When Lt. George Del Grande of the Belleville Fire Department in New Jersey turned 40 last month, he took it in stride because he felt as physically fit as ever and had recently earned his certification as a personal trainer.
But there are some areas that no amount of exercise can tone.
''My wife said I was getting the old turkey's feet on the sides of my eyes, the wrinkles,” said Del Grande, who works two 24-hour shifts a week. “I also get dark circles under my eyes, and people tell me I look tired.”
Now he uses Protein Booster Eye Rescue by Jack Black ($40), which promises to combat puffiness, dark circles and fine lines.
''When I use it, I get compliments like, ‘You look well-rested,' or ‘You look healthier,’ or ‘You look like you went tanning,’” Del Grande said.
A generation ago, men dismissed using anything besides shaving cream and after-shave on their faces as unmanly. But now, despite the recession, revenue from department stores for men's skin care products in 2011 grew 11 percent over 2010, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. And within the category, men's eye creams grew even more dramatically, by 33 percent. Revenue for men's eye products was $5.4 million in 2011, up from $3.5 million in 2007.
Brian Boye, the fashion and grooming director for Men's Health, said that while “having wrinkles was once a sign of being distinguished for men,” those days are gone.
''Looking younger is more in the thought process,” Boye said, “and it's new for guys to be held to the same sort of standards of beauty and youth that women have always been held to.”
Blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery, was the third most popular cosmetic surgery for men in 2011, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Men underwent 8.8 percent of procedures overall but accounted for 15.5 percent of the eye surgeries. (The average cost of the procedure is $2,630, with about 10 days of down time before being presentable.)
For the scalpel-averse, there are scores of over-the-counter products.
Murphy D. Bishop II, 40, vice president for sales and marketing at Butter London, a nail products company, has been using 911 Eye Gel ($36) from Menaji, a men's line, for more than a decade. Bishop, who lives in Seattle and travels frequently for work, keeps tubes in his briefcase and at home.
''I'm up at four or five to go to the gym and I'm constantly on flights, and I really feel like it alleviates puffiness and perks me up,” Bishop said.
Clinique Skin Supplies for Men has both Age Defense for Eyes ($28), a cream, for fine lines, and Anti-Fatigue Cooling Eye Gel ($28), a roll-on with a stainless steel ball, for puffiness. From Anthony Logistics for Men there is Continuous Moisture Eye Cream ($33), which promises to fight signs of aging, and, under the Anthony for Men Action sub-brand, the Rescue Eye Stick ($25), for puffiness. And lower-priced brands available in drugstores include two more roll-ons, Nivea for Men Eye Roller Gel ($8) and L'Oreal Paris Men's Expert Hydra-Energetic Ice Cold Eye Roller ($11).
Sales of the men's product Kiehl's Facial Fuel Eye De-Puffer ($20), which comes in a stick form, have increased about 30 percent each year since its introduction four years ago, said Chris Salgardo, the president of Kiehl's.
Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, a dermatologist in New York City and assistant clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, said her male patients seem to suffer under-eye bagginess and discoloration more severely than women.
''I don't know if it's because of an anatomical difference or a culture of neglect,” said Alexiades-Armenakas, referring to men being less likely to use moisturizer, sunblock or concealer under their eyes. “But the men just have these very large festoons under their eyes so they look like hound dogs.”
Many products that claim to reduce puffiness contain caffeine, which is effective at constricting vessels, resulting in decreasing the fluid in under-eye tissues, she said. (The folk remedy of putting used, cooled tea bags on eyes, it turns out, has some physiological basis.)
Perhaps the best thing for eyes is to close them.
''There's a reason it's called ‘beauty sleep,’” Alexiades-Armenakas said. “If you don't get 8 1/2 hours, your eye muscles just don't rest sufficiently, and if the muscles aren't rested they don't oxygenate properly and the vessels dilate and you get puffiness and discoloration.”
But some men, like women, simply inherit prominent fat pads under their eyes or are suffering from allergies, which can cause both temporary and permanent puffiness. Alexiades-Armenakas suggests topical treatments and sometimes performs a laser treatment, which restricts vessels to reduce swelling and discoloration.
In its annual grooming-awards issue this year, Men's Health selected Lab Series Max LS Instant Eye Lift ($44) as the best eye product, and Boye, the grooming editor, said men generally are more reliant on such guidance than women are.
''Women go to the bathroom together and talk about lip color, but in my experience guys don't get together for ‘Monday Night Football’ and talk about what eye creams they use,” Boye said.
Certainly Sgt. Steven Courville of the Providence, R.I., Police Department, who uses eye cream to fight puffiness and dark circles that come with long shifts, does not brag about this in the squad room.
''By all means,” Courville said, “I'm not going to tell other cops I use a froufrou eye cream.”
He also uses Protein Booster Eye Rescue along with several other products from the Jack Black line.
''A lot of guys’ faces look like they've been run over by a truck,” said Courville, 43. “I don't want to be in my 60s or 70s and look like I have a face made of leather.”