Of all of the steps in a skin-care routine, eye cream often feels like the most superfluous. People (dermatologists—and myself—included) have argued that “eye cream is a scam,” and that you can get most of the same benefits from your regular moisturizer without having to spend extra cash on a pricey miracle potion. But while your under eyes might seem like the easiest place to skip out on skin care, they’re actually the ones you should be paying the most attention to, because they’re the spot that will show the first signs of aging on the face.
“The skin under your eyes is thin, with fewer collagen and elastin fibers,” says board-certified dermatologist and president of Amarte, Craig Kraffert, MD, which makes the effects of things like dehydration, lack of sleep, and sun exposure show more readily. It doesn’t help that your eye muscles are constantly getting a workout, and that there are very few oil glands in the area to keep the skin from drying out, all of which contribute to those “crow’s feet” wrinkles that often occur. Then, there are dark circles, which appear because there are lots of blood vessels in the area and very little fat between them and your skin.
“Aging can appear from genetics, stress, and not taking proper care of your under eye skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Michele Farber, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology in NYC. “Using harsh cosmetics can damage the gentle skin under your eyes, rubbing the area especially if you are prone to allergies, and sometimes people are simply more genetically prone to dark circling or hollowing.”
Because the skin under your eyes is so sensitive, people tend to get nervous about using products on it, but derms agree that that’s the wrong choice. Instead, it’s important to put together an under-eye routine that both combats and treats signs of aging. Read on for the best ingredients to do it with.
How to combat signs of aging under the eyes
1. Retinol: Retinol is the ultimate wrinkle-fighting ingredient, and there’s a reason why it’s popped up in so many of the buzziest new eye creams on the market. “Retinol is one of the most effective cosmetic anti-aging ingredients and is scientifically proven to improve conditions associated with chronological aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines,” says Dr. Kraffert. It stimulates cell turnover to fight signs of aging while also helping to improve skin tone, which makes it ultra-effective in treating issues under your eyes. And if you don’t want to invest in a totally new retinol eye cream (though this one from The Inkey List is great, and it’s only $10), you can use your regular retinol cream in the area as long as you apply it after your moisturizer to keep the delicate skin from drying out.
2. Peptides: Since there’s very little naturally-occurring collagen under your eyes, you’ll want to use an ingredient that helps stimulate the production of the stuff, and that’s where peptides come in. They work with your DNA to get it to create collagen on its own, which results in plumper looking skin. Dr. Kraffert is a fan of EGF, or “epidermal growth factor,” which you can find in Amarte Eyeconic Eye Cream ($80). It helps stimulate epidermal cell growth and proliferation, making for healthier looking skin.
3. Hyaluronic acid: Because there are so few oil glands under your eyes, it’s important to use moisturizing ingredients to keep the skin hydrated. Derms’ top pick? Hyaluronic acid, because it holds 1,000 times its weight in water. “Hyaluronic acid moisturizes, hydrates, and pulls water into the under-eye area,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of LM Medical NYC Morgan Rabach, MD. Fresh Rose Water Hydrating Eye Gel ($48) is packed with the stuff, as is Honest Beauty Deep Hydration Eye Cream ($20)
4. Antioxidants: Antioxidants are your first and most important line of defense from environmental stressors like pollution, which makes them an important element in your eye-care routine. They help to protect against fine lines and wrinkles, too, and can calm skin and decrease puffiness. Vitamin C, which you can find in Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream ($64) tends to be a derm-favorite since it helps brighten skin while also protecting it and stimulating collagen.
5. SPF: The last layer of your under eye routine is also the number one most important. The thin skin is super sensitive to UV damage, which means you should always (always, always) be covering it in SPF. Dr. Rabach recommends using a mineral product that’s made with titanium or zinc, which are easy to apply by way of sunscreen/concealer hybrids like It Cosmetics CC+ Eye Color Correcting Concealer SPF 50+ ($37).
Using eye cream is important, but using too much of it can actually be counterproductive. Here’s why. Plus, how to know if you should be applying it at night or during the day.
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