Eye cream is one of the most heavily debated skincare products on the market. Time and time again, you’ll see skincare influencers debating the necessity of eye cream — but go straight to a dermatologist and they’ll tell you that for most patients, a quality eye cream is a crucial product to include in your skincare regimen.
That’s because the skin surrounding your eyes is drastically, anatomically different from the skin on your face and neck. And unique anatomy means unique skin concerns — like dark circles, fine lines, and puffiness. So exactly what is eye cream, and how do you use it to zap away these concerns? Ahead, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban explains everything you need to know about choosing, using, and applying eye cream.
What Is Eye Cream?
“An eye cream is similar to a facial moisturizer, however, it is most often formulated with ingredients that are blended to deliver quicker and more targeted results to the particular characteristics of the skin around the eye,” says Dr. Shamban. The skin around your eyes has a few key differences from the skin on the rest of your face; it’s thinner, more delicate, and more likely to experience premature aging. Because of the difference in anatomy, eye creams were born to target the specific concerns you might have for this unique area of skin.
What Are The Benefits of Eye Cream?
Every eye cream formula is different. Some eye creams contain ingredients specifically for brightening dark circles, while others are created to boost firmness. But in general, you can expect your eye cream to do the following:
- Hydrates the delicate skin around the eyes
- Typically less irritating than moisturizer is on the eye area
- Depending on the formulation, eye creams can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles both immediately (by hydrating and “plumping” fine lines under the eyes) and over time (with ingredients like retinol that stimulate cell turnover).
How Do You Apply Eye Cream?
When it comes to the order in which to apply eye cream in your skincare routine, Dr. Shamban offers the following advice: “A general rule of thumb is to apply skincare products from lightest to heaviest layers,” she says. “Lighter, lower-weight and smaller molecular structure formulas should always be applied before your moisturizer since they cannot penetrate through thicker products.”
“Serum can be applied to the full face, including the under-eye area in a thin layer to penetrate the skin,” she continues. “Then a specific eye cream should be applied before a general facial moisturizer or sunscreen if it is a thin lotion gel or hybrid formula. But if it’s a dense, lipid-rich and more intense cream formula than your facial hydrator, it can go on last — on top of a facial moisturizer.”
The only caveat to the above rule of thumb is if your eye area is particularly sensitive — i.e., you experience frequent redness and burning in reaction to serums and moisturizers that aren’t formulated specifically for the eye area. In that case, it’s recommended to apply your eye cream first after cleansing, which will provide a protective layer to prevent your regular facial products from seeping into that area.
When it comes to the actual application of the eye cream, you have a few options — but gentleness is the key. If you’re using your fingers, it’s recommended to use your ring finger (the weakest finger) and to use gentle tapping motions. Any rubbing, smearing, or aggressive blending can actually exacerbate under-eye wrinkles over time. Dr. Shamban notes that if you want to avoid using your fingers (which are often covered in acne-causing bacteria), to look for footed metal applicators and spatulas, which prevent you from touching your face and also offer a bit of cooling pressure (which not only feels amazing but can also help with puffiness). If puffiness is a particular concern for you, she also advises that you may choose to keep your eye cream in the refrigerator and/or use a cooling roller on top of your eye cream in the morning and/or night.
Do You Really Need an Eye Cream?
The short answer is yes, it’s recommended. “Although facial moisturizers are certainly effective and can still hydrate the under-eye area, the specificity of eye cream may be more intense forms of hydration, brightening, or tightening directly related to the skin condition,” says Dr. Shamban. If moisture is truly the only concern you have for your under-eye area, and you aren’t particularly sensitive, you can probably get away with applying your face moisturizer to the under-eye area. But due to the unique anatomy of the under-eye skin, most individuals have unique concerns they’d like to treat that don’t appear on the rest of their face — like dark circles, puffiness, and a lack of firmness. If that sounds like you, then a targeted eye cream is an excellent product to include in your routine.
What Eye Cream Do Dermatologists Recommend?
There are hundreds of eye creams on the market, and the right one for you really depends on your specific under-eye concerns. “Look for eye creams that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides for hydration and diminishing wrinkles,” says Dr. Shamban. Meanwhile, for anti-aging and textural improvement, look for ingredients like peptides, antioxidants, and retinoids. For puffiness, Dr. Shamban recommends caffeine-infused eye creams, but notes that these may provide a temporary solution.
The anatomy of your under-eye skin differs drastically from the skin on the rest of your face. For starters, it’s significantly thinner, which means this area is more prone to dark circles, premature fine lines, puffiness, and a loss of elasticity. If you’re looking to combat these skin concerns, then you should absolutely add an eye cream to your skincare regimen, advises Dr. Shamban. However, if moisturizing your under-eye area is truly your only concern, then your regular facial moisturizer should do the trick — so long as it doesn’t irritate your more sensitive under-eye area.
When it comes to actually applying your eye cream, a lightweight formula should go on before your moisturizer, and thicker formulas can go on after your moisturizer. (But if your under-eyes are extremely sensitive, use your eye cream first to prevent your other facial products from seeping into this area). You can choose to apply your eye cream with your ring finger or an applicator that comes with the product — but whatever you do, be sure to be gentle. Light tapping motions are advised over aggressive rubbing and blending, which can speed up the deepening of fine lines.
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