—have been shown to be effective at stimulating blood flow and tightening the skin under your eyes. "Face yoga is a series of facial massages that include moving and isolating facial muscles to tone and exercise," says Taylor Worden, a celebrity esthetician and founder of Taylor Worden Skin. "It's great for anyone, especially for those that are scared of botox and fillers."

For best results, look to facial exercises recommended by a qualified esthetician or skincare professional. If you aren't sure what type of exercises to do, there are YouTube videos and apps that make it easy to follow along. For example, the Face Yoga app offers a targeted routine based on your skin type and concerns. 

Above all, remember to be consistent in your practice to reap the full extent of benefits. "You have to do this six days a week for 20 to 30 minutes to see results," says Worden. The good part is, you can do it anywhere, at any time.

2 Gently exfoliate

There are dissenting opinions on this issue, so let's clear it up once and for all: Yes, you should be exfoliating under your eyes—but not scrubbing or applying excessive pressure or force. "For a delicate area like the undereye area, it's important to be particularly gentle," says Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Use gentle exfoliants, whether physical or chemical, very light pressure, and follow with a moisturizer that supports the skin barrier."

"You must use a gentle exfoliant around the eye area to actually remove the dryness and crepiness so fresher, plumper cells come to the surface of the skin and your eye cream can give better results," agrees esthetician Renee Rouleau. "The skin is much too delicate for the use of an exfoliating facial scrub so instead, I suggest you use a gentle exfoliator using lactic and glycolic acids. Make sure that you're only applying in the outer eye area where lines and wrinkles (crow's feet) are visible. You will not want to use this directly on the eyelids but you can use it under the brow bone."

3 Remove makeup gently

Put simply, your undereye skin is much more delicate than the skin everywhere else. This means that while you can scrub your body with an exfoliating loofah, using that same pressure on your eyes is not OK. Scouring it with cotton pads and makeup-removing wipes, or rubbing vigorously with your hands is damaging and completely unnecessary. For the purpose of anti-aging, most dermatologists recommend a cleansing balm—gently massage the balm in circular motions, and once the makeup starts to break down, rinse away the milk-like texture with warm water.

4 Apply undereye products gently

Remember all those product ingredients we talked about? Follow the gentle theme when applying them (makeup, eye cream, etc). Never pull on the skin around your eyes and always use your ring finger when patting in product since it has the lightest touch. 

5 Invest in silk pillowcases and eye masks 

Konstantin Vasyukevich, MD, a cosmetic doctor and board-certified facial plastic surgeon in New York City, warns that side sleeping can lead to wrinkles on your face and décolletage. "A huge factor in aging during sleep is the shearing forces created by movement of skin against the pillow." You might not think that this is significant enough to make a real difference in your undereyes overnight, but multiply this over years of sleeping and you can imagine how it could accelerate aging. If you find yourself shifting to your side during the night, try investing in a silk or satin pillowcase or silk eye mask to prevent skin chafing and minimize these negative effects.