Leading Consultant Oculoplastic and Ophthalmic Surgeon, Miss Elizabeth Hawkes discusses how one of the most stressful years in recent memory has changed our looks, why our eyes have been impacted the most and what to do about it.
It’s been one of the most stressful years in recent history and as a result, cosmetic surgeons throughout the UK have noticed a sudden spike in patients opting for both surgical and non-surgical intervention.
‘Our eyes are one of the first places to show the signs of ageing, due to a combination of factors,’ says Miss Elizabeth Hawkes. ‘While ageing plays a large part with the decrease in collagen resulting in loose skin in those areas, and the weakened muscles and tendons causing it to sag, stress can speed up this process significantly. This coupled with the effects of outside factors such as more exposure to the sun, alcohol, smoking and poor nutrition can speed up the signs of ageing and result in heavy or sagging upper lids and wrinkles around the eyes and on the eyelids.’
In fact, cosmetic treatment firm Uvence (uvence.co) commissioned national research to determine just how impactful the stress of 2020 has been on people’s appearance and skin:
- 38% (17.4 million) people in Britain think that 2020 has aged them more than any year
- 14% (6,000,000) feel that they look at least 5 years older as a result of the stress and anxiety brought about by lockdown and the pandemic
- 36% (14,500,000) say they have visible signs of stress and premature ageing, which is most apparent around their eyes
“I have already seen a significant increase in patients coming to me for blepharoplasty surgery since the start of the pandemic,” says Miss Hawkes. “The stress of the pandemic coupled with us seeing a permanent reflection of ourselves on Zoom calls has absolutely been a catalyst. American statistics in 2019 saw an increase in the number of blepharoplasty surgeries by 2%, I predict this to rise in 2020-2021 significantly.”
With more people than ever conscious about the appearance of their eyes, Miss Hawkes reveals how to treat the common problem areas without going under the knife.
‘Retinol is a type of retinoid, derived from Vitamin A. It’s highly effective at reducing fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen,’ explains Miss Elizabeth Hawkes. ‘Retinol works by encouraging basal cells in the lowest layer of the skin to divide and as a result we see new epidermal cells working their way up to the skin’s surface. It helps to prevent collagen breaking down and thickens the deeper layer of skin to help prevent wrinkles, especially the delicate skin around the eyes which often develops into so-called crows feet. Because skin cycles are usually 28-days, retinol can help to achieve a huge amount over the course of four weeks.’
Eat the right foods
‘Ensuring that your diet is rich in foods containing essential omega-3 fatty acids is crucial. These are important to the health of the macula, the part of the eye that is responsible for central vision. So making sure you eat enough fatty fish, especially salmon, will help to keep your eyes healthy and your vision good.’ Also treatment for dry eye disease, improves the quality of meibomian gland secretions which are disrupted with blepharitis. Can take 6-12 weeks of regular supplements before an improvement in dry eye symptoms. Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients not made naturally in the body and have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Reduce your fat intake
‘High-fat diets can cause deposits that constrict blood flow to the arteries. The eyes are especially sensitive to this, given the small size of the blood vessels that feed them. So by reducing your intake of saturated fats you’re helping to ensure that the arteries can flow freely and the eyes function fully.’
Wash your hands regularly
‘The importance of washing your hands regularly is imperative to our health in general as well as our eyes. Keeping your hands clean is particularly important if you wear contact lenses,’ explains Miss Hawkes. ‘Before you touch your eyes for anything, always wash your hands with a mild soap and dry with a lint-free towel. Some germs from your hands can cause eye infections such as conjunctivitis, as well as spreading colds and more sinister viruses like Covid-19.’
Wear UV protection such as sunglasses in the day as well as SPF
‘Most people are aware that when going outside in the sun they need to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes and the delicate skin around it from the sun’s harmful UV rays,’ says Miss Hawkes. ‘What a lot of people don’t realise is that everyday things like using your phone and watching TV or working on the computer omit HEV Light which is extremely ageing on the skin, especially that delicate skin around the eyes. The best way to protect your skin from this light is by wearing a high factor SPF at all times, even indoors. The best way to do this is to incorporate it into your daily skincare regime as the last step and for those who use makeup in the day, switch to a makeup that includes SPF.’
Dark circles under the eyes are traditionally thought of as a sign of tiredness. However, this is not always the case. ‘Eyelid skin is unique to the rest of the body. Importantly there is no subcutaneous fat underneath the skin. The eyelid layers are skin, orbicularis muscle, septum, fat (eyebags). Whereas in the rest of the face there is a subcutaneous layer of fat directly underneath the skin. For this reason eyelid skin is prone to appear darker than the rest of the face,’ explains Miss Elizabeth Hawkes.
‘Topical creams are good for dehydration & allergy relief but they will not restore volume. They will not cause the blood vessels under the eyes to constrict, nor will they reverse a family history of dark circles. There is a prescription only treatment that will help reduce the production of melanin in the skin and can be a useful tool in improving the appearance of dark circles, however it has to be used under the guidance of a specialist only. There is no better time to see a specialist as online consultations are still readily available throughout the lockdown.’
Clean up your make-up
Lockdown 2.0 is the perfect time to clear out your makeup bag. ‘It’s common for people to have out-of-date mascara, eye shadows and eye liners in their make-up bags,’ explains Miss Hawkes. ‘Old and out-of-date products like this need to be avoided because they can gather bacteria over time which, when it comes into contact with your eyes, causes irritation and even serious infections.’
Ensuring you are drinking plenty of water will help you to avoid dehydration and also flush out salt in the body and properly hydrate your eyes to reduce eye strain. ‘Resting the eye by blinking or shutting the eye will also help to alleviate eye strain that is often caused from prolonged use of screens,’ says Miss Hawkes. ‘Try to remember to take some time away from your screen every hour or so to reduce the strain on your eye.’ 20 – 20 – 20 rule, every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and stare at an object that is approximately 20 feet away.