The area of skin around the eyes, specifically the area just under and beside the eyes themselves is one that a lot of people are troubled by. It seems to have more propensity to form wrinkles and is also the place where wrinkles are most obvious. It is a particularly thin area of the skin but is very well supplied with blood vessels. Any interuption to those blood vessels can cause them to clot very visibly creating what are known as spider veins. This area of the skin is also pretty continuously exposed to light as well, so if there is any photodamage going this is one of the places it is likely to appear.
Additionally the geometry of some people’s faces tends to give this part a sort of dark appearance.
We all know very well that the eyes are the main things we look at when we are looking at other people, so this is a very prominent area.
What can be done about all this?
First off, let me say that if any set of products overclaims, it is products designed specifically for this part of the face. There are very few active ingredients that can do a lot. If there were any really great ones, I would certainly tell you. All I can offer is what is available, which isn’t a huge amount.
The most important thing is to do what you can to keep this part of your face well moisturised. If your regular moisturiser works okay, then you have probably already done 90% of what can be done. But it might be worth investigating a lighter product for just this part. It isn’t really a case that you need a different level of moisturisation, just that this bit of the skin is particularly sensitive and if you can apply a cream with less rubbing that might reduce the risk of damaging the blood capillaries just below the surface. Marketers have decided to call very thin creams suitable for this area serums. This has no particular meaning in most cases. It is simply a thin easy to apply cream. (Or it should be.)
So apart from moisturising is there anything else that can help? Yes there are a couple of actives that can be useful if you are not expecting too much. The best known is vitamin K. The effect of this has been studied on spider veins on the face. The study was rather small and it was carried out by a company that manufactures vitamin K. The data has never been published officially so it has not been reviewed by independent experts in the field. But as the improvements they found were fairly modest I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. On top of this rather weak evidence is anecdotal reports from people who have used products containing vitamin K. This again is a pretty weak class of evidence, but on the other hand there is no negative evidence either. In any event, as all I am going to say is that vitamin K can reduce the appearance of spider veins around the eyes a little I think I am just about justified. It is a well known saying in science that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I am making only a modest claim so I am hoping to be excused for having only modest evidence in support of it.
But if you are reading this in Europe, I am afraid the benefits of vitamin K are academic anyway. A couple of years ago it was banned in cosmetics in Europe. This was done on the grounds that if you permit vitamin K in cosmetics there is a chance that some people will become sensitised to it. If that happens then they will no be able to use vitamin K for any of the purposes it is used for medically. I have to say that I am all in favour of being strict about the safety of cosmetics, but I can’t help thinking that the scientific committee of the EU were in an exceptionally conscientious mood the afternoon they took that decision. For readers elsewhere in the world, you can make your own decision on whether you want to risk it. If you do become sensitised to vitamin K that might limit the treatment options if you later go on to develop some forms of cancer or dementia. You can play it safe if you want to. Or maybe, you are just born to be wild.
The other type of active that might do something are known as metalloprotease inhibitors (MPIs). These have a good theory to explain why they might work, but as far as I know there is no real evidence of their effect other than anecdotes from users. But once again, there isn’t any evidence that they don’t work either. I have a feeling that most of my scientific friends would not be impressed by such a flimsy case, and with good reason. And most of the products containing MPIs come with a high price tag so skepticism is in order. I’d be reluctant to positively recommend trying them. But if you have got spider veins and are not short of cash they might be worth a try. But if you don’t see any results in a week you have probably lost your money.
In some markets hydrogels are popular – though they have never really caught on in Europe. These are adhesive patches that you attach to the skin under your eyes. They are shaped to fit the area. They are supposed to be moisturising and can deliver active ingredients. I have never found them to have the slightest effect whenever I have tried them and I don’t see how they can work for more than a few minutes at best. I am happy to be corrected on this if anyone has a positive experience to report. They might well work better in a warmer climate with more moisture in the air.
In the long run keeping out of the sun is a good idea. And putting a sun screen on when you are out in the open in bright sunlight might delay signs of ageing a bit.
I’d love to hear your experiences.
There is quite a bit of literature about MPIs, but it seems to be more speculation than data. Here is a typical sample.