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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Kelvin Goh and Dr Jessica Gunawan on April 18, 2023

How To Use TCM To Reduce Crows Feet

Crows feet are a natural part of aging, but things like stress, smoking, and a hectic lifestyle can make them appear quicker than most people would like. Learn how to keep the skin around your eyes looking young and firm here.

Crows feet min scaled

Crows feet are wrinkles that appear around the corner of your eyes in the shape of – you guessed it – crows feet.

They tend to show up as you get older. However, overexposure to the sun and living a hectic lifestyle can make them appear sooner than most people would like.

Fortunately, skincare has come a long way in addressing these early signs of aging. Read on to learn how crows feet form and how to get rid of them naturally.

What Are Crows Feet?

An image of a woman holding her hand to her face to block the sun
Overexposure to the sun may lead to premature wrinkling of the skin.

Crows feet, appearing in the outer corners of the eyes, are a part of the aging process. As we age, our body’s cell production and renewal slow down. This also means our skin produces less collagen, a protein that gives the skin its structure and elasticity.

With less collagen, the middle layer of our skin, called the dermis, thins out. This leads to depressions in the outermost layer of our skin, the epidermis. These epidermal depressions are the wrinkles you see when you examine your skin in the mirror.

Two types

Crows feet can be categorized into two types: dynamic and static.

Dynamic crows feet form due to muscle movements under the skin around your eyes. You can see these lines only when you smile, squint your eyes, or frown. They look like a bird’s footprints; thus, the name “crows feet.” 

Meanwhile, static crows feet are visible even when your muscles are at rest. These result from many years of squinting, smiling and frowning. Premature aging due to sun damagesmoking, and pore-clogging pollutants also are causes of early onset static crows feet. 

Do Skincare Products For Crows Feet Work?

Aside from living a healthy and balanced life, topical skincare is a go-to option for many of us. But do they work?

The good news is some of them do. However, topical treatments only reduce the appearance of wrinkles rather than remove deep wrinkles altogether. 

Over four decades of research have shown retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) can effectively improve wrinkles, including crows feet. Because retinoids stimulate collagen production, it helps to thicken the epidermis over time. 

  • Some retinoids, like tretinoin, work more quickly than others but may be too harsh for some people. Luckily, even milder over-the-counter retinoids like retinol can reduce wrinkles.
  • The Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology published a study in 2015 showing a significant reduction in facial wrinkles among study subjects following 12 weeks of retinol application. 
  • Recently, skincare ingredients on pharmacy shelves include vitamin C and peptides. While less studied than retinoids, these molecules also hold some promise in reducing crows feet. Vitamin C derivatives work similarly to retinoids, promoting collagen production in fibroblast cells in the dermis.

In a recent study published in 2020 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, peptides were shown to stimulate collagen production at the basement membrane. This internal structure connects the dermal and epidermal layers of the skin. 

Natural Remedies For Crows Feet

A young woman receiving facial acupuncture
Facial acupuncture can help stimulate collagen production to reduce facial wrinkles.

More recently, many skincare professionals also recommend facial acupuncture as a treatment for facial wrinkles, including crows feet. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are among the core modalities that make up Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Facial acupuncture helps with aging skin

TCM physician Kelvin Goh explains that the outer corners around the eyes are the meeting point of the gallbladder and Triple Burner meridian (san jiao).

“If these meridians’ qi (vital life force) and blood energy levels are stagnant, these areas will experience aging faster as there is less energy to nourish them. Therefore, crows feet will start to form.”

TCM Physician Kelvin Goh

He agrees that facial acupuncture can help reduce crows feet. “Acupoints that target these meridians regulate qi and blood energies and can ease Stagnation,” he confirms.

A 2013 study demonstrated that facial acupuncture significantly reduced the appearance of wrinkles in 27 study subjects. 

Exercise and herbal remedies can also help

In addition to facial acupuncture, Physician Goh recommends regular exercise and following the right diet.

“According to TCM, the Lungs oversee the skin. By having a pair of strong lungs from exercising regularly, the Lungs will regulate qi, essence, and body fluids on the body’s surface. This helps strengthen the skin’s elasticity.”

TCM Physician Kelvin Goh

Physician Goh also explains that the proteins responsible for skin elasticity, such as elastin and collagen, are considered yin (cooling) foods. The herbs that fall in this category include:

A 2022 study found that edible bird’s nest improved skin elasticity in the treatment group compared to that in the placebo group. As with all TCM regimens, it is important to work with a certified TCM physician before consuming these herbs.

You can also boost collagen production by taking a collagen supplement.

A Healthy Lifestyle Gives You Better Skin

Ultimately, there is nothing clinically wrong with having crows feet. Some may even say these lines reflect the life experience and wisdom we have gained as we age.

Yet, it is also worthwhile to improve our appearance if it makes us feel better, especially with effective treatment options at our disposal, such as those listed in this article. Share this article with someone who wants to get rid of their wrinkles!

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