Written by Chloe Burcham

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Eye creams are nothing new but their use often divides opinions. Do eye creams really work? Are expensive formulas worth the money and what ingredients should you be looking out for? Consider this deep dive into the conflicting world of eye creams…

Eye creams can be a divisive subject. While many wouldn’t dream of finishing off their skincare routine without a much-loved eye cream, others think they’re a waste of money and time – skipping the step altogether and simply using the rest of their skincare around the eye area. But what’s the truth? Are eye creams simply moisturisers with clever marketing or do our peepers deserve an extra step of TLC in our skincare routines? We spoke to four skin experts to ask them what their true thoughts are on eye creams, how they work, what they can realistically do and whether the pricey formulations are actually worth the triple-figure price tags. 

How do eye creams work?

“The delicate skin around the eye area is the first to show lines, dehydration, and the effects of a busy lifestyle,” explains Abigail Williams, skincare expert and national education manager for Caudalie. “Most eye creams have similar base ingredients as your face moisturiser, however they’re additionally formulated with specific ingredients to effectively target common eye area complaints.”

But do you definitely need a separate eye specific product? Not always. “Many facial moisturisers are suitable to use around the under-eye area and you do not necessarily need a separate product, contrary to popular belief,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. “Generally speaking, if a product is suitable for the face, it should be fine to use around the eyes.” 

Realistically, what results can you get from using an eye cream?

“No amount of eye cream will improve age-related sagging or puffy eyes regardless of what the product promises you,” reveals Dr Mahto. “The skin around the eyes is vulnerable to damage from the sun’s radiation and while an eye cream will moisturise, plump the skin and temporarily improve fine lines, wearing SPF around the eyes is absolutely vital if premature ageing is a concern.” 

Disappointed? Eye creams do still have a place in your skincare routine and can help with a fair amount of eye-related complaints – which might improve the overall appearance and texture of the skin. 

“With the right eye cream, you can improve the appearance of fatigue, dullness, and dehydration lines,” explains Nicolas Travis, founder of Allies of Skin. “What eye creams can’t do is remove fine lines, wrinkles, eye bags and droopy eyelids.”

Can an eye cream help with dark circles?

It’s the age-old question but can eye creams really help with dark circles? The short answer is yes, they can, but it’s important to recognise what causes dark circles in the first place and manage your expectations when seeking results.

“Dark circles under the eyes appear for a variety of reasons whether it is genetics, stress or exhaustion,” explains dermatologist and skin expert Dr Howard Murad. “Lack of adequate sleep can also contribute to the appearance of dark circles because of dilated blood vessels that create a dark tint under the eyes. Studies have shown that the hormone cortisol increases when we are stressed which can lead to lacklustre skin and dark circles, and lastly, allergies are a leading cause of dark circles because of fluid retention around the eyes, causing puffiness.”

There are also different types of dark circles. Thin, translucent skin around the eyes is more likely to show discolouration and signs of ageing. Blue/purple shadows are a result of low microcirculation and thin skin around the eyes increases visibility of unoxygenated blood (which is blue). Brown marks under the eyes are usually a result of sun damage, irritation and genetics which can result in hyperpigmentation.

“Although certain skin tones are unable to rid their eye area of the dark pigmentation, people experiencing dark under-eye circles can look for an eye cream that contains vitamin-C which is rich in antioxidants to brighten the skin. Also look for skin-quenching ingredients to firm and awaken the eye area, and light diffusers to immediately illuminate the skin for a brighter appearance.”

“Topically, applying caffeine and peptide-infused products to your skin can help decrease your under-eye bags and rejuvenate skin around the under eye area,” says Dr Murad. 

What are the best ingredients for eye creams to contain?

In the market for an eye cream that really works. It’s time to familiarise yourself with the inkey list (the list of ingredients on the back of the product packaging). Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane and glycerin are great for hydrating the skin – which can help to smooth fine lines which may be caused by dehydration. 

Ceramides and omegas nourish and strengthen the skin while bakuchiol or retinol can be helpful in ramping up collagen production and plumping and smoothing fine lines. “Retinol is considered the gold standard for anti-ageing products, and for good reason. It dramatically improves all key signs of ageing, minimising the look of wrinkles and crow’s feet while lifting and firming skin,” explains Dr Murad.

You might also find ingredients like pre-orbital brighteners – which are great for providing a brightening effect around the eye. While these won’t have a lasting effect on dark circles, they can help to temporarily brighten the area.

Are expensive eye creams worth the extra money?

An expensive price tag doesn’t always mean that the product will be better. However, some formulas do warrant a hefty price tag due to the research and testing that’s gone into the product – not to mention the quality of the ingredients used. While packaging can seem like an unnecessary expense – this isn’t always the case. Packaging plays an important role in keeping the formula inside as efficacious from the first use to the last. While a clever pump mechanism might be more expensive to produce than a simple pot or tub, chances are it’s helping to keep the product inside more stable.

“The best thing to do is to pick one at the right price point for you, with the texture and actives that you love,” suggests Nicolas Travis. “Diligence is key so it’s best to pick an eye cream that you want to use daily.”

The best eye creams with efficacious ingredients 

  • Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Firming Eye Gel Cream

    Containing a base of resveratrol and hyaluronic acid, this eye cream is blended with the added benefits of quinoa extract and firming peptides to smooth out lines and wrinkles. Plus, the featherlight, fragrance-free gel doesn’t cause irritation around the very sensitive eye area.

    Shop Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Firming Eye Gel Cream at Boots, £36

    buy now

  • Medik8 Eyelift Peptides

    This multi-action eye serum contains a complex of five age-defying peptides, to reduce fine lines and create a bright-eyed awakening effect. Hesperidin works behind the scenes to strengthen the capillaries under the eyes, which tones down the appearance of dark circles.

    Shop Medik8 Eyelift Peptides at Space NK, £38

    buy now

  • Murad Vita-C Dark Circle Corrector

    Packed with vitamin C to brighten the under-eye area, this powerhouse cream is also infused with red and brown algae extracts to noticeably de-puff and soothe under-eye areas. A cooling infusion of cucumber helps to hydrate and visibly smooth the look of fine lines, while light-reflecting micro-minerals help illuminate any dark shadows.

    Shop Murad Vita-C Dark Circle Corrector at Cult Beauty, £56

    buy now

  • Augustinus Bader The Eye Cream

    There’s no sugar coating the fact that this eye cream is eye-wateringly expensive. But anyone who’s lucky enough to have tried Augustinus Bader’s The Cream can attest to the brand’s efficacy. Enriched with Bader’s proprietary TFC8 technology to support the body’s natural renewal processes (plus niacinamide and vitamin C) this seriously science-packed eye cream has the clinical trials to support its triple-figure price tag.

    Shop Augustinus Bader The Eye Cream at Cult Beauty, £150

    buy now

  • Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Eye Cream

    This ultra rich eye cream contains five ceramides, four types of vitamin C and retinol, together dubbed the ‘Collagen Support Complex’ which help moisturise and strengthen the delicate skin around the eyes. 

    Shop Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Eye Cream at Space NK, £43

    buy now

  • Allies of Skin Peptides & Omegas Firming Eye Cream

    The work of three years and 37 reformulations, Allies of Skin’s Peptides & Omegas Firming Eye Cream contains all the ingredients you’d want to find in a hardworking eye cream. There’s peptides, 1% bakuchiol, vitamin C and a nourishing blend of omegas-rich oils to brighten, depuff and target the visibility of three types of creases: glabellar lines (frown lines), crow’s feet and under-eye wrinkles.

    Shop Allies of Skin Peptides & Omegas Firming Eye Cream at Cult Beauty, £72

    buy now

  • The Inkey List Retinol Eye Cream

    It goes without saying – you’re not going to get the same results from a £10 eye cream as you are a £100 formula, but trust us when we say that this budget option really is the best out there. It contains the optimum percentage of retinol to help renew skin and stimulate collagen production for a smooth, bright and plump eye area.

    Shop The Inkey List Retinol Eye Cream at Cult Beauty, £9.99

    buy now

Main image: Getty

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