Do You Really Need Eye Cream?

How special lotions help that delicate skin.

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on November 02, 2022
2 min read

You've heard the promises: Eye creams reduce or even erase the signs of aging: fine lines, wrinkles, and dark circles. But aren't eye creams just more-expensive moisturizers in a smaller package?

Not necessarily, says dermatologist Patricia Farris, MD, a clinical associate professor at Tulane University School of Medicine. "Eye creams are formulated specifically for the delicate skin around the eye, so they tend to be thicker. They contain more oil than a regular facial lotion, and they have a lot of active ingredients aimed at the problems we see around the eyes," Farris explains.

The skin around the eyes is more fragile, more prone to dryness, and quicker to show age and fatigue. Squinting and constant movement of the eyes also hasten the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and fluids collect under the eyes and cause puffiness and dark circles. Eye creams can address some of these issues.

Fine lines and wrinkles come from both sun damage and your skin making less collagen as you age. Collagen helps maintain skin's elasticity. Vitamin C, peptides, and retinol have boosted collagen production, studies of skin creams show. Ceramide and hyaluronic acid also help; these are moisturizers that help prevent water loss in the skin and improve elasticity.

"Retinol is one of my personal favorites," Farris says. But it can be harsh on some skin. Some formulations contain a gentle dose of retinol along with hyaluronic acid.

Dark circles under the eyes come from genes, sun damage, age, and blood build-up. Sodium ascorbate, or vitamin C, can thicken the skin and help conceal dark circles after about 6 months. Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, and kojic acid can lighten dark circles.

Puffiness is a buildup of fluid and blood under the eyes. Some studies show that caffeine can help circulation, which could reduce puffiness. Other studies show that cold temperatures are just as effective to treat puffiness. That's why some people refrigerate their eye creams.

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