Naturally: should we be using an eye cream?

For hydrating dry or sensitive skin around your eyes you might want to consider forking out for a specialist cream

At a press event recently, I listened as two beauty columnists argued, with surprising intensity, about eye cream: one said she wouldn’t be without it, the other said it’s just an extra product cosmetic companies want women to buy. A consensus seemed unlikely, so I changed the subject.

I get asked about eye cream a lot. It seems to be a confusing, and rather contentious, product. What is it supposed to do, is it worth the extra cost and should you be using one?

If your daily moisturiser or serum doesn’t cause any irritation – eye watering, itchiness, puffiness – around the eye area, just stick with that. But for hydrating dry or sensitive skin around your eyes or tackling specific concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles or puffiness, the experts tell me you might want to consider forking out for a specialist cream.

“In my experience of working with the skin for six years, I can say that I would absolutely recommend an eye serum,” says Frances Flannery, a certified nutritionist, nurse and health therapist at the Dublin Vitality Centre. She emphasises the importance of both what you put on your skin and how you apply it.

“The reason eye serums are important is that the skin is thinner here around the eyes, so the transdermal absorption is increased. This means the product you use will penetrate more,” she says. “I recommend a hyaluronic-based eye serum applied to damp skin.”

She suggests patting, not rubbing, eye serum onto the skin to avoid stretching. “Use a soaked cotton pad to gently wet the skin (leave it for 60 seconds if you have time – it’s really refreshing), and then apply the hyaluronic eye serum.”

Emily Byrne, an aesthetician and owner of Rejuvenate Advanced Skin Clinic in Naas, also says hyaluronic acid, which is excellent at helping your skin retain moisture and plumpness, is a key ingredient when it comes to eye care.

“The eye area is the first part of the skin to lose water because it’s thinner,” says Emily. For dry or sensitive skin, she suggests using a simple hyaluronic-eye product that has few ingredients.

She also recommends drinking plenty of water for those fine lines: “You can’t leave everything up to an eye cream.”

For anti-aging power, stick with hyaluronic acid, but you’ll want the added benefits of peptides, antioxidants, vitamins and SPF if possible, but go for mineral or physical blockers to avoid irritating chemical ingredients.

For puffy eyes, “the lighter the better, with active ingredients such as bisabolol,” says Emily, “but manual massage is even more effective than a product.”

You can do this at home yourself by very gently and slowly running your fingertips – “use the ring finger because you have less strength in it” – under your eyes, moving out towards the temples. Emily recommends doing this a few times a week: “It’s a bit of work, but it does help.”

If you want to skip the work altogether, you can always go for regular lymphatic drainage treatments, which she says are “always lovely” – and I couldn’t agree more.

Any puffiness could be the result of not drinking enough water, taking too much salt or eating too much processed food, Emily adds, so a change in diet might be in order.

Bottom line? “Keep it simple,” she says. “Choose a product that is light in consistency (gels are lighter), not packed full of irritants like fragrance and if you can get a non-chemical SPF, even better.”

She suggests staying away from anything packed with essential oils (and many “natural” products are) for the eye area: “essential oils are really therapeutic and very potent, but sometimes they can be too potent and can cause a reaction.”

One of her favourite products is Dermalogica's Total Eye Care with SPF 15 (€49.80), which uses a mineral sunblocker, does not contain artificial fragrance or colours and is both hydrating and brightening thanks to lactic acid. "It's a good all-rounder."

And always use a “pin-sized amount” to avoid clogging up the skin.

“Oh and wear sunglasses!”