As a young beauty lover, I would often walk through the aisles of my local beauty supply store seeking potions and lotions. Usually a pumpkin mask or a brown lip liner (it was the 90s) would do the trick. On one of my many adventures, I stumbled upon a cute pink package that read “No more puffiness” that caught my eye. I was 12 at the time, but curious. Could this work? For me? For as long as I can remember, I had puffy eyes.
Why on earth, you may ask, would a 12-year-old even be aware of such a thing?
Bullies. They laughed at me.
And while my general nerdiness was probably the true reason they picked on me, I thought the solution was smooth under-eyes. Finding this magic box at the drugstore was a sign, it had to be. I quickly read the side of the box, saw the model’s puffy-to-“perfect” before-and-after and I was convinced. (Back then, I didn’t know about Photoshop.)
I was transfixed. With the combined earnings of a few bucks and the loose change in my pocket, I purchased the magical eye serum and ran home to try it. The package said to apply to clean skin but I was too excited. I wiped off my sweat, piled on the gooey gel and waited. Then I waited some more. Eventually, it dried into the consistency of plaster. Its secret trick? Spackling my skin down like a layer of wood varnish. My puffy eyes were indeed smooth, but if I thought I was escaping the bullies, my mirror-shiny face only gave them more ammunition.
When I looked in the mirror, I had to laugh. But the moment I cracked a smile, the whole eye area started cracking. It reminded me of dried glue after 12-year-olds like me (and you) would smear paste onto our hands and peel it off in satisfying sheets. There was $9.99 down the drain. My whole life’s savings.
As an adult, my puffy eyes have not changed. After all, my grandmother had them, too. I have, however, learned an exhaustive amount of information about under eye cream. I’m not only older now and wiser now, I’m a professional makeup artist. My purchasing choices have become more sophisticated, honed by the times I’ve been commissioned to find the right product for a client and the reality that, when it comes to beauty, I am still that curious young girl.
For all your under eye queries and woes — puffy or not — here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Starting early is key.
Not at 12 — your skin is still developing at that age, I’m lucky I still have eyes — but we begin to lose collagen in our skin around 27 years of age, so forming a habit around then will get you ahead of the game. It’s all about prevention!
2. Forming a daily routine will help.
Keep forgetting? Put your cream in plain sight so you will be sure to use it. Eye creams should be used morning and night, and should be the first thing on your face after toner, if you use one. Skin care is progressive in nature. The skin is always changing; if you’re concerned about prevention then you’ll have to keep up with it. The more you use a product the more beneficial it can be.
3. Eye cream doesn’t fix dark circles, so accept or conceal them.
Eye cream can’t fix this. Some of us have dark circles even when we’re not tired. Don’t stress. It’s simply blood circulation showing through the fine under-eye skin. Instead of hating yourself over what you cannot fix, why not enjoy that your body’s doing its thing, and if you must, daub on a touch of concealer?
Luminous eye creams have become big over the past few years. With light reflecting ingredients like pearl, they have been linked to brightening dark eye circles — but it’s more an optical illusion than a cure. Be sure to use a small amount to avoid looking like a reflector if you go this route.
4. Eye cream can fix crows feet and puffiness.
A good eye cream can add an almost instant effect to dry skin and firm the skin by stimulating collagen production. A good eye cream should be light in fragrance so it does not irritate the skin. A mild formula is best. Choose sensitive skin formulations even if the rest of your face isn’t since the eye area is fine and delicate.
5. There is a right and wrong way to apply it.
All you need is a pea-sized portion. Try not to overdo it since the skin is fine around the eye and can be easily irritated. If you get too much, leftover eye cream can be used around the lip area. The eye and the orbital lip area and both have the thinnest skin on the face, thus signs of aging will almost always show there first.
The eye cream should be applied with your ring finger from under the end of the brow to under the eye area. Avoid the innermost corner of your eye or your actual eyelid so as to not irritate your eye (or interfere with makeup application, if you intend to wear any).
6. When seeking the right formula, look for keywords.
Be keen to words like:
Caffeine (helps with moisture retention)
Hyaluronic acid (hydrates)
Retinol (promotes new cellular growth — is good for crow’s feet)
Vitamin C (collagen builder — but keep in mind that vitamin C does not stay active after long periods of time, so check expiration dates)
Vitamin E (nourishes skin)
Vitamin K (diminishes pigment and helps aid broken blood vessels)
Arnica, Kojic acid and hydroquinone (can diminish dark circles)
Green tea, cucumber and aloe (can soothe and help with puffiness)
When you’re at your local beauty supplier sampling and choosing your product, check the scent and consistency on the back of your hand. Since product intolerances can build up over time, make sure the return policy states you can return if there is an issue or ask for a free sample to test. Your dermatologist can also help you to address any concerns.
7. Investing in an all-in-one eye cream might save you money.
My vote is for an all-in-one fix. A good cream should address all of your skincare concerns, and contain a little of a lot. Looking for a multi-dimensional product saves money and time, too.
You do not have to spend a lot to get good eye cream results. Remember tried-and-true products are not always the trendiest. I’ve heard great things about an old staple, Oil of Olay. It contains Niacinamide, an anti-aging peptide complex.
If you have a preference for certain brands, that’s fine too! If you love your skincare routine, you’re more likely to keep it up, so sniff around until you find something you like.
8. My top picks:
For itchy, sensitive eyes: Bioderma Sensibio Eye Cream
For dry eyes, this one is a great overall moisturizer and hydrator with delightful consistency: La Mer Illuminating Eye Gel
For fine lines and dark shadows around the eye area, this one’s chock-full of vitamins: Dermalogica Age Smart Multivitamin Power Firm
To lessen the look of dark circles with a luminous, pearlized glow:
Olay Eyes Illuminating Eye Cream
For mature eyes, or those who’ve noticed a few lines and want to stop them in their tracks (not to mention a great price point for top science): Olay Eyes Pro-Retinol Eye Treatment for Eyes
For the newbie, I like this gentle yet effective cream for preventative care that helps to keep skin supple: Eau Thermale Avène Ysthéal Eye and Lip Contour Care
For a more aggressive treatment for mature skin and crow’s feet: StriVectin Intensive Eye Concentrate for Wrinkles
For puffy eyes (I like to put in the fridge for a cooling effect): First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy Am Gel Cream
For tired eyes and dark circles especially, this eye creme has a lovely texture and is a perfect all-around pick. It’s very soothing and leaves skin supple in the morning: Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye Cream
For something to wear under drying concealers and makeup, this one feels like an eye balm. There is no heaviness after blending it in; I like it on set over concealer for touch-ups: Kiehl’s Advocado Eye Cream
For an all-in-one remedy for puffiness, dark circles and fine line minimizing, this one has blue algae (great for hydration) and fights outside pollution aggressors: Sunday Riley Start-Over Active Eye Gel Cream
This cream does everything, thank me later: Korres Black Pine 3D Sculpting, Firming & Lifting Super Eye Serum
For puffiness, dark circles and dry skin, this one’s my all-around winner (plus it has a refreshing scent and a little goes a long way): RéVive Moisturizing Renewal Eye Cream
9. Finally, it’s not just about eye cream.
For me, drinking water and avoiding salt has helped my puffiness a ton. Make sure to protect your peepers by wearing sunglasses — not only do they block out aging sun rays and haters, they look pretty cool, too.
Above all, an ounce of prevention is worth a gallon of La Mer.
JoAnn Solomon is a makeup artist, hair stylist, writer and beauty expert with a background in cosmetology and esthetics. She finds happiness in teaching her clients fun, useful tips to look amazing from the inside out. Her perfectionist nature, attention to detail and confidence boosting beauty tips are her trademark. She has curated makeup and skin care for Beyonce, and styled other celebrities such as Allison Williams and Alicia Keys. When JoAnn is not traveling to make the world a more beautiful place she resides in New York City. Follow her on instagram @joannsolomonbeauty.