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A Dermatologist Explains Under-Eye Care: Are Under-Eye Sunscreens Necessary?

April 30, 2019

It is not necessary to use a specific sunscreen dedicated to the under eye area if the sunscreen you’re using is already a medical grade sunscreen that has been dermatologist-tested and ophthalmologist-tested. Nevertheless, sunscreen should not be applied too close to the eye area such as the lid margin because the very nature of effective sunscreens means that it would contain chemical and physical components that may be irritating to the eye.

If you are worried about sun exposure to skin around the eyes, you may consider using the SunProtector™, a lightweight soothing sunscreen that is dermatologist-tested and formulated to be suitable for use on the entire face including the under eye area.

The question remains: Why does the under eye area require extra protection?

The difference between the under eye area and the rest of the skin is that the under eye area has much more delicate and thinner skin. This explains why we tend to get dark eye circles from those areas, which is due to genetic factors such as the blood vessels being seen much more prominently in areas of thin skin. In addition, with certain practices such as applying eye makeup over many years as well as wearing contact lenses, the process of dragging and pulling the areas of skin around the eye can make it much more susceptible to wrinkling and laxity. Natural facial expressions, such as smiling can also cause natural creases at the periorbital area, known as crow’s feet, or when one is laughing in the area near the nose known as bunny lines.

It is much more necessary to eliminate bad practices in handling of the skin around the eye area, and to advocate good eye moisturising and antioxidants in the form of an eye cream and daily sun protection. One eye cream product you may opt for is the Elixir-VTM Eyes, which is a dermatologist-formulated eye cream that targets regeneration and repair of skin around the eye area with pharmaceutical-grade bioactive ingredients. Also, as a tip, use your ring finger instead of the index finger to apply any sort of eye cream or makeup, in order to avoid exerting repeated high pressure (from the index finger) over the delicate eye area, which drags down the skin and may cause or worsen eye bags and wrinkles. More importantly, to fight aging effects on the skin and in general, one should have an overall healthy lifestyle, with frequent exercise, adequate sleep, a diet filled with antioxidants, reduced alcohol intake and should stop smoking habits.

If someone were to look for additional protection for the under eye area, would an under eye sunscreen benefit in any way?

The premise overall is that there is no need for a specific under eye sunscreen, other than a sunscreen that is formulated for the face and tested by a dermatologist in a laboratory environment. If one is to experience irritation with such sunscreens, it may help to look for a pure physical sunblock made up of Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, rather than chemical sunscreen components, as these tend to be less irritating although conferring less broad spectrum protection compared with one that is a combination of physical and chemical components.

It is more important that one re-applies sunscreen regularly, rather than to apply an additional type of sunscreen. This is because layering different sunscreens one on top of the other does not increase the efficacy beyond the time period that the sunscreen is effective for. Conventional wisdom is to reapply sunscreen every 3 to 4 hours, especially when outdoors. However, there are many aspects to aging around the eye area and one of the reasons is actually not due to sun exposure, but rather due to the fact that skin around the eye area is much more delicate, hence more prone to daily tugging for example for people who wear eye make-up and contact lens wearers. For these individuals, it is much more advisable to use a good eye cream which can be applied both day and night, to moisturise the eye area and packed with antioxidants to reverse free-radical damage caused by sun exposure and environmental pollutants, and also to get adequate sleep at night. Having a pair of good sunglasses is also helpful to protect the cornea from UV damage.

Can exposure to the sun make the under eye area more susceptible to dark spots or lead to other undesirable effects?

This is not a very realistic scenario as when someone has excessive exposure to sunlight, it happens over the entire face and is never just localized to one area. Someone who has extensive sun damage in their life will find that they are more prone to get pigmentation as well as dark spots as well as the entire face including the eye area. It is far more common to notice such pigmentation at facial areas of more prominence such as the cheek bones rather than the under eye or say the under the chin area which are relatively protected from sun due to the facial bone structure. In addition, if you have been undergoing treatments such as phototherapy for other skin conditions, it is always advisable to wear protective eyewear.

Will sunglasses work as well as an under eye sunscreen would?

Sunglasses are a good way to block out UV radiation and it is a form of physical protection. It is advisable to wear sunglasses primarily within the context of preventing excessive harmful UV exposure to the eyes for example the cornea. At the same time, when one applies a good quality medical-grade sunscreen together with physical measures such as a broad-rimmed sun hat and a pair of sunglasses, the amount of UV exposure to the face as well as the under eye area can be reduced.

How can you take extra care of the under eye area?

As mentioned, the eye is a very delicate area. It is well-said that the eyes are the windows to one’s soul and are very often the first feature that one notices. For someone who actively looks after their skin and does treatments such as lasers and peels, ageing in the eye area starts to become more obvious because these lasers and peels do not target the eye area and are often the top giveaway signs of a person’s age. So it is indeed very important to take extra care of the eye area, where prevention is key as well as using a good eye cream. In terms of physical treatments that can be done for the eye area, you may consider treatments such as CO2 laser resurfacing, as well as plasma nitrogen treatment which is very safe and uses ionic plasma nitrogen to help to resurface and tighten skin around the eye area.

© 2019 TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre. All rights reserved.

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Meet with Dr Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.

To book an appointment with Dr Teo, call us at +65 6355 0522, or email appt@twlskin.com. Alternatively, you may book an appointment online by clicking here.

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