Whether your under-eye circles have popped up due to stress, lack of sleep or just life in general, at some point everyone is faced with the frustration of staring at themselves in the mirror and wondering, “Where the heck did these things come from?!” Covering them up with makeup may be a manageable quick fix — for now — eventually they’re going to need to be dealt with in a more aggressive way, and that starts with prevention. Eye cream will be your savior.
“Both upper and lower eyelid skin is the thinnest, most delicate skin on the whole body,” says Dr. Jessica Weiser of New York Dermatology Group. “So by default the skin is going to be highly susceptible to things like irritation, aging, and wrinkling.” Couple that with the fact that your lids are squinting and blinking approximately a zillion times a day, and they’re going to need all the care they can get.
While you may be tempted by brand name or chic packaging, when it comes to shopping for eye cream, it’s important to look at the back of the bottle. We chatted with experts to break down exactly what you’ll want to see on the label of anything you plan to dab under your eyes. And once you find your dream cream, apply it every night before bed (and drink another glass of water, while you’re at it). Get ready to wake up looking more noticeably bright eyed —and maybe even bushy-tailed? — than before.
Eye products with retinol work double duty to prevent and reverse signs of aging. “It’s the only molecule that’s been scientifically proven to stimulate the body to produce collagen through topical application,” says Dr. Weiser. This helps strengthen the skin under your eyes and soften fine lines (like crow’s feet). Not everybody can tolerate retinol under their eyes, though, so be sure to spot test the formula before lathering it on. If you have sensitive skin or additional questions, talk to your doctor about whether retinol is right for you.
Try: Kate Somerville Retinol Firming Eye Cream ($85)
Ingredient: Hyaluronic Acid
Hydrating hyaluronic acid works wonders as an all-over moisturizer, but it also holds its own under your eyes. Derms agree: hyaluronic acid is a rockstar ingredient when it comes to adding moisture back into the skin.
“It draws water to the surface of skin, so it hydrates and plumps the cells,” says Dr. Weiser. “It also helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”
According to Hamptons-based dermatologist Dr. Mark Hyman, hyaluronic acid binds to water molecules, so it’s really working to plump things up underneath the surface.
Try: Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Dew It All Eye Gel ($48)
“Neuropeptides act as stimulant molecules to help your body to make more collagen,” says Dr. Weiser. “It’s sort of tricking it to say, ‘ooh, I have all these building blocks to make proteins, let’s make proteins.’” Peptides are also tiny, so they can easily penetrate the skin and rebuild the structure of the surface. Look for Matrixyl, a common neuropeptide, on the label to ensure you’re getting something that is peptide rich.
Try: Perricone MD Neuropeptide Eye Therapy ($160)
Ingredient: Copper Peptides
Turns out, copper is good for a lot more than just making jewelry. Copper peptides, like the ones that make up Drunk Elephant’s all-natural eye serum, can reduce signs of aging from the inside out while firming up the skin around your eyes.
Dr. Weiser explains that the copper peptides are molecule that penetrate into the skin to tag a copper molecule beneath the surface and pull it up. “Copper is one of the elements that’s really helpful with wound healing,” she adds.
Try: Drunk Elephant™ Shaba Complex™ Eye Serum ($60)
Under-eye care may have traditionally been considered a night-time routine, but when it comes to antioxidants it’s all about the a.m. “We’re now encouraging people to use them in the morning, because you’re really sustaining your oxidative damage to the skin during the day,” says Dr. Weiser. “That’s coming from UV radiation, it’s coming from environmental pollutants. There are a lot of free radicals in the atmosphere—not as much when we’re at home in bed at night."
New York dermatologist Dr. Michele Green recommends using something rich in vitamin C, which may help in fighting free radical damage and in overall skin health. Another top pick is soothing vitamin E. One of Dr. Weiser’s personal favorites is Teamine Eye Complex, which is rich in these vitamins plus green tea extract and grape seed oil.
Try: Revision Skincare Teamine® Eye Complex ($81)
Your brain isn’t the only thing that might need a daily dose of caffeine: The super antioxidant can also help wake up your eyes. “There’s an acid molecule in caffeine that can really help prevent damage to skin cells,” says Dr. Weiser. “Caffeine also may have the added benefit of helping to reduce puffiness or swelling a little bit.”
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