Crow's feet -- those clawlike lines around the outer corner of your eyes -- may have an ugly name, but they come from something so pretty: your smile. "As skin ages, it loses its elastic properties [its ability to snap back]," says Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC. "And so when you're making expressions, lines and wrinkles get etched into the skin," she explains. The only way to completely stop the crease-causing movement is with injections that relax the muscles (Botox, Dysport, Reloxin), but there are less expensive ways to smooth out the crinkles both instantly and over time.
"If eye skin is dry, more lines are going to show," Tanzi says. Keep the area well moisturized with an eye cream that contains humectants such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin, or lipids including shea butter or ceramides. "They hydrate without being too greasy," Tanzi says. Try L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Eye Treatment ($19.99).
Squinting in the sun can lead to permanent wrinkles around the eyes. A pair of sunnies with dark lenses will help prevent that repetitive motion. They'll also block UVA/UVB rays, which break down collagen and elastin, allowing lines to settle into skin.
Squinting can also stem from poor vision, Tanzi says. Wearing reading glasses -- if you need them -- will alleviate strain around the eye area, preventing wrinkles.
Most people avoid the eye area when slathering on daily sunscreen, but the thin skin under your eyes is extremely vulnerable to wrinkle-causing UV damage. Use an eye cream that contains SPF to make sure you're covered. If you have sensitive skin, consider a sunscreen that contains nonirritating titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. Try Colorescience Sunforgettable Loose Mineral Eyescreen SPF 30 ($25; colorescience.com), a powder that also brightens.
Retinol, which stimulates collagen production, fills in wrinkles from the inside out, Tanzi says. But the potent ingredient can be a bit irritating. Look for one specifically formulated for the eye area as they tend to be more gentle. Try RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Eye Cream ($22.99).
There are a slew of products that promise Botox-like results, relaxing the skin so wrinkles look smoother -- and they really do work. "Nothing will work as well as Botox does, but the freeze-type products do have a temporary effect," Tanzi says. "They're particularly good around the eye area because the skin is so thin," she says. Try Physician's Formula Aging Expression Line Freeze ($21.95).
Now you see them, now you don't. If you want instant gratification, topical line fillers will erase lines in seconds. Typically formulated with silicones and mega-moisturizers such as hyaluronic acid (the same stuff that's in many injectable fillers), they plump up lines and wrinkles on contact. Try Revlon Age Defying Wrinkle Remedy Line Filler ($7.79).
Steal this celeb beauty secret: Before a big event, get a quick fix via a gel eye patch. The cooling, jellylike pads are infused with hydrators, soothing anti-inflammatory ingredients, and plumping marine collagen. After 15 minutes, eyes look refreshed and noticeably smoother. Try Pomegranate Eyes by ToGoSpa ($25 for six treatments; togospa.com).
It may sound hokey, but placing tapelike patches over wrinkle-prone spots (the corners of your eyes, between the brows, etc.) will prevent you from making the crease-causing movements. "They can be helpful with the earliest of wrinkles, but will eventually not be strong enough," Tanzi says. You probably don't want to walk around the office with tape stuck to your face, so consider wearing it while you sleep. Try Frownies Facial Patches ($17.49).
Summer comes with its own unique skin concerns. Learn how to fight the sun's rays for younger-looking skin.