Crow’s Feet: Why We Get Them and How to Minimize Them

Many of us frown at the fine lines that crop up, seemingly overnight, at the corners of our eyes. Social expectations create a never-ending spiral of dissatisfaction. They pressure us into taking extensive measures to avoid crow’s feet at all costs.

We don’t have to micromanage our faces in an attempt to reach a perfect, unattainable image, though. And why erase them completely anyway? Our lines are a sign that we’ve enjoyed life. Every laugh and smile lives there. But we do want our skin to be its healthiest. Crow’s feet are a form of wrinkling that occurs naturally with age, but there are external factors like repeated sun exposure that accelerate and lead to premature skin aging faster. Fortunately there are easy ways to improve the health of our skin and minimize premature skin aging and crow’s feet.

Eliminate the guesswork and use proven methods that work, such as sunscreen and retinoids, as part of a no-hassle skincare routine.

What are crow’s feet, and why do we get them?

Crow’s feet are fine lines that appear at the outer corners of our eyes. They develop naturally over time, but ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can speed up the process.

When we make facial expressions, muscles around the eye area contract, causing creases in the skin 1. Normally, collagen and elastin help the skin return to its resting position. They are responsible for the skin’s structure and elasticity. As we age, collagen and elastin production decrease, making those lines more likely to stick around.

When our skin is exposed to sunlight, free radicals (cell-damaging molecules) from the sun’s UV rays break down collagen and elastin faster. In fact, 80% of skin damage (including wrinkling) is due to the sun’s rays 2. So it’s worth keeping sun protection top of mind—and that goes beyond just sunscreen.

How do you minimize crow’s feet?

It’s easy to reduce crow’s feet and improve skin health by integrating dermatologist-approved products into your daily skincare routine. In-office treatments offered by dermatologists and plastic surgeons are also options that can complement your skincare routine. Effective for more pronounced skin concerns, they usually cost more and are more invasive. Whether you’re comfortable with these options or not, it’s always worthwhile to develop a solid skincare routine.

Develop the right skincare routine to treat and prevent crow’s feet

With a plethora of skincare products vying for our attention, it can be tempting to add the latest trendy product to our ever-expanding skincare routines. But you don’t need to use a ton of products to reduce the appearance of crow’s feet or get healthy, glowing skin.

Use this five-minute derm-approved skincare routine as a base and add or remove products, depending on what works for your skin.

Morning Routine

  • Step 1: Start with a gentle cleanser. Like the sun, air pollutants can cause free radicals to break down collagen and elastin faster. And makeup and dirt can trap free radicals. So use a gentle cleanser to wash away impurities.
  • Step 2: Fend off free radicals with antioxidants. Though sunscreen is an essential skin protector, it only reduces around 55% of free radicals when applied correctly 3. Topical antioxidants neutralize free radicals, making them a great sidekick to your SPF. Use a vitamin C serum to prep your skin for sun exposure.
  • Step 3: Keep the skin hydrated. When skin is hydrated, it’s plumper — helping fill in the lines. At a minimum, use a nourishing moisturizer as part of your skincare regimen. If you want an extra bump of hydration, hyaluronic acid helps draw in moisture and promotes skin elasticity 4.
  • Step 4: Protect against sun damage with sunscreen. The sun sends out two kinds of rays — UVA and UVB — which are harmful to the skin in different ways. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will block against both. Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Apply it 15 minutes before going outside and every two hours while you’re exposed to the sun.

Nighttime Routine

  • Step 1: Clean away impurities. Go back to your base. Washing away impurities is even more important at night after exposure to pollutants throughout the day.
  • Step 2: Support collagen production. There are several active ingredients proven to counteract the drop in collagen production over time.

    Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) have collagen-boosting superpowers to prevent and treat fine lines and wrinkles 5. Tretinoin (the more potent cousin of over-the-counter retinol) has proved to improve crow’s feet 6 and has over 50 years of scientific research behind it 7. It’s the only FDA-approved retinoid for photoaging (aka premature skin aging due to sun damage).

    Niacinamide, another collagen booster and antioxidant, is also effective at treating crow’s feet. It will take longer to work than tretinoin but can show comparable benefits after 24 weeks 8. Bonus: Niacinamide also neutralizes free radicals and repairs DNA after sun exposure.
  • Step 3: Hydrate the skin. Slather on a moisturizing face lotion to lock in water molecules and consider hyaluronic acid for an extra boost.

That’s all you need to establish a daily skincare routine to treat crow’s feet. Start slowly with low concentrations of your actives to give your skin a chance to get used to your new routine. As always, talk to your derm if you experience any irritation. They can help you tailor your routine to your specific skin needs.

Get the best retinoid for treating crow’s feet

Integrating retinoids into your skincare routine not only minimizes crow’s feet and other wrinkles, but it can also make your skin smoother, eliminate blackheads, and reduce pore size. It’s one step to healthy, glowing skin. We’re highlighting this ingredient, not only because it has over 50 years of science to back up its longterm safety and efficacy, but it’s not as easy to get as the other ingredients mentioned above–until now.

The most potent retinoid can’t be bought in stores but requires a prescription from a doctor. Night Shift is a dermatologist-formulated and prescription-grade tretinoin retinoid serum tailored to your skin by doctors online. With an easy online consultation and without the cost of an in-person visit, you can now get the right concentration of tretinoin retinoid to help you reach your skin goals, all from the comfort of your home.

Depending on your skin and skin history, your provider may start you on a low-strength formula before ramping you up to a higher strength to give your skin a chance to adapt. Great for sensitive skin and retinoid newbies.

Receive professional in-office treatments for crow’s feet

There are several in-office treatments that you can get from a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. One benefit of these is that they treat more pronounced skin concerns than if you’re only adopting a new skincare regimen. The main trade-off is the cost and intensiveness of treatment. Depending on the treatment, the procedure can be painful, have a long recovery period, or have other side effects.

Less invasive in-office treatment options for mild crow’s feet include microdermabrasion and laser treatments, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines by removing the top layer of skin and stimulating collagen production.

Botox (botulinum toxin) is an injectable filler that is effective and relatively safe for use on moderate to severe crow’s feet 9. It’s injected around your crow’s feet and relaxes the muscles that contract when you make facial expressions, allowing the skin to smooth out. The effects of this last for about four months before you’ll need a follow-up 10. As with any procedure, you’ll want to be aware of potential side effects.

Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers are ideal for deep wrinkles 11. They smooth out the appearance of wrinkles by increasing plumpness in the skin next to your eyes. They are less likely to have side effects because hyaluronic acid already exists naturally in the body. Results can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the patient.

Cosmetic surgery is an option for making skin appear smoother by trimming or repositioning skin and fat. Because the procedure is more involved, it can take a few months to fully heal.

It’s your choice.

Whichever method you choose to minimize your crow’s feet, it’s worth adopting a preventative skincare routine to keep your skin healthy for years to come. Ultimately, how you manage your crow’s feet is up to you. It’s your skin, so do what makes you feel happy and confident.

Questions? Skincare can be confusing, and it’s super personal. Feel free to reach out at if you have any questions.

  1. Fogli, A. (1992, October). [Orbicularis oculi muscle and crow’s feet. pathogenesis and surgical approach]. Retrieved from
  2. Flament, F., et al. (2013, September 27). Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Retrieved from
  3. Shanbhag, S., et al. (2019, August 1). Anti-aging and sunscreens: Paradigm shift in cosmetics. Retrieved from
  4. Masson, F. (2010, April). [Skin hydration and hyaluronic acid]. Retrieved from
  5. Griffiths, C., et al. (1993, August 19). Restoration of collagen formation in photodamaged human skin by tretinoin (retinoic acid): NEJM. Retrieved from
  6. Fu, J., et al. (2010, March). A randomized, controlled comparative study of The wrinkle reduction benefits of a cosmetic niacinamide/peptide/retinyl Propionate product regimen vs. a prescription 0.02% tretinoin product regimen. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from
  7. Mukherjee, S., et al. (2006, December). Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Retrieved from
  8. Fu, J., et al. (2010, March). A randomized, controlled comparative study of The wrinkle reduction benefits of a cosmetic niacinamide/peptide/retinyl Propionate product regimen vs. a prescription 0.02% tretinoin product regimen. Retrieved April 27, 2021, from
  9. Carruthers, A., & Et al. (2016, May). OnabotulinumtoxinA for treatment of moderate to Severe Crow’s feet lines: A review. Retrieved from
  10. Baumann, L., et al. (2016, April 21). Duration of clinical efficacy of OnabotulinumtoxinA in Crow’s feet Lines: Results from Two Multicenter, randomized, controlled trials. Retrieved from
  11. John, H., & Price, R. (2009, November 3). Perspectives in the selection of hyaluronic acid fillers for facial wrinkles and aging skin. Retrieved from