Tretinoin is the strongest retinoid out there, and is amazing for smoothing fine lines. Unlike other types or retinoids, like retinol or retinal, tretinoin (which you need a prescription to get) doesn't undergo any conversion steps for your skin to use it, making it more potent and effective than other over-the-counter options. But with that potency can come irritation (redness, stinging, flaking, etc.), which is why many who use tretinoin will skip the area around their eyes—which is home to the thinnest, most delicate skin on the body. But eye skin is also the first area on the face to show signs of aging, so if that's a concern for you, using tretinoin on the eye skin can be super beneficial.
Musely, a telehealth-based prescription skin-care brand, is here with a solution—Musely FaceRX The Eye Serum ($74). It's an eye serum that blends a super-low concentration of tretinoin with a host of soothing, hydrating goodies making the ingredient more tolerable for use around the eyes. While tretinoin is usually prescribed at a 0.025 percent concentration, this Musely eye serum has a 0.001 percent concentration.
"That's actually kind of genius," says Diedre Hooper, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Orleans, Louisiana. "Most of the studies and the data that have proven that tretinoin can increase collagen production have been with a more like a 0.025 percent concentration. So the question is, is this Musely one gonna be effective at all? My answer would be 'probably.' It's probably less effective than 0.025, but more tolerable." And given how thin eyelid skin is, Dina Strachan, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says the concentration seems "reasonable and safe."
What really makes this eye serum sing is that it's got more than just tretinoin. It has a cosmetically elegant formula designed to offset potential irritation while protecting the skin against the effects of environmental aggressors like pollution. First up is tacrolimus, "a prescription drug that was invented for eczema and rashes," says Dr. Hooper. "That is beneficial because it's anti-inflammatory without being a steroid, so it doesn't carry the risk that steroids do. What they're doing there is adding something to turn down the heat if you're getting an inflammatory response from the tretinoin." It also has hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and offset any dryness.
Next, it's got caffeine, vitamin C, niacinamide, and bisabolol, all antioxidants that protect against environmental aggressors while each adding its own special benefit. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, so it shrinks blood vessels which can help combat under-eye puffiness. Vitamin C works as a brightening agent which can help brighten dark circles that are caused by the overproduction of pigment. Niacinamide regulates oil production and soothes skin. And bisabolol helps to firm the skin.
Keep in mind that if you're already used to full-strength tretinoin and can tolerate it around your eyes, there's no need to stop. Dr. Hopper says she layers tretinoin over her go-to eye cream two or three times a week and has been doing so for 20 years. Dr. Stachan says that after she applies tret to the rest of her face, she wipes the residual that's on her fingers on her eyelids. So if you already have tretinoin and tolerate it quite well, try it out on your eyes.
But if you don't want to or simply can't tolerate something so strong, give Musely FaceRX The Eye Serum a try. To get it, you have a $20, three-minute online doctor visit to get the script, place your order, and it's shipped to your door. For $74, you get enough to last you two months. Your lids will love it.
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