Is Your Eye Cream Working? Here's How to Find Out
As a beauty editor, I always get asked which products work best and what I would recommend for the person standing in front of me. Usually, I know the answer—I test, review, and read about a lot of products. But lately I’ve been finding myself a bit stumped in the eye-cream department. I know which textures feel good, and I’ve done all the research on helpful ingredients, but it’s difficult to know when something is actually working (especially since most offerings suggest you allow at least six to eight weeks before expecting results).
For example, are today’s under-eye bags a result of my chronic FOMO and subsequent lack of sleep? Or is my eye cream just not doing its job correctly? Are there offerings out there that are better suited for my specific ailments (dark circles, bags, puffiness, the works)? Am I’m doing my face a disservice each time I apply what I’m currently using? I talked to my most trusted dermatologists for advice.
Keep reading for the best way to choose an eye cream that will work for you.
“Eye creams come in many different formulations and textures: lotions, serums, gels, creams. They’re all made to target various concerns; no one product fits all. Look in the mirror, and figure out what your biggest problem is and go from there.” — Dr. Rachel Nazarian, Schweiger Dermatology Group
“Recommendations should always depend on the skin-specific concern, whether that’s dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, or skin laxity. Many of these factors are the result of genetic predisposition, and each person will have a unique combination.” — Dr. Jessica Weiser, New York Dermatology Group
“Regardless of age, eye creams should have a place in your regimen. The skin around the eyes is much more sensitive and delicate than the rest of your face and body and typically requires its own specialized products. As with most things in skincare, the options are limitless, and it can be quite confusing to determine which products are worth your time and money. So, that being said, the question of whether age specifically plays a part in choosing the right product is a tricky one. It’s not really about the age as much as it is about the actual clinical appearance of your skin and what issues you’re trying to address. People can have dark circles at any age, puffiness at any age—but other issues, like wrinkles, tend to be more common the older you get. Still, finding a product that can help prevent issues is also quite helpful.” — Dr. Rachel Nazarian
“For young patients, the key is finding a great product to maintain the youthful under eye skin and prevent the more advanced signs of aging.” — Dr. Jessica Weiser
“Younger skin (20s to mid-30s) doesn’t usually need something very heavy, since there are fewer wrinkles and [less] collagen breakdown. I suggest a cream-gel formula like in Renée Rouleau Vitamin C Eye Brightener ($60). For those in their mid-30s and up, consider using a creamier formula since it will provide more nourishment, which is needed as one ages.” — Renée Rouleau, celebrity facialist
“There are also many ingredients that will help—some contain caffeine, which will help with puffiness, others have many antioxidants and peptides that help strengthen the skin and decrease wrinkles and darkening. Hyaluronic acid is also a common ingredient in eye creams that will help plump the dry, crêpe-y area, making it look more youthful and minimizing wrinkles. Because the eyes are surrounded by many different glands, steer clear of oil-based products to prevent occlusion and blocking of those glands (words like noncomedogenic and oil-free are key).” — Dr. Rachel Nazarian
“I’m especially fond of Fucus vesiculosus, an algae extract that targets the enzyme heme oxygenase, which is induced by oxidative stress). Then there’s caffeine, which when applied topically causes constriction of blood vessels to reduce dark circles and diminish puffiness, and hyaluronic acid to draw water to the skin surface and plump the skin cells, improve hydration, and diminish the appearance of fine lines. Vitamin C is great for reducing darkness and helps to reverse signs of sun and environmental damage. Retinol (if the skin is able to tolerate it without irritation) stimulates collagen production to reduce fine lines and make skin more firm and taut. And last but not least, peptides. For more sensitive skin, peptides stimulate collagen and elastin production to improve tone and texture but are gentler and less irritating than retinol.” — Dr. Jessica Weiser
“Of all the beauty products one uses, people seem to have difficulty with eye cream the most. Not that it is too rich or too thick or that it doesn’t do the trick—these are the least of the worries. The biggest complaint I hear is that it makes the eyes sting or tear. But is the cream really to blame? When an eye product is used and irritation occurs, it is often assumed that the product is the problem. This is the first conclusion drawn, when there are three other causes that are probably more likely. Synthetic fragrance is the number one cause for skin reactions. It’s often an irritant, and signs can range from mild itching and swelling to a red rash. The eyes are a delicate area to begin with, and if your eye cream has this unnecessary ingredient, it can react poorly. Second is overuse—a small drop is all that is needed in the eye area. If you overdo it, the product will actually end up in your eyes, picked up by your eyelashes! Every time you blink, the hairs will lift microscopic amounts of product and it will eventually deposit into your eyes. Anything that enters the delicate eyes will be an obvious irritant. Lastly, people often apply the product too close to their eyes. Eye creams migrate on warm skin. The cream you’ve rubbed all over your eyelids will move into your eyes all the faster because it has nowhere else to go. When you yawn, it will push it up by the tears; when you rub your eyes, it will press it in by your fingers. Make sure you leave a clear area around the eyes when applying cream, and only apply to the bone area.
“It’s best to use a lighter-weight eye cream in the morning, as it’s more compatible with your makeup, and use something more emollient at night. Eye cream should be applied only to the oribital bone around the eyes. With clean hands, gently press the skin under the eyes until you find the bone just at the top of the cheek bone. Follow it around the eyes with your fingers so you can actually feel the entire circular bone. This is the area where eye cream is formulated to treat. Anything that enters the eyes can be an obvious irritant and cause unnecessary puffiness. Finish by applying eye cream from outward in to go against the smile lines in gentle patting motions with your ring finger (the weakest finger). Avoid rubbing and tugging; just pat gently.” —Renée Rouleau
See below for our editors' favorite eye creams—that really work.
M-61 Hyrdraboost Eye Serum ($72)
This new eye serum in formulated with a trio of peptides to help strengthen the eye area and nourishing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to plump and smooth lines. It also includes natural tamarind, aloe, and centella asiatica to help with inflammation and repair any damage to the skin. (And it goes on really nicely under makeup.)
SkinCeuticals Eye Balm ($45)
A really wonderful combination of highly effective, yet gentle, this offering helps with moisture loss, collagen breakdown, and free radical damage. It naturally anti-inflames, reduced puffiness, and soothes with chamomile to calm the irritated (but delicate) skin around the eye area.
For more easy-to-follow beauty advice, read about the four surprising things that are giving you wrinkles.