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Do I Really Really Need an Eye Cream?

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,
I only recently discovered your column, and yet I have managed to spend hours perusing the archives already (and that’s saying a lot considering I have a 3-month-old daughter who keeps me on my toes!). I’ve become a fan overnight. Not only have you thoroughly entertained me, you have also answered a lot of my latent beauty questions, i.e. oh so that’s how you do that! There’s one thing I’m still stumped about, and I promise I searched your archives to see if you might have explained it already. If you did, I couldn’t find it. So here it is:
Do I really need a separate eye cream? And if so, why?
I use my regular facial moisturizer (Aveda All Sensitive – very gentle) for my eye area. I tap it onto the eye area cuz I know that’s what you’re supposed to do. But seriously, after shelling out the money for a good moisturizer, I have serious reservations about spending just as much on a teensie tube of eye cream. I get that the skin in that area is very sensitive and thin, but what difference does that make if I’m not having any problems doing things the way I do now? I don’t get under-eye circles or bags, and I don’t have much in terms of wrinkles (I assume the latter is because I’m only 26). I also never use eyeshadow, so having it stay put is not of concern. So what the hell do I need it for? Aren’t the skin care companies just trying to pump me for more money?
You may be asking why this question is eating at me if I’m happy with my current system, and the answer is that I consistently read and hear experts (who don’t appear to be linked to any product lines) who say you should use a separate eye cream, and that gets me wondering. I also wonder whether ten years from now, I’ll regret that I stuck with using my normal moisturizer for the eye area. But I have yet to hear or read any convincing arguments for why what I’m doing is a no-no and why I need eye cream.
Looking forward to receiving the wisdom,
P.S. In case it’s relevant, I have an olive complexion, combination skin and mild acne, though my skin seems drier postpartum and it’s possible that I’ll have to rethink my whole skincare regiment in the near future, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

Well, honestly, your entire argument AGAINST eye creams fell apart with this sentence: I’m only 26.
And my entire argument FOR eye creams boils down to this sentence: You aren’t always going to be only 26.
A good eye cream can be like an insurance policy for your face. The skin around your eyes is generally the first to show the signs of age — wrinkles, dark circles, excessive dryness. The dreaded “loss of elasticity.” Just because you don’t have those problems right now doesn’t mean you never will, or that applying a separate cream on that skin is a silly frou-frou waste of money. Think about your 30s! Do it for your 40s!
Some of us already need an eye cream to do double or triple duty. We have dryness, shadows or existing lines. Which is why we go to ends of the earth to find the best best BEST eye cream out there and are willing to spend a lot of money on it. (I mean, have you SEEN the prices of some of these creams? Good lord.)
eye%20cream1.jpgSome of us don’t have any of those problems — and we’d like to keep it that way. I’ve been using an anti-wrinkle cream on my hypothetical crow’s feet since I was 24 years old. I used for awhile, until I noticed that giving birth and a chronic lack of sleep was taking its toll on my eyes (thinning skin and fine lines) and the RoC wasn’t cutting it anymore. I switched to Philosophy’s Hope in a Tube Eye & Lip Firming Cream. I’m going to be 30 this year and so far, so good in the wrinkle and dark circle department. (I swear, anyone who has just noticed their first wrinkle should RUN to Sephora and pick that cream up — it actually undoes the damage and firms your skin back up.)
And yes! Dark circles ARE a sign of aging. As you get older the skin around your eyes gets thinner, thus making your blood vessels more visible. Another reason to keep that skin ultra-pampered and moisturized.
As for why normal facial moisturizers shouldn’t be used on the eye area? Well, mostly they just aren’t formulated for skin that delicate OR for the myriad of challenges it faces with age. And there’s also the risk of allergic reactions. Which again, just because you’re fine now doesn’t mean you won’t one day put on that cream and have your eyes swell and rebel and painpainpain.
eye%20cream2.jpgI get SO many emails from women who develop allergies — almost overnight — to various eye shadows and mascaras and creams. It happens. My own eyes are much more sensitive and prone to watering than they were a few years ago. Your Aveda moisturizer probably isn’t a prime candidate for this sort of thing…although I’m not sure ingredients like cardamom and turmeric have any business being that close to your eyeballs. (You’ll notice NONE of those ingredients go into Aveda’s eye creams. That should probably tell you something.)
Oh, and don’t stress out too much about package sizes of eye creams. You’re only dabbing on a teensy bit everyday, so even the teensiest tube will actually last a very long time — probably even longer than your moisturizer. I buy my Philosophy cream about once a year, honestly, and it’s practically the size of a Chapstick.
In the end, eye creams boil down to this: It can’t HURT to use an eye cream, but it definitely can hurt to NOT use an eye cream. And by the time you realize this, the damage could already be done.
(Fear-mongering beauty advice! I rock.)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • katishere

    September 14, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    if you had to recommend a drug store eye cream…what brand would you recommend? there are so many choices!!

  • Emily

    September 14, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    I looooove Origin’s A Perfect World for Eyes. It isn’t greasy or anything, but if you put it on in the morning, you can still feel it when you wash your face at night. And a little goes a long way – it’s kind of slippery going on, so you can use a very small amount and still cover your whole eye area. Plus, it doesn’t sting at all (I have allergic, burny eyes).
    I also love the regular skin guardian and the antioxidant moisturizer (which I am going back to as soon as my Hope in a Jar runs out, because it works about the same for me and smells way, way better).
    Also – no fancy, magical ingredients, but still effective – try olive oil. I use it to remove eye makeup (seriously? best thing ever) and it leaves your skin super soft. Just smear it on and then tissue off your eye makeup (or wipe gently with a soft washcloth). The residual oil absorbs pretty quickly into the skin around the eyes. Lots of people use it for whole-face cleaning, too (just Google Oil Cleansing Method).

  • Lauren

    September 15, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Does anyone have thoughts about Clinique’s All About Eyes? My mom swears by it and I know I need to use something, but what?


    September 15, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Neutrogena Radiance Boost is pretty good, IMO. I used it before I switched over to Hope in a Tube and might be looking for something a bit more heavy-duty now that I’m closer to 40 than 30. Sigh.
    Eye cream is essential as people usually start to show age around their eyes before anywhere else. Just like keeping your brows plucked gives the illusion of a mini-lift as you age, eye cream in your 20’s will help you get an early start on the fight against time. Ladies, you will be amazed how quickly father time will go stomping across your face leaving ‘fine lines’ (ugh!) in his wake. If I ever have a daughter I might start her on eye cream at birth.

  • elle

    September 16, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    I love Clinique’s All About Eyes, rich formulation. It absorbs easily, never stings, and seems to do the trick. I started on eye cream too late, too late — in my early 30s when the lines were already present. 5 years on, AAE has done a pretty good job at keeping them under reasonable control. (But who knows what I would have looked like otherwise?? No-one’s going to trial it long-term on just one eye, now, are they?)
    A tip for contact lens-wearers, which took me a shamefully long time to figure out for myself: lenses in before eye cream on in the morning, lenses out before eye cream on at night. Or, however thorough your pre-lens hand-washing, you’ll somehow find them smeary. Or is that just me…? Probably.

  • Susan

    September 16, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    I turned 30 this year and started using eye cream at 28 mainly because I started seeing dark circles under my eyes. Which brings me to the big question of what eye cream is best for under-eye circles? I’ve tried several creams with very little resolve. Hyelexin, Benefit EyeCon, Wexler Eye Brightening Cream, and DDF Erase Eye Gel. I’ve heard that Avon and Murad both have good creams for under-eye circles, but Hyelexin is supposed to be top notch and I might as well have been using Vaseline Intensive Care body lotion for an eye cream because there was no improvement.

  • YetAnotherAmy

    September 17, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    I started using an eye cream at 21 and still get carded for drinks at 33. Granted, some of that is genetic, but I think quite a bit is due to skincare. FWIW I use the Mary Kay Timewise products. And the eye cream lasts at least a year, if not longer.

  • KS

    September 17, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    I use the same moisturizer for the eye area as the rest of my face, on the advice of my dermatologist, and here:
    I have Philosophy’s Hope in a Tube, and sometimes use it, but I really value the sunscreen in my Oil of Olay and hate that Philosophy doesn’t really address sunscreen well. So, my 32 year old self who sometimes still gets carded, respectfully disagrees with Amalah on this one 🙂

  • the ass editor

    September 18, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    I’m 26 and just started using eye cream a few months ago. My decision-making process went something like “Separate eye cream is one of Amy’s 5 skincare must-haves, must buy immediately or risk death, destruction, and wrinkles!” I sympathize with Stephanie and had the same questions and doubts, but ultimately decided to compromise by investing the time of adding yet another product to my extensive routine, but by not spending a lot of money on it yet. I went with the Neutrogena Healthy Radiane SPF 30 eye cream for one reason…it’s pretty much the only inexpensive eye cream I can find that has sunscreen. And really? What are these crazy skincare companies thinking by leaving sunscreen out of an anti-aging product? Perhaps it would irritate some eyes, but us girls with eyes and tear ducts of steel deserve some options too. the Neutrogena cream goes on smooth, feels nice and light, and is slightly tinted so I can put it on when I go to the beach and not feel so monstrous without concealer. So far I’m really happy with it. However, does anyone have a suggetion for when I should switch to something more high end? Can I wait until 30? I really want to try the Philosophy line of moisturizers, but the lack of sunscreen stops me from buying them every time Amy posts one of those photos we all know so well and I get the urge again. Should we use the power of the smackdown for good and send the Philosophy bigwigs a list of demands?

  • Teresa

    January 27, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I am over 40…..YIKES! I have used more face and eye creams than most. I have extremely dry skin. I have found that the best for me is Oil of olay. The Definity line is GREAT! Please all you youg girls, remember to use lots of moisturizer. it really does keep you younger looking.

  • Another Teresa

    October 8, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Ive noticed lately that my eye creams make my eyes itch and water. This has never happened before and I haven’t changed brands…I usually use Clinique repairwear or moisture surge. It feels like there is a sheen over my eyeballs 🙁 Any natural anti-wrinkle eye creams out there?