Why You Technically Don't Need an Eye Cream (But Why I Use One, Anyway!)
The skin around the eye is an area without many oil glands or collagen in comparison to the rest of the body, so it is more prone to fine lines and dehydration, which can make it look dull, dark and saggy.
When it comes to aging in our eye area, we think that we need to reach for the heavy-duty treatments like prescription tretinoin - but this may not exactly be true.
One study showed that a regular cosmetic regimen (SPF 30 moisturizer containing 5% niacinamide, peptides and antioxidants; a moisturizer containing niacinamide and peptides; and a targeted wrinkle product containing niacinamide, peptides and 0.3% retinyl propionate) produced similar results to a 0.02% tretinoin treatment, and with greater tolerability.
This isn't to say that properly-formulated under eye creams don't work. Quite the contrary - they work quite well. This study saw a 14-28% improvement in wrinkles, skin texture, sagging and dark circles with the twice-daily application of a mixture of human growth factors and cytokines in combination with caffeine, bisabolol, glycyrrhetinic acid, and sodium hyaluronate for 6 weeks. While 14-28% may not sound like a large improvement to some people, keep in mind that wrinkles are often deeply seated, and cannot ever be fully reversed (afterall, it is a natural part of aging). This is a good example of an eye cream formulated well for the under eye area that would likely not be something you would apply to your entire face - especially not if you are acne-prone.
This study showed that using a treatment with caffeine, vitamin K and emu oil showed a reduction in the depth of wrinkles and dark circles, and from a subjective point of view, the appearance and elasticity of the skin were improved in comparison with the placebo after 4 weeks.
Again, this simply means that treating the eye area is an important step in improving eye wrinkles and eye appearance and doesn't necessarily mean that we need to buy eye creams (which are often more expensive). If anything, we simply need to pay attention to the ingredients. Studies have shown that almost any treatment for eye wrinkles (including just using an SPF, a day cream, a night cream or an eye cream) was better than using nothing at all. But just because something on its own kind of does the job, doesn't necessarily mean that combining products or using well-formulated products won't do a better job.
So what does this mean - should we just be using regular moisturizers on our eye area, or....?
Well .. yes and no.
Your skin all needs the same TLC no matter what part of your body it is on. But with that being said, some areas of our skin do have different needs in terms of how much TLC it requires (based on things like sun exposure, past product use). For example, my facial skin is oily and acne-prone - but my eye area is dry. It doesn't make sense for me to treat the eye area the same as I treat the rest of my facial skin.
For those of us who use products geared toward acne-prone or problematic skin, we are likely using products that don't do anything useful for our under eyes. For example, while the moisturizer I use on my face *does* moisturize (obviously), it isn't as deep or rich of a moisturizer as I would like to use, and it doesn't exactly have all of the ingredients I would *like* to use, because sometimes I need to focus on treating my acne primarily.
There are a few reasons that someone might want to opt for an actual eye cream over a regular moisturizer, not necessarily because they work any better than a well-formulated cream:
1. The ingredients in an eye cream aren't something you would regularly use on the rest of your face.
2. The ingredients in an eye cream may be too expensive for you to afford to buy in a facial cream.
3. The needs of the rest of your skin vary differently than the needs of your under eye area.
4. The products you use on your face are treated/unnecessary for your under eye area.
So, while I use skin care products with antioxidants and skin-healthy ingredients, they also contain things like salicylic acid and tea tree oil; needless to say, they aren't the kind of ingredients that I would like my eye area to have, so I opt for a different product for that area. Caffeine is a good example - I would love to use an all-over face product that has caffeine, but I am hard-pressed to find one that will also treat my acne adequately.
That is why I use an eye cream.
Just because your under eye area may need a little sumpin' sumpin' different from the rest of your skin (like mine), doesn't mean that you need to go out and buy a $50 eye serum. No, no, no. You really just need a regular ol' moisturizer, with some key ingredients (things like antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, skin-repairing ingredients).
Antioxidants to look for:
Vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, green tea extract, soy extract, pomegranate extract, and turmeric extract.
Cell-communicating ingredients to look for:
Retinol, retinaldehyde, retinoic acid, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, eicosapentaenoic acid, niacinamide, lecithin, linolenic acid, linoleic acid, phospholipids, carnitine, carnosine, adenosine triphosphate, adenosine cyclic phosphate, most peptides, and Pyrus malus (apple) fruit extract.
Skin-repairing ingredients to look for:
Ceramides, lecithin, glycerin, polysaccharides, hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, sodium PCA, amino acids, cholesterol, glycerol, phospholipids, glycosphingolipids, glycosaminoglycans, glycerides, fatty acids.
Be aware of ingredients that you should be avoiding in your skin care products, but particularly in your eye area if you're already dealing with signs of aging. Things like fragrant plant oils, synthetic fragrances, or sensitizing plant extracts can cause pro-aging inflammation. So whether you decide to use an actual eye cream or a moisturizer/serum that you can use around your eye area, make sure it's a gentle formula that is packed with the types of ingredients mentioned above.
You can use any kind you like - one with caffeine, one with green tea, etc. I personally like to use the Andalou Naturals Luminous Eye Serum - not because it's an eye cream per se, but because it has antioxidants and caffeine, both of which are great for the skin, and for fighting signs of aging. This product contains antioxidants in abundance, cell communicating ingredients like apple fruit extract, and skin repairing ingredients like glycerin - all of the 3 crucial ingredients groups needed. I got a free sample, tried it, and loved it. It's truly the only thing I've ever used under my eyes that has made an obvious difference. And I've tried a lot of expensive under eye treatments and regular moisturizers in the past. I like to use this product at night, and 100% Pure Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream in the morning for a quick brightening. This formula also contains antioxidants in abundance, and it also contains cell-communicating epigallocatechin-3-gallate and skin repairing fatty acids!
When it's all said and done, you need to keep your expectations realistic, especially when it comes to products that claim to do drastic things to your skin. You can tighten and firm your skin to a certain degree, but nothing can magically pull up drooping eyelids or sagging under-eye bags completely. Unless you get Botox.