Bags, Crepey Skin, Dark Circles, Oh My! What Under Eye Creams Actually Work?


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One of the most asked questions I get is "What eye cream should I use?"

Generally people want to start using eye cream when they see:

  • Lines beginning to form around the eyes

  • Dark circles worsening

  • Bags beginning to form

  • Crepey skin showing up

These particular issues are caused from:


Aging: As we age, we lose the collagen that keeps our skin elastic and taut, and we lose facial volume as our fat pads begin to slip downwards. This is what causes skin to be thinner and reveal more of the vessels and darker tissue underneath. It is also what causes crepey skin. Because this area has extremely thin skin, it is one of the first areas on the face to show aging.

Environmental/sun damage: Sun causes collagen to breakdown more rapidly, and also causes pigmentation issues. Environmental damage encourages free radicals to form and damage skin's integrity (antioxidants are what help fight free radical damage).

Allergies: Environmental allergens can irritate skin and underlying tissue causing dark circles to worsen and watery bags to form.

Heredity: Some of us are just born with less fat in the under eye, causing the darker tissue underneath to show through. On the flip side, some of us are born with excess fat padding under the eye which leads to bags showing more prominently as we age and lose that collagen.


I used not to believe in eye cream, the same way I didn't believe in toner, but now I know the delicate eye area truly needs it's own unique product. This is a thin, sensitive and vascular area and should be treated as such. It also has less collagen and elastin, and fewer sebaceous glands (which produce sebum to lubricate the skin) and this too diminishes as we age.


That said, I want to be honest and say that no product is going to give you results like surgery, lasers, or injections. But prescription grade-eye creams WILL improve the issues listed above, and anyone over 30 shouldn't be running around without eye cream anyway!

Also notice I said "prescription-grade": drugstore brands of eye creams may have some ingredients that can help to moisturize the eye or tighten the skin slightly, but generally the quality and chemical stability of those products will not render dramatic results.


These are the main ingredients that help with eye area issues:

  • Caffeine

  • Vitamin C

  • Human growth factors

  • Hyaluronic acid

  • Peptides

Here's the lowdown on these ingredients and how they work to help improve under eye issues:

Caffeine for eye puffiness:

Puffy eyes, which can be caused by everything from normal aging to lack of sleep can be diminished by creams with caffeine because it constricts the blood vessels under the skin, reducing the puffiness. It also has a tightening effect on the skin.

Caffeine for dark circles:

Much the same way, caffeine helps treat dark circles that are caused by aging, genetics, or sleep problems by tightening the fine blood vessels underneath the thin eye skin, making dark circles less visible.

Vitamin C:

Stimulates collagen growth

Strengthens skin

Brightens

Antioxidant

By boosting collagen growth in the skin, Vitamin C can strengthen skin, helping to minimize the dark look of the blood vessels visible underneath the skin. It also gives you a brightening effect.

Vitamin C also provides antioxidant protection, helping shield you from free radicals (constant environmental stressors like pollution and sun damage) that contribute to premature aging.

It also helps improve skin’s natural healing response and increases the effectiveness of sunscreens.

Hyaluronic acid:

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in your body (it’s a polysaccharide, or carbohydrate). We have it around our joints, our eyes and in the spaces between our skin cells. It is also what most injectable fillers are made of.

In our skin, HA provides moisture, plumpness, and suppleness to the skin…it’s like fluff in your pillow. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful moisture binding ingredient and binds to 1,000 times its weight in water. Our ability to produce HA decreases with age (because of course it does...eye roll).


In topical form, for HA to be effective, it must be modified so it can penetrate the skin. In its pure form, the molecule is too large to pass through the skin. One way to remedy this is to extract its sodium salt to get sodium hyaluronate – if you look at the ingredients in your skincare that’s likely what you’ll see on the label. Sodium hyaluronate has a lower molecular weight (smaller sized molecule) than pure HA so it’s more easily absorbed into pores. It has the ability to penetrate into deeper layers of the skin to attract and bind with water.

Human Growth Factors:

Human growth factors can be derived from human stem cells of any source (skin, fat, bone marrow, etc). Their purpose is to regenerate: they help heal the skin and promote collagen growth to strengthen and improve skin tone and texture, The eye cream we carry that has growth factors in it is Neocutis Lumiere Firm. Neocutis was originally developed for wound care, so there is great science behind this skincare line.


Peptides:

Peptides are small chain amino acids that help bind collagen together. Collagen is what helps skin look plump and what helps skin repair itself. Peptides can help the appearance of puffy eyes, improve skin firmness and lighten pigmentation. Peptides also send the correct signals for collagen stimulation so the body knows how best to repair the skin (either for actual wound repair or for anti-aging treatments).

The eye creams we carry are:

  • Skin Better Eye: Uses peptides to support collagen and smooth crepiness; uses caffeine to reduce puffiness and dark circles; vitamin C, sourced from Kakadu plum extract for helps brighten; niacinamide and hyaluronic acid deliver hydration.

  • Revision's DEJ Eye: DEJ (Dermal Epidermal Junction) is the area of the skin where the dermis and the epidermis meet. This product is aimed at supporting this area. It helps provide structural integrity for the skin and adherence between the layers. Ingredients in this eye cream help to improve elasticity, crow's feet, crepiness, and lid heaviness. It also contain pre- and postbiotics to help support the skin's microbiome

  • Neocutis Lumiere Firm Eye: Uses growth factors and peptides to help build collagen and elastin for more elastic, smoother skin. It has caffeine to help with puffiness, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, and chamomile extract to soothe.

All of these are very effective and contain some or all of the ingredients mentioned, in formulations that are able to penetrate the skin barrier to do what they claim. Generally, when the product choices are all super effective, like the skincare we carry, product choice usually comes down to how the product feels and how well it integrates into the skin. Skin type probably plays the biggest role here, as those with drier skin generally prefer a thicker formulation and those with oiler skin typically choose a lighter product.


Of the three eye creams we carry, Lumiere and DEJ are slightly thicker than Skin Better Eye. My favorite right now is the DEJ. It feels good going on and (bonus) they changed their packaging so it has a metal applicator, which feels soothing on puffy eyes.