We’ve got the rundown on what you should be looking for in your next eye cream, from the best ingredients to packaging.
The thin skin around our eyes is delicate and often the first to show signs of aging caused by environmental exposure and lifestyle habits. In fact, it’s so sensitive that it usually needs special care formulated just for that area.
However, caring for this fragile area isn’t as simple as lathering on any eye cream, calling it a day, and expecting results. It’s equally important to understand how eye creams work and which ingredients will best address your skin concerns. In that way, you not only get the most out of the product, you also get more bang for your buck as eye creams tend to be quite expensive.
To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of four essential factors and 11 star ingredients that you should consider when buying eye cream. Let’s dive in!
Retinol / Vitamin A
Retinol or vitamin A is most effective at inhibiting the aging process. They play a massive role in several cellular processes regulating efficient skin cell turnover. It can address and improve issues like fine lines, wrinkles, and age-related hyperpigmentation around the eyes. It also strengthens the skin’s overall resilience, enhancing its ability to heal and repair itself.
Retinoids are quite strong and known to cause skin irritation, particularly facial erythema and peeling. As such, they’re best not used with AHAs, BHAs, vitamin C, and benzoyl peroxide. The combination could worsen dryness and irritation on the thin skin around the eyes.
Vitamin C combats the harmful effects of UV exposure by neutralizing free radicals that cause DNA damage. It also boosts collagen synthesis, increases moisturization, and brightens the skin. This makes it ideal for rejuvenating the skin, improving dark circles, and restoring skin’s resilience.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and an unstable active ingredient. Using it alongside other acids like AHAs or BHAs could disrupt its pH balance and reduce its effectiveness over time. It’s also best not used with retinol as this can increase the skin’s photosensitivity.
Like vitamin C, vitamin E (also called “tocopherol”) protects the skin from UV-induced skin damage. It does this by reducing DNA damage and keep the skin barrier intact and healthy.
When combined, the photoprotection capabilities of vitamins C and E are doubled. Together, they give better protection against the effects of photodamage, erythema, sunburns – all of which can cause the early deterioration of the sensitive skin around our eyes.
Vitamin K has been gaining more ground as an up and coming eye cream ingredient due to its wound healing and skin brightening capabilities.
Two separate studies shows that Vitamin K helps improve the skin’s ability to repair itself, thus addressing texture issues such as fine lines and wrinkles. Its role in the skin’s blood clotting processes can also help fade dark under-eye circles and brighten the skin.
However, since both studies used vitamin K combined with other ingredients like vitamin C and retinol, further studies may be needed to determine its actual effectiveness.
Caffeine / Green tea
Due to their high polyphenol content, caffeine and green tea have potent antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. This helps to protect skin from the harmful effects of UV exposure. They also increase blood circulation, rejuvenate dying skin cells, and inhibit photodamage signs. Thus, improving skin tone and texture.
Green tea and caffeine are common easy to source ingredients for DIY eye creams.
Hyaluronic acid and ceramides
Our skin naturally loses its ability to retain moisture as we age. So, it is increasingly important to give our skin an added boost of hydration to keep it healthy. Thankfully, hyaluronic acid and ceramides address this in two different ways.
Hyaluronic acid works by binding water molecules into the skin’s extracellular matrix, while ceramides improve the skin’s barrier function, helping it retain water more efficiently. The combination reduces fine lines, and wrinkles, making skin appear smoother, softer, and plumper.
Neuropeptides are short links of amino acids that serve as the structural foundation of collagen and elastin fibers. They’re excellent for aging skin because they help stimulate collagen production, making skin look plumper and wrinkles less pronounced. As a result, the skin around the eyes appears firmer, more supple, and more youthful.
Niacinamide, otherwise known as vitamin B3, is an antioxidant that:
- reduce skin discoloration
- reduce hyperpigmentation
- improve the skin barrier,
- address fine lines and wrinkles.
This star ingredient is non-acidic and chemically stable, making it compatible with most other active skincare ingredients and less likely to irritate the delicate eye area.
Naturally-derived from fungi, kojic acid functions primarily as a skin lightener and works by inhibiting tyrosine, an amino acid needed for melanin production in the skin. Kojic acid fades dark discolorations and evens the skin tone, making it ideal for dark circles. It also has anti-aging and antimicrobial properties beneficial for addressing sun damage and signs of aging.
When looking for an eye cream, it’s essential to factor in your skin type, whether it’s dry, oily, sensitive, mature, etc. The differences in consistency of eye creams and gels make them more effective for specific skin types.
Eye creams are typically thicker, heavier, and richer than gels. They contain more occlusives and emollients like oil.
Eye creams are highly moisturizing, making them ideal for extra dry or aging skin that needs an extra hydration boost. However, since they contain more oil, some eye creams can feel greasy and take more time to work into the skin thoroughly. They also tend not to work well under makeup, causing it to run or smear when you sweat, especially in warmer climates.
Best for: Dry or mature skin
Best used during: Nighttime, to allow your skin enough time to absorb the product and get the most out of its benefits.
Eye gels are lightweight, cooling, and smoother in consistency. They are more ideal for morning skincare routines.
Their silkier texture also makes it easier to absorb without adding volume or heaviness to the thin skin around the eyes. They’re cool and refreshing and great for getting rid of under-eye puffiness that many of us get in the morning. Since they contain no oil, they work well under makeup, making it easy to wear during the day.
Best for: Oily, sensitive or acne-prone skin
Best used during: Daytime, to give your skin a refreshing boost of moisture without clogging pores or getting in the way of makeup.
The thin skin around the eyes makes the area more sensitive than skin elsewhere, which is an issue when using products with harsher elements. For example, some eye creams contain fragrances or heavy oils, which can trigger skin irritation or milia. If your skin is already naturally sensitive, it’s a good idea to steer clear from ingredients like these.
An easy way to do this is by checking SkinCarisma’s Ingredient Analyzer. The website contains a comprehensive list of skincare ingredients and explanations regarding which ones to use or avoid. It also highlights each ingredients’ health and safety rating from the Cosmetic Ingredient Review and Environmental Working Group.
Eye creams contain several active ingredients that degrade when exposed to air or light. So, packaging and storage are important factors to consider to ensure product longevity.
Small pots and jars are the most common packaging types for eye creams, though not necessarily the best. That’s because the product is completely exposed to the air each time the lid is opened, potentially reducing its effectiveness in the long run. Constantly dipping one’s fingers into a jar can also facilitate the spread and growth of bacteria in the product itself.
Similarly, transparent bottles and non-airtight pumps could also expose the product to air and light. Instead, choose airless pumps or opaque tubes or amber glass bottles to keep your eye cream safe from degradation for as long as possible.
Roll-on applicators are another great option for light creams and gels. Not only are they airtight, but the roller also provides the added benefit of improving circulation under the eyes, reducing fluid build-up, and puffiness.
There are indeed many amazing eye cream ingredients out there. But before you ‘add to cart’, it’s always good to take a moment to understand your skin type and skin concerns so that you know exactly what to look for in an eye cream. Hopefully, we’ve helped you do just that.
Are there other superstar eye cream ingredients that you think we missed out on? If you think so, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you.