Crow’s feet — aka smile lines, or those tiny little creases that pop up around the eyes — are often one of the first types of wrinkles to appear. It makes sense, given how delicate the skin is around your eyes and, consequently, how susceptible it is to wrinkles.
Love them or hate them, you might very well be curious about what crow’s feet wrinkles actually are, what causes them and, if you’re not so happy with their appearance, how to get rid of crow’s feet.
Luckily, this handy guide runs through everything you need to know about these niggling, yet very common, wrinkles.
What are crow's feet?
Crow’s feet are small wrinkles that appear around the eyes, particularly towards the outer corners. They run perpendicular to the rest of your face and can be dynamic or static — that is, they might only appear when you move your face, or they may be visible all the time.
Why are they called crow's feet?
Crow’s feet get their name because — you guessed it — they look a bit like a crow’s talons.
You might also hear them referred to as ‘smile lines’ or ‘laugh lines' because they often crop up when you smile or laugh, as well as when you squint.
What causes crow's feet?
Like most wrinkles, crow’s feet are generally a side effect of skin ageing . But to understand how wrinkles form, it’s helpful to get a handle on how your skin works and how it changes as you get older.
Your skin is made up of three main layers, with the middle layer — the dermis — being the thickest of the three. Inside the dermis, you’ll find a couple of crucial proteins that are some of the skin’s most important building blocks: elastin and collagen.
Elastin keeps your skin strong, stretchy and supple, while collagen supports your skin’s structure and helps make it plump ,
As you age, though, collagen and elastin fibres break down. The skin also gets thinner, drier due to a slow-down in oil production over time, and more susceptible to damage. Things like UV rays and free radicals, smoking, stress and other environmental factors can speed up this process as well .
The result? An increase in wrinkles and fine lines, particularly in areas that are already quite vulnerable and have delicate skin — like the eyes.
The skin around your eyes is very thin and more likely to suffer from dryness because there are fewer oil glands there. It also experiences a lot of activity due to normal types of facial expressions like smiling and laughing . All of this is a recipe for wrinkles, which is why you often notice crow’s feet before other types of creases.
At what age do you typically start to develop crow's feet?
Given that crow’s feet are some of the first wrinkles to appear, many people notice them in their mid to late 30s. However, others see crow’s feet surfacing in their mid-20s and others still as late as their 40s.
The age you notice crow’s feet is usually due to factors like genetics, skin colour and your exposure to environmental stressors. Crow’s feet often start out by only surfacing when you move your face, but over time, they tend to get deeper and remain fixed.
Can you prevent crow's feet?
Absolutely. And don’t worry — we’re not about to tell you that any kind of facial expression is off-limits. There are a few (very easy) things you can do to try and keep crow’s feet at bay.
Go for antioxidant-rich skincare
The first step in preventing wrinkles is to develop a great skincare routine that includes the right products and ingredients. One of those ingredients is vitamin C, an incredibly powerful skincare superhero that has the ability to brighten skin, fade hyperpigmentation and, you guessed it, prevent wrinkles and fine lines.
Vitamin C does this by boosting collagen production, which we know is one of the main components of plump-looking skin. Vitamin C plays a big role in your body’s ability to synthesise collagen and has been found to increase the production of collagen in both young and older skin .
You can get your hands on vitamin C in lots of different forms, but it’s typically sold as a serum — which is how we do it here at Software. Our Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum harnesses the power of vitamin C with ferulic acid (another fantastic antioxidant that also has the ability to repair) in a nifty and very easy-to-use formula.
Retinoids are some of our favourite ingredients, known for their awesome anti-ageing abilities. If you’re wondering what retinoids are, they’re basically vitamin A derivatives used widely in topical skincare.
Retinoids can help prevent fine lines and wrinkles, including crow’s feet. They do this by boosting collagen production, as well as helping your body make more blood vessels, improving skin elasticity and renewing skin cells — thus improving your skin’s tone and overall appearance .
Bonus: in addition to fighting crow's feet, retinoids can assist with fading hyperpigmentation, keeping your skin nice and soft and, if you’re prone to adult acne, fighting breakouts.
UV damage can accelerate the ageing process, so wearing SPF on your face every day is an absolute must.
Make sure it's at least SPF 50+ and always pair it with other types of sun protection to shield your skin — especially the delicate skin in your eye area — as much as possible.
A hat is always a good idea in the sun, but sunglasses are great for protecting against eye wrinkles as they fit directly over your eyes. Plus, they help you avoid squinting, which we know promotes the formation of crow’s feet.
Adjust your lifestyle
While none of us can escape the signs of ageing entirely, what we can do is make a few lifestyle tweaks in an effort to reduce their appearance. Cut back on smoking — or quit it entirely — and try and curb your stress levels. Both of these are known to contribute to fine lines and wrinkles.
There’s also strong evidence that a healthy diet can help prevent wrinkles, along with plenty of H20 .
How to reduce the appearance of crow's feet without Botox
You’re probably well aware that Botox is a popular method for getting rid of crow’s feet. Botox gets injected directly into the site and works by softening a muscle known as the orbicularis oculi, which is responsible for causing crow’s feet.
But, if you're looking for an alternative to anti-wrinkle injections, there’s definitely hope.
Here are a few crow’s feet treatment options.
Continue using OTC skincare products
Antioxidants like vitamin C and ferulic acid, plus retinoids, are well worth continuing with, if and when crow’s feet set in. Not only can they help prevent crow’s feet, but they can also work to reduce their appearance.
If you want to make your life much easier by opting for an all-in-one solution, our Advanced Ageing Set contains everything you’ll need to try and beat fine lines and wrinkles.
Featuring our Vitamin C + Ferulic Serum, Retinol Complex Oil, Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash, Ceramide Repair Balm and Solar Fluid (a stellar SPF50 formula for optimum sun protection), it’s the ultimate anti-ageing arsenal.
Consider a prescription anti-ageing treatment
Keen to take your topical treatment one step further? Consider going for a prescription solution.
Software’s prescription anti-ageing and wrinkle treatment combines a bunch of heavyweight ingredients designed to target the signs of ageing — like prescription retinoids, niacinamide (great for bolstering your skin barrier and fighting wrinkles) and hyaluronic acid (a big-time hydration-booster). And because we know you’re a busy bee, it’s delivered straight to your door each month!
Opt for a dermatological solution
Outside of Botox, there are several other anti-ageing treatments you can access at the dermatologist’s office to treat crow's feet. These include:
Also known as laser resurfacing, this treatment uses a laser to get rid of the top layer of skin, uncovering a new, smoother layer underneath. Laser resurfacing can also help boost collagen production.
Microneedling utilises a small, handheld tool with tiny needles that gently prick the skin. The result is greater collagen production and new skin tissue, which leaves you with tighter and smoother skin.
Chemical peels use higher concentrations of acids like salicylic acid, glycolic acid and carbolic acid to remove the top layer of skin. There are varying strengths of chemical peels depending on the severity of your wrinkles
Fillers are a little like Botox in that they get injected straight into your wrinkles, but they’re considered a gentler alternative. This is because they plump up the area around your eyes rather than freezing the muscle
If in doubt, why not complete a text-based consultation with our Software doctors and they'll be able to create a skincare formula that targets crow's feet without the need for injections or costly clinic visits.
Photo credit: Getty Images