Eye creams hydrate the undereye area and may even help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
However, eye creams usually do not treat dark circles or reduce undereye puffiness.
You do not need to use an eye cream if you are younger, but if you are older and concerned about fine lines and wrinkles, it could be a good addition to your skincare routine.
While it might seem like a glamorized moisturizer, an eye cream may be worth the investment for some people. Dermatologists say that eye cream can help hydrate your skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. However, there are also myths surrounding this skincare product.
Here's what you need to know about what eye cream can and can't do - and whether you should use one.
What is eye cream?
Eye cream is a type of moisturizer formulated specifically for the eye area. While some people choose to use general face cream on the skin around the eyes, this area requires extra care.
"The skin around the eyes is thin and delicate and signs of aging often first become apparent in this delicate tissue," says Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
When looking for an eye cream, King says hydrating and moisturizing are the key features to seek out. However, eye creams can help with more than just hydrating the skin.
What eye cream can do
Here are the major benefits of using eye cream, according to dermatologists:
Eye cream hydrates your skin
Hydrating your undereye area is incredibly important, as there are fewer oil glands in the region, meaning it dries out quickly, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai.
The fix is relatively simple. Using hydrating eye cream daily can prevent and relieve dehydration, says Gretchen Frieling, MD, a dermatopathologist in the Boston-area.
"The skin around the eyes is particularly thin and delicate and prone to irritation, and therefore using products that are specifically formulated for the eye area can be beneficial," she says. Eye cream is specifically formulated to hydrate this fragile area of the skin.
According to King, an ideal eye moisturizer will contain:
Humectants, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, bind water to the skin, she says.
Emollients, like ceramides and fatty acids, help improve skin texture and appearance.
The benefits of hyaluronic acid and ceramides are widely known, so it shouldn't be hard to find an eye cream with them. "These ingredients are found in many eye creams and moisturizers because of how effectively they hold onto water and bring nourishment back to the skin," says Frieling.
Eye cream can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
Fine lines and wrinkles occur due to a loss of collagen - the protein that gives our skin structure - and elasticity as you age, says King. While measures like sun protection and avoiding smoking are important in preventing fine lines and wrinkles, eye cream also helps.
"There's also a lot of movement in this area because we blink so many times per day, and this puts a lot of stress on this fine delicate skin," says Jaliman.
To reduce fine lines and wrinkles, Frieling recommends picking an eye cream with:
Peptides, an amino acid used to treat aging skin. After penetrating the skin, they build collagen and hyaluronic acid as well as keep cells and tissues bound together.
Hydration can also temporarily plump the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines. In a 2017 study, the skin saw an improvement 15 minutes after applying a hydrating cream. A decrease in the presence of fine lines continued for at least 56 days. In this case, look for an eye cream with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or glycerin, says Jaliman.
What eye cream can't do
While eye cream has its benefits, it can't do much for reducing undereye puffiness or diminishing dark circles.
Eye cream can't reduce undereye puffiness
While eye creams help undereye puffiness, the results are temporary - and require caffeine.
"If the eye cream has a high concentration of caffeine, you can temporarily minimize eye puffiness," says Jaliman. "This is because the caffeine constricts the blood vessel, which diminishes the flow of blood to the eye area and decreases puffiness."
In a small 2009 study, researchers found that eye cream containing caffeine helped minimize the appearance of wrinkles and smooth skin.
Applying something cold to your eye area can also help reduce puffiness. "Cold tea bag compresses can also be helpful because both the caffeine and the cold can constrict blood vessels. Or try refrigerated spoons or cold cucumber slices," says King. Green tea bags are particularly effective, as you get the antioxidant benefits of green tea polyphenols as well.
Eye cream can't diminish dark circles
While eye creams on their own can't stop dark circles from appearing, there are plenty of steps that can diminish their appearance.
The easiest option is a tinted moisturizer. General face moisturizers and eye creams are available in tinted options. These products can provide the benefits of face cream while also acting as a lighter concealer to hide dark circles.
A more long-lasting solution involves a visit to your doctor. "Cosmetic procedures performed by a dermatologist like peels or lasers are the best way to banish dark circles for good," says Frieling.
Should you use eye cream?
Even if you already have a daily moisturizer you like it can be worth using an eye cream depending on your skin needs.
"Most 20-year olds with youthful skin probably don't need to invest in an extravagant product, and moisturizers are okay," says Frieling. "Keep in mind, eye creams are usually formulated with ingredients that deliver quicker and more targeted results than a regular moisturizer - although moisturizers certainly can still hydrate the undereye."
If you chose to use eye cream, Frieling recommends applying it either every morning or night, but not twice daily. While you can use most options at either time, certain ingredients lend better to day or evening. It's also important to apply eye creams before other skincare products like acne treatments as the area is particularly sensitive.
"Retinol might be one ingredient to only use at night because it can cause sensitivity to the sun," she says. "In the morning, it's best to use a lightweight formula to go with makeup. Even better, look for an eye cream with SPF to take you through the day. At night, opt for a thicker cream as it has all night to absorb."
Read the instructions on any product before use. When it comes time to apply, dab the cream around your eye instead of rubbing. Jaliman says you should avoid putting eye cream on the top lid as that increases your chances of getting it in the eye, causing irritation.
Eye cream is a targeted moisturizer that hydrates the eye area and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Look for eye creams that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides for hydration and diminishing wrinkles. Also, be sure to apply eye cream daily for optimal benefits.
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