Do Eye Creams Work? The Ultimate Guide

Do Eye Creams Work? The Ultimate Guide

Eye creams are all the rage - they can erase those dark circles under your eyes, iron out any wrinkles and fine lines, relax your puffy eyelids, and eliminate all other signs of aging.

Going by the advertisements, you'd think we’d discovered a miracle cure for all skin problems. But pardon those of us at Misumi if we raise an eyebrow at those claims. After all, aren’t eye creams just moisturizers that come in a smaller and more expensive package?

Do eye creams really work, and if yes, how? And even then, are they worth shelling out the extra money? Let’s see.

Why Do We Need Eye Creams? 

Eye creams are similar to high-quality moisturizers, but there are also some significant differences. For example, eye creams usually contain more active ingredients than regular moisturizers or skincare lotions.

That’s because the skin under our eyes is more delicate than the rest of the skin. They also have very few oil glands. Additionally, due to all the eye movement and the associated processes, the skin around our eyes receives more action and goes through more stress. The micro-movements of the muscles around the eye affect our skin, making it stretch and contract in minute ways, and these microscopic movements occur thousands of times in a single day.

eye creams do they really work

That’s why the thin skin under and around our eyes feels different from the rest of the body. It’s because it has a very different job than the skin on our cheeks, neck, or forehead.

Due to all of the above, eye creams also contain more active ingredients that target specific skin problems around our eyes. Eye creams are thicker and more nourishing than skincare lotions or moisturizers because the skin under our eyes needs special care. It's thinner, more sensitive, more fragile, and reacts faster to trouble. It's also more likely to show signs of aging and fatigue and more prone to dryness or irritation. Eczema can often appear on the skin under and over our eyes. 

Many eye creams contain ingredients such as collagen, peptides, vitamin C, ceramides, retinoids, hyaluronic acid, and so on. These ingredients boost collagen production, making our skin stronger, healthier, better moisturized, more flexible, and elastic.

But does all of this work? The internet is filled with people who are both happy - and dissatisfied - with their use of eye creams. So what's going on?

eye creams do they really work

The Two Sides in the Great Eye Cream Debate

There is a lot of disagreement regarding the usefulness of eye creams. Many people swear by them and will throw money at the latest super-expensive eye cream, eye lotion, or eye serum in the hopes of having their dark circles, fine lines, wrinkles, and puffiness disappear.

But some dispute those claims, having seen no results or the same results they achieve by using ordinary moisturizers. They claim that while expensive eye creams, drops, and lotions contain extra ingredients, the results are either invisible or negligible.

Surely, you can achieve the same effects by using a moisturizer intended for the face, right? 

Well, yes and no.

There is no single or easy answer to this question. Both sides are right, but both can also be wrong, depending on what you hope to achieve, which articles you read, and so on. Sure, some ingredients work better than others when it comes to treating the specific ailments of the skin around our eyes. But these ingredients can only do little, and some skin issues are immune to even the most expensive eye lotions.

eye creams do they really work

Are Eye Creams Essential?

Even dermatologists are divided on this issue. Some believe eye creams are ineffective, but others think they serve a market. Creams intended to use on your face can be just as effective, or their effectiveness is very close to what even an expensive eye cream can do. 

But there’s no denying that the eye area differs from the rest of our skin. It goes through different processes than the other areas of the skin. It’s thinner, gentler, and more fragile. So, while most facial moisturizers or facial skincare creams can offer much of the same benefits, the fact remains that the skin around our eyes is more sensitive than the rest. 

While regular moisturizing creams, gels, and anti-aging lotions can help, they can also irritate the gentle skin around our eyes. And while most people will be fine with using an ordinary moisturizer around their eyes, people with sensitive skin may experience trouble.

Sometimes, using a general-purpose moisturizer or one intended for the eye area can cause irritation or provoke allergic reactions. 

eye creams do they really work

Patch Testing Eye Creams is Super Useful 

To see if your skin will find a product or an ingredient troublesome or if you have any skin concerns, always do a patch test. Patch tests are very easy to perform. Just apply a small amount of the ingredient or skincare product on a small patch of skin and wait for at least 24 hours. You can push that to 48 hours or more, but you should be fine if your skin doesn't react after a day or two. 

If you experience any side effects after a patch test, stop using the product or ingredient. Typically, side effects include itching, flaking, redness of the skin, and sometimes even burning, pinching, and so on. Also, discuss it with your dermatologist to prevent hurting yourself and find the appropriate skincare ingredients for your skin. If you have sensitive skin, patch tests are essential. Your thin under-eye and eyelid skin is delicate.

Feel free to continue using the product if you don't experience any side effects.

Conducting patch tests of several products can also tell you if you need an eye cream or whether a regular moisturizer will do. Apply some moisturizer or a face cream under one eye and an eye cream under the other. Compare the results after several days. Are there any differences? Which product helps your skin better? Testing and comparing these products will provide you with the answers you seek.

eye creams do they really work

Eye Cream Uses and Ingredients to Look For

From using it to treat puffiness to tackling crow's feet, there's a lot a good moisturizer can do. Let’s take a look at the specific uses of eye creams and the most beneficial ingredients.

Retinol Can Help Regenerate the Skin Around Our Eyes

Certain anti-aging creams have shown good results in smoothing wrinkles and fine lines around the eyes. Mainly, the most effective ones contain retinol or other kinds of retinoids. But why is that, and what makes retinol so useful for mature skin?

Retinol is one of the many derivatives of vitamin A, a vitamin that has a long history of being used to combat aging skin and repair scars. Humans have used vitamin A and its provitamin for thousands of years. Vitamin A is mainly found in beef, and other types of meat and dairy, while provitamins such as carotenoids (substances that our body uses to make its own vitamin A) can be found in many vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. (However, as reported by the US National Library of Medicine, scientists have discovered that 45% of humans possess a genetic mutation that significantly hampers this process.)

eye creams do they really work

This is an even bigger reason to get your hands on some under-eye cream rich in retinol. Thankfully, we live in an era where our bodies don’t have to do all the work and produce everything we need. Our skin already goes through its natural cycle of exfoliation, called desquamation, where it removes dead skin cells and replaces them with new and fresh ones. But retinol-based creams, especially eye creams, can speed up that process, making your skin regenerate faster and get that beaming, youthful look

However, a word of caution. Many anti-aging products contain exfoliating acids, such as BHA or AHAs. Since those acids are intended for exfoliation and the removal of dead skin cells and the upper layer of the skin, these products can sometimes make the skin sore or dry. These acids can also mess up the pH level of your skin. So, it’s important that you avoid any products containing salicylic acid (a BHA) or any of the AHAs (such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, ferulic acid, and so on). Stick to products that contain retinol without any BHA or AHAs. 

But, while retinol and retinol-based eye creams can speed up the rate at which our skin rejuvenates, it’s far from the only useful ingredient for giving us smooth skin.

eye creams do they really work

Eye creams that contain vitamin C, ceramides, peptides, or hyaluronic acid, for example, offer the combined effect of cleaning your skin from free radicals and repairing your skin barrier. (Of course, vitamin C provides amazing health benefits and immune system boosts.) But, if you want to get rid of those wrinkles around your eyes, trying eye creams that contain ceramides, vitamin C, or peptides won't hurt.

Vitamin C Protects the Skin Around Your Eyes

When it comes to skincare and eye creams, the role that vitamin C plays is a bit more specific. Since it's a powerful antioxidant, it rids the skin of harmful free radicals, especially in highly-concentrated vitamin C serums. Free radicals are a class of substances that can penetrate our cells and damage them. The combined effects of the sun’s UV radiation, environmental dirt and dust, various foods, and pollution all contribute to piling our bodies with free radicals that cause damage. 

Thankfully, antioxidants make short work of such substances, making our bodies healthy. This means that an eye cream containing vitamin C will make the area around your skin stronger, healthier, and more resistant to environmental effects. This means you'll have more resistance to photoaging, or aging in general, and fewer wrinkles.

eye creams do they really work

Ceramides Protect and Moisturize the Skin Around Your Eyes

Eye creams that contain ceramides can reduce and even repair wrinkling by another mechanism. Ceramides to our skin are what tiles are to roofs - they comprise the external surface layer of our skin. They form a layer of protection against the elements. But besides protecting our bodies from being infiltrated by harmful bacteria, dust, bugs, and so on, ceramides also play a key role in maintaining our skin’s moisture.

See, if the skin barrier becomes damaged or breached, the water your skin contains comes into contact with the environment and evaporates. Naturally, this leaves our skin dry, chapped, and more prone to microscopic scars and changes that form lines and wrinkles. Our skin loses moisture, flexibility, and youthfulness without naturally created or externally applied ceramides.

But if you use an eye cream that contains ceramides, these effects and environmental damage are negated. Your skin is suddenly receiving a brand new shipment of protective tiles for its roof, so to speak. This means that your skin becomes better able to retain its moisture since there will be no more “leaks” in its barrier. So, eye creams that are specifically formulated this way lead to healthier, better-moisturized skin.

eye creams do they really work

Hyaluronic Acid Will Make Your Lines And Wrinkles Less Pronounced

When dealing with lines and wrinkles around your eyes, there is yet another substance that can make them go away - hyaluronic acid.

If you have any reservations about the “acid” part, rest easy. 

Hyaluronic acid is often used for exfoliation and has no abrasive effects on our skin. This acid is naturally produced by our bodies, and you contain anywhere from 10 to 20 grams of it, or more, right now. It has a neutral pH value and binds itself to water molecules, connecting them to collagen, making our skin fresh and elastic. In this sense, it's one of the most “natural” moisturizers, helping our skin renew itself.

This acid's powerful hydrating and regenerating effect make it especially well-suited for treating the skin around your eyes. Applying an eye cream rich with this ingredient will quickly make for a smoother, more plump, softer appearance of your skin. Due to these properties, eye creams that contain hyaluronic acid can effectively make wrinkles or fine lines around your eye area less pronounced.

eye creams do they really work

Peptides Play an Important Role in Repairing Your Skin

In the section above, we mentioned that retinol could speed up the rate at which our skin regenerates itself through desquamation. But while retinol and other retinoids act as catalysts, there are other ways in which we can hasten and even make this process even better and more effective. 

Desquamation replaces old skin cells with brand-new ones. Skin cells, and the connective tissues between them, are made up of collagen. Collagen makes up a whopping 30% of all protein in our bodies. But as we age, we become less and less efficient at producing our own collagen, so our body becomes more fragile, and we lose skin elasticity.

What does this mean? That we need to stimulate collagen production.

And what is collagen made of? Peptides.

eye creams do they really work

See, collagen is a pretty large protein molecule. And protein molecules are made out of shorter protein strings called peptides. If we need more collagen, it makes sense that we need more peptides too. And even if you use eye creams that speed up your skin's regeneration rate, it won’t be very effective if your body lacks a hefty supply of collagen.

But thankfully, there are eye creams that contain peptides as well. As we said, peptides help our bodies create collagen (and whatever other protein they need), so adding some peptides to your skincare routine can help. While scientists still aren’t sure how peptides, applied topically, improve the skin's condition, there is a noticeable effect. One hypothesis is that peptides somehow signal the deeper layers of your skin to begin producing collagen. Whatever the truth, peptides can help us take good care of our skin.

eye creams do they really work

But What About Puffy Bags and Dark Circles?

Undereye puffiness is fairly normal, and it’s a physiological, internal process of the body. It’s how the body regulates itself, and the processes that lead to some people having more puffy bags under their eyes than others are genetic. This means that no expensive eye cream will eliminate the problem because it cannot be treated externally. If you’ve had puffy eye bags since a young age, chances are it is genetic and hereditary.

But what about dark circles or puffy eyes due to you getting too little sleep? Well, regardless of the hereditary factors, eye creams can help. The specific formulas of eye creams will help reduce puffiness and banish dark circles from under your eyes. But as with every other product, the results will vary from person to person. If an eye cream shows good results for you, then, of course, you should continue using it. But if you don't see any results, it’s better not to waste money on it. 

You shouldn’t expect miracles. While eye creams will improve the situation, they can’t make you get enough sleep.

eye creams do they really work

Other factors can also contribute to darker circles or greater puffiness. Too much sunlight, or to be more precise, UV rays, can cause microscopic inflammation and increase puffiness. Additionally, free radicals, environmental pollution, oxidative stress, and so on also contribute to these processes that can cause eye puffiness and dark circles. Inflammation causes the microscopic vessels under the delicate skin to become leaky, and this fluid pools under our eyes. If the fluid contains blood, the bags receive a darker hue, making for the well-known appearance of dark bags under the eyes. 

Adjusting lifestyle factors can sometimes help. Dermatologists and doctors often recommend consuming less salt, drinking more water, or following a consistent sleep schedule. These may reduce the appearance of under-eye circles and bags, and the only way to know is to try and make those changes yourself. Additionally, you can massage the area around and under your eyes to help blood circulation. The better the circulation, the sooner your body will repair the dark circles.

The cause may also be an allergy, and in that case, medicines that combat allergic reactions can help.

eye creams do they really work

What Should You Expect From Your Eye Cream?

As we mentioned above, the debate on the effectiveness of eye creams is still raging. The fact is that expensive eye creams aren’t that much different from your go-to moisturizer, except in cases where you're interested in trying out an eye cream that contains a specific ingredient. After all, all skin types are different, and what our skin needs, specifically, varies from person to person.

Eye creams are not a miracle cure; at best, they are a preventive treatment that will take time to show its effects. Sometimes, you'll need to wait months until you see a marked difference. Other times, an eye cream will produce almost immediate results. Eye creams generally produce temporary effects as long as you use them. That’s because other lifestyle and physiological factors are involved in causing most of the problems that eye creams aim to treat.

eye creams do they really work

That said, eye creams are slated to prevent the appearance of signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles, just as moisturizers and other types of creams. Since the skin around our eyes differs from the rest of the face, treating it with a specialized product, such as an eye cream, can be more beneficial than just applying a normal moisturizer.

The same also goes for those who have skin issues specifically present in the skin around your eyes - you should definitely give eye creams a try. But for everyone else, a high-quality moisturizer will do just fine.


Two common single nucleotide polymorphisms in the gene encoding beta-carotene 15,15'-monoxygenase alter beta-carotene metabolism in female volunteers

Single nucleotide polymorphisms upstream from the β-carotene 15,15'-monoxygenase gene influence provitamin A conversion efficiency in female volunteers


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