By Theresa O'Rourke, REDBOOK
Use an eye cream, already!
"Patients ask me, 'Do I really need one?' and I tell them, 'Absolutely,'" says Patricia Wexler, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Here's why: "Eye creams are ophthalmologist-tested, so they're formulated specifically for the thin skin in this area," she says. Use a formula that contains retinol or peptides, which kick-start collagen production, thereby fading lines, thickening the skin (so under-eye circles don't look as dark), and firming it to reduce puffiness. "Look for one that also has strong antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, or idebenone," Wexler says. These block free-radical damage from the sun and pollution, which causes wrinkles and dark circles. (Try RoC Multi Correxion Eye Treatment with MMPi-20, $24.99, or Patricia Wexler M.D. Dermatology Intensive Retinol Eye Treatment with MMPi-20, $35.)
Apply the right amount
Eye creams contain high concentrations of rich moisturizers, so if you slather them on, all the extra emollients plump the skin and can actually make puffiness worse. (The irony!) "Use a pea-size drop for each eye, and lightly pat it on with your ring finger, which has the gentlest touch," says Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
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Don't skimp on SPF
"Many women skip sunscreen around their eyes because it can migrate into them and sting," says Wexler, a stickler for SPF 30 or higher. "But if you apply it 30 minutes before you leave the house, it'll get fully absorbed, so even if you sweat or tear up from the wind, it won't move." For a faster fix, try a stick sunscreen (we like Kiehl's Ultra Moisturizing Eye Stick SPF 30, $20). Then slip on some shades, which act as extra armor against UV damage. Opt for wraparound styles, and make sure the label says that they block 100 percent of UVA/UVB rays.
Never rub or scrub
Treat the tender skin around your eyes as you would your nicest lingerie--when cleansing, think "delicate cycle." Take off makeup with an oil-based remover (Wexler likes Lancôme Bi-Facil Makeup Remover, $26), which dissolves color without tugging, and don't scrub with a washcloth. Same goes for rubbing your eyes when you're tired, says dermatologist Wendy Roberts, M.D., the founding director of the dermatopathology section at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California. "This roughs up skin's capillaries and can lead to dark circles or make existing ones worse."
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Get your eyes checked
"You'd be surprised how many patients I send to the eye doctor," says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine. "They come in worried about fine lines around their eyes, which are often caused by a vision problem that's making them squint." In that case, your first step is to get glasses or contact lenses. "Once you stop all that squinting, you can keep the wrinkles from getting worse," says Hirsch.
Why 7 years younger?
Because science shows that if you do all you can--smart skin care, healthy diet, regular exercise, low stress--you can turn back the clock about seven years. Check out this free downloadable booklet, 50 Ways to Stress Less & Live Longer, at 7yearsyounger.com/stressless.
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Permissions: Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.