Thin Skin Under Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment – Healthline
September 21, 2021
There’s an old expression about having “thick skin” that basically means you’re able to let criticism easily roll off your back without getting offended or upset. And if you have “thin skin,” you’re much more sensitive, perhaps even easily insulted.
But just about everyone literally has thin skin under their eyes. That is, the skin in that area tends to be sensitive and thinner with less fat underneath it.
This skin tends to be more delicate than skin on the other parts of your face. Aging and fatigue and other effects tend to show up there first. The effects may be more prominent in some people. For example, in people with lighter skin, the tiny capillaries and veins under the skin may even be more visible.
If the skin under your eyes seems to be thinner than usual, you might want to consider why. It’s possible that you may be unintentionally doing something that makes the skin appear thinner.
As a general rule, the skin around your eyes, including the skin underneath your eyes, is thinner than the skin on the rest of your face. It doesn’t contain as much subcutaneous fat, and it also doesn’t have as many oil glands and collagen, research suggests, so it tends to look a little drier and is more prone to developing fine lines, too.
But there are other reasons that your skin may seem thinner under your eyes — or why changes to the skin under your eyes are so readily apparent.
Genetics, aging, and skin tone
As you age, your skin ages, too, getting thinner and drier. Your body produces less collagen as you age, and collagen is the substance in the dermis, which is the middle layer of your skin, comprising most of your skin’s thickness.
Some people are born with skin that’s naturally a bit thicker than others, and some research suggests that people with darker skin may be more likely to have thicker skin.
Not getting enough sleep can wreak havoc with your skin’s appearance. That already fragile skin under your eyes may look worse when sleep deprivation is a factor, as you may notice more fine lines and signs of fatigue like dark circles under the eyes.
Sun exposure can cause premature aging in your skin. Since the skin is already thinner under your eyes, UV exposure can speed up the appearance of those fine lines and wrinkles.
Inflammation from a number of different causes like infections and allergic reactions can cause fluid to build up around the eye, which is known as periorbital edema. Because the skin is thin, the swelling can be quite visible.
Corticosteroids are often used to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. But topical steroids are notorious for causing skin to get thinner, among other side effects, which is why they are generally only recommended for short-term use.
Smoking is known for contributing to premature aging of the skin. Older research suggests that smoking can lead to damage of the collagen that gives your skin its elasticity and can affect the appearance of your skin, too.
Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection caused by a type of yeast called Malassezia that can cause lighter or darker spots to develop on your skin. An atypical version of it called atrophying pityriasis versicolor has been shown to cause thinning of the skin in some people, research indicates. It’s rare but has been shown to clear up after extended treatment.
How do you know that the skin under your eyes is thin? There’s not a lot of fat there, so this already delicate area may seem less elastic than usual. Other symptoms to watch out for:
dark circles (or circles that look darker than usual)
If you’re concerned about the appearance of the skin under your eyes, you have a number of treatment options. Some may produce more satisfactory results than others for you, however. Some may be less likely to cause side effects like discoloration. Speak with a dermatologist about the best options for you.
For temporary results, try applying a cool compress. That won’t make your skin thicker, but it can improve the appearance of the skin.
You could try putting chilled wet tea bags on your closed eyes, as research suggests that green and black teas both contain anti-inflammatory properties that might improve the appearance of the skin around your eyes.
Using a skin care product containing a retinoid, which is derived from vitamin A, may help smooth and firm your skin and can even help with some pigmentary disorders. But you do need to be judicious about using a retinoid, since prolonged use of a higher dose may lead to:
Diet and nutritional supplements
Perhaps taking certain kinds of dietary supplements might also help. A 2014 randomized, double-blind study showed ingesting a hyaluronan supplement (containing hyaluronic acid) did seem to help increase moisture in the skin of participants with dry skin.
In microneedling, tiny fine needles are rolled over the skin and may help stimulate the growth of elastin and collagen, which helps skin cells repair themselves and improves the appearance of the skin.
Also noteworthy: It seems to be less risky for people with darker skin, as it seems to carry a lower risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation than some other procedures involving the epidermis, according to a 2014 journal article.
Under-eye dermal fillers
Dermal fillers, also known as soft tissue fillers or tear trough fillers, are designed to add volume in that skin under your lower eyelids. A commonly used filler is hyaluronic acid. These are generally considered safe and last about a year. But if your skin is very thin, this might not be a good option for you.
There’s an array of under-eye concealers that promise to hydrate and plump up the skin under your eyes. You can certainly use a concealer to hide dark circles or to provide a moisturizing boost that can temporarily help hydrate the area and improve your appearance.
Other cosmetic products
contain a variety of ingredients that purport to help improve the look of under-eye skin, including caffeine, which can reduce puffiness, and vitamin K, which can reduce the appearance of superficial blood vessels.
A 2015 study suggested that using a cosmetic pad with a solution containing caffeine and vitamin K in an emulsified emu oil base could potentially lighten dark circles in some people and improve the depth of wrinkles. But your experience may vary, as the study was small, with only 11 participants.
Laser resurfacing treatment
Laser skin resurfacing is an in-office procedure that involves using lasers to help improve skin texture and appearance.
A 2015 clinical report suggested that people who received carbon dioxide laser resurfacing on photo-aged skin were very pleased with the improvement to the appearance of their skin. However, there are different kinds of lasers that are used on the skin, with different risks and benefits, so be sure to discuss the effect you’re hoping to get with a dermatologist.
It’s unlikely to cause damage to the top layer of your skin, and it’s less intense than laser resurfacing. But experts caution that it’s also less effective on darker skin or may cause skin discoloration.
You might worry that a chemical peel will make your already-thin skin even thinner. The procedure exfoliates the surface of your skin, making it appear smoother and less wrinkled.
Research suggests that you may need to watch out for possible side effects, such as blistering in sensitive areas like the skin around your eyes, especially with higher-concentration solutions.
If you have darker skin, you want to speak with a doctor before choosing this option, as it’s possible that you may experience irregular pigmentation afterward.
If you have visible veins under your eyes, perhaps due to the relatively light color of your skin or the thinness of your skin in this area, sclerotherapy might be an option for you.
Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure during which your doctor will inject a chemical agent into a vein with a fine needle, effectively shutting the vein down. Blood flow is redirected to other veins, and your body eventually reabsorbs the nonworking vein, making it less visible. Speak with a doctor to determine if it’s appropriate for you.
Under-eye lift surgery
Blepharoplasty is the name for the procedure to tighten up sagging eyelids, as well as to remove fatty deposits in the eyelids and bags under the eyes. It smooths and tightens the area. It may not make your under-eye skin thicker, it may reduce some of the signs of aging that have appeared around your eyes.
Having think skin under your eyes does not pose any risks to your health. But if you’ve tried various remedies and are dissatisfied with the appearance of the skin under your eyes, see a dermatologist. It may be that you haven’t yet tried the one that will work best for you.
If you notice any potential signs of infection or injury to your skin, be sure to let your doctor know right away.