What's the difference between an eye cream and an eye serum? How much do I apply and where in my routine does it fit? Read on for our expert-approved tips. Photo / Getty Images

The Best Eye Creams To Suit Every Skin Concern & Skin Type

If your version of bright-eyed is seemingly less so, it may be time to send in reinforcements

Eye care is undoubtedly the most underrated step in any beauty regimen, but can deliver big-time benefits.

When it comes to your daily skincare routine, you probably have your go-to face serum and moisturiser on lockdown. But what about the under-eye area? Easily overlooked, this delicate but equally important zone requires its own regime.

Put simply, the skin around your peepers is more fragile and prone to fluctuations than the skin on other parts of the face, and requires extra TLC. As the thinnest skin on the body, the under-eye area is more susceptible to environmental damage from UV rays and pollution, as well as any kind of irritation.

“The eye area is a very specific zone, four times thinner than the cheek area with a lower sebum content. That is also why it is so fragile,” says Marie-Hélène Lair, director of responsible innovation at Clarins.

“Furthermore, ageing and fatigue induce specific visible signs: crow’s feet, puffiness, dark circles and sagging eyelids.”

Although many eye creams contain the same ingredients found in serums and moisturisers, they’re designed to ensure maximum efficacy with minimal irritation.

READ: The Best Facial Oils For Your Skin Type 

“Eye creams are formulated specifically for the thin, delicate skin around the eye and are usually a lighter texture. Face creams can be too heavy and cause drag,” says Linda Sharrem, Murad skincare educator.

And let’s not forget that eye creams do much more than just combat signs of ageing — they’re also essential for hydrating, depuffing and brightening when trying to fake a full night’s sleep.

The results? You won’t believe your eyes.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN EYE CREAM

“Decide what you are trying to combat. Is it puffiness? Dark circles? Fine lines?” says technical skin and retail trainer Kole Scheib from Lovely by Skin Institute.

A good formula is a must. “We suggest that customers do not use their normal moisturiser for around the eye area,” says Lindi Botes, L’Oréal Luxury education manager, adding that the right eye cream should be non-comedogenic as to not clog pores, and not too heavily fragranced.

Lauren Harding, a medical skin therapist at The Face Place, says rather than be wooed by marketing trickery, it’s important to educate yourself about ingredients and their benefits.

“Products may vary in consistency from a cream to a gel to a serum, but all may contain active ingredients,” she says. “The most important thing is that it contains the essentials: vitamin A, antioxidants and peptides. A moisturising agent alone will make little change in the skin around the eye area.”

Proven ingredients to look out for in an eye cream include antioxidant-rich vitamin C and E; hyaluronic acid or glycerin to hydrate; ceramides and peptides to plump; or caffeine, retinol or vitamin A derivatives to boost collagen production.

DO EYE CREAMS WORK?

Most do a good job of delivering hydration and moisture, but the efficacy of your chosen eyecare is largely dependent on your skin concern.

“The eye area is so much thinner — it works hard with around 10,000 blinks per day. We have fewer sebaceous glands in the area, so it dries out faster. Hydration is extremely important as the eye area tends to show signs of ageing faster,” Lindi says.

Brands tend to conduct their own independent tests but often the best approach is a 360-degree take on caring for your under-eyes.

READ: The Test Drive: Pro Eye Flash At Skintopia 

Dark circles can be genetic but a topical product combined with regular massage and a healthy diet may be just the ticket to visibly brighten them. The same is true for volume loss under the eyes, but when coupled with active skin treatments in-clinic, a plumper appearance can be achieved.

Consistency is key. It takes years for lines and dark circles to develop, so the same is true when trying to see improvements. Many people give up before they see the full result — the longer you use an eye treatment the better the eye area will look.

EYE CREAM VS EYE SERUM — WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

The difference between the two is essentially the same as the difference between the moisturisers and serums you’d use elsewhere on your face.

“Eye creams are normally heavier in texture than eye serums,” Lindi says. “Eye creams can also have more of a focus on nourishment, where eye serums are a lighter texture and, in many cases, more targeted to specific eye concerns.”

Kole agrees, explaining that the key difference lies in the reason why you’re using the eye product, and adds that often a mixture of the two can help target myriad concerns. Both products fill similar roles, so for some, layering them together could be classed as overkill.

But if you feel compelled to double up, apply your eye serum first and leave on for a few minutes for it to fully absorb before layering eye cream over the top. The eye serum will penetrate into the skin at a deeper level, while an eye cream will lock in all of that goodness and help moisturise the upper layers of the skin.

HOW TO APPLY IT

The old adage: “A little goes a long way” rings true, and all our experts agree that a tiny amount should suffice for the whole eye area — think the size of a grain of rice.

“More is not better, in fact it can cause puffiness and milia,” Linda explains. Avoid dragging or pulling the skin around the eye; instead, use your ring finger to lightly tap or pat product around the orbital bone inwards and up over the brow bone.

“Dab the cream in as the delicate skin is very prone to getting inflamed or stretched by rubbing,” says Dr Sid Ogra, an oculoplastic specialist at Auckland Eye. “Any sort of rubbing can cause premature ageing and accentuate fine lines and wrinkles.”

As far as placement is concerned, Dr Sid recommends you stop half a centimetre from your eyelashes as any closer than that can mean the product may migrate into the eye. “It is important to remember that the eyelid skin is thin and constantly moving, so the cream can move further than you think,” he says.

“Many of my patients wear makeup regularly and when I am looking through the microscope, I can often see eyeliner, mascara and foundation in the eye itself. This can be the cause of chronic irritation. That’s why I recommend generally applying close but not right up to the eyelid border.”

And where in your routine should it go? Eye cream should be the last step, rather than the first.

PRODUCT PICKS

Save yourself the stress of trawling through myriad gels, serums and creams with our guide to the best eye creams on the market — and the benefits they offer.

Best For Firming: Lancôme Advanced Génifique Yeux, $126
This newbie contains seven pre- and probiotic fractions along with hyaluronic acid, a vitamin C derivative and a blend of active ingredients tailored to the specific needs of the eye contour. Not only does it help strengthen the fragile eye barrier, but it helps combat pollution, minimise dark circles and restore luminosity. Available from selected department stores, pharmacies and Themarket.com

Lancôme Advanced Génifique Yeux, $126. Photo / Supplied

Best For Under Concealer: Tailor Awaken, $49
This caffeine-infused eye cream is said to deliver instant glow and long-lasting hydration while minimising dark circles, puffiness and the visible signs of ageing. It does so with golden mica, hyaluronic acid, milk thistle and caffeine extract to wake up your under-eye area as much as your morning espresso. Available from selected independent retailers and Tailorskin.co

Tailor Awaken, $49.Photo / Supplied

Best With Retinol: Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Line Erasing Eye Cream, $125
This is a multi-benefit eye cream that couples microencapsulated retinol with moisture-boosting ceramides. The non-drying formula promises to reduce the appearance of fine lines and crow’s feet, improve the look of dark circles and puffiness, brighten and restore radiance to tired eyes, and refine texture around the eye contour. Available from selected department stores and pharmacies, including Life Pharmacy or online at Lifepharmacy.co.nz 

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Line Erasing Eye Cream, $125. Photo / Supplied

Best For Hydration: La Mer The Eye Concentrate, $362
La Mer’s signature Miracle Broth is the hero ingredient contained within this deeply conditioning cream, but this time in a triple dose. With consistent use, expect to see fine lines and wrinkles softened, with a dramatic reduction in dark circles, puffiness and uneven skin tone. Available from selected department stores or Lamer.co.nz

La Mer The Eye Concentrate, $362. Photo / Supplied

Best For Ageing: Clarins Double Serum Eye, $136
Formulated with 96 per cent natural ingredients, this helps smooth the appearance of wrinkles and reduce puffiness and dark circles while protecting the skin around the eye contour for eyes that appear more illuminated and brighter. The double texture boasts the tightening effect of a gel with the comfort of a cream. Available from selected department stores or Clarinsnewzealand.co.nz

Clarins Double Serum Eye, $136. Photo / Supplied

Best For Dark Circles: Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circles Eye Cream, $98
This intensive eye treatment works to target the two primary causes of dark circles — melanin formation and poor circulation. After a single application, expect the eye contour to appear brighter, with stubborn dark circles appearing visibly reduced with consistent use. Available from selected department stores and pharmacies or Shiseido.co.nz

Shiseido White Lucent Anti-Dark Circles Eye Cream, $98. Photo / Supplied

Best Multi-Tasker: Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex, $128
The brand’s best-selling Advanced Night Repair mimics the skin’s natural repair process. This same concept is applied to the brand’s eye-specific iteration, a silky gel-crème said to repair signs of ageing, brighten dark circles, hydrate and protect from pollution. Available from selected department stores and pharmacies or Esteelauder.co.nz

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex, $128. Photo / Supplied

Best Luxury: La Prairie Pure Gold Radiance Eye Cream, $1010
This luxurious, gold-infused eye cream restores radiance, offering a heavy dose of nutrients that help to retexturise and smooth skin in the long term. After a single application, expect to see a more luminous eye contour, one that feels deeply hydrated and nourished. Available from selected department stores including Smith & Caughey's or online at Smithandcaugheys.co.nz 

La Prairie Pure Gold Radiance Eye Cream, $1010. Photo / Supplied

Best For Brightening: Murad Vita-C Eyes Dark Circle Corrector, $145
Stable vitamin C products are hard to come by, but this gold-stabilised eye serum safeguards potency and efficacy using a one-of-a-kind vitamin C complex. Packed with antioxidants and light-reflecting minerals, it helps colour correct and brighten dark circles from blue/purple tones, to brown or red. Available from Caci clinics nationwide or Caci.co.nz or Murad.co.nz

Murad Vita-C Eyes Dark Circle Corrector, $145. Photo / Supplied

Best For Smoothing: Environ Youth EssentiA Vita-Peptide Eye Gel, $114
This sheer eye gel works to rehydrate skin and assist the improvement of sun-damaged cells. A potent blend of vitamins A and E, peptides and antioxidants work to plump up the skin, leaving it smoother with a healthy-looking glow. Available from selected day spas including About Face, or visit Psb.net.nz

Environ Youth EssentiA Vita-Peptide Eye Gel, $114. Photo / Supplied

This story was originally published in Viva Magazine – Volume Five.

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