The ever-popular blepharoplasty (a.k.a. eyelid surgery or eye lift) procedure corrects signs of aging on the upper eyelid, lower eyelid, or, in some cases, both, including loose skin, upper lid hooding, under eye bags, and more. Younger blepharoplasty patients (think: those in their twenties and thirties) often undergo surgery to address and/or change the structure of the eyes. When asymmetries, lack of definition in the upper lid, and persistent bags are long-standing complaints, the procedure can be a long-term fix.
But not everyone is ready for, nor needs, an eye lift to improve the look of the eyes. That's why non-surgical treatment options like thread lifts, fillers, neuromodulator brow lifts, lash extensions, and even contouring makeup are considered the next best things. Here, we’re rounding up the top four ways to rejuvenate and enhance the look of the eyes – sans surgery.
1. Accentuate the Lashes
One of the quickest and most painless ways to accentuate and enhance the appearance of the eyes is with eyelash extensions. By adhering the correct lash extension style to the eye, attention is drawn away from droopy or puffy eyelids for a more youthful and lifted appearance, says Clementina Richardson, a celebrity lash expert and founder of Envious Lashes. Unfortunately, there are a lot of women walking around with thick, unnatural-looking extensions or without a design that complements the natural shape of the eye, which makes them appear heavy and even droopy. Richardson shares that for extensions to open up the eyes, you should ask for longer extensions in the center of the upper eyelid. “Stay away from longer ends, which pulls the eyes downward,” she notes.
Opening the eyes via lash extensions is an art, not a one-size-fits-all treatment – especially if the objective is to take years off and camouflage tired, sagging, or hooded lids (check out our guide to lash extensions for monolids and hooding). “Lashes frame the eyes and can do a lot of good for people who want to add lift, volume, and texture,” she explains. “[They] act as an enhancement of your natural lashes.”
An almond-shaped eye is the most requested look. “When you have almond eyes, there is more versatility in shaping,” Richardson says. However, regardless of the shape of the eyes, a custom approach is always best. A universal tip: Lash extensions should always boast a nice curl. When the extensions appear too straight or too long, they can pull down on the eyes. “This can make the eyes appear smaller and weighted,” she cautions.
Lash Serums & Mascara
If lash extensions or false strips — we're into the reusable Good Janes J-Lash, made from mink fur collected from shedding — aren't for you, there are ways to coerce the natural lashes to grow longer and thicker. A peptide-packed lash growth serum, like the Beverly Hills MD Lash Enhancing Serum from board certified plastic surgeons John Layke, DO, and Payman Danielpour, MD, will flood the lashes and follicles with the ingredient (each product has its own mix of ingredients, which can pair peptides with hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and more). After consistent use for about 12 weeks, the lashes will appear noticeably longer, stronger, and more fluttery.
There are also mascaras that have nourishing ingredients within the formula to improve eyelash health. The Freck Beauty Lashrocket Mascara pulls double duty as a mascara and lash serum in one thanks to its blend of powerful peptides that help weak lashes look and feel fuller and longer in about one month. It’s a buildable matte black formula that doesn’t clump or smudge.
2. Fill in the Hollows
When dark shadows and hollowing have you reaching for concealer morning, noon, and night, it may be time to consider under eye filler. Injecting hyaluronic acid (HA)-based filler into the depressions where the top of the nose and orbital rim meet can be a game-changer for those who are concerned about the effect the tear troughs are having on their eye area as a whole. “Hollows can also make someone look older and more tired with a darker appearance due to a shadow effect,” says Robert Schwarcz, MD, a board certified oculofacial plastic surgeon in New York City.
It's normal, with age, for the fat under the eyes to descend further down the face and for the bone or orbital socket to dwindle in density. These combinations, plus changes to the texture and thickness of the skin, make it more common for the signs of aging to quickly surface under the eyes and send patients running to their doctor's office to fix them. The way filler works in this area is pretty simple. The addition of volume plumps up the depressions to create a more pillowy and smooth appearance. The filler also plumps up the skin so that light can better reflect off the area. “Addressing the contour deficit fills the area,” Dr. Schwarcz explains. If the texture of the under eye skin is a concern, he suggests microneedling with radiofrequency, lasers, and chemical peels.
HA-based filler isn’t the only injectable that can be used under the eye. Angela Lamb, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC, likes to mix filler with platelet-rich fibrin (PRF) in some cases. “If the problem is true volume loss, those are my go-tos,” she says. As she explains, under eye filler works better for correcting an indent or hollowness and perhaps a mild bag, whereas surgery is best suited for more prominent bags and redundant skin.
Often, it requires taking a holistic approach and considering all aspects of the face to create a natural and harmonious appearance. With age, the cheeks can start to sag, which causes ligaments in the area to pull down on the outer corner of the eye, says Julis Few, MD, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Chicago. The strategic placement of filler can address this. “Returning the cheeks to a more elevated position also lifts the outer corner of the eye so that it appears more like a cat eye,” he explains. And don't be surprised if your doctor also injects some filler into the temples, which is a prime target area for volume loss. The brow's tail gets a little boost, too, to make the temples appear less sunken and the eye area smoother overall.
3. Don’t Neglect the Brows
In situations where the eyebrows are behind the changes to the shape and appearance of the eyes, addressing the positioning of the brows can make a world of difference. Over time, the tails of the brows tend to drop and fall downward, decreasing the distance between the upper eyelid and the eyebrows. In addition, a low brow position can add weight to the upper eyelid. In severe cases, it can encroach on the eyelid space, Dr. Schwarcz shares. There are both in-office and at-home solutions to address this:
Botox Brow Lift
One of the best ways to give a visible – albeit temporary – lift to the brows is with the so-called Botox brow lift. It involves injecting small amounts of neuromodulators (read: Botox®, Dysport®, Jeuveau®, or Xeomin®) to improve the position of the brows for three to four months at a time. To further complement newly lifted arches, many doctors inject the crow's feet and glabellar lines that form at the outer corners and in between the eyes to smooth the skin and make everything in the area appear refreshed and youthful. Keep in mind that using neuromodulators to lift the brow won’t do anything to address loose skin.
The Botox brow lift is effective for achieving some lifting and shaping but is less dramatic than other options, like a thread lift, Dr. Few notes. Thread lift procedures are pretty much downtime-free – save for some minor swelling – and involve placing absorbable sutures for an instant and long-term (they stimulate collagen over the coming months) lift in those with mild brow and eyelid sagging. “The threads go underneath the skin's surface to gently lift the area via small hooks that grab and hold the skin in place,” Dr. Lamb explains. Threads can also benefit those who are beginning to notice a ‘heavy’ forehead and drooping eyes and desire a little refresher before surgery down the line.
Precise placement of threads can help hoist the outer part of the brow, making the outer corners of the eyes appear more lifted. “I like to use threads in an upside-down ‘U’ configuration going up to the hairline to lift the outer corner of the outer third of the brow,” Dr. Few says. As he explains, this technique helps remove unwanted hooding of the upper eyelid while gently elevating the outer corner of the eye and brow. In these cases, neurotoxin injections are necessary to relax the forehead muscles and reap the full benefits of the threads. “Otherwise, the threads will pull through the tissue and cause the brow to drop again,” he notes.
Doctors can also use threads to tweak the shape of the eyes, but it doesn't always need to result in the now-popular fox eye look, a term that Dr. Few coined years ago during a lecture. “The goal should not be a hyper-elevated, unnaturally appearing cat look, but rather a natural elevation that enhances the appearance of the brow and upper eyelid,” he says. “The threads should create a pleasing appearance while being more exotic in a younger person and restoring natural positioning in someone experiencing age-related changes.” This is why selecting the right provider to perform the procedure is of the utmost importance — you want their before and after results and overall aesthetic to match the look you are trying to achieve.
Keep in mind that while threads can provide some improvement, the skin in the brow and upper eyelid area is sensitive and thin. During the first few days, it may look pleated or bunched up due to overcorrection. “Surgery is the gold standard and would be my first choice for anyone wanting a predictable, long-lasting result,” Dr. Few says. Non-surgical solutions, like the combination of threads and neuromodulators, last about six to 12 months and require maintenance to retain the results. Since the benefits are relatively temporary, it’s essential to have realistic expectations and understand what threads can and cannot fix, Dr. Lamb says.
Brow powders and pencils can be just as important as doctor-administered treatments. With age, the brow hairs tend to become patchy and thin, and their once-crisp arch melts into an unorganized silhouette. Yet, redefining the arch with expert shaping (check out our tips for how to shape your brows at home) and filling them in with a good brow product (we’ve rounded up the best powders, pomades, pencils, and gels) can make a significant difference. “The eyebrows lend structure to the face and frame the eyes, and, when properly filled in, they can create the effect of a brow lift," says Dani Kimiko Vincent, a celebrity makeup and brow artist and founder of KIMIKO.
To create the illusion of a more lifted brow, start by filling in the upper outer arch instead of the front of the brows. “This will concentrate the filling in the area that lifts the brows and draws them up and outwards for a more open eye,” Kimiko Vincent explains. Avoid drawing down at the end of the brow. “You’ll want to keep the front of the eyebrows light and always feather the product through with a spoolie brush to blend and soften,” she shares. The trick here is to use a soft yet precise brow pencil, like the KIMIKO Super Fine Eyebrow Pencil Automatique, so that the product looks natural and not colored in or penciled on. Finally, set the brows with a long-wear gel, like the KIMIKO Brow Sensei.
4. Use the Right Eye Makeup
Applying the right eye makeup – using appropriate colors and proper technique – adds visible contrast and draws attention to the eyes. Everyone's eye shape is unique and, while there are specific ways to enhance different shapes, this basic principle always applies: bring light forward and recede what's dark, Kimiko Vincent says. Similarly, using liner and mascara to lift the eyes is a universal solution.
When using makeup to enhance the eyes and make them look more youthful, Kimiko Vincent says to concentrate darker shadows on the lash line and towards the outer sections of the lid. “Sometimes, I contour with shadow to help the eyes appear more doe-eyed and, when necessary, I'll use a lighter shade of shadow on the lid so that they don't appear as sunken,” she shares. One thing to be aware of is mixing crepey skin with shimmery shadows, which has the potential to accentuate laxity. Instead, a matte neutral shadow, like the ones in the new GXVE by Gwen Stefani Eye See in Color Clean Multidimensional Eyeshadow Palette in Simple Kind of Life, is a better option.
If a sagging upper lid is bothersome, focus on using darker shadows and placing them on the upper, outer portions of the eyelids. “From there, use lighter colors in the inner and middle sections of the lids,” Kimiko Vincent explains. She also recommends applying eyeliner on just the top lid and keeping the liner's tail (the end) lifted.
The classic cat eye is a favorite for creating a lifted outer corner. To do it, Kimiko Vincent recommends using liquid liner, pencil liner, or a deep eyeshadow and a smudger brush or tool. “A kitten eye starts from the center outwards and is slimmer than a traditional cat eye,” she explains. “You can subtly extend the inner corners with eyeliner to add a more feline eye shape.” Shadows are also helpful in contouring the eyes. Again, keep the darker tones towards the outer portion of the lid and concentrate mascara on the outer portion to draw the eye shape up and out.
Speaking of mascara, don't forget about the lashes. Kimiko Vincent says to curl the eyelashes first because “the eyes always benefit from a lift.” It makes them “appear instantly more youthful,” she adds. Before swiping on mascara, layer on a lash primer for extra volume and staying power. Then, coat the lashes with a volume and lengthening formula. Kimiko Vincent says to focus on lifting the lashes while sweeping on the mascara, paying extra attention to the outer corners of the eyes.
While a blepharoplasty and/or brow lift may be the gold standards for rejuvenating the upper third of the face, they are not for everyone. Whether you are looking to delay going under the knife or are not a candidate for surgery, there are minimally invasive solutions and even at-home makeup tips that can refresh the lids, brows, and lashes.
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