Do You Really Need a Separate Eye Cream? Derms Settle the Debate
Main image – Annatabakova/Stocksy
If you’re someone who struggles with the idea that an area so small as the one around your eyes really needs its own product, you wouldn’t be alone.
What with cleansers, acid toners, physical exfoliators, serums and moisturisers, many people believe their skincare regimes are full to the brim enough already. So, what’s the deal with this teeny tiny area of the skin practically demanding its own rider?
Eye creams really are one of those beauty products that seem to come with a lot of confusion (ever heard someone talking about their ‘smaller molecule size’? Yep, just confusing).
Basically it comes down to this; are they really essential? And if they’re not, can we just use our regular moisturiser around our eyes?
To take the fluff out of the whole eye cream debate, I spoke to GP and dermatology expert Dr Sonia Khorana, dermatologists Dr William Kwan and Dr Geeta Yadav and physician assistant in dermatology, Merry Thornton, who have all the answers to whether we really need an eye cream.
I asked them for the scientific reasons behind needing one (or not), how to apply one and which ingredients to look out for. Because our overloaded skin and dwindling bank balances need some convincing.
Why the skin around your eyes is different to the rest of your face
“The eye area differs in that the skin is much, much thinner,” Dr Yadav explains. “Because it is so thin, it is more susceptible to damage and visible ageing, like fine lines and wrinkles (known as crows’ feet).”
An eye cream is specifically created for this thinner, more delicate area of the skin and treats it safely and gently.
On top of that, your eye area deals with other issues you often won’t find elsewhere on your face, like dark circles and puffiness.
Do I actually need an eye cream?
The short answer? Eye creams aren’t completely essential- you can often use your regular moisturiser instead- but they can be useful for people who are looking to target specific concerns (like dark circles).
“You don’t always need specific eye products – many facial moisturisers are fine to use around the eyes,” confirms Dr Khorana.
Having said that, consider how thick your moisturiser is. Relying on heavy face moisturisers to also treat the eye area can cause other issues on top of visible aging. “We shouldn’t really be using rich/occlusive products around the eyes too much due to the risk of milia (small white bumps under the skin),” explains Dr Khorana.
Fundamentally, if you have any concerns over the suitability of your moisturiser around your eye area, go for a separate eye cream. “While moisturiser can help, I would recommend using a separate eye cream as they are formulated and tested to be safely used around the eye area,” advises Dr Yadav.
But if you’re using a lightweight or water-based moisturiser and you’re satisfied that your eye area isn’t a red flag, keep doing what you’re doing and save your pennies.
Another sign you may want to invest in a separate eye cream is if you’re trying to target a few different issues in one go.
That’s because not only are eye creams generally thinner in texture and therefore more easily absorbed around eye area, they also contain more targeted ingredients.
“Using a separate eye cream provides targeted care for the delicate and sensitive skin around the eyes, addressing specific concerns like puffiness, dark circles and fine lines,” says Dr Kwan.
The science backs this up, with one study finding that 73% of patients noticed a decrease in puffiness and 93% noticed improved dark circles after 12 weeks using an eye cream.
What ingredients should I look out for?
If you’re shopping for a new eye cream, which one you buy depends on the concern you want to address.
- For puffiness and radiance:
Look for peptides, caffeine and vitamin C. Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream (£56 from Cult Beauty UK /$65.99 from Sephora US) isn’t cheap but it wakes up the skin and leaves it feeling super-smooth.
You can take a look at our full review of Drunk Elephant’s C-Tango here.
- For hydration:
- For dark circles:
“For dark circles, it’s important to look for brightening treatments containing tried and tested ingredients like retinoids, vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice root extract, niacinamide and azealic acid,” explains Dr Khorana.
Try Garnier Brightening 4% Vitamin C, Niacinamide, Caffeine & Banana Powder Eye Cream (£10.99 from Look Fantastic UK) which actually isn’t a smoothie, but a surprisingly effective eye cream for leaving the skin noticeably brighter.
How do you apply an eye cream for best results?
For maximum benefit, first check you’re using it at the correct time of day, according to the instructions. (Some say night-time, others recommend morning and night) Also, check you’re using it at the right stage in your skincare regime, which is before your moisturiser.
If you experience puffiness or need to feel refreshed, you might like to keep yours in the fridge so that when you apply it, it feels soothing on the skin.
“Apply it by tapping with your fourth finger so you don’t apply too much pressure or tug with your more dominant fingers,” explains Thornton. “Apply above and below the eye, taking care not to get the eye cream on the eyelid itself.”
You can use the same one for morning and evening but if it contains retinol, make sure to really protect your eye area with SPF. And remember, because the area you’re working with is so small and the skin is thin, less product is more.
OK, I admit it. The pros to using an eye cream outweigh the cons. In fact, the only disadvantages I can really think of are the expense of buying yet another product and the extra time spent on your regime.
But when you think about the good it’s doing for your skin, and how quickly it takes to apply, does it really add that much more time? And as we’ve discovered, eye creams clearly don’t have to cost the earth.
What we can all agree on are the facts – the skin around the eyes is thinner and more delicate than on the rest of the face. This means it needs a bit of extra TLC in the hydration, anti-aging and brightening department.
So, whilst it’s still ok to use a lightweight facial moisturiser around the eyes in place of an eye cream, it might benefit your eye area more to introduce it to a more targeted formula.
Meet the experts
Dr Sonia Khorana is a GP with a special interest in dermatology, working as an aesthetic doctor, laser specialist and wellness & menopause lead. She is also the Dermatology Expert for Olay UK and Hero Cosmetics UK and a judge for this year‘s Glamour Beauty Power List Awards and Get The Gloss Beauty Awards. Her Instagram page shares her regular skincare tips with thousands of followers.
Dr William Kwan is a board-certified dermatologist at the prestigious Lasky Skin Center in Beverly Hills, offering a wide spectrum of cosmetic procedures such as botulinum toxin injections and dermal filler injections for many types of skin improvement.
Dr. Geeta Yadav is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology.
Merry Thornton, PA-C, Board Certified Physician Assistant in Dermatology, licensed skincare expert and Founder of Element Medical Aesthetics in New Canaan