Do you really need eye cream?

Do you need eye cream?

I don’t use one. Well, most of the time…

I do use an eye cream if I get a gift set that happens to have one, or a PR sends me a sample – I don’t like to waste good product. But, actually go out and buy a full-size jar of eye cream with my own money?


When I was young, I’d tell myself I didn’t need it and would think about buying one when the first few lines would appear (which is SO wrong, because by then it’s usually too late). And, when they appeared , I already knew enough about skincare to know 99% of the time, you don’t need an eye cream.

Forget about what brands say. If eye creams could really get rid of dark circles and saggy skin, no one would be dealing with them anymore. Eliminate that, they don’t really look that different from a facial moisturiser, right? Most people can get away with just using their face cream.

And yet, every rule has its exception. There are cases when an eye cream can come in handy. So, do YOU need an eye cream? Let’s find out:

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What Is Eye Cream?

An eye cream is a cream specifically formulated for application onto the skin around the eyelid to target underage concerns, like crow’s feet and dark circles (that’s the intent anyway – most eye creams can’t do that). While they contain the same ingredients used in facial moisturisers, they’re usually present in smaller amounts so the delicate eye area can better tolerate them.

Eye Area VS Face: What’s The Difference?

The skin around your eyes is different from the rest of your face:

  • It’s thinner: At only 0.5 mm thick, the eyelids and under-eyes have the thinnest skin on the entire body!
  • It’s drier: There are no oil glands in the eye area. Without sebum to moisturise it, the eye area tends to be more prone to dryness.
  • It’s the first area to show signs of aging: Squinting, facial expression, and sun exposure, and lack of oil glands means that wrinkles form earlier than they do on the rest of your face.
  • It’s more sensitive: Because it’s thinner, the skin here tends to be irritated more easily.
  • It’s prone to milia: A.k.a. “milk spots”, milia are hard white bumps made of keratin. They’re harmless, but unsightly, and are often caused by heavy eye creams.
  • It gets puffy: As the skin is thinner, you can see fluid retention and blood pooling underneath.

The Truth About Eye Creams

Here are a few myths about eye creams and why you do NOT need them in your skincare routine:

Myth 1: Eye Creams Contain Special Ingredients For The Eye Area

The skin around your eyes is thinner and super delicate, so there must be some special ingredients just for it, right?

Wrong. Take a look at your fave moisturizers and eye creams. Their formulas are almost identical: same moisturizing ingredients, same antioxidants, some sunscreen actives…. Truth is, the ingredients that provide these benefits are the same for all types of skincare products.

What about ingredients for dark circles and puffy eyes, I hear you ask? Surely, they’re just for eye creams. Caffeine and co aren’t usually found in facial moisturisers. But, have you ever found an eye cream that can really get rid of puffy eyes or undereye bags?

Me neither. Sure, some can help. You know how? They have light-reflective particles and silicones that fill in wrinkles and make them look smaller. The same light-reflective particles and silicones that are used in facial moisturizers. Need I say more, girls?

Related: Can Vitamin K Treat Dark Circles?

Don’t know which skincare products you can mix and match together and which ones deactivate each other? Download your FREE “How To Layer Actives Like A Pro” cheat sheet to get the most out of your skincare products:

Myth #2: Eye Creams Are More Gentle

The skin on the eye area is thinner than then skin on the rest of your face, so it gets irritated more easily. Anything you apply on this area must be free of irritants, like fragrances, essential oils, and high doses of retinol and exfoliating acids.

And yet… you’d be surprised how many eye creams contain fragrance, alcohol, and lots of other stuff that’s irritating for the thicker skin of your face, let alone the delicate skin of your eyes.

Just because it is labelled EYE cream, it doesn’t mean it is suitable for the eye area. Always check the label to make sure there’s nothing in it that could cause an irritation.

cerave eye repair cream

Eye Cream Benefits: What Does It Do?

Now you know the truth about eye creams, it’s time to find out what they can (and can’t) do for your skin. “No amount of eye cream will improve age-related sagging or puffy eyes regardless of what the product promises you,” says Dr Mahto. “The skin around the eyes is vulnerable to damage from the sun’s radiation and while an eye cream will moisturise, plump the skin and temporarily improve fine lines, wearing SPF around the eyes is absolutely vital if premature ageing is a concern.” 

Can Eye Creams Help With Dark Circles?

Short answer: it depends. If eye creams could make dark circles disappear like brands claim, no one would have dark circles anymore. The right eye cream may help lessen the look of dark circles, but you need to have realistic expectations.

First off, not all dark circles are created equal. Different types of dark circles have different causes. Eye creams can help with some of them, but not others:

  • Aging: Thin, translucent skin around your eyes is the result of sagginess as you get older. Eye creams don’t work for this type of dark circles. Either use concealer or go under the knife.
  • Low microcirculation: The combination of low microcirculation and thin skin means the blood vessels underneath show, giving your undereye area a bluish hue. Again, this isn’t something eye creams can fix.
  • Hyperpigmentation: These dark patches of skin are usually due to unprotected sun exposure or hormonal imbalance. Using skin-lightening ingredients, like vitamin C and niacinamide, can help lighten them.

“Creams that claim to treat dark circles are often going to end up disappointing,” says Dr Jason Thomson. “This is because dark circles are usually caused by multiple factors including your genetics and your skin tone, which no cream will be able to influence.” 

Can Eye Creams Help With Dryness?

Yes, yes, yes! Eye creams are moisturisers and moisturisers are designed to treat dryness. They contain ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and natural oils, that attract and bind moisture into your skin to plump up fine lines and wrinkles and soften the complexion. The catch? “Eye creams designed to hydrate and brighten the skin around the eyes usually contain the exact same ingredients, in the same proportions as a face cream,” says Dr Jason.

Can Eye Creams Treat Crow’s Feet?

Only if they contain retinol (or another form of Vitamin A). It fights wrinkles in three ways: it boosts the production of skin-firming collagen, neutralises free radicals before they can destroy elastin and give you wrinkles, and speeds up the skin’s natural exfoliating process to smoothen out the complexion.

The catch? Like all forms of Vitamin A, retinol can be irritating and drying. Eye creams tend to contain smaller doses of retinol than face creams, so they’re better tolerated by the delicate eye area. However, if you don’t want to use a separate retinol eye serum, you can apply your retinol face serum all over your face on top of moisturiser. It’ll dilute it a little, so you get results without the irritation.

Can Eye Creams Treat Puffy Eyes?

It depends. The jury’s still out there on whether caffeine has what it takes to reduce puffy eyes. What works is cold. Some eye creams have a cooling effect that can temporarily reduce puffy eyes. Cucumbers have the same effects – and are cheaper. Just saying…

Do You Need Eye Cream?

99% of the time, eye creams are just facial moisturisers packaged in a smaller jar and sold at double the price. “Many facial moisturisers are suitable to use around the under-eye area and you do not necessarily need a separate product, contrary to popular belief,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. “Generally speaking, if a product is suitable for the face, it should be fine to use around the eyes.” 

Who Should Use An Eye Cream?

Eye creams are facial moisturisers in a smaller jar sold at a higher price tag. 90% of you don’t need one. But, every rule has an exception. This one has two. Using a separate eye cream may be worth it in two cases:

1. When Your Facial Moisturiser Isn’t Suitable For The Eye Area.

If your facial moisturiser contains alcohol, fragrance, or any irritating ingredients, it may be best not to use it on the eye area. But, in this case, why not switch to a formula you can use all over? These ingredients may not be as irritating on the rest of your face, but they’re not the best thing to use either and have no place in a properly formulated product.

2. Your Eye Area Has Different Needs

If your skin is drier under your eyes and oilier everywhere else, for example, then using two separate products makes sense. But, they don’t need to be a face cream and an eye cream. It could be two face creams. Just look at the formula, not the label.

What Are The Best Eye Creams?

If you’re read this far and decided you do need an eye cream or serum after all, here are the best picks:

  • CeraVe Skin Renewing Eye Cream ($24.99): A super moisturising eye cream for dry and sensitive skin. Enriched with ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, it strengthens the skin’s protective barrier and plumps up crow’s feet, so they look smaller to the naked eye. Available at Dermstore and Ulta.
  • Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum ($71.00): A retinol serum with ferulic acid to prevent and treat crow’s feet. Retinol can be drying, so use it no more than 3 times a week. Available at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Selfridges, and SpaceNK.
  • Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream ($64.00): This lightweight cream contains 5 different types of Vitamin C to brighten skin and prevent wrinkles. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, and Ulta.
  • First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid ($44.00): Retinol is the only thing that can really reduce crow’s feet, but it’s irritating. Here, it’s paired with soothing ingredients that counteract its irritating effects. Available at Dermstore, Nordstrom, Sephora and Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice Paula’s Choice RESIST Anti-Aging Eye Cream ($37.00): A very moisturising cream for dry skin. Enriched with antioxidants to prevent premature aging. Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice.

The Bottom Line

Your under-eye area needs just what your face needs: a well-formulated moisturizer that hydrates, helps fight premature aging, and provides sun protection. Save yourself some money, and buy yourself a good facial moisturiser you can use all over, eye area included.