Few skin care categories cause as much of a heated debate as eye care products tend to do. For some people, eye creams, serums, and gels are simply a marketing con to sell regular old creams in smaller—and, more expensive—jars. Others find that using a dedicated eye cream helps to avoid sensitivities and give a more potent dosage of ingredients dedicated specifically to problems that affect the eye area.
Personally, I’ve never been able to use my regular moisturizers near my eyes, as the skin there is particularly delicate and prone to allergic reactions and/or rashes. Indeed, the skin around our eyes is thinner than the rest of our facial skin and thus also a lot less resilient. This is also why dehydration and dryness is usually worse there—I remember noticing fine lines criss-crossing the under-eye area from my late 30s onwards, long before any other facial wrinkles appeared.
Since richer moisturizers make my eyes go red and prone to tearing up, especially overnight, I’ve pretty much always used a dedicated eye product. I think I must have been in my very early 20s when I started my decades-long hunt for the best eye care products, be it serum, gel, roll-on, or cream. And I did try pretty much all of those options! My eye area is a tricky beast, and many of the creams, lotions, and anti-aging potions said to be the absolute best thing ever just did not work for me at all. I get allergic reactions to the strangest things, and so I can’t count the times when I had to deal with freak contact dermatitis from unsuccessfully trying yet another “holy grail” eye cream.
For some, eye creams are simply a marketing con. Others find that using a dedicated eye cream gives a more potent dosage of ingredients.
What I’ve found out over the years, and after trying many dozens of different eye products, is that I tend to do best with gel-type products that still have a certain richness. Eye essences or gel-cream hybrids are excellent textures to go for, as they are usually water-based but still nourishing. Now that I’ve hit my 40s, very watery gels just aren’t enough anymore to combat dryness and those darn criss-cross mini-wrinkles. So, I have boldly started to also try creamier textures, and thankfully there are some very rare eye care gems that manage to be rich and creamy but not make my eyes go up in flames overnight.
Given that I’ve tried so many eye products—and still keep trying new ones all the time because you never know if there is a new star to be discovered—you would think that my favorites would constantly change. But there is a select group of holy grail superstars that have managed to stay my forever faves for years and years, no matter what new enticing jars and tubes may turn up on my vanity for testing. If you are kind of curious about eye creams but overwhelmed by choice, these five could be a good starting point for you.
1. Clinique All About Eyes
No matter how many eye care products I try, I always come back to this classic from Clinique. All About Eyes just has the right balance of richness with a light texture—it’s a true beaut of a gel-cream. This is also one of the few eye creams that noticeably helps to de-puff my under-eye area, probably due to the added caffeine and skullcap root extract, both known to help with water retention. It is free from any alcohol, which can be drying, and is also fragrance-free.
The important thing to know about All About Eyes is that you really only need to use a teeny-tiny amount, as this spreads very generously over the skin. Using too much product may cause problems, so make sure to start with less than a pea size, and avoid getting too close to the eyes. This is an awesome eye cream choice for those of you in your 20s but works just as well for all ages. The “rich” All About Eyes version is a thicker cream that works well if you have very dry skin.
2. Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado
If you have trouble with richer eye creams “creeping” into your eyes and irritating them but still want deep nourishment for the under-eye area, then the Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado is a great pick. This super buttery, pale green cream has been formulated to avoid precisely this type of irritation, which is due to certain oils spreading further than where we usually apply the products containing them (some sunscreens also can do this, by the way).
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Unsurprisingly, the main ingredient here is avocado oil, rich in fatty acids, which helps to smooth out those pesky, crumbly-paper like “crinkles” we get when the eye area is dehydrated and dry.
3. Dr. Hauschka Daily Hydrating Eye Cream
Dr. Hauschka was the first organic beauty brand I got into when I started my obsession with skin care. The German brand is one of the European pioneers of certified organic and natural skin care, and even to this day they mainly use plant-based ingredients of strictly organic or wild-harvested origin.
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The Dr. Hauschka Daily Hydrating Eye Cream was my go-to eye cream during my university years. My stepmom would always send me a tube from Germany while I lived in New Zealand, where Dr. Hauschka is crazy expensive. It’s actually a great eye cream for first timers, as it works for most skin types and a variety of eye area specific problems. Enriched with soothing organic rose water, mango seed butter, and macadamia nut oil, this also has a dreamy, glide-on-like-butter texture and absorbs fast, which is a rarity for organic creams.
4. Dermalogica Stress Positive Eye Lift
Dermalogica Stress Positive Eye Lift is quite unique in a number of ways. Firstly, this is an eye mask-serum hybrid, which works best if you allow some time for a little massage around the eyes while it absorbs, but honestly it can also just be used like a regular daily eye product.
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This has more of a runny, serum-like texture and thus works great if you struggle with creams around your eyes. You can use the cooling metal applicator to gently massage in the Stress Positive Eye Lift treatment, but remember never to put too much pressure on the fragile skin there. The serum contains niacinamide and yeast ferment to de-puff and brighten the skin around the eyes, so it’s particularly great if you struggle with dark circles and under-eye bags.
5. Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream
This is by far the richest eye cream I’ve ever tried—almost but thankfully not too rich for me. I love using it in winter, when my under-eye area usually shows my age more obviously due to dehydration, and I just need an extra dose of intensive moisture. I cannot use the cream every day, as it can cause milia on my eyelids, but using it about three to four times per week, very sparingly, during winter really helps to keep my eye area extra smooth and velvety.
The Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream is fantastic if you have very dry, flaky skin around the eyes or start seeing the first signs of aging. The triple moisturizing powers of jojoba and avocado oil plus squalane help to soften extreme dryness and work great under any concealer or other eye makeup.