We’ll break down their functions and differences and share insights on picking the best one for you.
Eye creams, serums, and gels function the same way, so one might think they’re interchangeable. But looking beyond the surface, there are some differences that make them more suitable for specific skin types and concerns.
This may sound like a lot of information to digest, especially if you’re just starting to figure out your skincare routine. Not to worry – whether you’re debating the benefits of eye serum vs. eye cream or eye cream vs. eye gel, we’ve got you covered with all the essential info you need to know to choose the right one. So, let’s get to it!
|Under-Eye Products||Primary Purpose||Key Ingredients||Potency||Consistency||Day / Night|
|Eye Serums||Reparative; best for addressing visible aging signs||Retinol||Very potent anti-aging ingredients||Thin and less viscous||Day or night|
|Eye Creams||Preventative; best for delaying aging signs and hydrating dry skin||Hyaluronic acid||Somewhat potent mix of anti-aging and hydrating ingredients||Creamy, oily, and thick||Night|
|Eye Gels||Preventative; best for brightening and hydrating oily, sensitive skin||Caffeine||Least potent mix of active ingredients||Lightweight and watery||Day|
At the most basic level, eye creams, serums, and gels are all designed to rejuvenate and nourish the eye area. More potent formulations can also delay premature aging signs and improve the ones that are already visible. Here’s how each type functions:
Eye creams: Preventative
Eye creams are best for boosting hydration under the eyes and restoring the skin barrier. This improves moisture retention, thus keeping the skin supple and soft, making it less likely for deep static wrinkles to set in. The earlier you get started on incorporating an eye cream into your routine, the better. If you’re in your 20s, be sure to look out for eye creams with hydration as its focus.
Eye serums: Reparative
Eye serums are packed with a potent mix of active ingredients that address everything from dark circles to wrinkles. Because of their strength and ability to reach the deeper layers of skin, they function best as reparative treatments. They also target existing aging signs and make them appear less pronounced.
Eye gels: Preventative
Eye gels are light, watery, and typically contain lesser active ingredients. The formulation of eye gels is refreshing and quickly absorbed, making it ideal for hydrating oily or sensitive skin. They also often have brightening or de-puffing ingredients like caffeine, which serve as a great pick-me-up for tired eyes.
Eye creams, serums, and gels are formulated using similar ingredients, with variations in concentration. Some of these key common ingredients include:
- Green tea and caffeine: This polyphenol-rich duo targets under-eye puffiness by increasing microcirculation around the eyes and helping flush out excess fluid.
- Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and neuropeptides: Boosts hydration by stimulating collagen production and improving the skin’s ability to retain moisture.
- Vitamin A: Improves skin tone and texture by improving the skin cell turnover rate. It also reduces the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and uneven pigmentation.
- Vitamin C, vitamin E, and niacinamide: These three ingredients are antioxidants, which are compounds that inhibit cell damage. Together, they provide excellent protection from UV damage, brighten skin, and address uneven complexions.
Eye serums are considered to be more potent because they contain a greater concentration of active ingredients and can penetrate the skin more deeply to reach newer skin cells. On the other hand, creams and gels are more focused on surface-level issues like hydration and improvement of the moisture barrier.
The high potency of eye serums makes them best for spot-treating aging signs like dark circles, discoloration, and wrinkles. Their strength also allows you to get away with using a small amount. This contrasts with eye creams and gels, which are best used liberally under the eyes to address hydration issues on the skin’s outermost layers.
There are distinct differences between eye creams, gels, and serums in terms of consistency, which are as follows:
- Eye creams: These are richer and thicker due to the higher amount of emollients and occlusives. Since they’re heavier, eye creams also tend to take longer to work into the skin until fully absorbed.
- Eye serums: These are lighter, less creamy, and less viscous than eye creams. When applied, they go on smoothly and can become tacky as the product becomes absorbed into the skin.
- Eye gels: These are the most lightweight of the three as they contain no oil or cream-based components. They have a very thin texture that turns watery as it’s worked into the skin and typically does not leave a sticky sheen once fully absorbed.
The differences in consistency help determine when to apply them in your skincare routine.
The rule is to always start with products with the thinnest consistency and end with the thickest when it comes to application. This ensures that each product that comes before or after is adequately absorbed by the skin. Korean eye creams are our favourite when it comes to layering into our skin care routine.
Day or Night
Eye creams: Best for night use.
Rich and oily eye creams can be difficult to wear during the day, even more so if you intend to wear makeup over it. For this reason, eye creams are best used at night to allow the eye area enough time to fully absorb the product and get the most out of its benefits.
Eye serums: Best for night or day use, depending on active ingredients.
Since eye serums are much lighter than eye creams, they can be used during the day or night. However, it’s important to be mindful of the active ingredients your serum contains. Serums with retinol and vitamin C can increase skin photosensitivity and cause irritation or burns, so these types are best used at night.
Eye gels: Best for day use.
As the lightest of the three in terms of consistency, eye gels are perfect for daytime use. The refreshing formulation is non-creamy and becomes watery upon application. It’s absorbed entirely by the skin without leaving a tacky feeling behind, making it ideal for use under makeup.
If you’re using eye serums with retinol at night, or prefer using eye serums with vitamin C during the day, make sure to remember to wear a broad spectrum SPF. This not only protects your skin from UV damage and sunburns, but it also preserves the photoprotective qualities of your vitamin C serum.
Which One Is for You?
Our eye area doesn’t have as much oil glands or pores as the rest of our face. As such, following skincare advice based on skin type (oily, dry, combination) isn’t absolutely necessary for this area.
Naturally, there are exceptions. People with oilier or drier under eyes should choose eye products that will complement their skin type. But ultimately, the decision to use eye creams, gels, or serums depends on your personal preference and what works best for you.
- If you have oily under eyes: Avoid creams if possible, as they could further exacerbate oiliness and even trigger the appearance of milia. Instead, go for eye gels, which are still very moisturizing without being too heavy on the skin.
- If you have very dry under eyes: Eye gels typically don’t stay long on the skin’s surface and are absorbed quite quickly. You’ll benefit more from a thicker moisturizing eye cream that can thoroughly saturate the skin and lock in hydration for a longer period.
Eye serums are tolerated well by all skin types due to their lightweight formula. As such, they’re great to use in tandem with other products, especially if you want to address multiple under-eye issues.
For example, if you want to address dryness and dark circles or hyperpigmentation, you can use an eye serum during the day and an eye cream at night. For puffy eyes, one can use an eye gel to combat puffiness and a cream to hydrate and seal in moisture.
Additionally, people with hooded or droopy eye lids need specialised eye creams that focuses on firming and lifting the skin.
Regardless of your skin concern, it’s recommended to adhere to the proper way of layering products. Doing so ensures you get the most benefit out of each product and step in your skincare routine.
Age is also a factor when choosing which type of eye product to use. Preventative eye creams and gels are best for maintaining youthful skin texture and for keeping wrinkles at bay. Individuals who are already seeing signs of aging on their skin will benefit more from more potent reparative serums.
Ultimately, choosing between eye creams, serums, and gels boils down to knowing your skin type and skin issues. Whether skincare is a whole new world to you or not, we hope that our guide has made your options clearer. If you are looking to explore more natural alternatives, be sure to check out our DIY eye cream recipes or our favourite cruelty-free eye creams.
How did you find our tips and recommendations? Did you find it useful, or do you think we missed out on anything? If you’d like to share your thoughts, feel free to leave us a comment!