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How to Give Tired Eyes a Wake-Up Call

Products and tips to give your peepers a little lift


spinner image a woman treating herself with under eye patches
Getty Images

You won’t see this topic on TikTok, but women 50-plus know it well. Friends, neighbors and colleagues say, “You look tired” way too often. Your aging eyes — puffy, saggy, hooded and irritated — are telling all. Like in-house gossips, they tattle about stress, fatigue, lack of sleep and even your snack habits. They reveal last night’s cocktails, late-night Netflix binges and a fondness for chips. Want some solutions? Here are six ways to fake and make brighter peepers:

spinner image DRMTLGY Brightening Caffeine Eye Masks with Hyaluronic Acid; Peace Out Puffy Eyes Biocellulose Under-Eye Patches; Soap & Glory Puffy Eye Attack Under Eye Brightening Hydrogel Patches
Clockwise from top left: DRMTLGY Brightening Caffeine Eye Masks with Hyaluronic Acid ($44 for 60, amazon.com); Peace Out Puffy Eyes Biocellulose Under-Eye Patches ($25 for six pairs, ulta.com); Soap & Glory Puffy Eye Attack Under Eye Brightening Hydrogel Patches ($5 for 1 pair, walgreens.com)
Amazon; Ulta Beauty; Walgreens

1. Work an a.m. eye-opener routine.

Your eyes look their worst in the morning after a night of horizontal snoozing when fluids tend to accumulate and emerge as puffy swollen lids or bags. Skimpy shut-eye makes things worse, and so does lack of exercise like a sedentary weekend on the couch, lying prone with face smushed into your pillow and of course a weepy movie. One of the biggest causes of morning puffies at 50 and beyond, though, is simply a night before indulgence of salty snacks, a high sodium meal or alcohol … or oddly enough, dehydration. Whatever the cause, swollen eyes are temporary but annoying since they can take hours to dissipate. For a quick deflating, try ready-made under-eye masks (a worthy update to tea bags and cold teaspoons). They are infused with ingredients like caffeine to tighten, hyaluronic acid to hydrate and soothing botanicals like cucumber and licorice extract that brighten. You can apply these crescent-shaped stick-ons ASAP upon awakening. In fact, keep them on standby chilling in the fridge, since cold helps the process. Let them work while you sip a latte or enjoy a meditation app. And do your eyes another favor: Sleep on two pillows from now on. The elevation helps drainage to eliminate the excess baggage.

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spinner image Maybelline TattooStudio Waterproof Longwearing Eyeliner Pencil in Striking Navy; Bausch & Lomb Lumify Red Reliever Eye Drops; Rimmel Scandal Eyes Waterproof Eyeliner in Nude
Left to right: Maybelline TattooStudio Waterproof Longwearing Eyeliner Pencil in Striking Navy ($9, cvs.com); Bausch & Lomb Lumify Red Reliever Eye Drops ($17, cvs.com); Rimmel Scandal Eyes Waterproof Eyeliner in Nude ($5, walgreens.com)
CVS (2); Walgreens

2. Solve redness with a three-step plan.

Our nonstop cellphone and computer lifestyles are not easy on the eyes. Neither are seasonal allergies or insomnia. Red eyes — caused by all of the above — make everyone look fatigued, but three fast fixes can restore a fresher look. First apply cold compresses to the eyes to reduce the itch urge (and we all rub our red eyes, don’t we?), then clarify the whites with fast-acting lubricant eye drops. If you’re certain the redness is due to the above and want to wear eye makeup, try lining the lower rims with a beige eye pencil to counteract the inflamed look and swap your usual black liner for a softer brown or navy. Add a waterproof mascara midshaft to tips, avoiding getting too close to the roots of your lashes. Take note: There’s a difference between irritation caused by the above everyday issues and medical problems like styes, conjunctivitis (pink eye) or blepharitis. See your doctor if the red condition continues or becomes worse.

spinner image Neutrogena Hydro Boost + Caffeine Eye Gel Cream Fragrance-Free; CeraVe Eye Repair Cream for Dark Circles and Puffiness Fragrance- Free; Olay Eyes Shea Butter + Peptide 24 Eye Cream Fragrance-Free
Left to right: Neutrogena Hydro Boost + Caffeine Eye Gel Cream Fragrance-Free ($33, ulta.com); CeraVe Eye Repair Cream for Dark Circles and Puffiness Fragrance- Free ($17, walgreens.com); Olay Eyes Shea Butter + Peptide 24 Eye Cream Fragrance-Free ($30, walgreens.com)
Ulta Beauty; CeraVe; Walgreens

3. Apply an eye cream morning and night.

Wondering if face moisturizer can double as an eye cream? The answer: It’s better than nothing, but splurge on an eye cream! Designed to deal with aging eyes and their thinner, drier and more delicate skin, eye creams are more concentrated than face creams and include specific problem-solving ingredients. Look for those with light-reflecting pigments to add radiance, caffeine to tighten blood vessels that cause circles, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, smooth and plump up fine lines and peptides to stimulate collagen production and restore a firmer look. Pat eye cream on gently and use a light tapping motion to blend, since eyes are very vulnerable to stretching and pulling (when you apply or remove makeup). Skip applying eye cream to the lids or going too close to the lash line to avoid irritation. Many women save eye cream for a before-bed routine, but eyes benefit from it 24/7. You will see an immediate improvement in texture and look, but discolorations take longer to show genuine results. Sorry, but give dark circles four to six weeks (and see tip no. 4).

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spinner image Revlon ColorStay Skin Awaken Caffeine + Vitamin C 5-in-1 Concealer in 025 Light Beige; Bobbi Brown Color Corrector in Peach; Kosas Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer with Caffeine and Hyaluronic Acid in Tone 3.8 N; Nars Light Reflecting Eye Brightener in Magic Hour
Clockwise from left: Revlon ColorStay Skin Awaken Caffeine + Vitamin C 5-in-1 Concealer in 025 Light Beige ($6, amazon.com); Bobbi Brown Color Corrector in Peach ($35, bobbibrowncosmetics.com); Kosas Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer with Caffeine and Hyaluronic Acid in Tone 3.8 N ($30, sephora.com); Nars Light Reflecting Eye Brightener in Magic Hour ($34, nordstrom.com)
Amazon; Bobbi Brown; Sephora; Nordstrom

4. Use the right concealer in the right way.

Tired eyes love the way concealer brightens and minimizes circles, so make it an everyday basic whether you wear additional eye makeup or not. However, using the right texture is important. Your opaque cover-up — so perfect for brown spots or random blemishes — is not the one needed here. Instead choose a silky fluid wand or cream that’s hydrating and glides on easily (without any drag) and is one shade lighter than your skin tone. To correct dark circles more intensively, opt for corrector, which is just a form of concealer with a specific peach, yellow or orange tone that’s designed to neutralize blue or purple discolorations. (The deeper purple your discoloration, the more orange-y you want the corrector to be.) Apply concealer or corrector in an under-eye crescent shape that stretches from eye corner to eye corner to illuminate the entire under-eye area. Be sure to include the hollow divot at the inner eye near the nose (and just ignore the upside-down V so trendy on social media). Use the tap blend technique to soften the edges until you cannot see where concealer starts or stops. To help minimize under-eye bags, apply concealer only to the shadow beneath the bag, not on the puffy part.

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spinner image Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Best Red; Warby Parker Finnegan; Glasses USA Muse Jeanne in Tortoise
Clockwise from left: Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Best Red ($7, walgreens.com); Warby Parker Finnegan ($175, warbyparker.com); Glasses USA Muse Jeanne in Tortoise ($52, glassesusa.com)
Walgreens; Warby Parker; Glasses USA

5. Rely on attention-getting distractions.

Sometimes tired eyes are best conquered by switching the focus elsewhere. Eye fatigue can pop up when there’s no time to start chilling, dabbing and experimenting with products. Glasses in the form of bold frames for life, reading or screen work are your best ally. They define the eyes and draw attention away from saggy lids, circles and puffiness. Be sure your prescription is updated since eye strain can be exacerbated by an outdated Rx. For a virtual eye lift, try top-line glasses or a modern cat-eye shape, or have your optometrist tint lenses a very pale blue or lavender for a subtle camouflage. And finally, depend on long full bangs or red lipstick to grab the spotlight and push eye issues into the backseat with confidence.

spinner image A doctor marking lines on a woman's eyelid for surgery
B2M Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images

6. Consider a dermatological or surgical solution.

Physical eye changes due to age — like bags that are more than temporary, puffiness or hooded lids — can make us look angry and exhausted even when we’re not. Sometimes injections of Botox or a filler like Restylane by a board-certified dermatologist can make enough of a difference that lasts three or four months. For example, deep furrows between the brows (known as the “elevens”) and crow’s feet at outer eye corners can be smoothed by Botox, which blocks muscles and keeps them from contracting. Filler can add volume to the recessed “canal” that runs from the inner-eye corner near the nose, lifting it enough to cancel out the deep dark shadow it casts beneath the eyes. For this procedure no downtime is necessary, but injections are painful (I know this firsthand) and may cause temporary bruising. For a more permanent fix, cosmetic eye surgery — known as blepharoplasty — can remove excess stretchy, saggy skin from top lids and bagginess beneath the eyes, although excess fat may also be removed. Some “bags” are fat pads that used to cushion the eyeball and have slipped lower. A lower-lid blepharoplasty can remove the fat pads and tighten the skin. Expect to pay around $4,000 for each procedure depending on where you live, the skill of the surgeon and other factors like medications, anesthesia, operating room fees — with a two-week downtime.

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