It’s a debate as old as eyeliner: do you really need an eye cream? Despite being packaged in the tiniest of pots, the answer, is a resounding ‘yes’. Sure, it’s another step in your skincare routine, but the best eye cream works like a soft-focus lens for crow’s feet and erases dark circles that scream, ‘I’ve been dancing on tables until 3am’.
But can’t my regular serum or face cream do that, too, I hear you ask? Actually no – neither are necessarily formulated for the fragile skin below your lower lash line.
Even the best face serum may have actives that could sensitise this delicate area while creams are often too rich and clog pores, causing small white bumps to appear under the skin.
‘The skin here is thinner and made up of less collagen and elastin compared to the rest of the face,’ she says. ‘When you consider the average person blinks 23,000 times, it’s not surprising that the eye area is susceptible to wrinkling.’
How to apply eye cream
The eye area being so delicate also means you want to avoid any vigorous rubbing. ‘Put a small amount of product on your ring finger (your weakest finger in terms of exerting pressure) and smooth below the eye, over the crow’s feet area and pat onto the brow bone just below your eyebrows,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk.
‘I wouldn’t apply any cream with active ingredients directly to the upper eyelid as there is a high risk of irritation.’
Finally, apply eye cream straight after cleansing and before moisturiser. This allows it to form a barrier against heavier emollients, which can, in themselves, cause puffiness.
What goes into the best eye cream?
Sadly there is no one-size-fits-all product to tackle puffiness, lines and shadows, so consider applying two different eye creams daily.
‘In the morning, your main issue is puffiness caused by water retention from lying flat all night,’ explains Etheridge. Look for a gel with a slight nip to it as the cooling sensation will instantly de-puff. ‘It should also be high in antioxidants to fight free radical damage from pollution and blue light from computer screens and mobiles.’
At night your skin is in recovery mode, so switch to a richer cream to ramp up hydration. ‘One with a high concentration of peptides and skin-smoothing eyebright extract will help to soften the appearance of expression lines,’ she adds.
If you’ve spent your day sitting under air-conditioning or central heating, tackle crêpeyness around the eyes with a humectant like hyaluronic acid, which draws water into the skin.
Just avoid overly oily formulas at all costs, especially those based on mineral oils and petroleum, which can swamp the skin and easily travel up into the eye.
What are dark circles? How do I treat them?
Because the skin beneath your eyes is so thin, it’s especially prone to sun-induced pigmentation. This is especially true of Asian and black skin. Use a sunscreen designed specifically for the eye area, like Ultrasun SPF 30+ Eye Cream, as it has a non-irritating and non-drip formula.
Retinol-based creams can also help with dark under-eye circles. The vitamin A derivative will fade pigment and increase collagen production to thicken the skin here.
‘Translucency under the eyes is often a feature of skin ageing, although it can also be hereditary,’ says Kluk. ‘Retinol can make skin less transparent so dark circles and hollowing are less noticeable.’
Other brightening ingredients to look out for are kojic acid, licorice and vitamin C, which interfere with the production of pigment, while vitamin K oxide can help reduce the purplish discolouration from blood vessels.
Also worth noting: rubbing your skin when removing mascara and eye liner can cause capillary damage, which leads to bruised-looking under eyes.
Use a micellar water or cleansing oil and gently swipe away your eye make-up.
Now you know how to up your eye cream game, keep scrolling to see our edit of the best formulas to shop right now.
Best eye cream for wrinkles: iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex, £85, Skincity.co.uk
Proteins, peptides, antioxidants and key growth factors – iS Clinical doesn’t mess around with unnecessary filler ingredients. Just ones that give a really good result on lines. Yes it’s a bit pricey, but a tiny bit goes a long way so you don’t need to use a lot to see a difference to your skin texture. I’m not the only fan – industry expert Caroline Hirons gives this her stamp of approval.
Best eye cream for dark circles: The Ordinary Solution 5% + EGCG, £5.80, Cult Beauty
Tired, puffy eyes after hours staring at a computer screen? Try this featherlight serum, which features an extremely high concentration off caffeine and EGCG (a potent polyphenol found in green tea). Basically, the equivalent of a really good night’s sleep in a jar.
Best retinol eye cream: Murad Renewing Eye Cream, £65, Lookfantastic
When it comes to skincare ingredients that really count, the best eye cream with retinol tops the list for its legitimate wrinkle-fighting powers. Alongside extracts of skin-firming kelp and swetia flower, this is still gentle enough to use on a daily basis.
Best eye cream for bags: Clinique Moisture Surge Eye Hydro-Filler Concentrate, £27.50, Lookfantastic
This cushiony water-gel refreshes and debloats in a matter of minutes. The moisturising molecules are much smaller in this type of formula, too – meaning it sinks in fast and won’t sit on top of your eye socket and exacerbate any post-sleep puffiness.
Best anti-ageing eye cream:Kate Somerville Line Release Under Eye Repair Cream, £105, Cult Beauty
Kate Somerville fans rejoiced when this cult product made a much-anticipated jump across the pond. Using two wrinkle-smoothing powerhouses – vitamin A and peptides – it lifts the entire eye area for a more youthful, wide-awake look.
If you’re still looking for ‘the one’, keep scrolling for some of our other favourites.
The ultimate foil for fine lines and under-eye bags thanks to a cocktail of botanical ingredients that improve elasticity and firmness. Think cell-energising winter daphne stem cell extract, rice peptides and vitamin A, C and E. The jasmine scent ensures it's as decadent as it is wearable.
This rich, cosseting eye cream will find favour with dry skin sufferers. A combo of hyaluronic acid and linseed extract have a filler-like effect on under-eye grooves and seal in moisture. Perfect if you'd rather swerve the needle and discomfort.
Ever since CeraVe hit UK shores, it has been a favourite among the beauty elite. It's a brand developed by dermatologists at low prices. This eye cream is non-sticky, fast absorbing and moisture-boosting, while also not riling sensitive skin.
The magic happens as soon as this yellow eye cream touches your skin. Working on the same premise as 'banana powder', a yellow powder used by make-up artists to eradicate sallowness, dark circles are immediately conquered.
Much like Bobbi Brown’s best-selling Vitamin-Enriched Face Base, the Eye Base is designed to nourish and prime in one smoothing step. Laced with skin-quenching hyaluronic acid and shea butter, it won’t mess up your makeup (we even recommend tapping it over concealer).
Channel your inner millennial with this avocado-based eye cream, which is rich in hydrating fatty acids.
Many eye creams claim to brighten. But Laura Mercier's new formula is the real deal. There's instant gratification, too: green coffee seed oil and light-reflecting violet pearl immediately erase any signs of a restless night.
If your dark circles are the result of lifestyle factors, like lack of sleep or a poor diet (rather than genes,Â pigmentationor skin structure), then the good news is you can do something about them. Sunday Riley's first eye cream nourishes, thanks to cocoa butter, while caffeine and Brazilian ginseng root smooth the skin, making it easier for light to bounce off. Bright eyes, ahoy.
The serum-like product is made with hyaluronic acid for visible plumping, a peptide complex , smoothing squalane oil and antioxidant-rich blueberry fruit. Essentially, all the goodness you need to cushion and protect as the Bubblewrap moniker implies.
Founded by cosmetic surgeon and skin expert Dr Marco Lens, this smoothing eye cream targets crow's feet, fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes with a potent, botanical-enriched formula containing marine collagen and hyaluronic acid.
This pink gel cream is packed with eye-opening ingredients: a hydrating algae extract, brightening red vine, vitamin E to protect against the ageing effects of pollution and, of course, rose to give skin a naturally smooth appearance. The cooling pen applicator is pretty addictive, too, for gently ironing out the appearance of wrinkles.
Reworked to include nine new ingredients, including anti-inflammatory hops and skin-tightening Butcher’s Broom, these concentrated capsules replenish hydrating lipids and keep working long after the serum has absorbed.
The ultimate powerhouse for eyes, this serum contains souped-up age-defying ingredients including a vitamin A derivative to plump skin, visibly fade fine lines and help with dark circles. Bonus: it's gentle enough to use day and night.
This eye cream is the real deal, tackling both crow's feet and dark circles in the process. Unlike most cream formulas, it manages to feel refreshing to boot.
You are going to love this night eye cream. It not only bolsters skin after exposure to pollution, UV and lack of sleep, but it also has special repair technology to tackle the effects of blue light from your phone and computer screen. Proof that the best eye cream isn't a myth.