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Ask A Dermatologist: Do I Need a Separate Eye Cream?

Many of us have been lured in by the promise of miracle-working eye creams, but are they for real, and if they are, do we really need them? 

Our Dermatology Team are all about keeping skincare routines stripped back and minimal, so do we really need an extra cream for the eye area, or can we save our money? Our Dr Jason Thomson has the answer.

Do I really need eye cream? 

Dr Jason explains, “Eye creams represent a pretty sizable chunk of the beauty market being amongst the most expensive cosmetic products per ml sold. To answer this question it’s important to understand what’s different about the skin around your eyes and what can potentially go wrong with it.”

The skin around your eyes is the thinnest skin anywhere on the body and also has fewer oil-producing glands. This means it’s often sensitive and more prone to dryness and irritation, whether from the environment or your skincare products. 

“Having thin skin around the eyes also means this area comes with its own specific problems such as dark circles, puffiness and bags as well as being the first place that fine lines and wrinkles develop.”

There are lots of reasons why this is an area that deserves your attention. With this in mind, the rationale behind a separate eye cream is clear – a cream that’s suitable for sensitive skin that targets specific issues such as dryness and dark circles sounds like a great idea.

Do hydrating eye creams really work?

If you have dry eyes or fine lines, chances are you’ve already purchased an eye cream that claims to help, but Dr Jason says your moisturiser does the same job, “Eye creams designed to hydrate and brighten the skin around the eyes usually contain the exact same ingredients, in the same proportions as a face cream.”

Those claiming to treat fine lines will also contain the same ingredients as similar moisturisers, including humectants like hyaluronic acid, allantoin and betaine, emollients like shea butter, as well as ceramides, peptides and glycerin

We know that hydrating the skin with moisturiser can temporarily plump it, which does smooth fine lines — meaning the eye cream might seem effective, but if you’ve already invested in a decent moisturiser, eye creams are not essential.

Can an eye cream treat my dark circles?

If you have dark circles, even after eight hours of sleep, you might be tempted by eye creams targeting pigmentation. 

Dr Jason explains why the results can be underwhelming, “Creams that claim to treat dark circles are often going to end up disappointing. This is because dark circles are usually caused by multiple factors including your genetics and your skin tone, which no cream will be able to influence.” 

Anatomy is also important, as part of the reason you see dark circles is the combination of thin skin and the underlying blood vessels and facial muscles where no cream will be able to add much. 

Tretinoin and dark circles

Our Dermatologists are often asked about using tretinoin for dark circles. This is because tretinoin is often used to treat skin-ageing concerns and dark circles can be a sign of skin ageing. It’s not so simple in this case though.

Dark circles are a challenge to treat. Why? There are multiple factors that trigger them, ranging from lifestyle to genetics and age. Even a powerful retinoid such as tretinoin can’t fade or cover up dark circles completely.

Dr Jason’s advice? “I’d recommend going to see a Dermatologist (face to face) to diagnose the cause of your dark circles and give you the best chance of treating them effectively.”

Can an eye cream treat fine lines?

Dr Jason says, “Eye creams can also be beneficial in providing active ingredients such as retinoids at lower concentrations than you’d apply to the rest of your face which means they’ll be better tolerated by the sensitive eye skin. 

However, this is not strictly needed and buffering your retinoid by applying a thin layer of your moisturiser immediately before it serves to effectively dilute the concentration and make it less potent and more tolerated for the eye area.”

Can an eye cream treat puffy eyes?

We’ve all had puffy eyes the morning after having a little too much to drink, (yes, alcohol affects your skin) but can a good eye cream really make a difference? 

Dr Jason explains, “Some specific problems such as puffy eyes can be improved with an eye cream. These usually contain ingredients such as caffeine which work to constrict blood vessels in the skin to reduce swelling temporarily.”

The bottom line

Dr Jason says “the skin around your eyes is a special area and does require attention but a good face cream, that’s gentle and moisturising (as well as a high factor, broad-spectrum SPF) is really all you need to benefit your entire face and support you during your Skin + Me journey. 

If you suffer from specific issues such as dark circles, it’s unlikely a cream will result in much improvement so overall you’re better to spend money on a good all-rounder face cream.”

The good news is that your everyday moisturiser will do the job just fine. Our very own Soothe + Smooth Moisturisers, both Light and Rich, are safe to use around your eyes — maximum results, minimal fuss. 

Medical facts checked by Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Jason Thomson.

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