Eyes have it hard. Not only is the skin in that area among the thinnest on the body, but most people spend their days staring at one sort of screen or another, pelting their eyes with blue light and locking their faces in a permanent squint. Add to that all the wear and tear the skin gets between making expressions, reacting to allergies, or just being tugged on daily by contact lens wearers, and it’s easy to see (har, har) why the undereyes need TLC and an appropriate product regimen.
How is the skin around your eyes different?
The skin around the eyes isn’t just thin, it’s also extremely delicate. That combination means the eye area is also one of the first to lose elasticity and begin to sag. Hello, wrinkles. Because the tissue is so thin, it can also be easier to see the blood vessels traversing underneath, especially as we age and the area begins to hollow due to lack of collagen. Tada, dark circles (although they can be the result of excess pigmentation, too). And because the tissue is so delicate, it can be extremely sensitive and reactive — both to skincare ingredients and to external irritants. Oh, and did we mention the eye area has fewer oil glands than in other parts of the body? That means it gets dry quickly. In a nutshell, the skin around the eyes needs to be handled with kid gloves.
Common skin concerns around the eyes
We all have our unique issues when it comes to the way our eye areas look. But consider these the four that everyone can agree are the top ones they want to avoid:
Fine lines & wrinkles
It is estimated that a person blinks almost 19,000 times a day. And that’s just blinking. Consider how often you squint, smile, or make any other expression that involves your eyes. All that repeated movement eventually begins to etch lines into those well-worn paths. As we get older, we produce less collagen, the fibers that keep skin bouncy and plump. With less collagen to puff them up, these lines start to settle in and become more obvious, eventually turning into deeper wrinkles.
Lack of sleep is often pointed to as the culprit when a person is plagued by undereye darkness. But mom and dad can also be to blame as genetics can predispose a person to dark circles. And if you haven’t been wearing that daily SPF? Yep, excess pigmentation can crop up below your lower lashes thanks to UV exposure as well.
You know that eating certain foods can make your body hold onto water. Who hasn’t woken up after a game night full of salty snacks to a pair of undereye bags? Ditto if you cried yourself to sleep after watching A Star is Born. Those situations are typically temporary. If you have chronic allergies, however, your undereye puffiness will also be chronic. And if the issue is the result of fat pads in your face shifting with age, that puffiness can be permanent.
Since there are so few sebaceous glands around the eyes to produce oil to keep the skin moist, the area can easily become parched. When this happens, not only can it appear crepey, but fine lines are usually more apparent as well.
What skincare ingredients are safe to use around the eyes?
Many of the ingredients you love for your face are also excellent for the eye area. At the top of the list are retinol, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and mineral sunscreens. Red LEDs (light-emitting diodes) also work wonders on the area around your eyes.
But while there’s overlap between ingredients that are good to use around your eyes and ones that are good for the rest of your face, it’s very important to select products specifically formulated for the eye area, instead of just smoothing your C serum up to your eyelashes. For one thing, the facial concentration of certain ingredients (like retinol) can be way too strong for delicate eye skin. Fragrance and some preservatives can also irritate the tissue — two more reasons to shop for eyes-only skincare products.
Find the eye-care products for you
If you want retinol:
In this eye-specific formula, collagen-stimulating retinol is buffered by bakuchiol and ferulic acid (which both help reduce irritation) and supported by rambutan, an antioxidant that also aids in collagen production.
Good for: Fine lines & wrinkles; dryness
If you want vitamin C:
L-ascorbic acid (the type of vitamin C you want in your skincare) and tranexamic acid work to block the formation of excess pigmentation. L-ascorbic acid will also help kick your skin’s collagen factory up a notch as well.
Good for: Fine lines & wrinkles; dark circles; dryness
If you want hyaluronic acid:
Hyaluronic acid and Japanese algae drench dry skin in moisture to plump fine lines on contact and deliver long-lasting hydration. At the same time, added caffeine helps smooth out swollen bags.
Good for: Puffiness; dryness
If you want green tea:
Green tea is a potent natural antioxidant rich in the polyphenol EGCG that protects against free radicals and environmental aggressors. It contains anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe skin and prevent redness.
Good for: Redness; puffiness
If you want mineral sunscreens:
OK, so this one isn’t made just for eyes. However, mineral sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are just what the doctor ordered when it comes to sensitive skin. (If you’ve ever had a chemical SPF run into your eyes, you know those can sting like nobody’s business.) This non-greasy, fragrance-free formula will help stop collagen breakdown and dark spot development before they start.
Good for: Fine lines & wrinkles; dark circles
How to apply an eye cream or eye serum
You can never go wrong using a light, gentle touch when smoothing on your cream or serum. Specifically, the featherlight pressure only your ring finger can provide (it’s weaker than other digits, like your index finger). Use that finger to dab small dots of your product along your orbital bone (top and bottom). Then go back and gently tap the cream or serum into the skin. (Do not rub. While this is a fast way to finish the job, not only can rubbing irritate your eyes, pulling on skin is counterproductive to your end goal of treating the area with TLC.)
Be sure to read the instructions on your individual product’s label. Some, like our Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum, can be applied all around the eyes, including the lids (they get crepey, too!). In those cases, tap your serum about halfway down each closed lid. Otherwise, you don’t need to go any closer to your eye than the orbital bone because your body heat will naturally spread any product a bit beyond where you’ve applied it. Give your skin a couple of minutes to absorb everything fully before starting on your eye makeup.
LED treatments for the eye area
Red LEDs have been proven to encourage collagen formation and cause absolutely zero irritation or downtime. There aren’t too many things that can make those same claims. Aiming red LEDs at your eye area can lead to firmer, smoother skin over time, thanks to an increase in everyone’s favorite skin-filling fibers.
Our new FDA-cleared Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite Eyecare Max Pro is the next-gen version of our popular Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite Eyecare Pro, but with 30 percent more LEDs and a larger coverage area, while still delivering visible results in just three minutes a day. As with all our devices, our Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite Eyecare Max Pro has been thoroughly tested for consumer safety and can be worn without additional eye shields or goggles.
Discover Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare for All Your Skincare Needs
Originally published on 3/6/2023. Updated on 6/13/2023
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