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Do eye creams actually work? A dermatologist tells you the truth...

Here's why it could be worth adding one into your skincare routine

Woman with clear, glowing skin.
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As far as beauty debates go, the efficacy of eye cream is up there with the best of them. Some are unconvinced, while others are evangelical.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy amount of reserve – after all, wild claims and clever marketing can sway your judgement. 

And despite being housed in much smaller packaging compared to its all-over-the-face skincare counterparts, eye creams often go hand in hand with a hefty price tag.

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Model with skincare on her face © Getty
Eye cream is the subject of much skincare debate

Yet on the other hand, some swear by targeted treatments, and reap the benefits of a smoother, more refreshed-looking eye area.

Do eye creams even work? 

Essential or ineffective, what's the verdict? It boils down to your personal skincare concerns, according to consultant dermatologist Dr Shaaira Nasir.

The skin around the eye is extremely delicate, much thinner than that of the rest of your face. It also "lacks oil glands", meaning it is more prone to both dryness and irritation. When weighing up whether an eye cream is right for you, Dr Nasir advises that you think about what it is that you're trying to target.

READ: What is double cleansing and how to do it right - according to a celebrity facialist

MORE: What is slugging and is it actually good for your skin?

"If it's just hydration, you could just use your normal face moisturiser as eye cream," she says. "Whereas if it's puffiness, look for eye creams containing caffeine, and for anti-ageing concerns look for retinol or peptides." 

"For anti-pigmentation, look for arbutin [a brightening ingredient], liquorice, vitamin C, or kojic acid, and for increased hydration, you want one containing hyaluronic acid, ceramides or niacinamide." 

Can an eye cream reduce the appearance of dark circles?  

Yes, it can – but the key here lies in the word 'reduce'. A topical eye cream can help improve the appearance of dark circles, but there are likely other factors at play. 

"Dark circles can be caused by many things such as hay fever or eczema, hyperpigmentation, underlying veins, or structural hollowness causing shadowing," Dr Nasir says. It cannot alter the physical structure of the skin, and so, managing your expectations is crucial, so that you are not left disappointed.

How to apply eye cream

Eye creams can be slotted into your skincare routine either in the morning and at night. Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays, and so if your eye cream contains this ingredient, it is better kept for night usage. 

Brightening eye creams containing antioxidants such as vitamin C are great for the morning. "Once a day is enough but it can be applied twice a day," Dr Nasir says. "If the eye cream is thick, it may be better used at night to avoid looking greasy." 

After cleansing, apply a pea-sized amount of product onto your finger and dab it gently around the eye area, starting in the inner corner and working outwards.

How we chose:

Dermatologist-approved: The eye cream product inclusions have been selected by Dr Nasir, all of which she loves and, where relevant, recommends to her clients.

Best anti-ageing retinol

Redermic [R] Retinol Eye Cream- La Roche Posay
Redermic [R] Retinol Eye Cream- La Roche-Posay

La Roche-Posay's Redermic [R] Retinol Eye Cream is formulated to reduce the signs of ageing around the eye such as wrinkles and fine lines. It is the French pharmacy brand's first retinol-enriched product for sensitive eyes and contains 0.1% pure retinol and 0.1% of its exclusive Retinol booster complex.

Best anti-ageing retinaldehyde

Crystal Retinal Ceramide Eye Cream - Medik8
Crystal Retinal Ceramide Eye Cream - Medik8

Inspired by the brand's original Crystal Retinal serum, this product contains retinaldehyde and is actually available in three different strengths depending on your skin concerns. Is aims to combat the appearance of crow's feet and also features ceramides for extra nourishment.

Best anti-ageing peptide

Youthful Eye Serum - No7
Youthful Eye Serum - No7

No7's Youthful Eye Serum contains a blend of hyaluronic acid and vitamin C to hydrate and brighten the skin around the eye. It also is packed with anti-ageing peptides to improve firmness and reduce the appearance of fine lines.  

Best for hydration

Eye Balm - SkinCeuticals
Eye Balm - SkinCeuticals

SkinCeuticals' Eye Balm is best suited to dry (those lacking oil) and mature skin types. The product is a rich blend of vitamin E, great for protecting the skin's moisture barrier, and the anti-inflammatory ingredient aloe vera to reduce puffiness.

Best for puffiness

Caffeine Eye Cream - The Inkey List
Caffeine Eye Cream - The Inkey List

This eye cream by The Inkey List's hero ingredient is the natural antioxidant caffeine. This works to relieve water retention, thereby reducing puffiness – ideal if you tend to wake up in the morning with a slightly swollen eye area.

Why you should trust Dr Nasir:

With a wealth of industry experience under her belt, Dr Shaaira Nasir is one of London's leading consultant dermatologists. She currently practises at the BMI London Independent Hospital, Skin55 Harley Street and Sk:n. She has studied skin for years - hence why we've quizzed her on all things eye cream-related.

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