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Inside the Eye & How to Keep Your Eyes Wide— or Fake It

Inside the Eye: The colored part of the eye is the iris—the unique aspect of another person’s face that is so memorable. The pupil is the black circle in the middle of the eye that expands in the dark to let in more light and contracts in the sunlight to keep out excessive UV rays.

Behind the iris is the lens. The lens of the eye contains high levels of vitamins C and E, which suggests these are eye-healthy vitamins to include in our diets. The cells of the lens make a special set of proteins called crystallins that allow red, blue, green, yellow, and UV wavelengths to pass through the lens and onto the retina. The lens helps to focus light on the retina, which then sends to the brain an image of what we are seeing. The lens of the eye is the only organ that never sheds a cell.

The retina is a light-sensitive membrane that contains millions of light receptor cells. It lines the eye and receives images from the lens. The retina has high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids; specifically, very high levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are present in the membranes of photoreceptor cells. The retina also contains zinc, plus high levels of the related carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

Lutein, a natural yellow pigment, is highly concentrated in the macula lutea, a yellowish spot close to the center of the retina. Lutein filters out blue light, which is believed to be damaging—hence, lutein has been dubbed natural sunglasses. Lutein has antioxidant properties as well. It is not manufactured by the body, so the only way to obtain it is by eating it. Spinach, one of my Top10 Beauty Foods, is an excellent source of lutein.

Over time, free radicals damage the retina as well as components of the lens, including lipids and proteins. The eyes are protected in part by enzymes that digest damaged proteins. Antioxidants not only help protect the eyes from free-radical damage directly, but also keep the protective enzymes functioning longer.

When damage to the lens accumulates, opaque areas called cataracts gradually develop. Different kinds of damage to the retina—for example, problems caused by premature birth, diabetes, or high blood pressure—are grouped under the umbrella term retinopathy. When damage to the light-sensitive cells at the back of the retina—more specifically, to the area that produces the sharpest vision, called the macula—accumulates over time, the result is called agerelated macular degeneration, or AMD.

How to Keep Your Eyes Wide— or Fake It: Here are some tips and tricks for looking bright-eyed and alert—even when you’re feeling the opposite!

*Most people have puffy eyes in the morning. Usually the puffiness clears up as you stand up and go about your day. If you seriously don’t want to wake up with puffy eyes, try sleeping on pillows that keep your head elevated.

*To help eliminate dark circles under your eyes, get more beauty sleep.

*To avoid wrinkles, don’t spend extended periods of time in front of a computer or television screen. Avoid any activity that stresses the eyes and causes you to squint. To diminish an existing line, you can try sleeping with a piece of tape over it.

*Wear sunglasses. Bright sunlight makes you squint and contributes to wrinkles; plus, the UV light harms both your eyes and the delicate skin around your eyes.

*Relax. Finding ways to relax not only can reduce dark circles but also is incredibly beneficial to your overall appearance.

*Apply soothing substances to your eyes, including green tea, chamomile, cucumber, witch hazel, ginkgo, and aloe vera. For a home remedy, soak chamomile tea bags in ice water until they’re really cold, squeeze out the water, then place the bags on your eyelids for 15 to 20 minutes. An alternative is to use cold cucumber slices or simply a cold cloth. Both the cool compresses and the relaxation will help your appearance.

*Shape your brows so they have an arch that opens the area above your eyes. However, don’t try to redraw the brows nature gave you.

*Use an under-eye moisturizer specifically designed for the area. Some contain skin lighteners, while others are supposed to shrink capillaries. Keeping skin moist will diminish wrinkles.

*Line your eyes, but to make them appear larger, don’t line them all the way around with the same color. Try a darker shade on top and a lighter shade below.

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