Crow’s feet (a.k.a. laugh lines) are an inescapable hallmark of aging. They form when we make facial expressions, and they’re the sign of a life well lived. I love my laugh lines because they remind me of all the good times I’ve had over the years. But just because I embrace my laugh lines doesn’t mean I want them to grow more pronounced with time. Luckily, there are a number of treatment and prevention options for minimizing fine lines and keeping our skin looking as young as possible. Read on for everything you need to know about treating and preventing crow’s feet.
What are crow’s feet?
Crow’s feet are the fine lines that extend out from the corners of the eyes. They often start as dynamic wrinkles, meaning they only appear when we make an expression that contracts the nearby muscles, such as smiling. Over time, though, dynamic wrinkles turn into static wrinkles — meaning wrinkles that are always present. As we age, we begin to lose collagen and elastin, which are the proteins that keep skin supple and firm. With less elastin and collagen, the skin loses elasticity and develops wrinkles resulting from regular muscle contractions. This is especially true when it comes to the delicate skin that surrounds the eyes. This area of the face tends to wrinkle first; hence, those pesky crow’s feet.
How can I minimize crow’s feet?
Because crow’s feet are one of the most common signs of aging, there are a lot of treatment options for them (some more time-intensive and costly than others). Below is an explanation of the various options for minimizing and eliminating the appearance of wrinkles around the corners of the eyes.
One of the most effective ways to treat crow’s feet is by injecting the area around the corners of your eyes with Botox. Botox, which actually comes from a botulinum toxin, works by temporarily paralyzing the muscles in the injected area. This can smooth wrinkles and prevent new ones from forming. Depending on the particular treatment, Botox typically lasts between three and 12 months, and it requires no downtime after injection. While effective at treating fine lines and wrinkles, including crow’s feet, Botox is pricey and requires repeat treatments at regular intervals. It also isn’t great for anyone with a fear of needles.
If you do opt for Botox, conduct some research in advance. Review and compare clinics, and only get the procedure done by a licensed esthetician. When it comes to cosmetic procedures, safety should be your first consideration.
Dermal fillers are another highly effective treatment option for crow’s feet. As with Botox, an esthetician injects the muscles around the corners of the eyes with filler to smooth wrinkles. Here, the filler is typically a form of hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring bodily acid that plays a key role in keeping skin hydrated. The most common types of injectable hyaluronic acid are Juvedérm and Restylane, both of which can be used for a variety of cosmetic procedures, including smoothing crow’s feet and other wrinkles. Like Botox, dermal fillers are a more invasive and costly procedure than at-home solutions like topical creams. However, this treatment option is typically more effective and long-lasting — most fillers last several months before requiring a touch-up.
As with Botox and dermal fillers, this treatment option can only be performed by a dermatologist or certified clinician. Though it requires substantial time and investment, laser resurfacing can reduce crow’s feet substantially and have longer-lasting effects than at-home remedies. In this treatment, a laser is used to remove the top layers of skin, which helps promote collagen production and minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. During laser resurfacing, a doctor will likely apply topical numbing cream to help ease the pain of the laser.
Less intensive than Botox, dermal fillers, or laser resurfacing, chemical peels are a great way to minimize the appearance of crow’s feet without breaking the bank (or dealing with needles). During a chemical peel, a dermatologist or esthetician applies a series of exfoliating chemicals to penetrate and “peel” the top layers of skin. Like laser resurfacing, this procedure helps promote collagen production and supports the regeneration of newer and more elastic wrinkle-free skin. There are different types of chemical peels, with variations depending on the layer or layers of skin they penetrate. Peels typically take seven to 14 days to fully heal, and you may experience swelling and redness during this time, although your clinician will likely provide solutions to help you minimize irritation and heal as quickly as possible.
The least invasive way to treat crow’s feet is with a topical eye cream containing vitamin A. These are available both over-the-counter and in prescription form. Derivatives of vitamin A, including retinol and tretinoin, minimize signs of aging and reduce the appearance of wrinkles by supporting natural collagen development. You can buy low-strength retinol at any drugstore, or you can ask your dermatologist to prescribe a higher-strength formulation, such as tretinoin. One thing to be aware of when starting topical creams containing vitamin A is that they can cause irritation, especially if you begin at a higher concentration. Be sure to talk to your dermatologist about the best way to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine, and start with a lower concentration applied infrequently before working your way up to a more aggressive product.
Preventing Crow’s Feet
Whether you decide that Botox, a chemical peel, or over-the-counter cream is best for you, none of these treatment options beats the best way to deal with crow’s feet: preventing them in the first place. There are several precautions you can take to prevent existing crow’s feet from deepening and block new ones from forming. Chief among these is wearing sunscreen. Sun damage is one of the biggest factors contributing to visible signs of aging, and exposure to UV rays can quickly exacerbate the formation of wrinkles, thanks to free radicals. No matter what time of year it is or how long you plan to be in the sun, apply SPF 30 sunscreen and wear sunglasses or a hat to prevent squinting.
Aside from sun exposure, another major factor contributing to the appearance of wrinkles is smoking (including exposure to secondhand smoke). Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to slow the aging process (and promote your overall health). Eating a healthy diet and moisturizing your skin are additional ways to protect your skin, promote collagen production, and mitigate the formation of wrinkles, including crow’s feet.
The Bottom Line
Practicing good habits to prevent wrinkles in combination with treatment options is your best strategy for maintaining a youthful glow. But whether you choose an intensive treatment option like Botox, dermal fillers, or laser resurfacing, or address your wrinkles with chemical peels or topical creams, the most important thing is to remember that crow’s feet — and all wrinkles — are natural.
There might be a plethora of great treatment options out there, but don’t forget that not treating your crow’s feet is also an option. After all, they’re the sign of a lifetime filled with laughter and smiling, and there’s absolutely nothing to hide about that.