How to choose whether to apply your eye cream during the day or at night


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Photo: Getty Images/ Delmaine Donson

No one can seem to agree on what’s the deal with eye cream. Some beauty pros will tell you that all of those $100-plus, one-ounce jars are a scam because they do exactly the same thing as your moisturizer. Others will insist that it’s a big mistake to skip such a critical step. While the necessity of an eye cream might be up for debate (after all, it’s not a non-negotiable like a cleanser or sunscreen), in 20 years you’re never going to look back at the smooth, even skin under your eyes and think: “Man, I wish I hadn’t worn an eye cream back in the day.”

For what it’s worth, all four of the dermatologist I interviewed for this story were #teameyecream, noting that we need something more than a moisturizer to treat the paper-thin skin under the eyes. “Moisturizer does not offer the same benefits as many eye creams,” says board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. “Because the skin nearest to the eyes is very delicate and is prone to different problems in aging and environmental exposure than other parts of the face and body, it does justify using a separate product for this area beyond a simple moisturizer.”

“When we use eye cream, our goals are to have them deliver the same anti-aging weapons we aim for with the rest of the face but to do so in a manner that will not irritate,” says board-certified dermatologist Sheel Desai Solomon, MD. While eye creams tend to have the same active ingredients as your favorite serums and moisturizers—like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and retinol—since the area is so fragile, they’re not quite as potent. Yet, still oddly expensive. This means you want to be sure you’re investing in a product with ingredients that actually work for what your under eye concerns are.

You certainly can be using the same cream in the morning and at night, but considering your skin has different needs at different times of the day it may be worth investing in one for each. The good news, though, is that there are plenty of great drugstore options out there, so you don’t have to drop $75 to ensure you’re getting ingredients that work (though, you totally can if you want to). Below, derms share their tips on how to choose an eye cream, plus their recommendations and the products to keep on hand

Morning eye creams should protect

Just like the rest of your morning skin regimen, your a.m. eye cream should protect the skin under your eyes from the elements you face throughout the day. “Daytime eye creams should have ingredients that help with hydration, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, and ingredients that help neutralize free-radical damage from pollution and daily stressors such as vitamin C,” says Dr. Nazarian. Vitamin C can also help diminish under-eye lines and wrinkles over time, and aids in brightening dark circles that serve as double-dead giveaways that you haven’t been getting enough sleep.

Finding a daytime eye cream with SPF certainly doesn’t hurt, especially because that delicate skin can use all of the protection it can get (this, it’s worth adding, is in addition to your every day sunscreen). Derms love Colorescience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy ($69), which checks all of these boxes, and can double as your daily concealer thanks to the fact that it’s tinted. For a more affordable drugstore option that works wonders in the a.m., try Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum ($18), which is packed with vitamins plus hyaluronic acid, and won’t cake under your makeup. And a little caffeine doesn’t hurt either. According to board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD, it acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce puffiness while also tightening the skin. You can find it in Neocutis Lumière Intensive Eye-Smoothing Cream ($98), or The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream ($10).

Evening eye creams should restore

At night, it’s all about restoration. Look for a heavier cream (since you don’t have to worry about it messing with your makeup) with peptides, which stimulate collagen, and retinol, which helps with cell turnover and diminishes the appearance of fine lines. Replenix All-Trans-Retinol Eye Repair Cream ($98) has all these evening ingredients, plus hyaluronic acid to keep them hydrated while you sleep. If you tend to be sensitive to retinol on the rest of your face, try Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleep Mask ($42) which encapsulates the ingredient and pairs it with avocado to make it less irritating for all skin types. And for a drugstore option, try RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream ($16), which is a fan fave for dealing with everything from puffiness to dark circles and wrinkles.

This is the one eye cream that a beauty blogger can’t live with. And no matter which under-eye product you’re working with, here’s how to make it work double duty. 

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