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Why does the skin around the eyes age faster?

The area around the eyes is a significant concern for many, especially as we age. Indeed, it is often felt that the under-eye area shows visible signs of ageing earlier than the rest of the face. But how can we explain this phenomenon?

Summary
Published January 25, 2024, by Marie, Head of Scientific Communication — 5 min read

Periorbital skin: what are the reasons for its rapid ageing?

The skin around the eyes tends to show signs of ageing more quickly compared to other areas of the body, which include a variety of manifestations such as fine lines, deep wrinkles, puffiness, hollow dark circles, and drooping eyelids.

In a study, scientists measured the biological age of the skin around the eyes and compared it to the skin of the temples. They discovered that the skin under the eyes was biologically older by 22.25 years than that of the temples. Indeed, the structure of the skin around the eyes is fundamentally different from that of other parts of the body. Indeed, several factors make the eyes more vulnerable.

The delicacy of the skin.

The skin around the eyes is a delicate area and is among the thinnest in the body, to the extent that you can sometimes see through it. It is up to five times thinner than the rest of the face. In addition to having a thin dermis and a low proportion of subcutaneous adipose tissue, the skin under the eyes is also poor in elastin and collagen fibres. It also has a horny layer that is on average about three layers thick, compared to over fifteen in other areas. However, the absence of these support and protection elements increases the likelihood that the skin will sag and show more exaggerated signs of fine lines, especially considering that the collagen rate naturally decreases with age.

The lack of sebaceous glands.

While the skin has on average 2 million sebaceous glands, of which 500 to 900 are found on the face, the area around the eyes, on the other hand, has a significantly lower proportion than the rest of the face. However, the sebum produced by the sebaceous glands covers the skin's surface with a protective film. Nevertheless, when the skin barrier is weaker, the skin undergoes higher rates of transepidermal water loss, making it more prone to dehydration, and also more vulnerable to environmental conditions that degrade the firmness and resilience of the skin. The area under the eyes is therefore more affected and more sensitive to signs of ageing.

The constant muscular activity.

The eyes are also highly expressive. The muscles in this area, 22 in total, are constantly engaged, whether through eye movements, blinking, or various facial expressions. Indeed, this area is subject to approximately 10,000 eye blinks per day, not to mention the movements caused by laughter, tears, and other expressions. However, all these micro-contractions that occur repetitively induce mechanical stresses on the skin and can lead to the formation of skin folds over time. With its unique structure, the skin's tensile resistance is less significant, making it increasingly difficult for the skin to return to its original position after undergoing deformation.

A higher cellular senescence.

It has been demonstrated that the periorbital skin expresses significantly higher levels of cellular senescence than other areas of the face. This would imply that the skin around the eyes loses its ability to effectively repair and regenerate damage, with an irreversible halt to the proliferation of skin cells. Furthermore, it has also been found that DNA repair pathways are weaker in this area, suggesting that insufficient DNA repair could be an underlying factor to the rapid signs of visible ageing.

Given all these characteristics, the eye contour is an area that requires special attention. Taking care of the eye contour is therefore essential to support the delicate structure and elasticity of the skin, and thus prevent the early onset of ageing signs.

Sources

  • BAUMANN L. & al. Skin ageing and its treatment.Journal of Pathology (2007).

  • KITAHARA T. & al. The loss of skin elasticity is a precursor to the rapid increase in wrinkle levels.Journal of Dermatological Science(2007).

  • PUIZINA-IVIC N. Skin ageing. Acta Dermatovenerologica Alpina, Pannonica, et Adriatica (2008).

  • CONTINENZA M. & al. Wrinkles: origins and treatments.Avicenna Journals Advances in Cosmetics and Dermatology(2016).

  • TAMURA M. & al. New biological insights into skin ageing around the eye. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2016).

  • ROTSZTEJN H. & al. The eye region as the most challenging area for aesthetic treatment. Journal of Dermatological Treatment (2020).

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