Like a lot of people, my skin tends to get very dry once summer turns into fall. When winter rolls around, all bets are off. My skin starts to resemble a parched desert, and I start applying all the creams, serums, and moisturizers I have in my vanity cabinet. The dryness creeps onto my eyelids, too, and I think it causes my eyes to look tired and my dark circles to look even more pronounced. It's not a pretty sight. The dryness can be so irritating, causing the skin on my eyelids to be even more sensitive than normal. What a great time, right?
Since I've been dealing with this problem for a couple of years, I have my dryness-fighting routine down. I use gentle cleansers, makeup removers, and exfoliants on my face so they won't strip the skin of those precious natural oils. I use my thickest moisturizers and cooling serums that sink right into the skin in a flash. And I try to be extra minimal with makeup when my skin is going through an exceptionally dry patch. The fewer products I have on my face, the better.
While I have been able to get the rest of my face under control, I'm still figuring out how to deal with the dryness around my eyes. I've found some products that work but don't have it down pat just yet. So I went to an expert to get her tips on soothing that area.
Well first, I learned that it's important to pay attention to your eye area. "The skin around the eye, known as the periocular skin, is unique, fragile, and sensitive," Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology, explains. "It is the thinnest skin on the face, and it has fewer oil glands, making it more prone to dryness. If we allow this delicate skin to get dried out, this will compromise the skin barrier, leading to an increased risk of inflammation or irritation and even infection. In addition, the periocular skin is usually the first area that we see signs of aging, starting in the third decade of life. If dryness, inflammation, and irritation occur, this will lead to even more extensive and premature skin aging."
There are also a couple of things you can do to prevent dryness. Gmyrek says the best thing you can do is keep the skin surface (or skin barrier) healthy since moisture is lost to the environment and the skin won't be able to rehydrate or hold onto moisture when it's damaged. You can do this by avoiding any drying or irritating cosmetic or skin products, as irritation can cause microscopic breaks in the skin surface and compromise the skin barrier.
When shopping for an eye cream, you want to choose a product that is clearly labeled as such. Gmyrek says you should treat the area as "sensitive skin," and knowing that the product is targeted for that delicate area will help. "Though the FDA does not specifically regulate testing to be done in order to label a cream specific for the skin of the eye area, most companies do their own testing on this delicate skin to minimize any risk to the consumer of irritation," she adds. "I recommend that you always use only a small amount of cream at first to be sure you are not allergic. If any irritation occurs, discontinue use immediately."
And if you are looking for an eye cream for solely hydrating purposes and not anti-aging reasons, Gmyrek recommends avoiding retinol, which can be drying.
As for ingredients, you'll want eye creams that include occlusives, humectants, emollients, and/or barrier ingredients. Gmyrek breaks down what those terms mean below. She notes that your eye cream doesn't have to contain all of these ingredients, but you'll probably find a combination of the ingredients from different categories in products.
Occlusives: These form a barrier over the skin surface to prevent evaporation of water from the skin into the environment. They reduce transepidermal water loss. Examples include dimethicone, petroleum, shea butter, and colloidal oatmeal.
Humectants: These attract water and moisture. When humectants are present on the skin, water from the deeper level of the skin, the dermis, is absorbed into the upper skin, or the epidermis. Water is also attracted and absorbed from the environment, but this is minimal. Examples include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, glycerol, urea, lactic acid, shea butter (butyrospermum parkii), and colloidal oatmeal.
Emollients: They impart a softness and increased plasticity. They smooth and improve the feel of the skin by settling into the spaces between the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, lubricating those areas. Examples include dimethicone, shea butter, colloidal oatmeal, and coconut oil.
Barrier Repair Ingredients: These help to keep the skin barrier healthy so that moisture is not lost and dryness does not occur. Examples include ceramides, lactic acid, niacinamide (vitamin B3), and cholesterol.
Once you find the eye cream that works for you, Gmyrek recommends using the product daily in order to prevent moisture evaporation from the skin. "In addition, this will help to keep the skin surface from cracking, which would lead to further loss of moisture," she adds.
Ready to find some relief for your dry eyelids? I know I am. Here are some recommendations from both Gmyrek and our editors.
Gmyrek says this gel-cream contains many different ingredients to hydrate and protect, including occlusives like beeswax and isoparaffin, humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, and emollients like dimethicone and cetearyl olivate (fatty acid from olive oil). It's also lightweight and noncomedogenic (a plus for those with acne-prone skin).
The price point can't be beaten with this one, Gmyrek says. She adds that it has effective ingredients in all categories of moisturizing: capric triglyceride (an occlusive); glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and sorbitol (humectants); dimethicone and almond oil (emollients); and niacinamide, ceramide, and cholesterol (for skin barrier repair).
"This is a luxurious and very effective cream," Gmyrek says. "It feels so great going on and gives immediate moisture without being very heavy or thick. It contains beta carotene as an antioxidant and also the following moisturizing ingredients: shea butter, sorbitan, avocado oil, dimethicone, jojoba oil, isocetyl stearoyl stearate, avocado oil, sunflower seed oil, and citric acid."
"It's a bit more expensive but a great choice for a.m. application because it contains sunscreen as well," Gmyrek explains. "It has a creamy feel but not too thick if you will be applying makeup after. It contains multiple different ceramides and cholesterol to support skin barrier function, glycerin to hydrate, dimethicone as an emollient, and beeswax as an occlusive."
Tata Harper's eye cream contains safflower oleosomes (a source of vitamin E) to moisturize and daffodil bulb to maintain the skin barrier. It will also work to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and puffiness.
More of a gel-serum than a traditional cream, Clinique's Moisture Surge Concentrate is one of my favorites for dealing with dry skin. It's so light and cooling and absorbs quickly. Plus, it keeps the eye area hydrated for up to 96 hours. Ingredients include aloe butter, glycerine, and antioxidants.
I'm also a fan of this gel-cream from Fresh. The gel feels so relaxing and soothing on the tired, angry skin around my eyes. But the best part is it sinks into the skin pretty quickly and doesn't leave any stickiness. It has nourishing ingredients like rose water, rose oil, cucumber extract, and hyaluronic acid.
This rich cream is ultrahydrating with squalane to lock in moisture. It's also got a marine algae complex to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and paracress extract to smooth and firm the skin.
Another drugstore find that doesn't disappoint, Cetaphil's gel-cream is formulated with hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and licorice extract and a vitamin complex to brighten the under-eye area. It's hypoallergenic and gentle, which is much needed when you're dealing with this sensitive area of the face.
The hyaluronic acid in this formula will keep the eye area moisturized, and the botanical extracts such as chamomile, calendula, and aloe will soothe and refresh stressed-out skin. And it's got anti-aging benefits, too, thanks to algae, rosehip, and baobab fruit oils, which smooth lines.
If you're experiencing dry eyelids like me, you'll want to pay attention to this eye cream. It's especially formulated for that and sensitive eyes. Its key ingredients are thermal spring water, niacinamide, vitamin C, shea butter, and dimethicone.
Sunday Riley's eye cream is packed with ultra-hydrating ingredients such as cocoa and shea butters, watermelon rind extract, and sodium PCA. It also contains caffeine and Brazilian ginseng to reduce dark circles and puffiness and refresh the eyes. Your eyes will look more lifted and brighter after applying this one morning and night.