How to Find the Best Eye Cream


In This Article:

The eye area is one of the first places to show signs of aging, and we'll be the first to tell you that great skincare plays a pivotal role in that anti-aging fight. Finding an effective eye cream, however, is no easy feat. They're often advertised as "specially formulated" for the sensitive, thin skin around the eyes or claim to get rid of puffiness, dark circles, and sagging skin—yet, in many cases, they fail to live up to their promises altogether. That's why people keep buying eye cream after eye cream and continue to be disappointed time and time again.

The good news: There really are skincare options that work beautifully for the eye area, whether an eye cream or other state-of-the-art product from your skincare regimen. So, how do you know which option is your best bet? Read on to find out...

Recommended Eye-Area Products

What to Look for in an Eye Cream

First, it's important to realize there's no research indicating that eye-area skin needs ingredients different from those you use on the rest of your face. You may be wondering: "But isn't the eye area more sensitive?" And the answer is, yes, it is more sensitive. But it's also true that skin everywhere on the face should be treated to formulas that don't cause irritation or a sensitizing reaction.

Especially worrisome is that many eye creams contain irritating ingredients, such as fragrant plant oils, synthetic fragrance, or sensitizing plant extracts, all of which can cause pro-aging inflammation.

What the eye area really needs are antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-repairing ingredients, in a soothing, fragrance-free formula, just like what you need for the rest of the face. In fact, if you're already using a gentle yet effective moisturizer or serum, it may be perfect for the eye area, too, and here's why...

When You Need an Eye Cream

You don't necessarily need a separate product labeled eye cream, eye gel, or eye serum if you're already using a well-formulated facial moisturizer or serum—those can absolutely work effectively around the eye area, too, as long as skin around your eyes is the same type as skin on the rest of your face.

The exception is if the skin around your eyes is drier (which is true for many of us)—in that case you need a more emollient formula, and that's where the best eye creams excel. This rings especially true for those with oily skin who may not be using a moisturizer on their face at all or are using only a very thin gel or liquid-based moisturizer. In that case, an eye cream may be exactly what you're looking for because skin around the eye can and often does need more emollients. We'll provide top recommendations in just a minute, but, first, what about...

Dark Circles, Puffy Eyes, and Sagging Skin

Eye creams claiming to help dark circles, puffiness, and sagging endlessly exaggerate what they can do, which is why people are endlessly experimenting with new eye creams—because the previous ones, even those that cost a lot, didn’t work as claimed. The issue is that depending on the cause of the dark circles, puffiness, and sagging, there’s only so much any eye cream or face moisturizer, regardless of how brilliantly formulated it is, can do.

If the puffiness is the result of fat pads that have shifted under the eye (which is a hallmark of aging skin), there are no creams in the world that can address it. If the puffiness is from fluid buildup or from not getting enough sleep, a soothing cream around the eye can help, but you also are going to need to make lifestyle changes to truly make a difference. For example, you’d need to get enough sleep, reduce alcohol consumption, reduce salt intake, and, if allergies are part of the problem, take antihistamines.

If the puffiness around the eye area is from irritation and sun damage, then a beautifully formulated eye cream can make all the difference by healing skin and reducing inflammation.

For dark circles, there are certainly options, but foremost among them is: During the day, whatever you put around your eye must contain sunscreen (something most eye creams lack). For both day and night, it should contain melanin-inhibiting ingredients to improve skin color. This can make an amazing difference, whether these ingredients are in a well-formulated eye cream, facial moisturizer, or other treatment product.

In terms of sagging and wrinkles, all the same astounding ingredients for the face work around the eye area, too. Just like the face, skin around the eye responds beautifully to generous amounts of antioxidants and skin-repairing ingredients (the same goes for your neck and chest as well). You must, however, keep your expectations realistic, especially when it comes to products that claim to "lift" skin. You can tighten and firm skin to a certain degree, but no skincare product can magically pull up drooping eyelids or sagging under-eye bags.

Why Packaging is Crucial for Eye Creams

If you opt to use an eye cream, look for those that are packaged to keep the light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable (no jars!) and that are loaded with the types of ingredients mentioned above. Those are the types of eye-area formulas you should be considering, rather than just assuming any eye cream you buy is truly different or special just because it’s labeled "specially formulated for the eyes."

During the Day, SPF is Key!

Those of you familiar with Paula's Choice know our unequivocal positon on the absolute necessity of daily sun protection, and that absolutely goes for the eye area, too, especially when it comes to puffy eyes, dark circles, and sagging—all concerns that unprotected sun exposure will worsen!

Your daytime facial moisturizer with SPF 25+ can and should be applied around the eye area. However, we strongly recommend using only mineral-based sunscreen actives—zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide—around your eyes. It's not that synthetic sunscreen ingredients don't work, but their action on skin around the eyes can be sensitizing.

If the eye cream you prefer to use during the day doesn't provide sun protection, then your approach should be to apply your eye cream and follow it with a daytime moisturizer, foundation, or concealer with sunscreen that is rated SPF 25 or greater. Sunglasses are a nice extra measure of important defense, for the eye itself as well as for skin around the eye.

The Bottom Line

Whether you decide to use a product labeled eye cream or a facial moisturizer/serum that you can use around your eye area, make sure it's a fragrance-free formula packed with the types of ingredients we mentioned earlier (reminder: antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-repairing ingredients) to fight wrinkles, stimulate collagen production, and so on—all without irritation.

Following is a list of some great examples of products that work beautifully around the eye area, no matter what they're called:

Daytime eye cream with SPF

  • Clinique Superdefense Age Defense Eye Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 20

Daytime moisturizer with SPF for eye area

Nighttime eye cream

Nighttime moisturizer for eye area

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Eye Treatments.

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 busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

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