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 any and all other signs of aging. Going by the advertisements, one would think we’ve come across a miracle cure for all skin problems. But pardon me if I 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 some extra money? Let’s see.
To be honest, eye creams are indeed similar to a quality moisturizer. But, there are some significant differences as well. For example, eye creams usually contain a greater amount of 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. 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.
That’s why the skin under, and around our eyes feels different from the rest of the body. It’s because it has to be different - because it simply has a very different job than, say, the skin on our cheeks, neck, or forehead.
Due to all of the above said, eye creams also contain more so-called active ingredients that target the specific problems of the skin around our eyes. Eye creams are thicker, and more nourishing than the usual skincare lotion or moisturizer because the skin under our eyes needs special care. The skin around our eyes is thinner, more sensitive and more fragile, and reacts faster to trouble. It is more prone to show signs of aging, fatigue, and it’s also more prone to dryness or irritation. Eczema can often appear on the skin under, and over our eyes as well.
This is why eye creams were invented - because the skin around our eyes really requires special care. Many eye creams contain collagen, peptides, Vitamin C, ceramides, retinoids, hyaluronic acid and so on. All of these ingredients boost collagen production, making our skin stronger, healthier, better moisturized, more flexible, and elastic. But does all of this really work? The internet is filled with people who are both happy - and dissatisfied - with their use of eye creams. So just what is going on?
As I mentioned above, there is a lot of disagreement when it comes to the usefulness of eye creams. Some people swear by them, claiming they’re the best thing that ever happened to them, and just throw money at the latest super expensive eye cream, eye lotion or eye serum. All in the hopes of having their dark circles, fine lines, wrinkles, and puffiness any less pronounced.
And, they say it works.
But the other side of the debate belongs to those who dispute those claims, having themselves seen no results, or the same results they’ve seen by using ordinary moisturizers. They claim that while expensive eye creams, eye drops, and eye lotions contain this or that extra ingredient, the results are either invisible or negligible. Surely, one can achieve the same effects of the skin around their eyes 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 sides 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 other issues that plague the skin under our eyes are simply immune to even the most expensive eye lotions.
Even dermatologists are divided on this issue. Some hold the opinion that eye creams are just not very effective or helpful, but they do serve a market. Creams that are 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 skin around our eyes is different from the rest of our skin. It simply goes through very different processes than the other areas of skin, and besides, it’s thinner, gentler, and more fragile. So, while most facial moisturizers or facial skincare creams can offer much 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 indeed help, they can also irritate the gentle skin around our eyes. And while most people will be fine with using an ordinary moisturizer or a facial skincare cream on the skin around their eyes too, people with sensitive skin may experience trouble.
Sometimes, using a general-purpose moisturizer, or one intended for the face on the skin around the eyes can cause irritation or provoke allergic reactions.
To prevent this, or at least, to see if your skin will find a product, or an ingredient troublesome, it is recommended that you always do a patch test. Patch tests are very easy and simple to perform. All you need to do is apply a small amount of the ingredient, or skincare product, you wish to test on a small patch of skin. And then you wait for at least 24 hours. You can push that to 48 hours or more, but if your skin is fine with whatever you’ve put on it after a day or two, you should be fine.
If you experience any negative consequences or milder side effects, you should stop using the product or ingredient. Typically, side effects related to the skin include itching, flaking, redness of the skin, and sometimes even pain in the shape of sensations of burning, pinching, and so on. If you experience any of that, you should stop using the substance you are testing. Additionally, it will be good if you also discussed that with your dermatologist in order to prevent hurting yourself in the future and to find the appropriate skincare ingredients for your skin.
But, if you experience no side effects, and everything seems fine, you should feel free to continue using the product.
Additionally, doing patch tests of several products can tell you if you need an eye cream, or whether a regular moisturizer will do. Just apply some moisturizer under one eye, and an eye cream under (or under) the other one. Compare the results after several days (or more, as you please, really). Are there any differences? Which product helps your skin better? Testing out and comparing these products will provide you with the answers you seek.
So, which side is right? Well, they both are, because it comes down to the specific ingredients that each eye cream or moisturizer contains. And since the debate boils down to the presence of specific ingredients and their potential effectiveness for specific problems, let’s take a look at the specific uses of eye creams and the most beneficial ingredients.
It needs to be mentioned that certain anti-aging creams have shown good results in smoothing out 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?
Well, retinol is one of the many derivatives of Vitamin A; a vitamin that has a long history of being used to combat aging and repair scars as well. Vitamin A and its provitamin have been used by humans 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.)
Which is an even bigger reason for you to get your hands on some 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, during which 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 itself faster, and get that beaming, youthful look.
However, a word of caution. Many anti-aging products out there 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 become sore or dry. Additionally, 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 itself, it’s far from the only useful ingredient when it comes to making our skin smoother.
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, there are also the amazing health benefits and immune system boosts that Vitamin C provides.) But, if you want to get rid of those wrinkles around your eyes, it won’t hurt to try eye creams that contain ceramides, Vitamin C, peptides, or hyaluronic acid. Let’s see.
When it comes to skincare and eye creams in particular, the role that Vitamin C plays is a bit more specific. Since it is a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C rids the skin from the harmful free radicals - that is especially true of 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, along with environmental dirt and dust, various foods, and pollution, all contribute to piling our bodies with free radicals that cause damage.
Thankfully, antioxidants such as Vitamin C make short work of such substances, and make our bodies - and skin - strong and healthy. This means that an eye cream that contains Vitamin C will make the area around your skin stronger, healthier and more resistant to environmental effects. This means more resistance to photoaging, or just aging in general, and of course, fewer wrinkles.
Eye creams that contain ceramides, on the other hand, can reduce and even repair wrinkling by another mechanism. Namely, ceramides to our skin are what tiles are to roofs - they comprise the uppermost, most external, surface layer of our skin. We have them naturally on our skin, where 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 play a key role in maintaining our skin’s moisture as well.
See, if the skin barrier, i.e. the later made out of ceramides becomes damaged or breached, the water that your skin contains comes into contact with the environment and it evaporates. Naturally, this leaves our skin dry and chapped, and more prone to microscopic scars, and changes that form lines and wrinkles. Without naturally created, or externally applied ceramides, our skin loses its moisture, flexibility, and youthfulness.
But if you use an eye cream that contains ceramides, these effects and environmental damage is negated. Your skin is suddenly receiving a brand new shipment of protective tiles for its roof, so to speak. It’s like repainting a door that had some of its paint cracked and fallen off. This means that your skin then becomes better able to retain its moisture as well, since there will be no more “leaks” in its barrier. So, eye creams that contain ceramides - healthier, better-moisturized skin.
When dealing with lines and wrinkles around your eyes, there is yet another substance that can make them go away - hyaluronic acid. But if you have any reservations about the “acid” part, you should rest easy.
Hyaluronic acid is not used for exfoliation, and has no abrasive effects on our skin. In fact, hyaluronic 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 - which makes our skin fresh and elastic. In this sense, hyaluronic acid is one of the most “natural” moisturizers, that also helps our skin in renewing itself.
This powerful, combined hydrating and regenerating effect of hyaluronic acid makes it especially well suited for treating the skin around your eyes. Applying an eye cream rich with hyaluronic acid will quickly make for a smoother, more plump, softer appearance of your skin. Due to these properties, eye creams that contain hyaluronic acid can be effective at making wrinkles, or fine lines around your eyes less pronounced. And the best part? It’s safe, because it’s natural.
In the section above, we mentioned that retinol can speed up the rate at which our skin regenerates itself through a process called 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.
See, what desquamation does, is that it replaces old skin cells, with brand new ones. And skin cells, and the connective tissues between them, are made up of collagen. Collagen, in turn, is one of the most numerous proteins in the human body, making up a whopping 30% of all protein in it. But as we age, our body becomes less and less efficient at producing its own collagen, so our body becomes more fragile, and our skin more brittle.
What does this mean? That we need more collagen.
And what is collagen made of? Peptides.
See, collagen is a pretty large protein molecule. And protein molecules are made out of shorter protein strings, called peptides. While peptides, in turn, are made out of even smaller molecules called amino acids (but we’ll leave that topic for another time). Now, if we need more collagen, it makes sense that we need more peptides too. And even if you use eye creams that contain retinoids, that can speed up the rate of regeneration of our skin, it won’t be very effective if your body is lacking a hefty supply of collagen. Or, peptides, which it will use to build collagen from.
But thankfully, especially when it comes to taking care of the skin around our eyes, 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 in your skincare routine can help. While scientists still aren’t sure just how peptides, applied topically, manage to improve the condition of the skin, there is a noticeable effect. One of the hypotheses is that peptides somehow signal the deeper layers of your skin to begin producing collagen. Whatever the truth may be, peptides can be of help when we want to take good care of our skin.
Well, here we sort of hit a wall. The problem is that puffiness under our eyes 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, is genetic. This means that no amount of expensive eye cream will get rid of the problem, because it’s not something that can really be treated externally. If you’re having puffy eye bags since a young age, chances are it is genetic and hereditary.
But what about dark circles or puffy eyes that are due to you getting too little sleep? Well in that case, regardless of the hereditary factors, eye creams can help. At least temporarily - while you use them. The specific formulas of eye creams will help you reduce the darkness, or puffiness, of those circles and bags 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 see no results, then it’s better not to waste any money on it.
You shouldn’t expect miracles though - while eye creams will improve the situation, they can’t make you get enough sleep.
And this is where we come to factors that we can control, and which, if left to do their thing, will contribute to darker circles or greater puffiness. Too much sunlight, or to be more precise, UV rays, can cause microscopic inflammation and increase the puffiness. Additionally, free radicals, environmental pollution, oxidative stress and so on also contribute to these processes that can cause puffiness and dark circles. The inflammation causes the microscopic vessels under our skin to become leaky, and this fluid pools under our eyes. If the fluid contains some blood too, the bags receive a darker hue, making for the well-known appearance of dark bags under the eyes.
Adjusting lifestyle factors can sometimes be of help. Dermatologists and doctors often recommend consuming less salt, drinking more water, or sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. Doing that may reduce the appearance of under-eye circles and bags, and the only way to know how much, or if at all, is to give it a 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 and whisk away the liquids from the puffy area.
Sometimes, the cause is an allergy, and in that case, medicines that combat allergic reactions can help.
Such a simple question, but one with a difficult answer. As we mentioned above, the debate on the effectiveness of eye creams is still raging, with no signs that it will stop any time soon. The fact of the matter is that expensive eye creams aren’t that much different from a good moisturizer, except in cases where you are interested to try out an eye cream that contains a specific ingredient. After all, everyone’s skin is different, and while we all have the same general needs, what our skin needs, specifically, varies from person to person.
However, it needs to be said that eye creams are not a miracle cure, and at best, they are a preventive treatment that will take time to show its effects. Sometimes, you will need to wait for months until you see a marked difference. Other times, an eye cream will produce almost immediate results. As we mentioned above, everyone’s different, so results can vary from one person to the next. Eye creams, in general, produce temporary effects, as long as you use them. That’s because there are other lifestyle and physiological factors involved in causing most of the problems that eye creams aim to treat.
If you’re using eye creams to prevent aging, however, it’s somewhat impossible to gauge their effectiveness. After all, you have nothing to compare it to. Unless, say, if you have a twin, and you two arrange to test out an eye cream’s effectiveness. But, eye creams are said to prevent the appearance of signs of aging, just as moisturizers and other types of creams. However, since the skin around our eyes is different 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 the curious, and for those who have skin issues that are specifically present in the skin around your eyes - you should definitely give eye creams a try. But for everyone else, and especially for people who don’t have skin problems around their eyes, a general, but quality moisturizer will do just fine. With that being said, the summer is already here and we all need to take better care of our skin. Good luck, and have a good time!
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.