The debate rages on: Is eye cream truly necessary, or is it just another pot of expensive promises? Some consider it the unsung hero of their skincare routine whereas some raise an eyebrow (albeit cautiously, to avoid wrinkling) at the very notion of what might be a fancier moisturizer.
Well, I currently use three different eye creams so I know where I stand. But in case you’re a doubter, I’m here to convince you and tell you everything you need to know about eye creams, starting from the myriad of benefits they offer, and walk you through the process of choosing the right one for you.
But first things first. Here’s how the skin on the eye area differs from the rest of your face, which will explain the very reason for the existence of eye creams. The skin under the eyes, the lower eyelid, is one of the thinnest in your body (1). Because of that thin skin, any potential issue, such as dark circles, becomes more pronounced, urging us to seek out remedies that might help.
Also, any change in the skin due to aging becomes more visible and prominent. Some of those changes include fine lines that stretch out from the outer corners of the eyes, which are called crows’ feet because they look like so. And since the eye area takes up about half the upper face, it can affect your confidence and the way you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror.
As you can infer, whether it’s innate or acquired, these concerns can be bothersome for some. The thing is everyone wants to address pesky fine lines and wrinkles but not everyone believes that you should do it with a special eye cream. Well, get ready to change your mind!
What Is Eye Cream?
Eye cream is an undereye care product formulated for the delicate skin around the eyes. It’s practically a moisturizer but for the under-eyes. Compared to a typical face cream, an eye cream is smaller in size and is usually about 0.5 ounces or 15 ml.
It varies in texture and consistency and can range anywhere between a serum and a balm. In your skincare routine, eye cream plays an important role in keeping the eye area moisturized, smooth, and healthy.
What Are the Benefits of Eye Cream?
At its core, eye cream is a moisturizer. So the most important benefit of an eye cream is to hydrate the eye area and keep the skin there moisturized.
2. Plumps Fine Lines
Hydrated skin looks smoother, plumper, and more youthful. And that results in a reduction in the appearance of fine lines around the eyes. While fine lines or furrows around the eyes may not be an issue for young skin, they certainly become so as you age. And eye creams can work as quick remedies in that department. Plus, certain anti-aging eye creams can even help you target existing wrinkles by stimulating collagen production and skin renewal.
3. Reduces the Appearance of Dark Circles
Certain eye creams contain active ingredients that specifically target certain under-eye concerns. One of the most common of those are dark circles under the eyes. By using a targeted eye cream, you can minimize the appearance of dark circles and dark shadows and achieve brighter, fresh-looking under-eyes.
4. Prevents Premature Wrinkles
Eye creams can also be used for preventative skincare. By moisturizing the under-eye area, protecting it from the harmful effects of free radicals, and infusing it with nourishing ingredients, eye creams can help you prevent the formation of premature wrinkles around the eyes.
5. Reduces Puffiness and Under-Eye Bags
When formulated with the right ingredients, eye cream can minimize the appearance of puffiness and give the illusion of tighter-looking skin around the eyes, which reduces the look of under-eye bags too. While what you can achieve with eye creams is limited in this department, they can at least help you fake a good night’s sleep.
Is Eye Cream Necessary?
Eye cream is not necessary if you don’t think it’s necessary. If you don’t have a major concern you’re dealing with or if you find them to be too expensive, you certainly do not have to go out of your way to get an eye cream.
On the other hand, the eye area is a very delicate, sensitive area. So most eye creams are made with that information in mind. And it’s for that reason that even if you can use your eye cream on your face, you can’t always use your face cream on the under-eye area.
In the end, it all comes down to your personal preference, how serious you are about your skincare routine, and how important it is for you to do as much as you can with topical skincare.
Can You Use Face Cream Instead of Eye Cream?
Yes and no. Again, most eye creams tend to be incredibly gentle because of the sensitive skin around the eyes. Most face creams, on the other hand, are formulated for a variety of skin issues and skin types.
They contain several ingredients that might be OK to use for the skin on your cheeks but not so much for the skin around the eyes. So while you can technically use a face moisturizer for the eyes, you need to use caution and make sure it’s gentle.
What Are the Best Ingredients to Look For in an Eye Cream?
There’s a sea of ingredients that can be formulated into an eye cream. However, some ingredients have more research behind them and, therefore more evidence, to back their efficiency. And these make the holy grail ingredients to look for in your eye creams. Here’s what they are.
1. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is, like, the representative of the humectants family, which are a blend of compounds that attract and bind water to the skin. In your eye cream, it helps to hydrate the eye area (2). A similar option to look for is glycerin. Luckily, you don’t need to look too much as most eye creams contain some form of hyaluronic acid anyways.
Ceramides can work great if you have dry under-eyes. It’s because ceramides are part of the skin’s own lipid layers. They reduce transepidermal water loss, which is the amount of water your skin loses (3). Eye creams made with ceramides can help keep the under-eye area smoother, and plumper.
3. Vitamin C
As an antioxidant, vitamin C is one of the best ingredients to look for in an eye cream. It’s because it’s a multi-tasker that addresses several issues. It increases collagen production and can help prevent the arrival of premature wrinkles. It reduces hyperpigmentation, so it can get rid of dark spots and uneven skin tone around the eyes. It’s an antioxidant, so it treats free radical damage and protects the eye area from further damage. It’s also usually combined with other brightening ingredients like licorice extract, niacinamide, and kojic acid.
Caffeine is another potent ingredient to look for in your eye cream. It’s because it’s also a multi-tasker that addresses both dark circles and puffy eyes and under-eye bags. It has a temporary tightening effect that results in tighter, brighter-looking skin. It’s usually paired with vitamin C in eye creams.
Retinol is one of the most effective anti-aging ingredients found in skincare products (4). It doesn’t get any more anti-aging than that. Not surprisingly, it’s found in eye creams too. If you have mature skin, aging skin, deep wrinkles, lots of sun damage, or stubborn dark spots, look for retinol in your eye creams.
So these are the most effective ingredients to look for in your eye creams. Again, this is not an exhaustive list but these ingredients have a lot of research behind them, which means you’re less likely to be disappointed by your eye cream.
There are always other ingredients that are almost as good. Some of them are antioxidants like resveratrol, green tea, ferulic acid, bakuchiol, coenzyme Q10, and other anti-aging ingredients like peptides and growth factors. These ingredients can be found alone or combined with other active ingredients in your eye cream.
Also, there are SPF eye creams that combine sun protection with hydration and you can take advantage of those if you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy lots of active ingredients but is very diligent about sun protection.
What Are the Ingredients to Avoid in an Eye Cream?
There may be scenarios where you need to actively avoid certain ingredients in your eye cream. For example, if you have sensitive skin, reactive skin, or ocular rosacea, avoid irritants in your eye cream. Some of the most common irritants found in eye creams are fragrance, parabens, or alcohol.
At What Age Should I Start Using an Eye Cream?
This depends on your skincare routine and your skincare goals. If you’re actively following a skincare routine and you don’t want to use your face moisturizer around the eyes, you can start using an eye cream starting in your early 20s.
Considering that our twenties are when we first start experiencing collagen loss (5), it’s a good age to go on a preventative skincare routine and include eye creams.
Eye creams to use in your 20s are typically geared towards hydration, and a little bit of prevention with the help of gentle active ingredients.
On the flip side, if you’ve never used eye cream before and you’re in your 30s, 40s, or even 50s, no sweat! You’re never too late to start taking care of your skin.
Eye creams to use in your 30s are usually a bit more intense than a basic moisturizer. Some can utilize retinol and other potent active ingredients as our thirties are when we have noticeable wrinkles around the eyes.
How Do I Choose an Eye Cream?
You can choose your eye cream based on your skin type as well as your main skin concerns. Most people will sift through the options starting from their concerns. Here’s a quick list of what type of eye creams to look for for each skin concern around the eyes.
What Types of Eye Creams are Available for Common Concerns?
For Dark Circles
If you have dark circles under your eyes, look for brightening eye creams. Vitamin C eye creams and vitamin K eye creams are incredibly helpful as they are proven to work on dark circles through their own mechanism of action.
For Puffiness and Eye Bags
If you’re dealing with puffy eyes, look for eye creams with caffeine as caffeine has a tightening effect on the skin. Also helpful are eye creams that contain green tea, which is also rich in caffeine and has a similar effect.
How Do I Choose an Eye Cream Based on My Skin Type?
If you don’t have a major skin concern or your skin type is the one that’s giving you a hard time, choose your eye cream based on your skin type. Here’s more.
For Oily Skin
If you have oily skin, it means that your eye area and eyelids tend to get oily. This might cause your eye cream to melt and move and get into your eyes which is a bother. It might also mean that you’re prone to milia, which are tiny yellow bumps that form around the eyes.
Either way, in the case of oily skin, the ingredients of your eye cream become secondary and the texture becomes primary. If you have oily skin, look for oil-free eye creams, non-comedogenic eye creams, or gel-based eye creams.
These will take care of the eye area but will mitigate problems caused by oily skin because of their lightweight consistency. If you’re dealing with milia, here’s our round-up of the best eye creams for milia.
For Dry Skin
If you have flaky skin and dry skin under the eyes, look for hydrating eye creams that have a thicker texture, almost like a balm. Hydrating eye creams usually contain a blend of moisture boosters like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, fatty acids, and plant oils.
For Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin, look for eye creams that are marketed as hypoallergenic or made for sensitive skin. These types of eye creams are usually fragrance-free, paraben-free, and made with soothing ingredients.
And they can help you address under-eye concerns without having to deal with irritation and redness. If you’re a fellow rosacea sufferer, take a look at our round-up of the best eye creams for rosacea.
Should I Use an Eye Cream, Eye Serum, or Eye Gel?
Compared to a typical eye cream, an eye gel has a thinner, lighter consistency. Eye gels are usually more about convenience and work better in summer water. If you don’t like the feel of an eye cream, you can absolutely go for an eye gel.
An eye serum has the thinnest texture, almost like water, which makes it very absorbent. Compared to eye creams and eye gels, eye serums are usually about treating a specific concern. That’s why they tend to contain potent active ingredients like vitamin C or retinol in higher concentrations.
Much like face serums, eye serums lack moisturizing ingredients. That’s why you usually need a separate eye cream if you’re using an eye serum. If you don’t want to splurge any more than you need to, stick with eye creams.
Can You Combine Eye Serums with Eye Creams?
Absolutely! Think about it! This is what we do for our face care. We use light, water-based serums and seal moisture in with moisturizers.
Similarly, you can use an eye serum, and massage it into the skin to get the benefits of the active ingredients. And you can apply your eye cream on top to keep the area moisturized, smooth, and plump.
On a side note, this is my favorite method for people with aging skin or wrinkles. Combining an eye serum with an eye cream, though costly, fits perfectly in an anti-aging skincare routine.
How About Other Eye Care Products?
Apart from eye creams, there are also other eye care products such as eye masks, under-eye patches, eye-sticks, and roll-ons. Eye masks and patches are incredibly helpful quick remedies that can freshen up and plump up the eye area.
Sticks and roll-ons are usually meant to massage the eye area and minimize puffiness and bags. These products should not be your primary eye care products but your supporting products to complement your eye cream.
How Do I Incorporate Eye Cream Into My Routine?
After finding an eye cream suitable for your skin type and skin concerns, you can start using it once or twice a day. It simply becomes another step in your skincare routine.
After washing your face, apply your toner, essence, serum, and any other water-based product. Once your skin absorbs those, apply your eye cream and then finish your routine with your face cream.
Some people apply eye cream last. Personally, I think it’s best to apply it before your moisturizer. Otherwise, your face cream might move onto the eye area, creating a barrier and preventing your eye cream from absorbing better.
When Do I Apply Eye Cream?
Apply your eye cream in your morning and evening routine. Using it in your morning routine helps you apply your concealer more easily. And using it in your evening routine helps you get the most out of it because it stays longer on your skin without any interference.
How Do I Apply Eye Cream?
Start with clean hands. Scoop or squeeze out a little amount of your eye cream onto your ring finger. Tap your both ring fingers together so that you have some product in both. Dab the cream into the skin on the under-eye area and gently massage the eye cream in circular motions. Massage the remaining product toward the brow bone.
How Much Eye Cream Should I Use?
Use a pea-sized amount of eye cream for both eyes. Anything more than that is likely to be a waste as it won’t absorb. Also, using more amounts than you should can cause pilling.
What Are Some Common Eye Cream Mistakes To Avoid?
- Expecting immediate results: It takes several months for active ingredients like retinol to work. You shouldn’t expect major, jaw-dropping improvements in wrinkles or fine lines after using your eye cream for just a couple of weeks.
- Using too much product: Applying too much eye cream will cause pilling and rub off. It’ll be a waste. Remember to use only a little.
- Applying too close to the eyes: If you apply your eye cream too close such as on the upper eyelid or close to the inner corners, it can move into the eyes and cause irritation and watery eyes.
- Not allowing it to absorb: Just like any other skincare product, you should let your eye cream absorb before you move on to using other products or makeup. For example, applying concealer right after applying eye cream will not only give you a flaky look but will also reduce the amount of coverage you’ll get.
- Using the wrong eye cream: Just because some eye cream claims that it offers whatever you need doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Before buying an eye cream, make sure it suits your skin type so that you don’t end up with milia or irritation. Make sure it packs ingredients that help with what you have so that you don’t end up underwhelmed with your results.
- Pulling and tugging: You don’t need to be harsh or aggressive when applying your eye cream. Pressing it into the skin too hard and pulling and tugging your skin will not make it work harder. Just tap it into the skin, massage it, use a gentle hand, and let it absorb.
- Using it once a day: Why use your eye cream once a day when you can use it twice a day? Most people have a skincare routine for the morning and have one for the evening. Include your eye cream in both!
What Are Some Eye Cream Tips and Tricks?
- Massage your skin: Massaging your skin when applying any skincare product, including eye cream, can maximize the benefits. If anything, massaging helps plump the skin and make it appear smoother. So take a few minutes to gently massage the eye area when using your eye cream.
- Use a roller: Using a Jade roller with your eye cream can help you massage the product into the skin. Because Jade is a cool stone, it helps with puffiness, especially in the morning.
- Keep it in the fridge: Keeping your eye cream or your eye serum with an applicator tip in your fridge will work like magic in the morning. It’s going to hydrate your skin but will also depuff your eye like an ice roller.
- Use brightening eye creams: Using a radiant finish eye cream can help your concealer to look more luminous and your eye area more fresh. Take advantage of brightening eye creams that have a pearly finish.
So this is how eye creams work, and how they help with under-eye care with a variety of benefits. Most eye creams, the ones with a satisfying amount of active ingredients and a pleasant texture, are usually a bit expensive. When it comes to eye creams, I believe high-end options are better not because they are pricey but because they usually deliver what they promise. But if you are new to eye creams and can’t yet splurge, I’ve rounded up affordable options that are almost as good as those high-end ones. Check out here the best drugstore eye creams for each concern.
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