DrSugar is in the house! This week she's answering a question about treating wrinkles.
I have noticed the fine lines around my eyes becoming not so fine. I know it is just basic aging, but I would like to slow the process down. My sister said to put petroleum jelly (she uses Aquaphor) around my eyes at night. I've never used an eye cream before and am not really a fan of petroleum jelly — it just doesn't seem like a good idea to put a petroleum product on my skin, especially by my eyes. Is it safe? Will my body absorb dangerous chemicals?
— Concerned About Chemicals
I’m going to admit that I had to do some reconnaissance in my local drugstore to research this question. This research involved reading the labels of both regular petroleum jelly and Aquaphor (a Eucerin product). I also did the inevitable Google search for "Aquaphor" and for "fine lines and wrinkles." As a woman in her early 30s, this question interested me a bit personally as, like the reader, I am definitely noticing some little lines and crevices on my face! To learn more about the aging process and if you should be treating it with Vaseline, keep on reading.
Fine lines and wrinkles are a natural part of the aging process. As we age, our skin becomes thinner, drier, less elastic, and less able to protect itself from damage. As a result, we develop fine lines that eventually lead to wrinkles. Besides age, other important causes of premature aging or development of fine lines and wrinkles include exposure to ultraviolet light, smoking, and repeated facial expressions. Too much ultraviolet light exposure (either due to being in sun or tanning beds) markedly speeds up the aging process and is the primary cause of premature wrinkling. Smoking can also accelerate the normal aging process of the skin and is thought to be secondary to changes in the blood supply of the skin. Finally, repeated facial expressions such as smiling, frowning, or squinting your eyes can lead to fine lines and wrinkles. But please, don't stop smiling.
In terms of your question, using petroleum jelly or Aquaphor around the eyes is not recommended. The label on the Aquaphor tube states "When using this product do not get into eyes" and that the intended uses for the product include protecting minor cuts, scrapes or burns, and relieving chapped or cracked skin or lips. I even looked at a tub of regular old petroleum jelly and the same warning in regards to the eyes was printed on its label as well. Aquaphor contains more than just petroleum jelly (it contains mineral oil, ceresin, lanolin alcohol panthenol, glycerin, and bisabolol). The Eucerin website FAQ section even addresses the use of Aquaphor and states, "As a general rule, use Aquaphor when skin is healing. Aquaphor intensively moisturizes, soothes and protects dry, cracked or irritated skin while it helps heal. Aquaphor will also help prevent chafing and chapping." Thus, according to the labels, these products are safe to put on your skin, but are for external use only and should not be used near the eyes.
There is a bevy of non-prescription fine line and wrinkle creams out there that can range from budget-conscious prices to break-the-bank prices. Additionally, most of these product lines have creams that are specifically designed and tested for safety for use on eye fine lines and wrinkles. I personally use an eye cream that was formulated under the control of dermatologists and ophthalmologists (specialized eye physicians). Even though these formulations are for use on the skin around the eyes, I still do my best to keep it as far from my eyes as possible by applying it in front of a mirror.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The best way to prevent premature aging or slow an already occurring aging process is to protect your skin from the sun. This means limiting your time in the sun, wearing protective clothing and hats, and always using sunscreen, even in Winter. Also, stay out of those tanning beds; not only do they accelerate the aging process, but they greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Also, you can choose skin products that contain sunscreen and look for products that block both UVA and UVB. Keep moisturized and well hydrated by moisturizing your skin and drinking plenty of fluids. And finally, don’t smoke! You can still improve your skin tone and texture and prevent future wrinkles by quitting smoking!
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