"Eye cream?" A colleague shrugged with disdain when I flashed a tube of New York-based Dr. Dennis Gross' Hyaluronic Marine Dew eye gel in her face. "Carrie Gross gave it to me, she swears by it," I touted.
"You believe in it?" she retorted and looked away. Her scepticism surprised me. She is a huge beauty aficionado and started using the best of skincare products early in her teenage years — the pricey SK-II range was her go-to for the most part. Yet, she wasn't the only cynic. Over the next few days, as the conversation progressed, more of these eye product agnostics aired their views. It was surprising for these ladies and men who are conscientious and disciplined with their daily skincare routine to hesitate when it came to eye care products. The most common of complaints were that these eye products didn't seem to work, and that they were way too costly.
"Think about it," Peter Thomas Roth wrote over email in an interview. "The skin around your eye moves every time you talk, smile, laugh, or blink — and the average person blinks up to 1,200 times an hour! You squint and blink even more when you're out in the sun."
The skin around the eye is estimated to be four times thinner than the rest of the face. "Also, there are almost no pores around the eye area so the formulas for eye creams are formulated totally differently than face products," Roth continues. Factor in the anatomy, the amount of movement, not to mention the environmental stressors such as pollution and sunlight, the skin around the eye is constantly fatigued. It is also why it is "one of the first areas of your face to show signs of ageing and expression lines," says Roth.
One could consider the eye area to be the tip of the iceberg — the signs of skin and physical fatigue surface there first. And if you lead a high-paced life, it's little wonder why the eye care products never seem to work. Issues such as crow's feet, puffiness, dark eye circles will continually persist.
On the beauty retail shelves, eye care products are generally categorised to address the above few concerns. Yet, they are costly, and Roth admits that eye care products are "expensive to make and formulate — I always choose the most effective ingredients at the highest level possible for my products."
The amount of available ingredients for use around the eye area is significantly fewer as well. "Active ingredients in eye care products need to be exceptionally well tolerated by the skin, as the eye contour is particularly sensitive. This reduces the selection of ingredients that we can choose from, as they all need to undergo stringent testing to ensure they do not cause any eye irritation," explains Tuyen Lamy, co-founder of Singapore-based Alcheme Skincare.
Through her team's research, they found that the four most common eye-related beauty issues found amongst Asian women include dark eye circles, fine lines, wrinkles, and milia seeds, "those small, white, hard bumps that appear under the eye".
For concerns such as fine lines, crow's feet and wrinkles, they stem from the lack of collagen in the skin around the eye area. "The skin around the eyes is naturally very thin and fragile. But as we get older and our bodies produce less collagen, the skin around our eyes becomes even thinner, more crinkly, and fine lines develop," Roth explains as he stresses that sun exposure and environmental pollution exacerbates the problem. While his cult-favourite 24K Pure Gold Luxury Lift & Firm eye patches provide the skin with "intense hydration" to plump the skin, eliminating the fine lines and wrinkles, Roth has another advice. "I love a good pair of sunglasses because they help you squint less and protect your eyes from ageing UV rays."
Yet, if these over-the-counter eye creams and patches do not work for you, there are some customised options, including Lamy's Alcheme Skincare personalised eye serum, which launched barely a month ago. "The root of these [eye] concerns are driven by three factors — genetics, lifestyle and ageing — which varies from person to person, and will require specific active ingredients to help address them," says Lamy.
These eye issues are more complex than it seems. "For example, dark circles require multiple actions in order to show results," Lamy continues. The network of micro-blood vessels has to first be strengthened "so that they are less visible" and do not cast a dark shadow around the eye. Second, these micro-vessels do leak when they are weak, "leading to debris like toxins and liquids remaining stuck under the eye, forming eye bags." Third, the debris and liquids have to be drained.
Roth echoes Lamy's thoughts, "Dark eye circles can be tricky! Under-eye darkness can be caused by so many factors, including genetics, age, dehydration, eye strain, and fatigue," says Roth. "Determining where your dark circles stem from is the first step in reducing in their appearance."
From left, Alcheme Skincare's personalised eye serum, NYDG's Re-Contour Eye Gel, Peter Thomas Roth's Water Drench eye patches, Dr. Dennis Gross' Hyaluronic Marine Dew eye gel, and La Mer's eye concentrate.
Roth designed his convenient and refreshing Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud eye patches to hydrate and reduce the cast of dark eye circles. "I added caffeine to help reduce the look of puffiness and arnica to help diminish the look of dark circles," Roth explains. Other options include the thick, creamy and luxurious eye concentrate from La Mer, which targets dark circles, encourages blood circulation and fluid drainage. There is Dr. Dennis Gross' Hyaluronic Marine Dew eye gel, which encourages drainage and reduces dark circles with the help of caffeine. Then there is New-York based dermatologist, David Colbert's label, New York Dermatology Group's Re-Contour Eye Gel. The brand designs products for the active, "sun-scorched" individual. The watery eye gel comes in a nifty and convenient tube, quickly seeps into the skin, and serves to firm up the skin and reduce eye circles as well, with the help of the same herb, arnica.
Yet, when these potent products do not alleviate your dark circles, it's time to take a step back to re-evaluate your health and lifestyle. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the presence of dark eye circles signals at a weak liver. And Roth advises consumers to not take these signs lightly, nor merely depend on beauty products like eye creams and concealers. "If you feel it may be a sign of liver issues, please see a doctor as soon as possible. If not, my advice is to start with a good night's rest, drink lots of water, and take a break from staring at that computer screen!" It seems, amidst all the beauty marketing frenzy, we tend to forget that skin issues are distress signals of our physical and mental health — perhaps, the things that matter the most.
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