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What Does Eye Cream Do & Do I Need it

Yes, You Do Need Eye Cream

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Here’s why eye cream should be a part of your routine.

You probably have a multi-step skincare regimen—maybe you use a daytime moisturizer in the morning and a night cream before bed. Perhaps you layer on topical acne medications and apply a separate sunscreen or antioxidant serum. So, you might be asking, “Do I really need a product just for the area around my eyes? Can’t my regular moisturizer do the job?”

In short: yes, many people do need an eye cream, says James Del Rosso D.O., adjunct clinical professor of dermatology at Touro University Nevada in Henderson, NV and an Acne Store advisory board member.

The skin in this spot is a bit more delicate than it is on, say, your cheeks or forehead, so a product formulated for the eye area could be beneficial.

Here, Del Rosso offers more eye-opening facts about what eye cream does, and why it’s so important.

Q: Is the skin around the eyes different from the skin on the rest of your face?

Absolutely. The skin on your eyelids and under eye area is thinner, and because of that, it tends to be drier and more sensitive. One other thing to consider: We’re frequently touching and rubbing our eyes. So, anything that comes in contact with our hands—sanitizer, hand creams, perfumes—can easily transfer to the more delicate eyelid skin. Because of this, the skin around your eye area is more prone to dermatitis, a condition marked by redness, irritation, and scaling. 

Q: Do eye creams really make a difference?

Yes. Because your eye skin is so thin and sensitive, eye creams are formulated differently than other facial moisturizers. Many of them have the same basic ingredients, but the concentrations are lower and the texture is lighter. They’re designed so that they don’t irritate or feel greasy on eyelid skin. And to some degree, eye creams serve as a barrier to prevent some of those things I mentioned above from getting into the skin of the upper and lower eyelids.

Q: Can an eye cream get rid of my dark circles or crow’s feet?

The most important use for an eye cream is to moisturize. In my experience, there aren’t many topical treatments that can improve dark circles. Often, undereye circles are really the result of shadowing. When you lose subcutaneous tissue (the tissue that’s just below the surface of the skin), that area looks hollower. So, what you’re seeing is actually a shadowing effect from the loss of tissue. An eye cream can’t change that.

As for crow’s feet, those tend to form toward the outer sides of the eyes near the temples or a little lower down onto the cheek, so you can use your other facial treatments to treat them. But you do have to be really careful about putting anti-aging ingredients such as retinoids on the eyelids. Those ingredients are known to be irritating and the skin here is very sensitive.

Q: Can an eye cream clog your pores?

Eyelid bumps are often styes, not pimples caused by eye creams. It’s possible, but not likely, that if your eye cream is too heavy, it can clog glands along the eyelid and contribute to stye formation. We tend to see styes in people who are prone to rosacea. It’s a localized inflammatory reaction, sometimes with bacteria playing a role, in the glands along the eyelid.

Some people are prone to milia, which are small round white bumps that occur around the eyes and on the upper cheeks. They’re actually little cysts caused by trapped keratin (a skin surface protein). We don’t know why some people get milia more than others, but it’s not usually linked to skincare products. If a patient with undereye milia is using a thick eye cream, I’ll suggest switching to something else, or going without it for a while to see if that’s the culprit.

Q: Where do I apply an eye cream?

Eye creams aren’t just for the skin below your eyes; they’re also for the upper eyelid skin. Close your eyes and apply a thin layer to the entire lid, right up to just under the eyebrow. Then apply a thin layer on the undereye skin from inner to outer corner.

James Del Rosso, D.O.

Dr. Jim Del Rosso is an internationally renowned dermatologist who has been practicing dermatology since 1986 and a member of the Acne Store Board of Dermatologists. He is Clinical Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, has published multiple peer-reviewed articles and textbook chapters, and was President of the American Acne & Rosacea Society, American Society of Mohs Surgery, and the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. He is Adjunct Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the Touro University Nevada in Henderson, Nevada. Currently, Dr. Del Rosso is Research Director of JDR Dermatology Research and practices at Thomas Dermatology in Las Vegas, Nevada and also serves as Senior Vice President of Clinical Research and Strategic Development at Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in Maitland, Florida. He served as Head of the Section of Dermatology at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine after receiving his D.O. degree from the same medical school in Athens, Ohio, interning at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, completing a dermatology residency at Atlantic Skin Disease and Skin Surgery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and completing a fellowship in Mohs micrographic surgery and cutaneous oncology at OSU.

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