Insight into Eye Care

Treatments for the delicate eye area

By Barbara Hey

Originally published in Skin Deep, February/March 2005.

Eyes may be the mirrors to the soul, but they are also the mirrors of the body, reflecting stress levels, overall health, lifestyle, and, of course, age. When life is good — you’re eating well and getting sufficient rest, plenty of exercise — your eyes sparkle. But when the going gets tough, eyes show it, and it’s not pretty — puffiness and dark circles appear, and wrinkles seem to deepen.

“Eyes show the signs of aging first,” says Tricia Yaniga, the vice president and educational director for Nelly DeVuyst line of professional skin care products. The eye area is particularly susceptible because the skin is the thinnest on the body and has no oil glands, so it is acutely prone to dehydration. There are 14 muscles responsible for opening and closing the eye and a complex capillary network that transports oxygen and nutrients to the area. Furthermore, eyes react to allergens, sun exposure, medication, foods, hormonal fluctuations, salt, and fatigue, becoming itchy and further irritated when they are rubbed and squinted.

Many of us have the tendency to ignore our eyes until they scream for attention. Margaret Ramirez, a skin care specialist for Repechage, a manufacturer of skin care products, says, “I find most clients don’t attend to eyes until they see visible lines,” noting it’s much more difficult to treat at this late point.

Estheticians can play crucial roles in educating clients about the importance of proper eye care. This knowledge is particularly useful to clients who have yet to show signs of aging. In addition, incorporating specialized eye treatments into facial services will build both trust and business.

Problems and Treatments: An Eye Opener

The eye area needs cleaning, hydration, and stimulation, but of a different kind than used on the rest of the face. Makeup removal is often the weak link in the nighttime cleansing ritual. When not done, the skin suffers. When done too vigorously, the skin suffers. Your clients may not realize how necessary it is to use a gentle, yet effective, cleanser, one that can dissolve impurities and remove makeup without irritating the eye.

Next, hydration is essential no matter the age or condition of the skin. This supplies the moisture that disappears with exposure to the environment and age and protects the eye from further dryness and irritation from the day’s assaults.

The last treatment is part of any facial, but is rarely performed at home. A hands-on treatment will stimulate blood flow to the area and encourage lymph drainage, keeping eyes looking fresh and clear and reducing puffiness and discoloration. This can be done through a gentle massage, the effleurage strokes of the facial, or with implements such as a silk facial brush, which is what Yaniga uses.

Discuss with each client the issues that may be causing eye concerns, and then determine the best course of action. Yaniga points out that estheticians aren’t mind readers. “We need to ask questions,” she says, among them: How do you take off your makeup? Which products are you using? Any recent change in makeup or health? How much sleep do you get? How’s your diet? Are you drinking plenty of water? What’s your stress level? With the answers to these questions, you can better address the following concerns.

Dark Circles: This is one problem common to eyes of all generations. “There are myriad causes for dark circles,” Yaniga says. The major culprit is lack of sleep. But others — improper makeup removal, fluid stagnation, or hyper pigmentation from sun exposure, makeup irritation, photosensitivity, or eye irritants — can be addressed by an esthetician. In these cases, explain makeup removal, recommend facials or massage for fluid drainage, and educate your clients about products and treatments to even out skin pigmentation.

Redness and Puffiness: Once again, you need to sort through the contributing factors. Possibilities include late nights, environmental irritants, or allergies. This can also be a sign of an underlying physical condition that may need medical attention. Address the obvious: Are the current skin care products irritating the eyes? Is the eye area dehydrated and swollen? You may want to recommend a different product line or hydrating treatments for these sensitivities.

Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Like the lips and the décolletage, the eyes are the harbinger of time. “Fine lines form when you lose hydration,” Ramirez says. With age, the skin becomes less able to retain moisture and needs ever-increasing help. The goal of esthetician treatments and daily care is to stimulate the eye’s ability to retain moisture.

Look for eye treatments with active ingredients that stimulate circulation, increase hydration, help with collagen production, and repair free radical damage. For instance, Ramirez explains that products containing horse chestnut, which is rich in vitamin K, increase blood flow to the area, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and dark circles.

Another beneficial ingredient is borage oil, which is rich in essential fatty acids and improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture, according to Yaniga. Other helpful ingredients may include antioxidants such as vitamin C and rosemary. Fine lines may also be addressed with peels, but the underlying issues need to be tackled to keep crow’s feet, once diminished, at bay.

Building a just-for-eyes treatment package around the three essentials — cleaning, hydration, and stimulation — will help you market eye care services and products as well as educate your clients about the subtleties of skin care in this delicate area. You will have the opportunity to emphasize the importance of a proper daily routine that includes quality take-home cleansing and hydrating products.

Eye care requires a delicate touch, but with the proactive guidance of you — the skin care professional — it’s possible for your clients to see health and vitality with their own two eyes.