Tackle dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles

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  • Trust us when we say that applying an eye cream is NOT a step worth skipping

    It’s a debate as old as time itself: do you really need an eye cream? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Despite usually being packaged in the tiniest of pots, the best eye cream is like a soft-focus lens for crow’s feet and can help disguise dark under-eye circles.

    Yes, it’s another step in the old skincare routine, but necessary because regular serums and face creams aren’t necessarily formulated for the fragile skin that sits just below your lower lash line. Even the very best face serums may have actives that are too potent for this delicate area, while some creams are too rich and clog pores, causing milia (those pesky small white bumps) to form under the skin.

    According to Lee Etheridge, Vice President Global Education & Consumer Experience at bareMinerals, we should be taking every precaution to treat the eye area if we want to delay the visible signs of ageing.

    ‘The skin here is thin. It’s made up of less collagen and elastin compared to the rest of the face,’ she says. ‘When you consider the average person blinks 23,000 times, it’s not surprising that the eye area is susceptible to wrinkling.’

    ‘Our eyes are one of the first places to show the signs of ageing, due to a combination of factors,’ says Consultant Ophthalmic and Oculoplastic Surgeon, Elizabeth Hawkes. ‘While ageing plays a large part with the decrease in collagen resulting in loose skin in those areas, and the weakened muscles and tendons causing it to sag, stress can speed up this process significantly. This coupled with the effects of outside factors such as more exposure to the sun, alcohol, smoking and poor nutrition can speed up the signs of ageing and result in heavy or sagging upper lids and wrinkles around the eyes and on the eyelids.’

    The best eye creams: as tried and tested by our beauty editor

    In order to find the best, our Senior Beauty Editor, Katie Thomas, tested every product in this round-up, paying close attention to texture, ingredients, price, and of course, the results.

    1. Best for firming: Allies of Skin Peptides and Omegas Firming Eye Cream

    Allies of Skin Peptides and Omegas Firming Eye Cream, £72 | Cult Beauty
    Winner of the Marie Claire Skin Award for Best Eye Cream, this punchy formula took three years to develop. The judges of the Skin Awards gave it top marks for its smoothing and hydrating effects – fine lines appeared less pronounced and dark circles were brightened.

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    2. Best affordable eye cream: CeraVe Eye Repair Cream

    CeraVe Eye Repair Cream, £12.50 | Lookfantastic
    Ever since CeraVe hit UK shores, it has been a favourite among the beauty elite. It’s a brand developed by dermatologists at low prices. This eye cream is non-sticky, fast-absorbing and moisture-boosting, while also not aggravating sensitive skin. ‘I recommend this eye cream to everyone. It makes a great price point and hydrates (without adding any extra puffiness),’ says Senior Beauty Editor, Katie Thomas.

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    3. Best retinol eye cream: Murad Resurgence Renewing Eye Cream

    Murad Resurgence Renewing Eye Cream, £70 | Feelunique
    When it comes to skincare ingredients that really count, retinol tops the list for its legitimate wrinkle-fighting powers. Alongside extracts of skin-firming kelp and swetia flower, this is still gentle enough to use on a daily basis.

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    4. Best for travel: Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Eye Serum

    Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Eye Serum, £56 | Feelunique
    Reworked to include nine new ingredients, including anti-inflammatory hops and skin-tightening Butcher’s Broom, these concentrated capsules replenish hydrating lipids and keep working long after the serum has been absorbed. Katie says: ‘These are so brilliant wherever you are, but I particularly love them when I’m travelling. They have the exact amount you need, so you only need to take for the number of days that you are away. Helps immensely with space.’

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    5. Best for dark circles: Sunday Riley Auto Correct Eye Contour Cream

    Sunday Riley Auto Correct Eye Contour Cream, £60 | Harvey Nichols
    If your dark circles are the result of lifestyle factors, like lack of sleep or a poor diet (rather than genes, pigmentation or skin structure), then the good news is you can do something about them. Sunday Riley’s first eye cream nourishes, thanks to cocoa butter, while caffeine and Brazilian ginseng root smooth the skin, making it easier for light to bounce off. Bright eyes, ahoy.

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    6. Best brightening eye cream: Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème

    Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème, £35 | Boots
    The magic happens as soon as this yellow eye cream touches your skin. Working on the same premise as ‘banana powder’, a yellow powder used by make-up artists to eradicate sallowness, dark circles are immediately conquered.

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    7. Best for tackling crows feet: iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex

    iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex, £72.90 | Amazon
    Proteins, peptides, antioxidants and key growth factors – iS Clinical doesn’t mess around with unnecessary filler ingredients. Just ones that give a really good result on lines. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but a tiny bit goes a long way so you don’t need to use it a lot to see a difference in your skin texture. Industry expert Caroline Hirons gives her stamp of approval to the brilliant anti-wrinkle eye cream.

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    8. Best for depuffing: Darphin Intral De-Puffing Anti-Oxidant Eye Cream

    Darphin Intral De-Puffing Anti-Oxidant Eye Cream, £40 | Harrods
    This gel absorbs quickly and feels cool on the skin. It refreshes and debloats in a matter of minutes and it’s packed full of antioxidants to help to protect the super delicate eye area. ‘I love to keep this one in the fridge and use it with a jade roller, or another beauty tool. You get an even better depuffing treatment,’ recommends our Senior Beauty Editor.

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    9. Best for mature skin: Kate Somerville Line Release Under Eye Repair Cream

    Kate Somerville Line Release Under Eye Repair Cream, £120 | John Lewis
    Kate Somerville fans rejoiced when this cult product made a much-anticipated jump across the pond. Using two wrinkle-smoothing powerhouses – vitamin A and peptides –  it lifts the entire eye area for a more youthful, wide-awake look.

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    10. Best for dry skin: Lancôme Renergie Yeux Multi-Lift Ultra

    Lancôme Renergie Yeux Multi-Lift Ultra, £53 | Lookfantastic
    This rich, cosseting eye cream will find favour with dry skin sufferers. A combo of hyaluronic acid and linseed extract has a filler-like effect on under-eye grooves and seals in moisture. Perfect if you’d rather swerve the needle and discomfort.

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    11. Best for wrinkles and fine lines: Medik8 r-Retinoate Day & Night Eye Serum

    Medik8 r-Retinoate Day & Night Eye Serum, £95 | Medik8
    The ultimate powerhouse for eyes, this serum contains souped-up age-defying ingredients including a vitamin A derivative to plump skin, visibly fade fine lines and help with dark circles. Bonus: it’s gentle enough to use day and night. Katie says, ‘I would trust Medik8 with my life. Anything they tell me to put on my eyes I’ll do it. Thankfully they are always right.’

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    12. Best for sensitive skin: Curél Moisturising Repair Eye Cream

    Curél Moisturising Repair Eye Cream, £25 | Feelunique
    This eye cream is great for dry and sensitive skin. The lightweight formula reduces fine lines by helping to fill up the skin’s ceramide reservoir. It is fragrance-free, pH balanced and colourant free, too.

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    13. Best hydrating eye cream: Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex

    Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex, RRP £48 | Lookfantastic
    You are going to love this night eye cream. It not only bolsters skin after exposure to pollution, UV and lack of sleep, but it also has special repair technology to tackle the effects of blue light from your phone and computer screen.

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    14. Best smoothing eye cream: Clinique Smart Clinical Repair Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream

    Clinique Smart Clinical Repair Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream, £45 | Lookfantastic
    This lightweight, whipped eye cream is designed to smooth the appearance of fine lines and soothe the eye area. Hyaluronic acid delivers hydration while the expert peptide blend targets loss of firmness, fine lines and puffiness.

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    15. Best retinol-alternative eye cream: bareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Eye Cream

    bareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Eye Cream, £40 | Lookfantastic
    If you’re sensitive to retinol or pregnant, then this alternative to vitamin A works wonders at tackling the early signs of ageing. Not as good as retinol (nothing ever will be), but a brilliant understudy for those who can’t use the real deal. ‘I used this during my first pregnancy, and I’m going back for more this time around too,’ says Katie.

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    What to look for in an eye cream

    Dr Maryam Zamani, Oculoplastic Surgeon, Facial Aesthetics Doctor and founder of MZ Skin says, ‘The periorbital skin is the thinnest and most delicate on the body. Because of this, dilated blood vessels can be seen through the skin, giving the appearance of dark circles. With the use of topical agents such as caffeine, we can constrict these blood vessels, diminish their appearance and therefore decrease the appearance of dark circles. As an anti-inflammatory, caffeine can also help with the puffy appearance under the eyes.

    ‘Hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid help moisturise the skin and ceramides can be added to lock in hydration. Peptides are also an excellent ingredient to help stimulate collagen production. Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract helps to detoxify and to strengthen capillaries to help reduce dark circles and puffiness while also lifting and firming the delicate skin to reduce fine lines.

    ‘It should also be high in antioxidants to fight free radical damage from pollution,’ Etheridge adds.

    ‘In the morning, your main issue is puffiness caused by water retention from laying flat all night,’ explains Etheridge. Gel textures tend to be more cooling, especially when kept in the fridge. Also look for an eye cream that comes with a smooth applicator as the cold sensation will instantly de-puff. Cryo ice globes are having something of a moment right now and they are incredibly effective at reducing puffiness. 

    At night time your skin is in recovery mode, so switch to a richer cream to really nourish and lock in moisture. 

    Avoid overly oily formulas at all costs – especially those containing mineral oils and petroleum, which can swamp the skin and easily travel up into the eye.

    How to find the right one for you

    ‘If you have thin, dry skin with fine lines and wrinkles, look for deep hydration that will be locked in to help moisturise the skin,’ recommends Dr Zamani. ‘Peptides and other collagen boosting ingredients help to thicken the skin. In those with puffy eyelids, look for ingredients that help detoxify and improve lymphatics while boosting collagen production. Stay away from deep hydration because that will increase puffiness. As most people complain of dark circles, any ingredients that help improve microcirculation and constrict blood vessels improve the appearance of dark circles.’

    Dr Zamani created a quick ingredient cheat sheet for us:

    • If you have fine lines, look for ceramides, peptides, vitamin c, retinol, hyaluronic acid
    • If you are looking for collagen stimulation, look for retinol, vitamin c, niacinamide, arbutin, peptides
    • If you have discolouration, look for caffeine, bark extract, vitamin c, arbutin, retinols
    • If you suffer from puffiness, look for caffeine, green tea, vitamin k

    How to apply eye cream properly

    As the under-eye area is so delicate, you also want to avoid any vigorous rubbing. ‘Put a small amount of product on your ring finger (your weakest in terms of exerting pressure) and smooth below the eye, over the crow’s feet area and pat onto the brow bone just below your eyebrows,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk.

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