Eyes are the hardest—ask any dermatologist, plastic surgeon or even cosmetic company. "They show your age first, and we’ve got the fewest solutions for them" is what New York dermatologist Robert Anolik always says to me. But his eyes light up when I ask him this time: There’s a surprising new way to treat the undereye. A consortium of scientists at MIT and Harvard have created two creams that cross-link into an invisible film you wear for up to 16 hours. The film compresses and smooths undereye bags and wrinkles to an amazing degree; essentially, you’re shrink-wrapping your skin. A few days later, I’m looking at before-and-after pictures from the company behind the breakthrough, Living Proof. And they’re nothing short of astounding. They agree to let me try it for a day; they have to train me to apply and remove the film, which is why the kit is sold only at dermatologists’ offices. (It costs about $500 on top of the dermatologist’s fee.) I smooth on the creams, one on top of the other, with an odd, futuristic-looking tool that thins and evens the film, and wait.
Applying the cream takes seconds; in under five minutes, there’s a major difference between the eye with the film and the eye without (the full effect can take three hours, but mine seemed much faster). You can’t see the film itself; my undereye area was just suddenly, miraculously, no longer an issue. You’re not supposed to touch it, and you can’t wear regular makeup over it—they offered a concealing powder, but I find, impossibly, I don’t really need concealer.
Living Proof has patented the same shrink-wrap technology for use on many body parts. (Imagine a future where people peel off their “faces” or even their entire bodies at the end of a day!) For now, people with severe undereye bags—they have to be serious enough that fixing them really affects how you look—can go to the dermatologist and walk out with a kit that all but erases them, one day at a time.
Concurrently, other companies are coming out with at-home devices to give in-office treatments a run for their money: The Daft Punk–ish-looking new Illumask was developed to emulate LED antiaging and acne treatments; its LED is less powerful than an in-office version, but because you use it every day, the results add up: A month of daily 15-minute treatments with red and infrared light increases collagen production and cell turnover, resulting in younger-looking skin. The anti-acne version—red and blue light—kills bacteria and reduces inflammation for clearer skin in one month.
Fractionated technology (Fraxel and the less-powerful, less-downtime Clear + Brilliant lasers) delivers seriously smoother, tighter, less-wrinkled skin by making microscopic holes in your skin, resurfacing it and stimulating collagen. I was jealous months ago when I exclaimed over Manhattan dermatologist Amy Wechsler’s skin and she credited not just her endless supply of Chanel (she’s the consulting dermatologist for Chanel) but the fact that she had access to a Clear + Brilliant machine: "You know, I’m a dermatologist! That machine’s right in my office—I do it all the time!" The new at-home Tria Age-Defying Laser ($495, triabeauty.com) emits lower energy but spreads treatments out over time (making it safe to use on your own) and claims similar results—firmer, glowier, smoother skin—over 12 weeks.
The non-existent downtime, drastically lower price tag and convenience factor make a longer wait for results worth it for many, says New York/Miami dermatologist Fredric Brandt: "It’s not going to replace in-office treatments like lasers or Fraxel, but it could in theory help maintain results." It also may bolster over-the-counter skin creams’ effectiveness. In short, it’s a new world.
At the end of my day-of-no-undereye-bags, I was ready to take off the film: For one, mascara, as it does, had migrated and collected just under the edge of the film (the concealing powder may negate this effect). I hesitated at the prospect of watching myself age five to 10 years as the film came off, but weirdly, the real me wasn’t as distressing as I expected. Maybe my undereyes weren’t as bad as I’d imagined originally, or maybe my brain simply overcorrects what I look like to myself in the mirror. I know that were I a news anchor, an actress on the red carpet or a CEO trying to reassure investors of my youthful relevance, I’d put on that film every morning. If I were a woman considering a surgical eye job, I would forget about that eye job and get myself some film. And the next time I have a photo shoot, have to appear on TV or find myself invited to a wedding/high school reunion/fabulous party where I want to look especially fantastic, I am really—really—going to think about it.