Our skin undergoes a series of changes throughout each decade of our lives. We know that collagen, elastin, and hydration all start to deplete as we get older, and the first signs of these shifts tend to appear around our eyes, where the skin is thinner and more delicate than in other spots on our faces. So if fine lines and wrinkles on your lids are something you're worried about, derms say using the right eye cream is your best bet for staving them off.
"Eye creams are important because this thin skin is where most people first see the signs of aging," says Deirdre Hooper, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Louisiana. "Finding a product that is both anti-aging and tolerable for this sensitive area often requires something specifically made for the eyes."
Ingredients like peptides and retinol are great to use around the eyes. And while you can start using these ingredients at any age (the earlier, the better!), there are decades in your life when they will become more important. "You should incorporate these ingredients into your routine as soon as you have the budget," says Dr. Hooper. That's because it's easier to get ahead of signs of aging rather than waiting to address them once they're there.
And no matter what is in your eye cream, make sure you're applying it to both your upper and lower lids. "One of the big misconceptions is people think that eye cream is for lower lids because that's where they see puffiness, bags, or dark circles," says Dr. Hooper. "But when we talk about eye cream, we're talking about the upper lid and lower lid." Shop the best eye cream for your age below.
What to look for in an eye cream in your 20s
The most essential ingredient—in your 20s and forever—is sunscreen. "You must apply SPF to the upper lid and the lower lid," says Dr. Hooper. This is because UV rays are the number one cause of premature aging. So no matter what fancy ingredients you're using, it's all a waste if you're not also protecting your eyes from the sun.
You can use regular sunblock or eye cream with SPF; it just depends on which you prefer. "Using sunscreen specifically formulated for eyelid skin is helpful because often, the formulations are a little more gentle and won't irritate your eyelid skin," says Dr. Hooper.
“Supergoop! makes an adorable little eye cream that has a little bit of a rosy tint to it and it’s almost like a little eye brightener, which I think is fun,” says Dr. Hooper. It protects skin from UV rays with zinc oxide, from blue light damage with wild butterfly ginger flower, and from free radicals with green tea extract. It also includes probiotics, pomegranate, and caffeine to help brighten and reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness.
“You can put any kind of SPF on your eyelids,” says Dr. Hooper. This one from La-Roche Posay is super gentle and great to use on your entire face, including your eyes.
What to look for in an eye cream in your 30s
Your 30s is when you'll first start noticing fine lines and wrinkles around your eyes. During this decade, Dr. Hooper recommends looking for an eye cream with growth factors and peptides. "Growth factors and peptides are ingredients that can stimulate you to make more collagen and elastin," she says, which help make your skin firmer and wrinkles smoother.
This Summer Friday’s eye cream is made with protective and brightening vitamin C plus acetyl hexapeptide-8, a firming peptide that minimizes the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It also includes caffeine to help depuff eyes.
Dr. Hooper is a huge fan of this eye cream from Revision Skincare. It’s made with palmitoyl tripeptide-38 to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Plus, it includes alpha-glucan Ooigosaccharide to enhance the skin’s natural ability to balance and diversify its own microbiome, dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline to help moisturize the skin, an amino acid copper complex to energize the skin, and goji fruit extract to provide powerful antioxidant benefits.
What to look for in an eye cream in your 40s
"In your 40s, especially if you start menopause and your collagen really starts to decline, you can use the most potent collagen simulator of them all, which is Retin-A," says Dr. Hooper. Retin-A is a prescription retinoid—the version you can most easily find over the counter is retinol. They're both vitamin-A derivatives that help stimulate cell turnover, leading to a brighter, clearer complexion and stimulating collagen production.
If you're using a prescription Retin-A on your eyes, Dr. Hooper says you may only want to use it two or three times a week because it can get irritating. Since an over-the-counter retinoid is less potent, you might be able to use it nightly, depending on how your skin tolerates it.
This eye cream from L’Oréal Paris is made with a blend of collagen-stimulating retinol, hydrating and plumping hyaluronic acid, and brightening and protective vitamin C.
This eye serum is great to layer under an eye cream you already love. It pairs retinol with ferulic acid and bakuchiol, which both work to counteract the irritating effects of retinol. The result is a potent formula that’s gentle enough for all skin types.
What to look for in an eye cream in your 50s and up
As we age, our skin gets drier, so "50 is where you may notice that you need more emollient, that you need something more moisturizing," says Dr. Hooper. As you make this transition, make sure the eye cream isn't too creamy for your skin, because that can cause little white clogged pores called milia. "To make products more tolerable, [brands] will increase the oil content so that it's more moisturizing. And that's great if you have dry skin, but if you have oilier, acne-prone skin or if you start noticing those little bumps, you probably need a different formulation of product because it's clogging your pores," says Dr. Hooper.
This is Dr. Hooper’s holy grail product and she’s been using it for over 15 years. It’s got an amazingly rich and creamy texture to provide ultimate moisturization. Plus, growth factors to support collagen and hyaluronic acid production, proprietary peptides to boost the production of collagen and elastin, caffeine to reduce eye, and vitamin C to provide antioxidant care.
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