Do You Actually Need Eye Cream? Derms Settle the Debate

woman with a sweep of eye cream under her right eye

@monikh / Design By Cristina Cianci

If you love beauty products, chances are, your medicine cabinet is overflowing with toners, serums, moisturizers, face oils, and everything in-between. You might be wondering if it's worth the time, effort, money, and dwindling counter space to add yet another product to the mix—especially one that seemingly does the same things but just for a different area of your face. Here's what we're getting at: Do you really need an eye cream? To finally set the record straight, we tapped two dermatologists for their honest opinions on eye cream. Their answers may surprise you—or not *wink, wink*—but it's time you know the truth.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Marisa Garshick M.D is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. She specializes in acne, eczema, hyperhidrosis, moles, psoriasis, rosacea, signs of aging, skin cancer, skin tags, vitiligo, and wrinkles.

Dr. Azadeh Shirazi is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology. 

What Is Eye Cream?

Simply put, "an eye cream refers to a cream that is specifically formulated to be applied to the skin around the eyelid and target undereye concerns," explains Dr. Garshick. While some of the ingredients in face cream may be similar, she adds, "they may be present in a lower concentration to account for the delicate skin around the eyelid."

Eye Skin vs. Face Skin

While it's logical to think that skin is skin and it's all the same, the truth is, different areas of your face and body are covered with different types. "It's important to remember that the eyelid skin is thin and delicate and can also show signs of aging sooner than other areas of the face," says Dr. Garshick. "It's important to keep the skin around the eyelid moisturized to prevent dryness." And because the eye area is more delicate than the rest of your face, some moisturizers are better kept at a safe distance. Dr. Garshick names retinol and exfoliating acids are ingredients in face creams that can appear in concentrations that are too harsh for the eye area.

On the other hand, it's important to keep both skin types protected. "Sunscreen, however, is an example of a face cream that should be used around the eye." Dr. Shirazi says, while some face creams may be tolerated by eyelid skin, "I suggest doing a patch test, trying a small amount applied to a small area daily for three to five days and monitoring for any unwanted reactions."

Who Should Use an Eye Cream? 

Dr. Garshick describes a good candidate for an eye cream as someone who has dark circles, fine lines, crepiness, and undereye puffiness. "They may not be necessary for everyone," she says, but recommends it for those "who are concerned about their undereye area or who are noticing changes in the undereye area."

If You Want to Treat Dark Circles

Ponds Anti-Age Lifting and Firming Eye Cream
Ponds Anti-Age Lifting and Firming Eye Cream $8.00

If dark circles are your main concern, Dr. Garshick recommends the ingredient niacinamide to help to brighten the undereye area. She also suggests antioxidants such as vitamin C, which brighten and help protect against free radical damage. Pond's Rejuveness Eye Cream and Olay Vitamin C Brightening Eye Cream are both on her list of favorites.

"Veins around the eyes can result in venous pooling of blood, creating a dark hue under the eyes that resemble dark circles. Ingredients such as arnica and vitamin K can help in reducing their appearance and their effects," adds Dr. Shirazi. Additionally, she warns that undereye bags and puffiness can cast a shadow—creating the illusion of dark circles. If you're experiencing swelling, it's best to target this first, rather than dark circles.

If You Want to Treat Wrinkles

Retinol Correxion Eye Cream
RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream $18.00

"Those with mature skin would benefit from eye creams with retinol to help boost collagen production and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," says Dr. Garshick. She recommends SkinBetter Science EyeMax or Roc Retinol Correxion Eye Cream as picks with the anti-aging ingredient. Additionally, she says peptides and growth factors can help boost collagen production and improve the skin's firmness and overall texture. You can find them in her pick: Neocutis Lumiere Eye Cream

If You Have Under-Eye Bags

Total Eye 3 in 1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35
Colorescience Total Eye 3 in 1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35 $69.00

Both Dr. Garshick and Dr. Shirazi both recommend caffeine-based eye creams and cold compresses to depuff the undereye area. If you don't have a spa's worth of chilled cucumbers on deck, Dr. Garshick suggests an eye cream with a metal applicator, which can create a cooling effect. Her picks: Colorescience Total Eye 3 in 1 Repair or Garnier Anti-Puff Eye Roller.

If Your Moisturizer Irritates Your Eye Area

Vaseline Original Unscented Petroleum Jelly $2.00

Dr. Shirazi explains that those with sensitive skin are typically intolerant of many ingredients that address dark circles, and says that eye creams can sometimes create more problems in the eye area. “Allergic reactions and irritation can cause thickening and darkening of the eyelid skin," she says. “Simply hydrating the skin improves the appearance around the eyelids.”

She and Dr. Garshick both suggest opting for Vaseline to create a barrier and seal in any moisture. Dr. Garshick also recommends using hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which help draw moisture into the skin.

Are Eye Creams Necessary?

If you are experiencing volume loss due to aging, an eye cream may not be the most effective option. "It's important to set expectations for what an under-eye cream can achieve, as there are instances where botox, lasers, fillers, radiofrequency devices, microneedling, PRP, or surgical procedures may be needed,” Dr. Garshick says.

The Takeaway

Eye cream is an effective addition to your skincare routine if you have specific under-eye issues you're hoping to correct. However, as some concerns may not be reversible, like volume loss, there are some instances where eye cream is just not enough. If you're looking to hydrate the eye area but don't suffer from dark circles, puffiness, or wrinkles, you can absolutely use your go-to moisturizer. However, just be cautious not to apply possible irritants like retinol or exfoliating acids.


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