We All Scream for ... Eye Cream?

Nov 21, 2002 (Updated Dec 8, 2002)

The Bottom Line An eye cream can help you prevent damage, and enhance your current appearance. If you decide to use them, good luck finding the right one for you!

I didn’t know anything about eye creams when I first began shopping for them, but after talking to a lot of sales assistants, and doing a little research, I did learn a few things. So I thought I would share what I learned.

Who Needs Eye Cream?

I’m in my 20’s, and have barely gotten past worrying about acne. But now that I’ve put acne behind me (more or less), it’s time to worry about wrinkles!

The skin around your eyes is very delicate – it’s very thin skin, and does not produce any oil. So it is one of the first areas on your face that begin to show age. Even if you don’t have any wrinkles yet, it can still be a good idea to protect that area so that you can prevent future damage.

What is Eye Cream?

An eye cream is a cream that has been tested by ophthalmologists to be safe to use near your eyes: product claims often say that the cream matches the pH level of your tears. They also typically do not contain any fragrance, and tend to be more emollient than regular moisturizers.

There Are (essentially) Three Kinds of Eye Creams:

(1) Day Creams: One type of cream may be referred to as “day creams,” because they help enhance your appearance and make you look better during the day! They are typically used to “depuff” eyes, and to reduce the appearance of dark circles. (On the instructions, they will specify that this cream is to be applied in the morning, only.)

Also, day creams are often gels, rather than creams.

(a) Depuffing: Some eye creams contain a “depuffing” agent. Examples of “depuffing” agents are: caffeine, arnica, chamomile, and cucumber.

Your eyes get puffy after you wake up when the skin around your eyes become bloated with water while you are sleeping. And since “depuffing” agents like caffeine work by slightly dehydrating your skin(*), you should not rely on them to help with your wrinkle control/prevention needs.

(b) Dark Circles: Dark circles under the eyes can be caused by broken capillaries or lack of sleep.

It would appear that there really isn’t any cream that diminishes dark circles on contact. A short-term solution to dark circles would be a good concealer, rather than a cream. The best long-term solutions seem to be to get adequate sleep, and to use a retinol-based cream at night if your dark circles are caused by broken capillaries.

(c) Sunscreen: As everyone knows, sun damage is the worst when it comes to aging your skin. So sunscreen is always a good idea. Not a lot of eye creams seem to contain sunscreen, however. I guess it's not necessary, because most people use a separate sunscreen lotion for their entire face.

(2) Night Creams: Another type of cream may be referred to as “night creams,” because they help repair your skin and prevent damage while you are sleeping. (On the instructions, they will specify that this cream is to be applied at night, only.)

Night creams that fight wrinkles often contain AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acid) or retinol. Creams containing either ingredient should be used at night, for the following reasons:

(a) AHA’s can decrease the effectiveness of your sunscreen.(*)

(b) Retinol is less effective in the sun, and can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.(*)

(3) “Plain Vanilla” Creams: This is kind of a catch-all category for creams that aren’t specifically day or night creams, but just provide extra moisture.

As I’ve explained above, some creams that “depuff” can also dehydrate your skin, and should therefore be used only during the day. And some creams that contain retinol or AHA should also be avoided during the day, because they can breakdown your sunscreen. So using the wrong type of cream can be counter-productive to your eye care needs.

But there are also creams that can be used both morning and night, which I will call “plain vanilla” creams. (On the instructions, they will specify that this cream can be applied both morning and night.) They are usually just very emollient creams for moisturizing your eyes, and do not contain any of the more intense wrinkle-fighting ingredients (e.g., retinol, AHA), or any of the “depuffing” agents which can dehydrate your skin.

A NOTE About the Three Kinds of Eye Creams:

Please note that these three categories are very general categories of eye creams. Depending on which brand you shop, there will be eye creams which target more specific needs, like improving sagging, dullness, or providing more “lift.” Any given brand will likely have at least two different types, and can have more than six different types of eye creams.

Also, none of what I've stated above seem to be hard-and-fast rules. I've seen creams containing retinol that instruct you to use it in the day time, and creams containing caffeine that instruct you to use it at night. Some creams contain both types of ingredients.

It can be confusing, but I've found that it's helpful to know some of these guidelines so you can ask a sales assistant more specific questions.

How to Use Eye Creams:

Everyone I’ve talked to seems to agree that you gently pat a small amount of cream onto the skin under your eyes using your ring finger. The important thing is to pat the cream on, rather than rub, to avoid tugging on the skin.

I’ve been told that you should begin from the inside corner of your eye, and move outwards, OR move from the outside corner of your eye, and inwards towards your nose. I don’t know which way is better, so I would say to do it however you like. (I tend to go outwards, myself.)

Should you put eye cream on your lids? I’ve been told that you should not, and I’ve also been told that you could, but only at night. I can see how eye cream on your lids can interfere with your makeup during the day time, so I would avoid that. Some creams specify that you should not put the cream on the lids, and some creams say that you should, so I think it just depends on what cream you are using.

Are Eye Creams Expensive Scams?

I’ve heard it said that eye creams are a scam by the cosmetic industry – that they are basically the same thing as regular moisturizers, but in a smaller package, and much more expensive.(**)

Whether you believe this or not is a personal choice. I’ve personally come to enjoy eye creams, simply because they feel nice, and using them makes the area around my eyes feel more soothed and comfortable. It also makes me feel good that I may be preventing future damage.

However, most eye creams are indeed very expensive. Expect to pay a lot for a very small amount (typically 0.5 oz.) Even drugstore brands like Neutrogena or L’Oreal cost around $10-20.

How Much Will It Cost?

- The cheapest eye creams I’ve found are made by St. Ives. They have 2 types of eye creams (0.5 oz.) for $8.99 at drugstore.com. They even have a stress gel for face & eyes that costs $2.99 for 4 oz.! If you want a soothing gel for your eyes, that’s probably the cheapest option, next to using ice cubes or cucumber slices.

- On the other end of the spectrum, Sisley's Sisleya Eye Cream is the most expensive eye cream I’ve seen. ($150 for 0.5 oz. Yikes!) Other pricey brands are: Darphin, Crème de la mer, and la prairie (my mom's favorite) which vary from $70-120.

(This leads me to conclude that the headquarters of the Eye Cream Mafia is located in a cave somewhere in the French Alps region.)

- Most department store brand eye creams cost around $25-50.

So, eye creams are very pricey items. However, you do use it on a very small area, so a small 0.5 oz. amount can last you a long time.

How Should You Pick an Eye Cream?

The first step is to decide what kind of cream you want. Do you want a cream that minimizes puffiness or dark circles? Do you want a cream to fight the wrinkles you have? Do you want to prevent future damage?

The next step is to decide what brand you want to buy. Most people already have a couple of favorite skin care brands, and most brands make eye creams, so that’s always a good place to start. (And also, read some Epinions reviews!)

*A Tip: if you keep your eye cream in your fridge, it feels good when you put it on!

Potential Problems:

There is always the potential for irritation, when you’re putting something so close to your eye. So I would definitely urge caution, and to stop using any cream immediately if you feel any irritation or pain.

There is also the chance that eye creams can cause whiteheads to develop on your skin, because they tend to be very rich, and can therefore clog your pores more easily. Hopefully this won’t happen to you, but if it does, I can only suggest that you stop using your cream and try a different one.

Other Eye Care Products:

There are also eye serums and eye masks which target various problems, as well. I haven’t used any of them, however, and don’t know very much about them.

*~* My Eye Cream Adventures *~*:

What I want in an eye cream is just plain, good-old moisture. Most eye creams claim to help with wrinkles, dark circles, or puffiness – none of which I’m specifically interested in. Surprisingly, there are relatively few "plain vanilla" eye creams that don’t make those fancy claims.

The following is a list of eye creams that I’ve tried in the past, and a quick-n-dirty review about each (Sometime in the future I may write separate reviews about eye creams that are listed in Epinions. If I do that, I will reference those reviews in this essay.)

NOTE: How I figure out how moisturizing a cream is – After using the cream for at least one week, I stop using the cream for a day, and wash my face. That is when I can tell whether the area around my eyes have improved, and have become smoother, softer, etc.

1. Clinique All About Eyes

Cost: $26.00 – 0.5 oz.

It contains caffeine, and claimed to “diminish puffiness, darkness, and fine lines.” It was a light gel-cream that went on very smooth, and felt nice.

I didn’t see any change in my appearance. It didn’t give me all that much moisture.

Bottom Line:
I still use the cream when I’m sleep-deprived, and my eyes feel like they’re falling out of my head. I keep it in the fridge, and it’s a nice wake-me-up. But I don’t think I’ll buy it again when I run out.

2. Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment

Cost: $22.50 – 0.5 oz.

It contains avocado oil. Even the cream itself is avocado-green, and felt rich like an avocado. Cute. It is a very moisturizing cream. It is also one of the cheaper creams from a department store brand.

It leaves a shiny slick after you pat it on. The slick disappears after a few minutes when the cream sinks into your skin, but it wasn’t the best for daytime makeup application.

But after using the cream for a couple of weeks, I noticed that this cream made my eyelids itch. I think I may be allergic to some ingredient in this cream. This is my third Kiehl’s purchase, and all three have given me problems – they are good products that just didn’t work for me.

Bottom Line:
This irritated my eyes. I returned it to the store, and I won’t be buying it again. I think this cream is a good choice for many people, however.

3. Neutrogena Healthy Skin Eye Cream

Cost: $12.00~15.00 – 0.5 oz.

This cream is relatively inexpensive, and very easy to find. Every drugstore I’ve been to carries it. I also like it that it comes in a tube.

It contains AHA, which can hurt! When I used this cream, it just burned – not my eyes, but the skin around it. The burning feeling did not fade after a few minutes, and I was very uncomfortable. I had to wash it off.

Bottom Line:
I think this cream is a great option if you want AHA in your eye cream. It would also be helpful if you’ve used AHA in your regular face products before (such as the Healthy Skin face lotions). But if, like me, you’ve never used any all-over AHA product before, I wouldn’t recommend that you start your AHA experience with an eye cream.

For AHA use in general: one suggestion I’ve heard that you should ease into it by using it every three nights, and then every two nights ... and so on. Also, try first putting it on the inside of your wrist or arm, and see if you can feel the stinging.

4. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Recovery

Cost: $45.00 – 0.5 oz.

This product was voted the Best Eye Cream in the October 2002 Allure magazine. It’s a light, gel-cream, with a citrus-y, almost sour scent. It sunk in well, and moisturized my eye area.

Despite the fact that it is called Night Recovery, the Sales Assistant assured me that this cream can be used in the day time, and that it’s for all types of skin. She also told me that it’s a great all-around eye cream, because it is a combination of many of the Estée Lauder eye products, like Uncircle and Unline, and that it’s just chock-full of good stuff.

Once again, there was some stinging. But it fades after a minute or so, and it didn’t really bother me.

Bottom Line:
This is a good eye cream. And if you’ve had good luck with Estée Lauder products in the past, this is a good option. I didn’t, however, think that it was worth the extra money for me, since I just want straight-up moisture.

I would highly recommend this product to those who are dealing with wrinkles, but do not want to use a retinol or AHA product.

5. Biotherm Densité Yeux

Cost: $30.00 – 0.5 oz.

It is a cream for aging/mature skin. The Densité line claims to firm your skin with the use of yeast extract.

It felt like dough, and after it dried, it flaked off. When I rubbed the area, the cream rolled off my skin into little chunks. Blech. (I guess it’s the yeast?)

Bottom Line:
This is the worst eye cream I have tried so far. It just looked and felt yucky. It was also my first Biotherm purchase. Although I’ve tried samples of some of their cleansers, and liked them, I’ve been so bummed out by this experience that I probably won’t buy another Biotherm product ever again.

To be fair, however, Biotherm does make six types of eye creams, and not all of them will have this same problem, and some of them may be the right one for you. But I was really disappointed in this one. It’s rare that I think a product is bad for everyone, but this product really stinks. Stay away!

6. Shiseido Benefiance Revitalizing Eye Cream

Cost: $42.50 – 0.5 oz.

This is also a cream for aging/mature skin. It is very moisturizing, and it didn’t give me whiteheads.

I’m a great fan of Shiseido products, especially their Pureness and The Skincare lines. I’ve tried several different skincare lines over the years, and Shiseido always gives me the best all-around results. Unfortunately for me, Shiseido does not offer any plain-vanilla eye cream. They have 3 kinds of eye creams that are each targeted for wrinkle-control.

It was just way too heavy. If there is such a thing as too much moisture, this is it.

Bottom Line:
I think this is an excellent eye cream for super-dry skin. And by super-dry, I mean, dry like Death Valley. It is very rich and emollient. My skin is on the dry side, and I always do well with products made for dry skin. So I never thought I’d think any cream/lotion was too-moisturizing, but that was how this felt.

I would heartily recommend this product for people with really dry skin. It was too much for me, but if a lot of moisture is what you want, this cream will do a great job.

7. DDF Nourishing Eye Cream

Cost: $37.00 – 1 oz.

I love this cream so far. It has become one of my skin care staples. It’s light, but also very moisturizing. And I think the cost is really great, since you get a nice 1 oz. jar that is twice the size of most eye creams.

This product is not widely available. Even some local spas that offer DDF products often don’t carry the eye creams.

You can buy it online (beauty.com has it), or your local Sephora (that’s where I buy mine). I’m big on sniffing, touching, and feeling a product, especially when buying it for the first time. I wish this cream was easier to find.

Bottom Line:
I really like this cream. I think it’s a good, basic cream for anyone who just want some "plain vanilla" eye cream for moisture, and a good starter product for younger people who are using eye cream for the first time.

*~* *~* *~*


Well, that’s what I’ve learned about eye creams. Whether an eye cream is a necessity for your skin care routine is a personal choice. It’s not a basic step like cleansing or moisturizing, and it’s not something that everyone seems to use. Some people are perfectly satisfied with using their regular moisturizer around their eyes instead of using a separate eye cream.

But if you’ve decided that you would like to use an eye cream, I hope that I was able to help. I was pretty clueless when I began looking into eye creams, but now I know a little more.

(I intend to periodically update this review, as I learn more about this topic.)

Thank you for reading!


(*)Allure (November 2002) "Beauty 101: Eye Cream" by Catherine Scroop, p. 80.

(**)FAQ by Paula Begoun at: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/help/faq.asp?TYPE=PROD

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