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What thickens skin under eyes?

There are a few common causes for skin thickening under the eyes. As we age, skin naturally loses collagen and elasticity, leading to wrinkles and sagging. The delicate skin under the eyes is especially prone to showing signs of aging. Allergies, eczema, and genetics can also contribute to puffiness and dark circles under the eyes. Lifestyle factors like lack of sleep, sun exposure, smoking, and drinking alcohol take their toll over time. Understanding what leads to under eye skin thickening allows you to take steps to reduce and prevent it through skincare, diet, and lifestyle changes.

What causes under eye skin to thicken?

Aging and loss of collagen

One of the main reasons the skin under the eyes thickens with age is decreasing collagen production. Collagen gives skin its firmness and elasticity. As we get older, collagen breaks down faster than it can be replaced, leading to sagging skin and wrinkles. The skin under the eyes is very thin already, so loss of collagen is especially noticeable in this area. As collagen declines, skin becomes looser and begins to droop. Fine lines gradually deepen into wrinkles. The thinning fat layer under the eyes also contributes to a hollow, sunken appearance.


Some people are simply prone to under eye puffiness and darker skin due to genetics. The hereditary structure of their facial anatomy leads to shadowing and discoloration under the eyes. The blood vessels and veins around the eyes can also be more prominent, causing a darkened appearance. Allergies may exacerbate this shadowing. While genetics can’t be altered, lifestyle adjustments and skincare can help reduce the severity of under eye discoloration.

Allergies and eczema

Allergic reactions cause inflammation, redness, and fluid retention around the eyes. Rubbing the eyes further aggravates the sensitive skin. Chronic allergies lead to chronic puffiness and irritation, which damages the thin skin over time. Eczema causes itchy, scaly patches on the skin that thicken with repeated scratching and inflammation. Using a daily moisturizer and avoiding triggers like dust and pet dander can help prevent allergic reactions and eczema flares around the eyes.

Sun exposure

Years of sun exposure break down collagen and damage skin cells, contributing to faster aging. UV radiation from the sun degrades vitamin C and antioxidants in the skin that support collagen. It also causes abnormal elastin buildup. Elastin is a protein that gives skin flexibility, but too much of it leads to sagging. This damage accumulates under the eyes over time, leading to wrinkles, crepiness, and discoloration. Wearing sunglasses and applying SPF daily prevents further sun damage.


The harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke starve the skin of oxygen and nutrients. Smoking constricts blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the skin. This impairs collagen production and accelerates the aging process. Smokers tend to get wrinkles and fine lines earlier, especially around the mouth and eyes. Quitting smoking and minimizing secondhand smoke exposure prevents further collagen breakdown.


Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol dehydrates the body and skin. Dehydration causes the delicate under eye area to appear sunken and discolored. Alcohol also dilates blood vessels, leading to puffiness and dark circles under the eyes. Reducing alcohol intake and drinking more water can improve under eye skin thickness.

Lack of sleep

Not getting enough sleep has a whole host of detrimental effects on the body and skin. Sleep deprivation raises cortisol levels, which breaks down collagen. Tired eyes are also bloodshot and puffy. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to allow the body to fully rest and repair. Sleeping on your back prevents fluid from pooling under the eyes as well.

How does the skin under the eyes get thicker with age?

The skin under the eyes thins out over time due to natural aging processes like:

  • Decline of collagen production – Collagen gives skin its structure and elasticity. Less collagen leads to wrinkles and sagging skin.
  • Loss of facial fat – Fat pads under the eyes diminish with age. This leads to a hollow, sunken look.
  • Weakening of muscle tissue – Muscles around the eyes weaken and can cause drooping eyelids.
  • Dryness – Oil glands produce less sebum as we age. Dry skin is more prone to wrinkling.
  • Blood vessel dilation – Veins around the eyes expand, causing dark circles.
  • Sun damage – UV radiation breaks down collagen and antioxidants in the skin.
  • Gravity – Over time, gravity pulls on the skin and contributes to drooping.

These cumulative aging factors cause the skin under the eyes to wrinkle, loosen, darken, and take on a leathery appearance over time. Genetics, lifestyle habits, and environmental factors like sun exposure accelerate the aging process. While we can’t stop aging, practicing healthy habits and using anti-aging skincare can slow down skin thickening.

How to prevent under eye skin from thickening

Here are some tips for keeping the delicate skin around the eyes youthful for longer:

Use eye cream daily

Using a daily eye cream or serum packed with peptides, retinoids, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants helps hydrate the skin and boost collagen production. Look for brightening ingredients like vitamin C and niacinamide as well. Applying eye cream morning and night reduces fine lines and wrinkles over time. Gently dab the cream around the entire eye area.

Wear sunglasses

Shielding your eyes from UV rays with sunglasses prevents collagen breakdown and skin cell damage from the sun. Large framed sunglasses protect the thin skin under the eyes. Wear sunglasses year round, even in winter. Choose lenses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB radiation.

Get 7-9 hours of sleep

Aim for at least 7 hours of restful sleep each night to allow your body to fully recover and renew. Sleep deprivation raises cortisol levels which damages collagen. Too little sleep also causes fluid retention and bloodshot eyes. Sleeping on your back prevents fluid from pooling under the eyes as well.

Quit smoking

Smoking restricts blood vessels and depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients. This accelerates aging skin damage, especially around the eyes. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke to prevent collagen depletion and premature wrinkling.

Hydrate skin internally and externally

Drink plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated from the inside out. Apply a rich eye cream morning and night. Look for moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, and shea butter. Avoid fragrance, which can irritate the delicate eye area.

Wear sunscreen daily

Apply an SPF 30 sunscreen to exposed skin year round. Choose a broad spectrum formula that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours if outdoors. UV damage contributes to collagen breakdown over time.

Eat collagen-boosting foods

Load up on foods that support collagen production like citrus fruits, leafy greens, berries, tomatoes, avocados, nuts, seeds, soy, beans, fish, and bone broth. Vitamin C is especially important for collagen synthesis.

Limit alcohol

Cut back on alcohol to avoid dehydrating the body and skin. Excessive alcohol causes fluid retention and bloodshot, puffy eyes. Drink in moderation, and have a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage.

Manage allergies

Keep allergies under control with OTC or prescription medications. Chronic allergies cause inflammation, puffiness, and redness around the eyes. Avoid rubbing your eyes when pollen and dander levels are high. See an allergist if your symptoms persist.


While we can’t stop the natural aging process, we can slow down skin thickening under the eyes by caring for our skin properly. Using an anti-aging eye cream daily, wearing sun protection, staying hydrated, managing allergies, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits go a long way. Ensure you get enough quality sleep and nutrition. Avoid smoking and limit alcohol intake. With diligent skincare and healthy living, you can keep the skin around the eyes looking smooth and youthful for years to come.

Cause Effect on Under Eye Skin Prevention Tips
Collagen loss Wrinkles, sagging skin, loss of elasticity Use peptides, retinoids, vitamin C, eat collagen foods
Sun exposure Thinning, wrinkles, discoloration Wear sunglasses, use SPF 30+ sunscreen
Allergies Puffiness, inflammation Avoid triggers, use antihistamines
Smoking Wrinkles, collagen breakdown Quit smoking
Alcohol Dehydration, bloodshot eyes Limit alcohol, drink water
Lack of sleep Puffy eyes, dark circles Get 7-9 hours nightly