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Dermatologists Reveal The Best Ways To Fix Droopy Eyelids Without Surgery

From eye creams to makeup tricks, these tips will save you time, money and pain

Notice your makeup routine has gotten more difficult in the last few years? Maybe you have difficulty applying a straight line to your lid with eyeliner or find the need to pull up at lid skin when sweeping on shadows to get them onto skin evenly? The culprit is likely your droopy lids. The gradual decrease in the thickness of the skin around our eyes, puffiness from lack of sleep or fluid retention and saggy skin can all cause our eyelids to droop and eyes to look tired as a result. Sure, you can turn to professional-grade medical interventions to give your lids a lift, which involves removing excess skin and fat with knives and incisions, but with an average cost of $4,120 — can’t you just hear your wallet say ouch? — and time commitment, it’s daunting. Not to mention the discomfort! That’s why we turned to the experts to find out how to fix droopy eyelids without surgery. Read on for the genius solutions.

What causes droopy eyelids?

Not to be confused with hooded lids, droopy lids, also known as “ptosis” is part of the aging process, as confirmed by Hayley Goldbach, MD, FAAD, a double board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Brown University. “Eyelids droop due to a combination of reasons,” says Goldbach. “One is that the fat pads that surround the eyes tend to herniate or poke through the muscle with time.” Dr. Goldbach points out the sun’s harsh UV rays can also damage the collagen around the eyes, causing lax skin that, you guessed it — droops.

Besides aging gracefully, changes in the skin and connective tissue around the eyes also contribute to the development of ptosis, “including weakening of the muscles in the eyelid, loss of skin elasticity and redistribution of subcutaneous fat,” explains Julia Schwartz, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Puerto Rico and Ro advisor. “Genetics and lifestyle choices, like smoking, can also play a role in eyelid droop.”

Additionally, trauma, eye surgery “and contact lens use may increase your risk of ptosis and even lead to loosening or detachment of the muscle tendon,” adds Dr. Charisse McCall, DO, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Gold Coast Dermatology in Commack, New York. 

Thankfully, the solutions to fix droopy lids without surgery are plentiful.

woman with droopy lid skin and how to fix droopy lids without surgery
Viktoria Korobova/Getty Images

How to fix droopy eyelids without surgery with creams

Thankfully, there are many ways to lift and illuminate your pretty peepers without burning a hole in your wallet or going under the knife. “With a combination of at-home remedies, budget-friendly beauty products and a touch of makeup artistry, you can lift those lids and put your best face forward,” assures board-certified dermatologist Navin S. Arora, DO, FAAD, founder of Borealis Dermatology with locations in Garden City and Syosset, New York.. “Remember, the journey to perky eyes is an exploration, and finding what works best for you is the key to a brighter, more youthful gaze.”

1. Try *this* powerhouse trio

When it comes to skincare, some ingredients just work really well together. Dr. Arora says to look for creams containing ingredients like caffeine, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. When combined, they’re “beneficial in reducing droopy eyes because caffeine helps to constrict blood vessels and reduce puffiness, vitamin C promotes collagen production and skin elasticity while hyaluronic acid keeps the skin hydrated and plump, smoothing out wrinkles.” Two of his (pricier) favorites containing these ingredients are SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier (Buy from Dermstore, $110) and Skinbetter Science EyeMax AlphaRed Overnight Cream. (Buy from Skinbetter, $120)

More affordable options include:

The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + EGCG Depuffing Eye Serum, how to fix droopy lids without surgery
The Ordinary/Sephora

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG (Buy from Sephora, $8.90)

This serum, says Dr. Arora, contains caffeine and EGCG (from green tea leaves) to target puffiness around the eyes. “It’s budget-friendly and focuses on reducing the appearance of eye contour pigmentation and puffiness.”

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum, how to fix droopy lids without surgery

TruSkin Vitamin C Serum (Buy from Walmart, $9)

“While not specifically targeted for the eye area, this serum contains vitamin C and hyaluronic acid and can be gently applied around the eyes to promote brightness and hydration,” explains Dr. Brendan Camp, a Long Island and Manhattan-based board-certified dermatologist. “It’s a versatile product that can benefit the entire face.”

2. How to fix droopy eyelids without surgery: Enlist a jade roller

e.l.f. Cosmetics Jade Roller
e.l.f. Cosmetics

e.l.f. Cosmetics Jade Roller (Buy from e.l.f. Cosmetics, $10)

This beauty must-have is all the rage lately, and also recommended by Dr. Camp. “A jade roller can reduce swelling and improve lymphatic drainage around the eyes, which can temporarily reduce the severity of eyelid droop.” Plus, if your droopy eyes are related to significant swelling that develops overnight, “a cold jade roller can help depuff eyes by improving lymphatic circulation and constrict superficial blood vessels.” Click through to learn how jade rollers can also smooth out and prevent a crepey neck.

3. How to fix droopy eyelids without surgery: Opt for an eye-brightener

LUMIFY Eye Illuminations Hydra-Gel Brightening Eye Cream

LUMIFY Eye Illuminations Hydra-Gel Brightening Eye Cream (Buy from Amazon, $22.71)

A go-to product specifically formulated for the skin that Marnie Nussbaum, MD, FAAD, NYC-based board-certified dermatologist swears by, that’s great for the skin around the eyes, is this one.

“This cream’s clean formula is free of alcohol and sulfates, amongst other ingredients,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “The clinically-proven eye cream helps skin tone appear more even for eyes that look better overall with just two weeks of use.”

What *not* to apply to droopy lids

Remember, drooping eyelids can be caused by natural aging, so keeping your skin hydrated is essential for maintaining firmness and elasticity. “This especially goes for the skin around the eyes because it’s one of the most delicate of areas,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “To ensure optimal hydration, I always recommend avoiding products that are formulated with ingredients like alcohol and sulfates because those ingredients are known for drying out the skin.”

How to fix droopy eyelids without surgery using makeup

Mature woman close up of eyelids

A great cosmetics routine can help you learn how to fix droopy eyelids without surgery. Professional makeup artist and educator Nadine Jamison is a motivational speaker and the owner and founder of Women Walk Taller. Here, her tricks to conceal your droopy eyelids with makeup.

Step 1: Trace the natural shape of your eyes

When applying your eye makeup, the goal is to make your eyelids look ‘tighter’ by following the bone structure of your eyes, using dark and light shades. This way, explains Jamison, you’re creating shape where it doesn’t already exist.  

When applying makeup on your eyelid, first, close your eyes, of course! “Using the natural bone structure of your socket, apply a darker, mid-tone color along that bone; this would be the upper portion of your socket. You can go slightly above the eye socket, but leave a gap between it and your brow. Then blend well.” Her tip: When applying makeup to conceal droopy lids, tap the makeup on initially for color placement with a flat brush. Then blend your eye color with a soft and fluffy eye brush. (Jamison doesn’t have a particular favorite makeup brush, so use whatever brand you’re comfortable with.) And keep the shadow on the inner lid area nice and light, “something similar to skin tone, maybe a touch brighter.”

Related: The 10 Best Eye Makeup Products for Women Over 60 to Enhance and Stand Out

Step 2: Curl your lashes

 “Yes, it’s an extra step, but it’s worth it if you want them standing up at attention for the added illusion of lift.” It’s a way to make your eyes stand out without zeroing in on the droopy eyes.

Related: What Is a Lash Lift and How Does It Work?

Step 3: Conceal dark circles

Jamison says there are two major keys to a more youthful, lifted look to your eyes. First, focus on color correction rather than concealer. “Use a product with a hint of peachy tone to counteract the blueish/purple hue of a dark circle, “and go easy on it. Less is more.”

Related: How to Make a Turmeric Paste for Dark Spots That Works Like a Charm — For Pennies!

Then, you want to brighten and highlight the skin around your eyes to conceal your droopy lids and this is where concealer comes in. Keep your undereye area dewy and hydrated with a luminous finish foundation around the eye area, “even if the rest of your complexion requires something more matte,” says Jamison. Mary Kay TimeWise Luminous 3D foundation (Buy from Mary Kay, $25) is Jamison’s personal favorite.

Related: The Best Undereye Concealers for Mature Skin That Brighten, Smooth and Hydrate

Here, Jamison shares how to cover your droopy lids with makeup and add a little “cat-eye” vibe to your eyes if you’re feeling extra bold:

As Jamison explains, a subtle cat-eye makeup look can also conceal droopy eyes, and it doesn’t have to be dramatic or too heavy. To perfect it, “it just requires a steady hand, and lots of patience.”

9 ways to prevent droopy eyelids without surgery

When it comes to your eye care routine, prevention is key. Caring for your eyes properly means you won’t need to conceal droopy lids later on. Keep this beauty advice in mind:

1. Wear sunglasses

This is an excellent excuse to wear a pair of cool sunglasses as often as possible.  “Sunglasses can protect the eyes from UV damage and that protection can extend to any skin they are shielding as well,” explains Dr. Goldbach.

However, don’t just grab any type of sunglasses; according to Dr. McCall, the best ones provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.  Not only will they help block collagen-destroying UV rays, “but they will help prevent strain on the muscles of the eyes caused by squinting.”

2. Apply sunscreen

“To prevent further damage to the eyelid skin, be sure to wear broad-spectrum SPF 30+ daily and every 2 hours when outdoors,” says Dr. McCall. “Look for a mineral sunscreen with the active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These tend to be gentle enough to use around the eyes without the stinging that some chemical sunscreens can cause.”

3. Stay away from smoke

“Studies have shown that smoking is a risk factor for premature skin aging,” explains Dr. McCall. “Free radicals in tobacco smoke impair the production of collagen and increases the production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). MMPs are enzymes that cause break-down of matrix proteins, collagen and elastic fibers.” Therefore, when this breakdown happens because of smoking, sagging of the skin around the eyes occurs.

4. Try facial exercises

As a kid, adults might have joked if you make a silly face it will freeze that way forever, but eye/face workouts can be beneficial. “You can incorporate facial exercises into your daily routine to strengthen the muscles around the eyes,” says Dr. Arora. “Focus on gentle eye-opening and closing movements.”

Related: Face Excercises That Make You Look 10 Years Younger

5. Stay hydrated

“Proper hydration maintains skin elasticity,” says Dr. Arora. By sipping water on the regular, you can keep your skin moisturized and help prevent skin and eyelid sag. “General guidelines often suggest around 8 cups (64 ounces) of water per day as a starting point, but individual needs can vary based on factors like climate, activity level and personal health.”

6. Avoid rubbing your eyes

Whether due to allergies, dry eyes or stress, some of us rub our eyes or forehead during the day, without even realizing we’re doing it. Dr. Goldbach says it’s best to avoid trauma to the eyes such as eye rubbing if you want to keep your lids up.

7. Use a silky eye mask at bedtime

silk eye mask to prevent droopy eyellids
Yulia Lisitsa/Getty images

Dr. Goldbach says one way to prevent damage to the delicate eyelid skin is to minimize friction on the area. “Consider using a silk pillowcase or eye mask which prevents the rougher cotton fabric of your pillow from rubbing on your eye area.” She personally uses this Mulberry silk one from Athena Club (Buy from Athena Club, $35). Click through to learn more about the skincare benefits of silk pillowcases.

8. Sleep on more than one pillow

If you feel like you only need just one pillow when catching your zzz’s consider elevating your head with two pillows. “Sometimes eyelids can seem heavier if they are swollen. Sleeping on two pillows may help to reduce swelling and puffiness that can contribute to the appearance of droopy or heavy eyelids,” explains Dr. Camp.

9. Apply a cold compress

metal spoon to prevent droopy eyelids
Pep Karsten/Getty Images

Doing this can also help reduce eye puffiness and fend off lid droop. Dr. Camp recommends keeping a metal spoon in the refrigerator. When it’s nice and cold, press the flat side of the spoon against your eyes to soothe them and decrease puffiness. It’s a hidden gem beauty secret!

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