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The eyes may be the window to the soul but they are also a measure of aging. Because of the expressive movement of tissues around the eye and the thinness of the skin, this area shows the first sign of aging changes on the face. The sphincteric action of the orbicularis oculi muscle generates an array of radiating wrinkles to the side and below the eye and exerts a downward pull on the eyebrow. Because we look at this area with great frequency, often the first thing we look at in a mirror, the development of wrinkling is quickly discovered.

Surgical removal of eyelid skin (blepharoplasty) and elevation of the eyebrows (browlift) are well known and effective strategies for periorbital aging. But they are best used in moderate to advanced stages of aging. In addition, some people simply don’t want surgery whether it is because of the recovery or the cost.

The use of lasers for facial wrinkle reduction is well known and has been around now for over two decades. But their use around the eyes and on the eyelids where the skin is thinner is the use of lesser depth laser treatments known as micropeels but with more restricted depths of penetration come less results as well.

The newer fractional laser treatments offer a paradigm shift is how laser energy is delivered. Rather than being ablative to 100% of the treated skin, the fractional laser treats but a portion of the surface. Rather than producing a complete layer of burn tissue, columns are created instead. This leaves a lot of uninjured skin between the vertical columns which allows for faster healing and less risk of scarring. But each column does deeper down into the dermis, creating a collagenous remodeling effect.

When fractional laser treatments are applied in the periorbital area, significant improvements have been reported in numerous clinical studies. Measurable improvements have been seen in reduction of wrinkles, skin tightening and eyebrow elevation. This was found to be true in all skin types, including those with darker pigmentations. The results come exclusively from the changes in the skin and such problems as fat herniation, significant malar and brow sagging and orbicularis muscle hypertrophy will not be improved by this or any form of laser resurfacing.

The caveat to success with fractional laser periorbital rejuvenation, and being able to treat the eyelids directly, is the use of low energies and multiple treatments. This allows for both safety with minimal risk of any adverse scarring and very quick recoveries in the order of a few days. Spaced about six weeks to eight weeks apart, a series of three or four treatments is needed to get the best results. One should anticipate a single maintenance treatment per year. It is also important to use a good topical regimen daily with both exfoliative and regenerative agents such as retinoic acid and ascorbic acids.

The use of the fractional laser offers a new treatment option for the aging eyelids and brows. Some have termed this the fractional eyelid lift or the ‘Madonna Lift’. But names aside, this laser treatment provides an intermediary step before surgery that can serve as an effective treatment for those with early sign of aging or as a delay manuever before blepharoplasty surgery is done later.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

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