Eye Creams: Do You Need One?

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All of the marketing hype you've heard about how eye creams are specially formulated for the sensitive, thin skin around the eyes, and getting rid of puffy eyes, dark circles, and sagging skin is simply not true. In fact, most of us don't need an eye cream (or eye gel or eye serum)!

The only time you should use a product around your eyes that's different from the one you use on your face is if the skin under your eyes happens to be drier than the skin on the rest of your face. For example, if your skin is oily, it doesn't need an emollient moisturizer, but rather a gel or liquid formula. But if your eye area is dry, it needs a more emollient moisturizer, although it doesn't have to be labeled an eye cream.
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Recommended Eye-Area Products

But What About All Those Eye Creams?

What you get when you buy almost any eye cream is a container (often a jar, which is a problem) that is half the size of a container of facial moisturizer yet the eye-area product usually costs twice as much without being a significantly different or more concentrated formula. Plus, more often than not, the eye-area product contains nothing that will help the supposed special needs of this area any more than a state-of-the-art moisturizer or serum can.

Although we understand many people are set on using an eye cream, you can save money and take superior care of your eye area by using your face product (assuming it is well formulated and appropriate for the skin type) around your eyes! But if you want to hedge your bets and use an eye cream, read on to find out what to look for and the claims to be aware of.

But Aren't Eye Creams Specially Formulated?

Almost without exception, eye creams are not specially formulated. It takes only a quick look at the ingredient list of the majority of eye creams to see that their ingredients don't differ in any significant way from facial moisturizers.

More to the point, there are no studies that identify any ingredients or combination of ingredients that the eye area needs (or should avoid) that are different from those that skin on other areas of the face needs or doesn't need. When it comes to moisturizing dry skin, reducing wrinkles, building collagen, brightening, and improving skin tone, your skin needs the same ingredients, whether it's around your eyes or elsewhere on your face. Likewise for oily skin.

But Aren't There Certain Ingredients that Improve Dark Circles & Puffy Eyes?

No, there aren't. There is no research and no scientifically valid studies showing that any skin-care ingredient can eliminate or even reduce genetically dictated dark circles, age-related puffy eyes, or sagging skin around the eye area.

What causes age-related or genetic puffy eyes, dark circles, and sagging CANNOT be altered by skin-care ingredients, whether they're in eye creams or in any other products. The ingredients that CAN improve the appearance of skin around the eyes are the exact same ingredients that work for the face. You can find such ingredients in the eye creams we recommend in the Beautypedia section of this site, but they're present in great facial moisturizers and serums, too.

What are those ingredients? Well, skin everywhere on the face needs antioxidants, ingredients like retinol that help make healthier skin cells, ingredients that build collagen, ingredients that protect from the sun (which greatly improves dark circles), ingredients to lighten discolorations, and ingredients that repair the skin's barrier. There are no special ingredients just for the eye area, and when those are promoted, they're almost always gimmicky or lack substantiated research proving they do something special for eye-area concerns.

But Isn't the Eye Area More Sensitive?

The eye area is indeed more sensitive, but skin everywhere on the face, including around the eyes, needs gentle ingredients that don't cause irritation or a sensitizing reaction. Irritation steadily damages your skin, leading to collagen breakdown and inflammation, all of which slowly reduce your skin's ability to heal and act younger.

Every part of the face needs stable, potent, and GENTLE state-of-the-art ingredients. It doesn't make any sense that the eye area should get the good, non-irritating ingredients yet the face gets the bad or potentially troublesome ones.

Ironically, lots of eye creams and other eye-area products often contain extremely irritating ingredients, including fragrant plant oils, sensitizing plant extracts, mint, and synthetic fragrance, all of which are terrible for the eye area and for the face!

But Isn't the Eye Area Skin Thinner?

It is true that the skin around the eye is thinner, but when you compare most eye creams to most face products, the eye creams generally are thicker and heavier; they aren't lighter weight at all. Most face products actually have a lighter and thinner consistency than eye creams, and putting a heavy, thick-textured product on thin eye-area skin can be too much, unless you apply very sparingly.

Using thick eye creams can make your foundation or concealer crease into lines around the eye, which makes your wrinkles look even worse!

But Aren't Eye Creams Safer for the Eye Area?

No. If anything, eye creams can actually be dangerous! One of the many drawbacks of most eye creams is that they rarely contain sunscreen, which means that daytime use is a serious problem for the health of your skin.

Using an eye cream during the daytime might make you believe you are doing something special for the skin around your eyes, but if it does not contain sunscreen, then you actually are putting your skin at risk of sun damage. In turn, that means deeper wrinkles, darker skin discolorations (including dark circles getting darker), increased sagging, and pronounced age-related puffiness--all signs of aging that most of us would rather avoid.

A daytime moisturizer or, if you prefer, an eye cream with the mineral sunscreen ingredients titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide will provide protection against wrinkles, dark circles, and swelling. The key is to apply an SPF-rated product around the eyes every day, all year long, even if it's cloudy outside.

OK, So What Should I Use Around My Eyes?

If the face product you're using or considering is well formulated to fight dry skin and wrinkles, repair skin, create healthier skin cells, build collagen, improve dark circles (to some extent), and prevent sun damage, then use it, and you will be doing the most you can via skin care for the eye area. All of those benefits have nothing to do with the label on the product; it is all about finding brilliantly formulated products whether labeled 'eye cream' or something else.

You can indeed buy a well-formulated eye cream, and we acknowledge many of you would prefer to do just that, but we urge you to carefully consider which one you're using and whether it's truly different from your facial moisturizer or serum. There are lots of brilliant products labeled for the face that are perfect for use around the eye area as well. Check out our recommendations at Beautypedia.

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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