Even if your eyes are free of visible lines, wrinkles, bags, and dark circles, incorporating an eye cream into your routine to nourish and protect the delicate skin is a must. Finding the right results-driven eye cream on a budget is half the struggle. But before you scroll down to discover the best drugstore eye serums and creams, let’s unpack common concerns and care tips that are vital to know. To help us delve deeper than treating symptoms of ageing around the eyes, Harvard-trained Dr Sylvia Ramirez of Cutis Medical Laser Clinics shares her tips on caring for the skin around your delicate eye area.
Our eyes are the first thing that people see, and when the eyes are dark, dull or puffy, we look tired regardless of how radiant the rest of our face is. When it comes to skincare, the earlier the better especially for the delicate eye area. Our eyes are the first to show changes because the skin is very thin, and is more prone to collagen or elastin breakdown. The skin around our eyes is thus prone to becoming wrinkly, looser and thinner. The anatomy of the eye area also has less supportive structures, less fat, thinner muscles, and the skin covers the eye socket.
The common signs of age and damage around the eyes
With studies that suggest that the skin around the eyes is 40 per cent thinner than the skin on the rest of the face, the eyes manifest with ageing before any other part of our face. Particularly in this time of mask-wearing, our eyes are the first thing that people see.
Fine lines/crow’s feet (lines on the corner of the eyes). Wrinkles form partly because collagen and elastin production are reduced but also from repeated facial expressions. Dehydration further aggravates the appearance of wrinkles. Skin quality in this area is all about collagen and elastin, which are proteins that give our skin structure and support. Wrinkles are cracks in the support of the skin around the eyes, and to repair these, we will need to increase collagen production. Squinting, smoking, rubbing your eyes all contribute to wrinkle formation, and even your position when you sleep can deepen your wrinkles.
Puffiness/eye bags. The most common cause of puffy eyes and eye bags is natural ageing. The circular eye muscle around our eyes is attached to skin, when the skin, muscle and other supportive tissues relax and weaken over time because of collagen loss, the tissues have less support and this leads to eye bags. Puffy eyes can also be from eyelid swelling such as that from fluid retention and even allergies.
Dark circles. Many factors can contribute to dark eye circles. Generally, it is a combination of pigment deposits, visible blood vessels and loss of volume in the undereye area. Under eye pigments can be due to melanin or brown pigment, but can also be due to hemosiderin staining, which is a stain that results from leakage of small amounts of blood from the delicate capillaries in the under eye area. Chronic rubbing of the eyelids, genetics, and volume loss further contribute to the dull dark appearance in the under eye area.
Sunken eyes/hollowness. A youthful face has soft curves with confluent fat pads and smooth transitions. As we get older, there is a very predictable pattern with how we lose facial volume, and the under eye area is generally the first. This results in hollowing of the under eye area, contributing to what we call a ‘tear trough’. Sunken eyes is generally a result of ageing, but can also be a genetic issue.
Droopiness. Have you noticed that our eyes seem smaller over time? Our eyelids become droopy or heavy because of a combination of skin, muscle and volume changes. Collagen loss contributes to laxity of the eyelids, constant muscle movement creates a negative vector that pulls the eyelid even further. Finally, with volume loss on the upper face, particularly the fat pads on the temple, there is less support for the eyelid area contributing further to drooping.
Factors that accelerate signs of ageing around the eyes
Apart from the impact of ageing and our genetics, lifestyle factors play a huge part in overall ageing, and ageing around the eye areas. These factors include anything from lack of sleep, your sleeping positions, exposure to UV rays, constant exposure to blue light, dietary factors and dehydration, smoking, chronic stress, and even repeated pulling or tugging with application of cosmetics in the eye area. Doing it frequently can wear down and weaken your skin over time, which can make the area more prone to
Best habits for brighter, youthful eyes
Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to numerous health issues and has also been shown to aggravate fine lines and wrinkles. Our position when we sleep also affects the eye area and the entire face! Sleeping on the sides with the face pressed against the pillow can create ‘sleep lines’, which typically present as diagonal creases all across our forehead and sides of the eyes and face. Try to sleep on your back.
Protect your eyes. UV rays are one of the main contributors to ageing and fine lines, but these can damage our eyes directly. Use sunglasses that block UV rays and which prevent squinting as these can contribute to deeper wrinkles.
Stop smoking. With all the harmful proven effects of smoking on our overall physical health, that should be enough reason to stop. In addition, smoking contributes to wrinkles, acceleration of overall ageing, and worsening of chronic inflammation. Not only does smoking hasten our collagen loss, it has also been shown to trigger melanocytes with darkening of age spots, worsening of dark eye circles, and wrinkles.
Eat a healthy diet and hydrate. Advanced glycosylation end-products (AGEs) have been shown to accelerate our skin and body’s ageing process. AGEs form when sugar combines with protein or fat in our bodies. Try to eat a well-balanced diet and reduce your intake of processed foods and sugar. Hydration is also key to maintaining healthy skin. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate the body which can result in dry skin, dark circles and more obvious wrinkles. On the other hand, salty foods cause water retention
and can aggravate eye puffiness.
Try to reduce your stress. This is not so easy in the times of COVID-19 but high cortisol levels in our blood (cortisol is a stress hormone) can affect our overall health, and our skin health. Finally, take care with application of cosmetics and creams around the eye area- try to minimise pulling and tugging. This can contribute to laxity and thinning of the skin.
How to pick the best eye cream for your needs
Creams we use for the face will not be appropriate for the eyes as many of the ingredients in those creams are too strong for the delicate skin in the eye area. There are so many anti-ageing ingredients out there, but only a small number have shown to truly impact the skin around the eyes. It is all about collagen and the cardinal rule would be to use products that include vitamin C, vitamin A, possibly peptides and hyaluronic acid. Collagen containing creams do not magically add collagen to the skin. We
need to apply substances that make our skin create more of its own collagen. There is also no ‘one size fits all’ for eye creams. These depend on your age, skin type, and current concerns.
Shop for current eye concerns or go straight to preventative anti-ageing eye creams?
Both approaches are important. On the one hand, buying an eye cream for your current concern would give you the most short-term benefit, but an eye cream that also has preventative benefits would have long-term benefits. You can find an eye cream that can prevent, protect and treat the delicate eye area all at once. This may differ depending on your age group. For example, in our 20s, prevention is most important, as well as the maintenance of radiance and hydration. This would mean an eye cream that contains an SPF.
In our 30s, visible dark circles and uneven texture may also begin to emerge. We would then need to assess what contributes to the dark circles, as these can be from brown pigments, blood vessels or hollowing of the fat pads in the under eye area. If the dark circles are from excess brown pigment, vitamin C specific for the eye area would be of benefit.
For those of us with puffy eyes, we will want to assess if this is part of the ageing process or is contributed to by allergies. Either way, puffy eyes can benefit from application of something “cool”, such as chilled cucumber slides, or a cool compress. This reduces inflammation and puffiness temporarily as it constricts the blood vessels. An ingredient to look for when we have puffy under eye bags is caffeine as this is a temporary vasoconstrictor.
If you’re looking to fight signs of ageing, look for an eye cream that contains retinol (a vitamin A derivative). Eye creams usually have lower concentrations of retinol due to the risk of irritation. You may also want a retinol eye cream with hyaluronic acid to improve skin hydration while reducing the risk of irritation.
Again in our 50s, you want to pick an eye cream that is packed with targeted proven ingredients that can maximise your collagen stores and which maintain hydration. These include retinol which reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Retinol enhances skin turnover, but it can be drying, and a product that also contains hyaluronic acid for moisturising would be important.
As with any eye cream, especially the ones that contain retinol, remember that less is more. Start slowly two to three times a week and gradually increase your frequency of use. Remember to avoid pulling or tugging at the skin, and use a dabbing motion.
Best eye creams for promoting resilient eyes
Olay Regenerist Eyes Collagen Peptide 24 Eye Cream
Vichy Mineral 89 Eye Contour Repairing Concentrate
Best pro-youth eye creams that can be used on both eyes and the face
AHC Essential Real Eye Cream for Face
Medicube Deep Lifting Peptide Eye Cream for Face
Bring Green Carrot Vita Eye Cream & Face Double Set
Best eye creams for eliminating dark circles and tired-looking eyes