Are Eye Creams Really Necessary?

Find Out Whether Eye Creams Provide a Benefit or Are Just an Unnecessary Expense

A Japanese woman applying eye cream. Photo: RunPhoto/Digital Vision (Getty)

The eye area is one of the first places to show signs of aging. All of our facial expressions and movements, like frowning, smiling and squinting, can affect the eye area, creating fine lines, crow’s feet and laugh lines.

While you don’t want to become expressionless, you can control some of these lines, for example, by not raising your eyebrows and causing deep lines on your forehead (it takes a conscious effort!).

You can control squinting to a degree by wearing sunglasses while in the sunlight, not smoking (which also causes one to squint) and by having annual eye exams to correct any vision problems.

Other steps include taking care in removing eye makeup and reducing any other tugging, pulling or rubbing of the delicate skin area around the eyes.

Why Use an Eye Cream?

The skin under the eyes is thinner and more sensitive than the rest of the face. Eye creams for daytime use help to reduce puffiness and dark circles and the nighttime versions usually have more emollients and are meant to repair the skin while you sleep. But is this just a waste of money?

Pros and Cons of Eye Creams

There is disagreement in the cosmetic industry as to whether eye creams are really necessary or even work. One argument is that face creams are not made for the more delicate skin under the eyes. However, others believe there aren’t any special ingredients in eye creams.

They're unnecessary, and with less than an ounce of product for a very high price, are also an unnecessary expense. Many of the eye creams, they say, contain the same ingredients found in a good face moisturizer, such as those to minimize wrinkles and to tighten the skin.

But many facial moisturizers have warnings to avoid use around the eyes.

The eye creams might be less irritating, formulated without fragrance and other potentially problematic ingredients. Women of color need to be careful when it comes to cosmetics because certain ingredients can cause skin discoloration.

Do Eye Creams Reduce Fine Lines and Wrinkles or Make Them Worse?

Some eye creams and serums contain certain ingredients, like caffeine (coffee, green tea), to temporarily reduce puffiness, or ingredients to lighten dark circles, like vitamin K that might not be in facial moisturizers.

Still, others say that certain eye creams can make foundation and concealer crease into lines around the eye area. Some believe eye creams are just watered down versions of facial moisturizers. That might be the case with eye serums, but many eye creams are actually thicker than facial moisturizer, since the eye area tends to be drier. This area of the eye has fewer oil glands than the rest of the face. Dry skin also leads to wrinkles, crow’s feet and laugh lines.

Eye Creams Are Not Always Necessary

Everyone seems to be in agreement that you shouldn't use body lotions and creams on the face and eye area, but you might be able to get away with just using a facial moisturizer if it has the same ingredients as the eye cream.

Eye cream is not always necessary. If you don’t have problems with puffiness, dark circles or need to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, you can skip the eye cream and use a good facial moisturizer, especially if it is formulated for sensitive skin.

Tips for Fresher Looking Eyes

1. Don't let product get into the eyes. There is a problem that can occur when using certain products underneath the eyes. Some moisturizers might not absorb quickly enough and there is the possibility that you might unknowingly rub your eyes and get the product into your eyes, causing burning and irritation, which can lead to the skin becoming swollen and puffy.

2. Use products that are safe. The eye cream should also be ophthalmologist tested and safe for use around the eyes. An oil-free formula can help prevent clogging the glands around the eyes, which is especially important for contact lens wearers.

3. Avoid germs. Use a spoon or spatula for eye creams that come in a jar. You don’t want to dip your fingers into the product, and then transfer bacteria and germs into the eyes. When applying eye cream or serum, gently pat the product onto the eye area, don’t rub.

4. Remember sunscreen. A lot of the problems around the eye area are due to sun damage. Many eye creams and serums don’t contain sunscreen, so if you do decide to use a daily eye cream, choose one with sunscreen or top it with a facial sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin.