Do Eye Creams Really Work?

Can it solve our undereye problems?

Eye creams are typically one of the first things we gravitate to when we notice any puffiness, dark circles, or wrinkles in the eye area. However, skincare users are quite torn when it comes to the true efficacy of these products. Even some aestheticians think eye creams are a scam and a waste of money. To get to the root of it all, we consulted Singapore Ministry of Health-accredited dermatologist Dr. Angeline Yong from AYD Dermatology to shed more light on the real deal behind eye creams.

Why and when to use eye creams

Close up of eye

(Photo from: Shiny Diamond via Pexels)

“To some extent, we use serums and moisturisers on the entire face, and we use body moisturisers as well. Likewise, the eyes being a very delicate area absolutely needs extra care,” Dr. Yong explained. Its delicate condition is due to it “being very thin by nature”. 

The thin skin means it shows signs of ageing — like fine lines, dryness, and pigmentation — faster than other parts of our face. By not taking proper care of this delicate skin, your eyes will most likely show these problems more noticeably.

Ideally, you should start incorporating some form of eye care in your late 20s, sometime after 25 years, as a preventative measure. “We want to start using something before we get to the point that it is [truly needed], like far down the line,” she said. Our skin’s collagen production slows down as we age and we need to do our best to support it as much as we can with proper care.

Consistency matters

A hand holding an open pot of eye cream in the sun

(Photo from: Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash)

Perhaps one of the most common reasons why eye creams get a bad rap is the misconception that they are glorified moisturisers. However, there’s a real difference between the consistency of your face moisturiser and an eye care product. Eye creams, gels, and oils need to be lighter in order to avoid occlusion of your pores.

“The pores [in our eye area] are more refined and tend to clog more easily,” Dr. Yong explained. Some people, she added, are more prone to forming milia (whitehead-like bumps in the eye area filled with keratin). If you want to prevent this from happening, you need to choose the right consistency to prevent congestion.

Creams, gels, oils — how to choose

While it can be purely up to preference, you should choose the right variant depending on your skin type if you want to take full advantage of your eye care.

For example, those with combination skin tend to oil up on the T-zone and be drier towards your cheeks. “Likewise the eye zone could be drier than the rest of the skin,” Dr. Yong said. However, there are people who have oily lids — due to “the meibomian glands (tiny oil glands) in the lashline producing a lot of oil” — who’d need a lighter product compared to those with dry skin who can tolerate slightly richer textures.

Pot of white skincare and sunglasses on table

(Photo from: Brittney Weng via Unsplash)

Generally, it’s best to go for lighter-weight products. “A gel-based or lightweight cream may be preferred to a very heavy rich, luxurious eye cream,” she added. These heavier, buttery products add more risk of clogging or occlusion.

Of course, there’s always an exception to this but it’s quite rare. “Some patients have extremely dry eye areas and they will benefit from slightly richer creams.” Conditions like periorbital eczema (dry, itchy red skin) can also lead to drier skin due to rubbing.

In addition to eye creams and gels, people also use eye masks to care for the eye zone. These, according to Dr. Yong, are for short-term relief. “It’s meant to cool and soothe the skin in the area … and reduce puffiness.”

“If you're really talking about longer-term use, then having a good eye cream is more essential, largely because eye creams typically stay on for the entire duration. You leave them on overnight for like eight hours or so. The creams have much more time to exert their effect on the skin and to achieve the purpose it was meant for.”

Do eye creams really work?

A close-up of a girl applying cream on her under eye area

(Photo from: Anna Shvets via Pexels)

So are eye creams really functional skincare? Well, it depends on how long you’ve been using them and the particular issue you’re hoping to address.

“You use an eye cream for at least a month before you can sort of make a conclusion on whether it is helping or not,” Dr. Yong advised. On one hand, its positive benefits may take longer to be observed but any signs of irritation will arise fairly quickly. “Irritating side effects, we could tell within two weeks, but to really see the results, you have to wait for a few weeks to [let it] set into your skin,” she added.

If you’re looking for a remedy to your dark circles, the results will greatly vary. First, you need to identify the underlying cause of the hyperpigmentation. “Is it due to friction and rubbing your eyes very often because you have dry skin or eczema in that area?”, Dr. Yong asked. If your answer is yes, then you will need to treat the underlying condition first.

But if your dark undereyes are due to lack of sleep or tiredness, then the pigmentation may be from the swollen blood vessels underneath your eyes. For this, you’ll need cold compresses, cooling eye creams or masks to “help to reduce that swelling in those vessels”. If you’re not sure about the true cause of this hyperpigmentation, you can consult a dermatologist for a more thorough assessment and care plan.

Some no-nos for your peepers

A mirror shot of a girl applying cream on her cheek

(Photo from: Humphrey Muleba via Unsplash)

Before you start shopping for anti-ageing eye creams, you need to consider which ingredients to steer away from. The undereye shows wrinkles and pigmentation more obviously but we can’t address it similar to the rest of the face. For example, some anti-ageing ingredients like retinol and whitening agents that serve well to reverse common skin ageing signs are too harsh to be applied in the eye area.

Avoid using alcohol-based products too, as these can dry out the skin and cause a stinging sensation if they enter the eyes.

If you want to protect your eyes from darkening, you can’t go wrong with getting enough sleep, not rubbing your eyes, and wearing sunglasses when outside. Eye care is a holistic practice, so don’t just depend on eye creams.

Check out these eye creams

Want to start on a proper eye care regimen? Check out these eye creams for your consideration.

LANEIGE Eye Sleeping Mask

LANEIGE Eye Sleeping Mask product shot

~USD33.15

For fans of the LANEIGE Sleeping Mask, the brand has a similar product designed for caring for your eye area too. The LANEIGE Eye Sleeping Mask is formulated with caffeine, vitamin P and enzymes to depuff and brighten your eyes. It uses Eye Moisture Wrap technology that forms a breathable layer of hydrating beta glucan while keeping the area moisturised as you sleep.

Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado

~USD34.88

Avocado might not be the first ingredient you think of for your eye area, but it’s a classic moisturising addition to any formula. The Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado contains avocado oil (a natural source of amino acid proteins, potassium, as well as vitamins A, D, and E), anti-oxidising beta-carotene, and hydrating shea butter to keep your eye area moisturised as long as possible.

Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Créme

Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Créme product shot

~USD42.52

Inspired by tint-cancelling banana powder, the Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Créme promises to brighten and smoothen the eye area with vitamin C and collagen. The pale yellow hue also acts as a colour corrector to cancel out dark under eyes before you put on your makeup.

SK-II R.N.A Power Eye Cream

SK-II R.N.A Power Eye Cream product shot

~USD107.39

PITERA™ works its magic in the SK-II R.N.A Power Eye Cream. Its RNArchitect Complex contains concentrated PITERA™  with hydrolysed soy and yeast extracts to plump up sagging skin. If you have a bit of splash money to spare, this is a luxurious eye cream you can indulge in.

Cetaphil Hydrating Eye Cream-Serum

~USD18.02

The Cetaphil Hydrating Eye Cream-Serum is a lightweight, creamy serum that claims to improve and promote skin’s natural elasticity and firmness. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid to hydrate the eye area while licorice extract addresses dark circles. It’s also hypo-allergenic, ideal for those with sensitive skin.

While eye creams are generally more prevention than cure, it’s never too early or late to start using them. Here’s to keeping our eye area youthful, bright, and hydrated for years to come!

Disclaimer: The products mentioned in the story are not endorsed by the dermatologist and are shared as general recommendations by the writer based on the knowledge shared by the expert.

(Cover photo from: Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash)

If you have sensitive skin, check out these products formulated specifically for your skin type.

Comments, questions or feedback? Email us at [email protected].

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