The Science Behind Eye Creams: New Ingredients, New Promises

The Science Behind Eye Creams: New Ingredients, New Promises

eye cream ingredientsAsk any woman (and quite a few men) what their most troublesome aging area is, and they’ll probably say, “the eyes!” That’s because the skin underneath the eyes has very few oil glands, so it’s more prone to wrinkling. Our eyes are also expressive and constantly in motion, stressing the area on a daily basis.

Compounding the problem, periocular (“around the eyes”) skin is 10 times thinner than the rest of the body’s skin. This means it can tear easily and shows broken capillaries in the form of dark circles.

Since ancient times, women have tried every remedy under the sun for aging eye skin, from the slightly useful to the downright dangerous.

Luckily, modern science has uncovered some amazing ingredients that can help cosmetic eye-aging issues. But is the hype real? Here are a few of the latest breakthroughs and what they can do for your appearance.

Synthetic Peptides

Peptides perform a wide range of actions in the body, including wound healing and cell communication. They’ve been used for some time in the cosmetics industry, but have recently come to the forefront of cosmetics news as synthetics aimed at better targeting the aging process are being developed.

In a nutshell, peptides are chains of amino acids. The new synthetics – for example, Matrixyl (Palmitoyl pentapeptide-3), developed by L’Oreal and marketed by Proctor and Gamble – are said to have retinol-like properties without the irritation. (See retinol, below.) Structurally, they’re related to precursors of collagen, which diminishes in production as we get older.

Fibroblast Conditioned Media

Fibroblast conditioned media ingredients are also found under the names human adipose stem cells or epidermal growth proteins. Though stem cell research is a controversial topic, FCM is actually the media in which they’re grown, not the actual stem cells as used in medical research.

The aim of FCM ingredients is to increase the turnover rate of skin cells. As we age, cell turnover/regeneration rate slows. Boosting this process can have the effect of fresher, younger-looking skin.

Epidermal Growth Factor

This is another ingredient aimed at speeding up cell growth. EGF is already found in the human body. Adding it to an eye care ingredient is said to help the production of newer, fresher-looking skin.

Chemically, EGF is a polypeptide, or chain of amino acids. In both cosmetic and medical applications, it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. This translates to less puffiness and irritation/breakage of the skin.


Retinol is a fat-soluble form of Vitamin A. It is said to both regenerate and “plump out” the skin. Often, this effect is given the general term “resurfacing” in eye care preparations.

Retinol should be used very carefully when applied around the eyes, as it can be irritating. Eye preparations that contain SPF in addition to retinol ingredients are preferred as photosensitivity (an overreaction to the sun’s rays) typically occurs with retinol use.


These polysaccharides (sugars) are said to aid communication between the dermal and epidermal layers of the skin. Such “messages” are important because they direct the skin to produce collagen. Like other processes, this interaction is said to slow due to aging.

Currently, the leader in the glycans movement is cosmetics giant L’Oreal. They say that glycans help increase the production of collagen to help minimize the look of lines and wrinkles.


Homeostatine takes its name from the homeostasis, a state of balance between two or more things. In the case of Homestatine, balance is said to be achieved in the dermal matrix (layer). This balance means less inflammation in the skin, as well as the restoration of skin elasticity.

It has a natural base – seeds of the Andean tree Caesalpinia spinosa plus Enteromorpha compressa algea – making it appealing to marketers and consumers looking for natural, organic ingredients.


Here’s another eye care ingredient that is garnering interest due to being plant-based (red wine, actually). Reservatrol is touted as being an antioxidant/free-radical scavenger. It also protects against UV-B skin stress.

Its effects are two-fold: protective and repairative. Some studies suggest that it may prevent abnormal cell creation as well. In eye care creams, it smooths and re-texturizes the look of skin, minimizing the appearance of fine lines.

Science or Science Fiction?

Cosmetic marketers are famous for making grandiose claims. Do the above ingredients actually work? Science leans toward “yes”…with reservations. Many factors are at play here, including the ingredients’ sources and concentration.

So we’ll reserve the final judgment to you. Take the more conservative claims into account when choosing eye care items, and always look for sample sizes when available so you can see what’s really right for you – and what really works.

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