Everything you need to know about crow’s-feet


Wondering how to get rid of crow’s-feet? You’re not alone, if the popularity of our top 10 most-reviewed eye creams is anything to go by.

Personally, I prefer to think of these worrisome wrinkles as laughter lines (and consider them a sign of a life well-lived). But if you aren’t quite sold on the whole ‘love your wrinkles’ spiel, that’s totally fine too.

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Interested in softening your laughter lines a little? We spoke to consultant dermatologist and spokesperson from the Australasian College of Dermatologists, Dr Elizabeth Dawes-Higgs, about what causes crow’s-feet and, for those who have them, the best ways to reduce their appearance.

So, first thing’s first, what are crow’s-feet? As Dr Dawes-Higgs explains, they are “the lines that occur on the sides of the eyes” (as opposed to other lines in this area, such as vertical lines between the eyes).

According to the expert, they are caused by “the contraction of the muscle underneath the skin”, which is round and goes all the way around the eye. When we make an expression, it contracts, pulling the skin with it and creating “a sort of concertina effect”. As we age, our skin loses collagen and hyaluronic acid and becomes weaker, which increases the effect.  

Ageing is obviously a given, but what other factors can contribute to the development of crow’s-feet? According to Dr Dawes-Higgs, these are the ones to watch out for…

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1. Your gender

According to Dr Dawes-Higgs, males tend to have a thicker muscle around the eye, which means the pulling effect on the skin in this area is greater. Sorry, boys!

2. Sun exposure

The more time you spend outside, the more likely you are to develop crow’s-feet. Dr Dawes-Higgs explains this is because the sun “weakens skin” and “reduces skin elasticity”, which means it won’t bounce back as easily after it bunches up.

Similarly, working outdoors can also be a contributing factor. As Dr Dawes-Higgs explains, “If you’re a lifesaver, for example, you’re squinting into the sun more,” resulting in a more-frequent pulling effect on the skin.

3. Weight loss

If you tend to lose weight easily from your face, you could be more prone to crow’s-feet. This is because “your skin loses fat,” says the expert, which in turn “makes your skin look less smooth and your lines look more obvious”.

4. Your general mood

It doesn’t seem fair, but smiling a lot can be a contributing factor. In the same way as when you squint, your eye muscles pull on the skin around your eyes. As Dr Dawes-Higgs explains, the sad irony of this is that “often the women who are happiest on the inside don’t look happy on the outside,” because of their wrinkles (which can make them look tired and/or sad instead).

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So, what if you’re male, have an outdoorsy job, just reached your goal weight or are simply too darn happy all the time? Will you get crow’s-feet (which, let’s be honest, seems pretty unfair)?

Not necessarily. According to our expert, doing these things can help prevent crow’s-feet from forming (or at least slow down their development a little)…

1. Sun protection

We’re talking a high-SPF sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and avoiding sun exposure in the middle of the day.

If you’re worried about using sunscreen around your eyes, try an eye cream that contains SPF instead. bh loves Alpha-H Absolute Eye Cream SPF 15, Elizabeth Arden Prevage ® Anti-Aging Eye Cream SPF15 or philosophy ultimate miracle worker multi-rejuvenating eye cream spf 15.

2. Don’t smoke

We all know the catastrophic effect smoking can have on our overall health, let alone on our skin, so this one probably goes without saying.

3. Use a moisturiser

According to Dr Dawes-Higgs, “just using a moisturiser” can make a world of difference. Try an eye cream such as Pelactiv Vita C+ Intensive Eye Complex, which is formulated to strengthen and smooth the skin surrounding the delicate eye area, so it is less prone to crow’s feet.

4. Retinol and fruit acids

Already got crow’s feet? Don’t panic. Dr Dawes-Higgs says certain anti-ageing skin care ingredients can help reduce their appearance. Retinol and fruit acids are her top picks (you can find everything you need to know about retinol here). Alternatively, the expert recommends trying “superficial peels, to help strengthen the skin structure”.

5. Anti-wrinkle injections

While some of us would prefer to get rid of crow’s feet without botox, anti-wrinkle injections are arguably the quickest and most effective treatment option. According to Dr Dawes-Higgs, they work by “stopping the communication between the nerve and the muscle around the eye”, which reduces the pulling effect on the skin lying above. Dr Dawes-Higgs says that “with the right injection and the right dose, you can get a natural result” and soften the appearance of crow’s feet.

Are you concerned about crow’s feet, or are you happy with your laughter lines? Are you interested in preventing signs of skin ageing?

Share your thoughts

Comments 25

  1. I’m almost fanatical about sunscreen – every day I leave the house, year-round, I wear sunscreen,

    I once knew a moderately old woman who had the wrinkliest face I’d ever seen, but all the lines were smile-lines. When she smiled, which was often, her whole face smiled. She was a lovely person!

  2. Many people are concerned above crows feet, but many people say that pigmentation can look more ageing. This probably refers to someone much older when the pigmentation is more advanced.

  3. Yes Im interested in preventative skin care and hence my relationship with SPF in products. I don’t have big crows feet but am encouraged by the article to use some Retinol around my eye area to help strengthen my skin there.

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