Eye creams are making up an ever-growing percentage of the $43 billion skin care industry. With scientific advances – particularly in the past 10-15 years – and positive user testimonials, more and more eye creams are popping up on department store shelves. And new ones just keep coming.
The big question is: do these formulas actually work? If so, what do they do? And how long do you have to wait for results? Here’s the low-down on this very popular niche of the skin care industry.
The Skin Under Your Eyes is Not the Same
The basic overlying premise of eye creams is that products for the skin aren’t enough for this very unique area. The periocular (around the eyes) skin is different, experts say. Are they right?
Yes, according to scientific research. The periocular skin is up to 10 times thinner than the skin on the rest of the body and on the face. That makes it more prone to damage, the appearance of dark spots and dark circles, and to the aging effects of the sun.
In addition, there are fewer oil glands directly beneath the eyes, making the area less lubricated against gravity and facial expressions – and ultimately, the appearance of fine lines comes sooner.
There’s also the sensitivity issue. The eyes themselves can become irritated by moisturizers formulated for the body or for the face.
Promises, Promises … and Real Answers
Most eye care creams claim to be formulated to address issues such as fine lines, dark circles, and loss of elasticity due to age. There’s good news: our research showed that many mid- to upper-tier eye creams really do have science to back up these activities. A few include:
- Dark circles. Tiny capillaries break underneath the skin all the time. Rubbing, overactivity of the area or irritating environmental pollutants can all cause this. The difference is that with the skin under the eyes being so thin, these dark areas aren’t as easy to disguise and therefore are very noticeable. Ingredients such as Retinol (a derivative of vitamin K) have proven results in this area, actually boosting the healing process, while moisturizers like hyaluronic acid “plump” the area, lifting the skin up and out from the area rather than directly next to the pooled blood underneath.
- Fine lines. Any moisturizing product will help plump the skin, making lines appear more shallow. Humectant ingredients also draw moisture from the outside, while some moisturizing ingredients form a barrier to hold moisture in. Beta glucans, an ingredient category common to the eye cream industry, are one good example in this. In fact, they have a history in wound protection usage, giving a solid scientific background to their claims.
- Cell rate turnover. Sloughing off old skin to reveal the fresher, younger-appearing skin cells below has commonly been address in the skin care industry via ingredients such as hydroxy acids. However, these can be irritating to sensitive eyes. Alpha- and beta hydroxy acids in eye creams are formulated in percentages, forms and suspensions formulated to be less sensitive to delicate eyes. Meanwhile, the activity of (gently) abrading old skin cells encourages faster growth of the newer cells – mimicking the activity found in a younger person’s skin.
- Replacement of important proteins. As we age, the activities of naturally occurring proteins such as collagen and elastin slow down. Unfortunately, for aging skin, this means less plumpness and elasticity to the eye area. Actually replacing these important skin components via collagen and elastin not only gives a better appearance quickly, it also seems to improve “communication” between the skin cells, directing them to act the way they did when one was younger.
Patience, Young Grasshopper … Patience
Scientists, dermatologists and plastic surgeons alike agree that the above activities are very real. However, even for a high-quality product that contains a good hefty dose of active ingredients, seeing results can take time.
Some activities of a good eye cream will show immediately, such as plumping and moisturization of the skin. On the other hand, healing activities and cell turnover rate will take a bit longer. Don’t rush it – eye creams are designed to work gently on this sensitive area. Dermatologists recommend waiting at least four weeks before placing your final verdict on any eye cream.
A few warnings, though: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t purchase an eye cream that claims it will definitely, absolutely cure your every eye care issue. Look for scientific studies to back up claims. And of course, if an eye cream is irritating to your eyes, stop using it immediately. It’s not worth your eye health and your comfort to use a product that causes eye sensitivity.
And remember: not every eye cream will work for everyone. You are an individual; your skin may react in different ways or you may have greater or less sensitivity than the next person. In today’s eye cream industry, you have plenty of choices, so find the one that works best for you.
Image by Jerome S