Our eyes convey our emotions and expressions, as well as our perceived youthfulness. Because the difference between a refreshed eye and a tired one can be a major factor in how our faces are perceived as a whole, taking special care of the area around our eyes can bring major benefits.
Eye cream is the easiest way to be intentional about treating our eye area for longevity, and eye creams offer benefits ranging from reducing puffiness to diminishing fine lines. Since many eye creams come with a hefty price tag, we spoke with board-certified dermatologists Jaimie DeRosa, MD, and Nicole Hayre, MD, to help you get the most out of your use. Coming up, learn how to apply eye cream for the best possible results.
Meet the expert
- Jaimie DeRosa, MD, is a dual board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder and principal facial plastic surgeon at DeRosa Plastic Surgery Center and Medical Spa in Boston and Palm Beach.
- Nicole Hayre, MD, is an award-winning dermatologist, lecturer and researcher, and the founder of the Cosmetic Dermatology Center in McLean, Virginia.
How to apply eye cream, step by step
- You'll want to apply your eye cream before you apply your face cream, DeRosa tells us. "Eye cream can help keep eyes away from irritating ingredients that may be the face moisturizer," she says.
- Remove the product from its container without using your hands. "If the product is in a pump, apply it to your fingertip first without touching the pump directly to your fingertip," Hayre explains. "If your product is in a jar, use a clean cotton swab to swab [it out]."
- Apply a small amount of eye cream to your upper and lower eyelids. Hayre recommends "a little less than a pea-sized amount" for each.
- Dab the cream into each upper and lower eyelid; soft is the name of the game here. "Gently apply the eye cream, using your middle finger," explains DeRosa. "Dab the product along the orbital bone, working from the inner corner of the eye toward the outer corner. You'll want to do this for both the upper and lower eyelids."
When should I use the eye contour cream?
Both dermatologists agree that eye cream will give the best results if used morning and night, in conjunction with the rest of your skincare routine. DeRosa notes, however, that "for those who use an eye cream specifically to achieve more brightening or reduce puffiness, these creams are best used in the morning." She advises "[reading] the instructions on your eye cream in case it specifies a different regimen."
Ingredients to look for
If you've been confused by the wide range of ingredients featured in eye creams, you're not alone-it can quickly get tricky. We asked DeRosa and Hayre what their favorite ingredients are.
Usually obtained from coffee or green tea when used in eye creams, DeRosa tells us that "caffeine can help improve circulation to diminish dark circles and reduce puffiness". Green tea and coffee contain additional antioxidants that can also benefit the eyes: "Green tea is an excellent antioxidant that also has soothing properties," says Hayre. It's worth noting that those without bags or puffiness around the eyes may experience tightness if they use eye creams containing caffeine.
Vitamin C is an excellent choice if your concern is dark circles. "Vitamin C helps reduce melanin production by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme that creates tyrosine, thus decreasing hyperpigmentation," explains DeRosa, who adds that it also helps lighten eyelid skin.
Another ideal ingredient for those with dark circles, DeRosa explains, "Kojic acid is a skin lightener and brightener derived from fungi found in the fermentation of rice and, like vitamin C, inhibits the formation of tyrosine which is used by melanocytes to produce pigment."
"Retinoids help accelerate skin cell renewal and produce collagen and elastin, as well as inhibiting tyrosine production by blocking tyrosinase, the enzyme that creates tyrosine, the first building block involved in melanin production," explains DeRosa. "The use of a retinoid can result in the lightening of hyperpigmentation, as well as the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles and the improvement of skin tone and firmness."
This form of B3 performs a range of functions for the skin around our eyes: "It helps build proteins in the skin to help repair skin damage, reduce hyperpigmentation, strengthen the skin's lipid barrier, increase skin hydration and decrease inflammation," says De Rosa.
A key moisturizing ingredient that contains nearly 1,000 times its weight in water, Hayre tells us she recommends it "to moisturize the delicate skin of the eyelids." For patients with sensitive skin, she suggests "a basic, hydrating hyaluronic acid gel" as an eye cream.
Dermatologist's advice to maximize results
Don't get too close
You don't want to risk getting eye cream in your eyes. To avoid this, Hayre advises applying eye cream "no closer to the lash line than 2-3 millimeters. This will help prevent eye irritation". But fear not, she says: "The cream will spread naturally over the rest of the eyelid when you blink."
Some areas may not be suitable
Some creams work to reduce under-eye puffiness, so that's the only place they should be applied. "If you're using one that's specifically formulated to reduce under-eye puffiness, you [should only] apply it to the lower eyelids, not the skin of the upper eyelids," DeRosa explains. She adds:" Be sure to read the instructions on your eye cream and use these steps as a general guideline.
Be aware of your frequency
Not all eye creams will work best if used twice a day. "A brightening or anti-puffiness eye cream may be best used in the morning, while a cream for improving eyelid thickness and overall hydration may be best used in the evening, as the skin goes into healing and repair mode overnight," explains DeRosa.
Knowing how delicate the skin around your eyes is, the most important part of applying eye cream is how gently you do it. "Use your ring finger or pinky to gently spread each application of cream over the rest of the eyelid," explains Hayre. "This should be done with gentle, repetitive tapping, not a rubbing motion." DeRosa adds, "Using your middle finger and lightly tapping along the eye bones during application can help avoid damaging the eyelid skin."
For sensitive skin
Hayre prefers a pure hyaluronic acid gel for sensitive skin that may react to certain ingredients. "Look for one that's fragrance-free and free of parabens and irritants," adds DeRosa.
For oily skin
The last thing you want is an eye cream that makes an oily part of your face even oilier. To avoid this, DeRosa says, "those with oily skin should look for a water-based, oil-free eye cream. In general, eye gels can be an excellent choice as they contain no oil."
For dry skin
A thicker cream is ideal if you have dry skin. DeRosa explains that a heavier cream "will have a thicker consistency and feel heavy (in a good way) and take longer to evaporate".
For mature skin
Extra hydration may be needed for mature skin. "Older skin may need extra hydration if it's thin and dry," says Hayre. "For these patients, I like extra hydration in the morning and a more active product in the evening." She explains that an active cream is one containing "antioxidants, peptides and hydroxypinacolone retinoate".