If the skin under your eyes is seemingly struggling more than the rest of your face, you’re not alone — in fact, it’s completely normal. The area beneath the eyes tends to show signs of dehydration and volume loss earlier because the skin there is much thinner — and therefore more delicate — than anywhere else on the body. Plus, studies show that the under-eye area has fewer oil glands and collagen, making it even more difficult to keep as hydrated and plump as the skin on the rest of your face.
“The skin in the under-eye area has higher rates of transepidermal water loss, resulting in an increased chance of irritation and dryness,” Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, tells Bustle. This contributes to the dryness factor. As for all-too-common dark circles, the fragile skin is technically at fault for that, too. “It can make the underlying blood vessels more noticeable,” Garshick explains, which results in a bluish-gray discoloration — aka dark circles — as well as more prominent fine lines and wrinkles.
Other common skin concerns pertaining to the under-eye region include puffiness and hollowness, which, according to Shiri Sarfati, beauty expert and licensed esthetician, can actually be hereditary — meaning they may occur regardless of what you try for prevention. That said, she notes there are some quick fixes that can help brighten and perk up the eye area. “Wrinkles around the eyes — known as ‘crow’s feet’ — benefit from early prevention and a good skin care routine.”
For help crafting the best under-eye skin care routine, keep reading for expert tips.
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Best Practices For Under-Eye Skin Care
There are two fundamental elements to caring for under-eye skin, and neither should be surprising to the skin care aficionado: substantial hydration and, of course, protection against the sun. “Keeping the skin around the eyes moisturized not only helps to keep the skin looking soft, smooth, and refreshed, but also can work to strengthen the skin barrier and minimize the potential for external irritation,” says Garshick.
As for SPF, Garshick urges you to remember to apply sunscreen around the eyes, as well as wear sunglasses when outside. “UV exposure can lead to brown spots and collagen breakdown, which can lead to textural changes, fine lines, and wrinkles,” she says.
If you devoutly do all of the above — and maybe even more — but continue to struggle with under-eye skin, it might be time to consider your lifestyle. “Sometimes [under-eye issues] are from lack of sleep or dehydration,” Dr. Renée Moran, D.O., owner of Dr. Renée Moran Medical Aesthetics and founder of RM Skincare, points out. In these cases, Moran encourages her clients to drink more water and get better sleep, as well as apply hyaluronic acid for an extra boost of moisture.
Ingredients To Use In Your Under-Eye Regimen
For discoloration: If you’re experiencing under-eye discoloration or hyperpigmentation, Garshick and Moran suggest vitamin C to help brighten the skin and protect it against radical damage. “Other ingredients that can be helpful include niacinamide, which is soothing on the skin and can also help with pigmentation and improve the appearance of dark circles,” Garshick adds. Sarfati recommends vitamin K as another brightening ingredient.
For puffiness: If your dark circles are the result of thin skin around the eyes or you’re prone to puffiness, Garshick advises opting for creams with caffeine, which can tighten the area and help constrict the blood vessels to make them less noticeable. Antioxidants — like vitamins C and E as well as green tea extract — are also key for protecting the under-eye skin and helping maintain elasticity. Look for hydrating staples like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and aloe vera to infuse moisture back into dry, tired skin.
For fine lines: Peptides are your best bet if you’re looking to firm the skin around the eye area. “Peptides are building blocks of proteins and work to help smooth out the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Sarfati says. The same goes for if you’re experiencing under-eye hollowness, according to Garshick. “Eye creams containing peptides and growth factors can help to strengthen and support the skin around the eye, helping to firm the skin,” she says. Anti-aging hero retinol can help do the trick as well since it stimulates cell turnover and boosts collagen production, adds Moran.
Cream, Serum, Or Mask?
Now that you’re up to speed on which ingredients to implement into your routine, you might be wondering which type of product should transport said elements onto your skin. Generally speaking, under-eye skin care has three categories from which to choose: creams, serums, and masks. Under-eye masks are best to use for maintenance or a quick pick-me-up once or twice a week — similar to how sheet masks serve a speedy refresh — and not for daily use.
Serums and creams, however, do belong in your daily regimen, and depending on your skin type, may be used simultaneously. “Under eye serums are often lightweight or even gel consistency, [and] may be layered under an eye cream, or used alone for those that are looking for eye contour area benefits without using a heavy cream,” Sarfati explains. She recommends serums for oily and acne-prone skin types in particular.
If you struggle with dryness around the eyes, Sarfati advises you to opt for a thicker cream. “Eye creams are a wonderful way to nourish the delicate eye contour area that is often thin and dry with visible signs of wrinkles or as a preventative care program,” she says, clarifying that they may be layered over an eye serum or used on their own. “This is perfect for more mature clients or those that need the extra hydration.”
Shop Under-Eye Skin Care
The Multi-Tasking Moisturizer
Garshick suggests this multi-beneficial eye cream, which treats various concerns — including dryness, discoloration, puffiness, textural changes, and more — and hydrates with glycerin, meadowfoam seed oil, and squalane. Together, the formula works to support the skin barrier and improve the overall texture of the under-eye area.
The Tightening Serum
Formulated with under-eye skin superstars caffeine, glycerin, and niacinamide, Mario Badescu’s brightening-and-tightening under-eye serum works to help blur fine lines, tone the skin, and lighten dark circles to reveal a freshly improved radiance.
The Illuminating Ointment
This illuminating under-eye cream includes five forms of vitamin C and eight peptides, mixed with calming cucumber extract. The potent combination helps protect, rebuild, strengthen, and improve the skin, all while brightening uneven skin tone.
The Skin-Smoothing Salve
This rich eye cream relies on a blend of peptides, silk tree extract, squalane, niacinamide, and ceramides to boost the under-eye area. The formula does everything from stimulating collagen production and elasticity to fade dark circles, all while maintaining moisture.
The Multipurpose Mask
For a quick refresh, Garshick loves Wander Beauty’s multipurpose under-eye masks. Apply them to your skin to address discoloration and puffiness with the help of calendula extract and aloe, both of which cool and soothe to leave you looking more refreshed in just one 10-minute treatment.
The Drugstore Staple
Snag this lifting and brightening eye cream at the drugstore. Garshick suggests this one for evening out and firming the under-eye area via niacinamide and retinol along with glycerin so you can reap the benefits without irritation or dryness.
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Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology
Shiri Sarfati, beauty expert and licensed esthetician
Dr. Renée Moran, D.O., owner of Dr. Renée Moran Medical Aesthetics and founder of RM Skincare