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Eye Cream Buying Guide

By: Angela Stringfellow on December 19, 2017

What the best eye creams have

  • Ingredients that won't irritate your eyes. Fragrance, alcohol and several plant oils and extracts are known irritants and can bother the delicate eye area. A good eye cream never stings the skin or runs into the eyes. Some eye creams contain anti-irritants, ingredients specifically designed to minimize irritation and soothe the skin.
  • Effective moisturizers. Even younger eye skin can benefit from oil-free moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. More emollient eye creams with oil-based moisturizers can be helpful if you suffer from fine lines or dry skin around your eyes.
  • Ingredients that specifically benefit the skin around the eyes. Any decent facial moisturizer can moisturize the eye area as well; for an eye cream to be worth its (usually) higher price, it should contain ingredients, such as niacinamide, caffeine and retinol, thought to particularly benefit the wrinkle-, circle-, puff-prone eye area.
  • Opaque tubes or pump bottles. Because antioxidants and other important eye cream ingredients deteriorate with repeated exposure to air and sunlight, look for moisturizers enclosed in light- and air-blocking packaging to preserve their effectiveness. Tubes or pumps are better than jars or tubs, because you won't be continually touching (and possibly contaminating) the eye cream.
  • Quick results. While you can't expect a topical eye cream to produce miraculous results overnight, some eye creams will have obvious results in a few minutes. For instance, eye creams that contain skin-brightening ingredients may produce a shimmery effect that makes your tired eyes appear brighter and more alert immediately after application, while others can have immediate impacts on under-eye bags and puffiness.
  • Rapid absorption. While some eye creams are meant to be used overnight, those intended for daytime or day-and-night use should absorb quickly, allowing you to apply makeup without the risk of gumming, flaking or running.

Know Before You Go

Eye creams can't erase wrinkles, dark circles or age-related puffiness. Such problems are unlikely to go away with just a topical treatment. While some mild cases can be alleviated with eye creams, no eye cream can deliver the dramatic results you'll see with Botox, fillers, laser treatments or surgery.

Do you know which ingredients might treat your eye skin concerns? Make sure to pick a product that addresses your issues. Start by checking out the ingredients list. For example, antioxidants (like vitamins A, C and E) protect skin from free radical damage. Retinol firms skin and fights wrinkles. Sunscreens protect skin from wrinkle-causing sun damage. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) can help lighten over-pigmented skin.

What's your budget? A great eye cream doesn't have to cost a fortune. We found highly rated eye creams ranging from $10 to $100 per half-ounce among both department store and drugstore brands.

Try a sample, if you can. Department-store eye creams can be very expensive, but sample sizes for you to try first are often available.

Is your eye area accustomed to retinol? If not, it's a good idea to start slowly with this ingredient. Retinol fights wrinkles, but it can also dry and redden skin that hasn't adapted to it yet. Try an eye cream with a low concentration of retinol, or start by using it only every other day.

Is your skin sensitive to certain ingredients? Some consumers find that their skin is sensitive even to natural, plant-based ingredients. If you've had a negative reaction such as stinging or redness to specific ingredients in the past, avoid eye creams containing potentially irritating ingredients. If you're not sure if you're sensitive to an ingredient in a specific eye cream, test a small amount of the product on a small area of skin.

Do you plan to wear your eye cream under makeup? Very rich eye creams can make concealer and eyeliner slip and slide, and some eye creams (especially gels) can "pill" when you try to apply makeup over them. For this reason, some users wear their favorite eye creams only at night. We did find eye creams that work well with makeup, though.

Are you prone to developing milia? Milia are tiny white bumps (usually found around the eyes), caused when dead skin cells become trapped in a clump beneath the skin's surface. Some people find that rich, thick eye creams seem to cause milia for them. If that's the case, makeup expert Paula Begoun recommends switching to a thinner lotion or gel eye moisturizer.

Men don't need a special men's eye cream. Although some eye creams are marketed specifically to men, experts say that's not necessary: The skin around the eyes will benefit from the same ingredients, regardless of gender.

Is your moisturizer sufficient? Specially formulated eye creams may not be all that special. A moisturizer with good-for-skin ingredients and no irritants may be all you need to address the most common eye area concerns, particularly for mild signs of aging.

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