Wow – check out the back of that new eye cream you purchased and you’ll probably see a laundry list of ingredients. Amazing that one little 0.5-oz. tube or jar can hold so much “magic” – but it really can.
Here is a list of some of the most common (and effective) active ingredients in today’s eye creams, and what they can do for you (also see The Science Behind Eye Creams).
Collagen and Elastin
Collagen and elastin are proteins produced by your body that renew and help maintain the integrity of your skin. When you’re lacking in them, your skin is less elastic and more fragile, causing the look of fine lines. Make sure any good eye cream contains either or both of these all-important proteins.
Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin K. This all-important vitamin is essential to the health of the skin. In its form of retinol (or Retin-A), it regenerates and heals the skin, as well as reducing hyperpigmentation (dark spots). Users report dramatic minimization in the appearance of fine lines when Retinol is used regularly. However, it also produces photsensitivity (sensitivity to light), so do NOT use Retinol without adding an eye-appropriate sunscreen.
Alpha and beta hydroxy acids gently exfoliate, revealing the newer skin beneath. This speeds the regeneration process and removes the dullness of old skin cells. Be very careful choosing an eye cream that contains hydroxy acids; some may irritate the eyes. The best eye creams deliver hydroxy acids in a gentle, non-irritating formula.
Resveratrol is an anti-oxidant complex usually made up of various fruits. It helps scavenge free radicals from the environment which can age the look of the skin prematurely and also produce a dull look to the skin.
Don’t be put off by the word “acid” – in fact, this ingredient was first discovered by ophthalmologists to help relieve dry eye symptoms! However, NEVER get any eye cream directly into the eye; these generally contain any number of ingredients, some of which may cause sensitivity.
Hyaluronic acid, also known as sodium hyaluronate, is a naturally occurring component of your skin and connective tissue. It encourages skin tissue healing and lubricates the skin.
Beta glucans are sugars extracted from a number of vegetable sources, such as oats, algae or lichens. They form a moisture-holding barrier on top of the skin, enhancing moisturization under the eyes. (In fact, they’re used in medicine to help heal wounds by creating a barrier against dirt and bacteria.)
This silicone-based ingredient fills in lines and “plumps” the skin to minimize the look of lines and wrinkles underneath and next to the eyes (including crow’s feet / smile lines).
Peptides are short-chain proteins that enhance “communication” within the components of the skin, directing it to heal itself, for example. Peptides are used for a variety of uses, including reducing puffiness and maintaining the integrity (health, elasticity, etc.) of the skin.
Soy (glycine soja) protein is a dipeptide (two-chain) or tri-peptide (three-chain) of soybeans. It contains healing properties to help heal tiny pools of blood under the eyes responsible for the look of undereye circles. It also acts as a scavenger of free radicals, toxins which can reduce the integrity of the skin and make it age faster.
Panthenol is the cosmetic and pharmaceutical term for a type of Vitamin B. Panthenol has the power to penetrate the second layer of the skin in order to effect real changes in the appearance and health of the skin.
Panthenol is a critical component in healing the skin and encouraging new, healthy skin cells to form, creating a smoother appearance to the skin.
Marine extracts are typically very high in certain minerals, including copper, zinc and iron. All of these help hold in hydration to plump out the skin and make it appear smooth.
Rumor has it Cleopatra herself used marine extracts from the Dead Sea to keep her complexion stunning. Today’s scientists see their value not only in replacing what the skin may be lacking but in maintaining hydration and reducing inflammation.
These are too numerous to mention here; suffice to say that science continues to uncover the many effects natural plant extracts can have on the skin. Note that “natural” does not always mean “superior” (or even safe – hemlock and cyanide are natural, for example!)
Vegetal extracts used in eye creams are typically chosen for their non-sensitivity to the eyes as well as their properties of moisturization, anti-inflammation and skin resurfacing properties. Research any plant extract you see in your eye cream.
Vitamins E, C and K
Vitamins are as important to the outside of your body (your skin) as they are to the inside. Vitamin E lubricates, hydrates and gives a soft, youthful appearance to the skin. It may also have repairative properties. Vitamin C is amazing at reducing pigmentation in the skin to minimize the look of age spots and dark circles. Vitamin K, in its form or Retinol, is described above.