What Does Eye Cream Do?

Does it really work and do you really need it?


The debate about eye cream is a long and ongoing one. Some believe eye creams can work miracles on their tired eyes, and others say a simple face moisturizer is good enough to get the job done. Then, there are those of us who don’t know the difference between the two. Not to mention differentiating between eye cream, eye serums and eye gels.

The reality is that eye cream does have its benefits, but its effectiveness depends on how you apply it, whether you’re using the right eye cream for your specific skin concern, and if there are other underlying causes to those concerns.

To illustrate the advantages of adding an eye cream into our skincare routine, we’ll break down the basics of how eye cream works and the key ways it can help with different skin issues.

Why Use a Special Eye Cream?

So, do eye creams have a purpose? The bottom line is yes, they do, primarily because the skin around the eyes differs from the rest of the face in many ways.

Firstly, the upper and lower eyelid skin is extremely thin compared to the rest of our face, measuring less than 1 mm thick. This makes the area extra sensitive to anything we put on it and how we put it on.

The eye area is also very active. It’s subject to thousands of micromovements every day that can eventually wear the skin down, and that’s not even counting all the times we rub our eyes when they’re itchy or tired. Additionally, there’s also significantly less sebaceous glands around the eyes, making the skin more prone to dryness.

Another important difference is that the eyelid skin is stretched over the hollow part of the eye socket. Because there is less tissue and muscle to support the fragile eyelid skin in that area, it can sag and wrinkle over time.

Combined, these factors make our eyelid skin prone to signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. This is where eye cream can be of most benefit. The primary purpose of eye creams is to provide added hydration, and they’re formulated to be easily absorbed and gentle on the eyelid skin. In fact, the earlier you begin an eye care routine, the more effective eye creams can be.

Can I Use a Moisturizer Instead of Eye Cream?
Close-up of cosmetic creams (From:123rf.com)

Eye creams and moisturizers look entirely alike, so it’s easy to assume that they work the same way and offer the same benefits. However, there are notable differences that set them apart and make eye creams more ideal for our eye areas.

  • Eye creams are lighter in texture. Facial moisturizers usually contain heavy emollients and humectants that can leave a film on the skin’s surface and can be difficult to absorb for our thin eyelid skin. Eye creams, on the other hand, are non-greasy and light, so they’re able to sink in easily to deliver maximum hydration.
  • Eye creams are target treatments. They’re formulated with specific active ingredients that directly address eye area concerns such as wrinkles, fine lines, puffiness, and dark circles. Some of the most popular ingredients in eye creams include caffeine, retinol, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and green tea.
  • Eye creams are more potent. The mixture of active ingredients and moisturizers in an eye cream is a lot more concentrated so that it can replenish the moisture and nourishment that the skin around the eyes lack. Its potency is the reason why a little bit of eye cream can go a long way.

Ultimately, you can use your facial moisturizer for the skin around your eyes, especially if your only concern is keeping your eye area more hydrated. As long as your moisturizer contains no active ingredients, it’s likely to be safe for the skin around your eyes.

Moisturizers with a high concentration of anti-aging or anti-acne ingredients are best kept away from the eye area, as they can increase skin sensitivity and cause stinging or redness.

Though facial moisturizers aren’t recommended for the eyes, you could use an eye cream on your face if you wanted to. Some people swear by the beneficial effects that higher-potency eye creams have on their facial skin. The only downside to this is that it can be quite costly since eye cream tends to be more expensive for its quantity. Alternatively, you can look at making your own DIY eye creams to help keep the cost low.

What Can Eye Cream Help With?

Close-up of wrinkled eye (From:Pexels).

Dry skin around the eyes

The thinness of the skin and lack of oil glands makes it difficult for this area to retain moisture. Thus, it is more susceptible to dryness. This increases the development of wrinkles and fine lines because the collagen fibers in the skin are compromised and unable to repair properly.

Dehydrated skin can benefit greatly from eye creams that contain hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and peptides. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000 times its weight in moisture, while ceramides and peptides work by repairing the moisture barrier, stimulating collagen production in the skin, and improving the skin’s overall resilience and integrity.

Puffy eyes / under-eye bags

The effectiveness of your eye cream depends on the underlying causes of your eye bags or puffiness.

A high-sodium diet tends to cause water retention, which can make the face look puffy and emphasize the appearance of eye bags. Additionally, allergies that cause itchiness around the eyes and nose, and inflammation of the nasal and sinus areas can also cause puffiness. The constant rubbing of these areas can make your existing eye bags look worse.

Eye creams enriched with caffeine and green tea can help with eye bags caused by allergies or excessive salt intake. Caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties and green tea is an anti-inflammatory, and both work by soothing swelling or puffiness.

In other cases, eye bags can be caused by genetics, thyroid-related medical conditions, or lower eyelid fat prolapse which is an age-related condition that occurs when the fat pads under the eyes sag and protrude forward. In these situations, eye creams are unlikely to help because the eye bags are a result of an underlying health issue that goes beyond skin level.

Sometimes, incorrect eye cream application can also cause under-eye puffiness, especially when using an eye cream with a heavier consistency. Applying too much product can overload the thin skin because not all of it gets absorbed. The skin becomes saturated and is more likely to seep into the eyes and cause irritation and puffiness.

Dark circles under eyes

Dark circles can be caused by genetics, certain health conditions, and lifestyle habits.

Hereditary dark circles are typically caused by a genetic excess of pigmentation under the eyes that cannot be addressed by eye cream alone. Non-hereditary dark circles, on the other hand, can be triggered or worsened by health issues like allergies or anemia and lifestyle habits.

The symptoms of allergies often lead to frequent eye rubbing that damages the small blood vessels underneath the skin. This can cause the skin around the eyes to appear darker, and can worsen the appearance of hereditary dark circles. Other allergy symptoms like poor blood circulation and sinus congestion can also cause swelling that further accentuates dark circles.

While eye creams alone cannot address hereditary dark circles, they can address the ones caused by allergies. Caffeine-enriched eye creams in particular can help with poor blood circulation by calming congestion and swelling. Similarly, eye creams with vitamin C and kojic acid can also help with hyperpigmentation issues by breaking down excess melanin and brightening the skin.

Certain lifestyle habits can also magnify the appearance of dark circles. Frequent sun exposure can worsen excess under-eye pigmentation, while lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking can dehydrate the skin and make dark circles look more pronounced.

Lack of sleep is also commonly linked to dark circles as it can have an effect on the overall quality and health of our skin, however, there is not enough clinical evidence supporting a direct causal link between the two.

Making certain lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Drinking more water, getting more sleep, keeping your salt intake in check, and wearing sunscreen are some simple but effective ways to improve dark circles.

Signs of aging

As we age, our skin loses its natural elasticity, as well as its ability to produce collagen which keeps our skin supple and plump. As a result, the skin around our eyes begins to sag and develop fine lines, wrinkles, and crows feet.

Some of the best eye cream ingredients for addressing these issues are hyaluronic acid, peptides, and retinol. Hyaluronic acid and retinol work by boosting the skin’s hydration and elasticity while enhancing the cell renewal process so that the skin remains youthful. Meanwhile, peptides are said to improve wrinkles by 30% in a month, though there are few studies to back this up.

While eye creams are known to help reduce the signs of aging, the extent of their effect is better seen when used preventatively. When it comes to keeping wrinkles away, it’s best to start in your early 20s, long before the fine lines have a chance to set in.

Sun exposure is a major factor that accelerates skin aging, so it’s highly recommended to wear sunscreen, even when indoors. Sunscreen is a tried and tested, scientifically-backed method of slowing down the signs of aging and the good thing is that many eye creams come formulated with SPF.


The eye area is complex and fragile and needs extra care, especially if the goal is to ward off those unwanted signs of aging for as long as possible. Even though eye creams can’t solve hereditary skin issues around our eyes, they can at least help improve the overall quality of the skin.

Hopefully, we’ve helped illuminate what the purpose of eye cream is, and the various ways they can improve skin issues around the eyes. Did you find our guide helpful? Or did you think there’s something we missed out on mentioning? As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts, tips, and experiences, so feel free to leave us a note or two in the comment section below!


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