Vital C Hydrating Eye Recovery Gel
0.5 fl. oz. for $33
Last Updated:08.14.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

Vital C Hydrating Eye Recovery Gel is a mixed bag. It has positive qualities that would have earned it a higher rating, such as its impressive array of beneficial ingredients—antioxidants such as vitamin C, skin-repairing ingredients, and several peptides. These types of ingredients will help skin repair past damage, as well as act younger and healthier, whether you use them around the eye area or your face in general. It may surprise you to learn that your eye area skin isn't unique or different from skin elsewhere on your face in terms of the ingredients it needs to repair signs of aging (we explain why in the More Info section), which is why not everyone needs to use a special product for this area.

What kept this from earning a better rating is the inclusion of fragrant citrus oil. Research has shown that the fragrance components (limonene and geraniol) in the orange oil this product contains have a strong potential to provoke an allergenic and irritant response on the skin (Sources: Contact Dermatitis, 2006 and A href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22681463" target="2012">2012). While the amount is relatively minor, it can be problematic for some and should definitely be avoided by those with sensitive skin.

The aesthetics of this formula are ideal for those interested in a sheer, water-based formula that disappears almost entirely once dry. This won't add much moisture to the skin, so those with dry skin will find it lacking unless layered with a more emollient serum or moisturizer.

We should note that this formula can't do a thing for dark circles, despite the claim by IMAGE Skincare that the ingredient "vitamin KY" (Really??!) included can perform this feat. We're not sure who came up with the trade name "vitamin KY," which they use to refer to the ingredient phytonadione (more commonly known as vitamin K), which has long been claimed to treat dark circles (albeit without much evidence). If you would like to read more about why vitamin K doesn't work to treat dark circles, see our entry in the Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary.

What's important for you to know is that dark circles are mostly hereditary, or are caused by other factors that are outside the reach of topical treatments, which is why women all over the world are endlessly hoping the next eye cream they buy will work, but, generally, they contain useless ingredients that can't perform as claimed. See More Info for additional details on this topic.

Ultimately, Vital C Hydrating Eye Recovery Gel is a formula that is outperformed by numerous better-formulated alternatives. Check out our list of Best Eye Moisturizers for our top recommendations from other brands.

  • Contains a range of beneficial antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients, and cell-communicating ingredients.
  • Includes anti-irritants to soothe redness.
  • Lightweight water-binding ingredients improve the health of the skin.
  • Can't reduce or eliminate dark circles as claimed.
  • Contains fragrant mandarin orange peel oil, albeit in a low amount, which can be irritating to the skin.
More Info:

Irritation from Fragrance: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way to go for all skin types. If fragrance in your skin-care products is important to you, it should be a very low amount to minimize the risk to your skin (Sources: Inflammation Research, December 2008, pages 558–563; Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135, and November-December 2000, pages 358–371; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, April 2008, pages 15–19; Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2008, pages 78–82; Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, January 2007, pages 92–105; and British Journal of Dermatology, December 2005, pages S13–S22).

Why You May Not Need an Eye Treatment: Most eye-area treatments aren't necessary—either because they are poorly formulated, contain nothing special for the eye area, or come in packaging that won't keep key ingredients stable.

There is much you can do to improve signs of aging around your eyes. Any product loaded with antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients, skin-lightening ingredients, anti-inflammatory ingredients, and hydrating ingredients will work wonders and those ingredients don't have to come from a product labeled as an eye serum. And during the day, any eye-area product you use should ideally provide sun protection or be followed by a product that does, such as a moisturizer rated SPF 25 or greater.

Whatever product you put around your eye area, regardless of what it is labeled, must be well formulated and appropriate for the skin type around your eyes! That may mean you need an eye serum, but you may also do just as well applying your regular facial serum or moisturizer around your eyes.

Dark Circles: Dark circles are caused by several factors, and unfortunately, there aren't any skin-care products in the world that can tackle all or even most of the causes of them. While there are definitely things you can do to improve dark circles as well as keep them from getting worse, your solution won't be found in a specialty product labeled with miraculous claims or a miracle ingredient.

The most common causes of dark circles include sun damage, irritation, allergies, genetics, and veins/capillaries showing through the surface layer of skin. For genetic causes, dark circles aren't going to respond to topical treatment, but those caused by sun damage can be treated, as can those stemming from irritation or allergies.

See our article, Shed Some Light on Dark Circles, for the hype-free facts about this concern, and possible solutions for some forms of undereye discolorations.


A scientifically- advanced hydrating, anti-aging eye gel. Contains a blend of nourishing antioxidants that reduce the appearance of fine lines and prevent the breakdown of collagen. Vitamin Kÿ (Phytonadion) diminishes dark circles.


Water (Aqua), Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Collagen Recovery Complex, (Dipalmitoyl Hydroxyproline; Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate; Glycosaminoglycans; PEG-8/SMDI Copolymer; Centella Asiatica Extract & Darutoside; Glycine), Acetyl Octapeptide-3, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-3, Glycerin, Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone, Steareth 20, Dipeptide-2, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, N-Hydroxysuccinimide (And) Chrysin (And) Palmitoyl Oligopeptide(And) Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Sodium Hyaluronate, Echinacea Purpurea Extract, Imperata Cylindrica Extract, Xanthan Gum & Chondrus Crispus, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride & Linoleic Acid & Glycine Soja Sterols & Phospholipids, Carbomer, Retinyl Palmitate, Citrus Noblis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Phytonadione

Brand Overview

Strengths: All of the sunscreens provide broad-spectrum protection; many of the formulas include a good array of antioxidants and cell-communicating agents; some products are packaged to protect their air- and light-sensitive ingredients; most products reasonably priced.

Weaknesses: Many of the non-SPF moisturizers are packaged in jars; nearly every product contains at least one fragrance ingredient that can be a source of irritation; overly fragranced products where the scent lingers on the skin and emanates from the container like potpourri; problematic anti-acne line; inconsistent or incomplete ingredient lists; few options for sensitive skin; outlandish marketing claims.

IMAGE Skincare, a brand operated out of West Palm Beach, Florida, focuses on the concept of “pharmaceutical grade” skin-care products (more on that in a moment). Developed by its president and CEO, Janna Robert, IMAGE Skincare is distributed in spas and dermatology offices. However, it can also be found on retail websites like Amazon (despite the company’s claim that these aren’t approved retailers).

The IMAGE Skincare approach promotes the concept that those of a certain age should use a certain line of products—a visit to their website’s product recommendation page has their five collections categorized by age range, which is a silly concept.

Here’s why that approach makes for poor skin care: Simply put, age is not a skin type—the types of ingredients skin needs to stay healthy and act younger are the same whether you’re 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 years old, or beyond. Just as a healthy diet doesn’t change as you age, the same is true for skin care. What skin needs to be healthy does not change with age.

To underscore this fact, IMAGE Skincare’s recommendations are virtually identical, no matter which age range you select. Interestingly, their age ranges are grouped into three categories: 1–18 (OK, … a 1-year-old? How bizarre is that! A baby is supposed to have a skin-care routine?); 19–35; and then...”36+.”

Someone over the age of 40 (all the way to those over 65) can have oily skin and breakouts, and teens can have dry, sun-damaged skin. Research shows that the same ingredients are needed to improve and heal the problem, regardless of age. Relating age to skin care is just silly!

IMAGE Skincare defines their “aging later” approach to mean that if you want to delay the signs of aging, you need to give skin more of what it needs to stay healthier, longer. That includes their recommendation of regular use of AHA/BHA exfoliants, formulas loaded with antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients, as well as wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.

We absolutely agree with those points—anti-aging is about taking care of your skin, keeping it protected from environmental harms (i.e., unprotected sun exposure and pollution), and ensuring that all of your products are loaded with beneficial ingredients, no matter your age. Their list of recommendations should also include using products that are free of irritants; that is, ingredients that have documented research indicating their potential to harm skin by causing inflammation and free-radical damage.

Unfortunately, that latter point is where many of IMAGE Skincare’s products veer off the mark. For all their claims of including only what’s best for the skin, we were disappointed to find that almost all of their products contain at least one irritating fragrance extract or essential oil (some IMAGE Skincare products are overloaded with them), and the fragrance is often overwhelming, lingering on the skin and wafting from the container immediately on opening.

On a side note, the intense fragrance of many of their products makes us skeptical of their ingredient lists—they don’t list what could be causing the perfume-like, sickly sweet odor. Fragrance, whether natural or synthetic, is a problem for the skin because of the irritations it can cause.

What about their claim of offering “pharmaceutical grade” ingredients and formulas? When a brand uses the term “pharmaceutical” in describing their products, they’re trying to invoke the idea that their formulas are somehow different or “stronger” than those you can find anywhere else. This is nothing more than marketing wordplay—there are no (repeat, no) pharmaceutical-grade skin-care products because the term is not regulated by the FDA, so there is no standard or meaning to the claim. Just as the words “cosmeceutical” and “hypoallergenic” are meaningless, “pharmaceutical grade” is as well.

What matters is that the ingredients they include have published, peer-reviewed research and that your products conform to the safety guidelines and standards set forth in the FDA’s labeling regulatory requirements (or international regulatory bodies, if you’re outside the United States).

Strangely enough, it was challenging to find accurate ingredient lists for IMAGE Skincare. In some instances, the list on the packaging was incomplete and/or very different from the ingredient list found online (even from “approved” resellers allegedly using information supplied by IMAGE). We are reluctant to trust any company that can’t get this simple regulation right; think about buying food at the grocery store that didn’t have a label listing everything that was in it.

For example, IMAGE Skincare’s Prevention + Daily Matte Moisturizer Oil Free SPF 30+ claims to contain microsponge technology (absorbent polymers that help to control excess oil), and yet the product packaging doesn’t list any such ingredients. And, in the case of one of their anti-acne treatments, the combined use of the two active ingredients falls outside of FDA guidelines for anti-acne products (Source: FDA 21 CFR 333.310, 2014).

In the end, some of the products IMAGE Skincare offers are (possibly) worth looking into, but overall we were disappointed in the brand because so many of their formulas, including those of some otherwise impressive products, contained an excess of fragrance, made outlandish marketing claims, and had an abundance of ingredient misinformation wrapped in “pharmaceutical-grade” pseudoscience. We prefer science based in reality—everything else is just hype, and hype is not the way to take the best possible care of your skin… at any age!

For more information about IMAGE Skincare, call 1-800-796-SKIN (7546) or visit www.imageskincare.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

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