If the claims for L’Oreal’s Youth Code products and their GenActiv technology sound familiar, that’s because Lancome (which L’Oreal owns) claimed almost the same thing in 2010 when they launched their Genifique products. No one on the Paula’s Choice Team was surprised when Youth Code was announced, as it isn’t uncommon for L’Oreal and Lancome to offer similar products whose only significant differences are price and retail location.
This well-packaged, fragrance-free eye cream (it comes in a squeeze tube with a built-in, smooth-tip applicator) is a pretty good formula. It does not contain anything special for the eye area, and this product is not necessary if you already use a well-formulated moisturizer (more on that in a minute), but overall this is a better formula than most of L’Oreal’s other eye-area moisturizers.
L’Oreal maintains that Youth Code (just like Lancome’s Genifique) took 10 years of research. Although that sounds impressive, what they came up with for this eye cream, while good, isn’t in any way a breakthrough or worth considering over any of the moisturizers in our Best Products section.
The crux of Youth Code is the claim that it stimulates genes in your skin that supposedly are responsible for its regenerating power.
It is absolutely true that there are genes in our skin responsible for generating proteins. These proteins create antioxidant pathways that protect skin from intrinsic (internal) and external signs of aging. As we age (actually, as we accumulate more sun damage from years of exposure), these genes become less able to “express” themselves in a healthy manner. That leads to oxidation within the skin and a decreased ability for the gene-generated proteins and enzymes to handle oxidative stress. The result of these deficiencies is damaged collagen, inflammation, and unwanted changes to skin texture, such as roughness, increased sensitivity, and, yes, wrinkles (Sources: Planta Medica, October 2008, pages 1548–1559; Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, February 2008, pages 79–88; and Free Radical Biology & Medicine, August 2008, pages 385–395).
What is L’Oreal’s solution—a yeast ingredient known as bifida ferment lysate. The problem is that there’s no research proving that this specific form of yeast has any anti-aging, regenerating, or gene-stimulating activity when applied to skin. You’d think that after 10 years of research L’Oreal would publish their findings, but they haven’t.
There is limited research showing that yeast ferment filtrate (a compound different from bifida ferment lysate) reduces oxidative skin damage in the presence of UV light, but this research also showed that many other antioxidants have a similar effect (Sources: Archives of Dermatological Research, April 2008, pages S51–S56; and Journal of Dermatological Science, June 2006, pages 249–257). Plus, one ingredient is never enough for skin. Skin is a complex organ that needs a cocktail of ingredients to be healthy and really look and act younger.
Although this eye cream deserves a Good rating, the truth is that eye creams aren't something that everyone needs. Please see More Info to find out why.
NOTE:This eye cream is packaged in a jar as part of L'Oreal's Youth Code Starter System. Given the jar packaging and weaknesses of the other Youth Code products packaged in this system, it is not recommended. Our review only applies to the eye cream as sold separately.
Why You May Not Need an Eye Cream
Most eye creams aren't necessary. That's either because they are poorly formulated, contain nothing special for the eye area, or come in packaging that won't keep key ingredients stable. Just because the product is labeled as an eye cream doesn't mean it's good for your eye area; in fact, many can actually make matters worse.
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 effective emollients will work wonders and those ingredients don't have to come from a product labeled as an eye cream.
You would be shocked how many eye creams lack even the most basic ingredients to help skin. For example, most eye creams don't contain sunscreen. During the day that is a serious problem because it leaves the skin around your eyes vulnerable to sun damage and this absolutely will make dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles worse!
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 cream, but you may also do just as well applying your regular facial moisturizer around your eyes.