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What the Ingredients in Under-Eye Creams and Serums Really Do

Under-Eye Options, Part 1: The Chemicals

I have under-eye circles for which a baby raccoon would be jealous. The kind that no concealer can truly cover, and no camouflaging light refractors can truly disappear. For 2010, I've resolved to find some way — even if it takes me five or six products — to cover up and fill in under-eyes once and for all. For the next few weeks, I'll be examining all the options, from high-tech formulas to old-fashioned recipes to drugstore shelf standbys. Let's start by breaking down the big "miracle" ingredients on the market. To see what you're really getting, just read more.

These have been a buzzword in skin care for several years now, but they're definitely still being pushed in under-eye creams and serums, especially the expensive ones. On the high end, there's idabenone, which is one of the strongest antioxidants currently available. In the drugstore, there's always good ol' vitamin E, C and some retinol (vitamin A), all of which are more common antioxidants. Since the jury's still out on whether antioxidants applied topically even actually do anything long-term, I'd say save your money.

Hyalauronic acid had a big moment about two years ago after its injectable form, Restylane, was found to fill in naso-labial folds. Off-label use involving under-eye injections has since become popular among a certain set. If injectables aren't your thing, topical acids are all over the market these days, with hyalauronic making an appearance in several drugstore brands. Acids can definitely exfoliate and make skin look thicker and more hydrated, but they won't get rid of broken blood vessels or leftover hemoglobin, which cause the blue/black of circles.


Lots of things are vitamins, of necessity, so I'm usually pretty skeptical of these. Almost every eye cream you pick up will claim to have "vitamins and minerals" the same way breakfast cereals do.

Things ending in -xyl/Peptides:
"Xyl" suffixes usually indicate that it's an amino acid blend, often forming another popular ingredient, the peptide. Peptides can form proteins, hormones, and a host of other more recognizable substances, so when you see these, it could just mean that there's milk or soy protein in your cream. Several proteins like these have traditionally been used to soften or strengthen skin tissue, so it could help some under your eyes. But given the obfuscatory labeling, it's hard to know what, exactly, a given peptide actually does (and if it's something you'll be allergic to).

Source: Flickr User Alan Vernon

Join The Conversation
plasticapple plasticapple 7 years
I have terrible under eye circles as well. I also always seem to be tired. I've recently discovered that I wake several times during the night, so I think I'm not getting enough quality sleep. Today I bought some OTC sleeping medication. I'm going to try it tonight and see if it works. Hopefully the two are related and both issues will be resolved soon!
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
I've heard that sleeping on your back, face up (rather than on your belly) and switching your pillow case often will help. Allergies can worsen undereye circles and sleeping wiht your face to the side or down can cause the puffiness you see in the morning. I'll follow this post closely - I have awful circles - everyone always comments at how tired I look.
katiedid0985 katiedid0985 7 years
I will definitely be following this! I have hereditary dark circles (thanks Mom) and so far haven't found anything to help. I cover them up with concealer, but wish there was something to lighten them at least a little! I'm not sure if this would fit under Antioxidants or Vitamins (kind of like Vitamin A), but Vitamin K is supposed to help lighten dark circles. Not sure if it works, but something to look into. Good luck!
mintz mintz 7 years
omg this is so awesome!!! i have the worst under eye circles!! i don't know what to do anymore!! thanks so much for this!! :)
Lauren3185 Lauren3185 7 years
This is amazing! I've always been cursed with under eye circles. The guys that work my riding stable ask me all the time if I'm tired because of them (and the fact I don't wear makeup to the barn). It's so embarrassing. Plus, I'm always timid to take pictures without makeup and or sunglasses because I always end up looking like I'm hungover.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 7 years
I don't know why, but the best thing I've found is Kinerase UnderEye Rescue for treatment and Touche Eclat for concealing/brightening. I, too, have had dark circles my whole life (and they don't go away with sleep), and this combo seems to lighten them better than anything else. I know a lot of people who have had luck with Hydroquinone creams (Murad and/or the DDF one that's supposed to be for skin spots), but I know a lot of people who are wary of using them, too.
cordata cordata 7 years
I'm thinking about restalyne too, Julie. How long is it supposed to last for? Will it dark dark veins as well?
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 7 years
thanks for doing this Bella. I also have pretty bad dark circles, it runs in my moms family. So far the best concealer I have found is amazing cosmetics concealer.
ineedcaffeine ineedcaffeine 7 years
thank you, thank you, thank you! for doing this, i have such under eye issues and may have tried all of the products out there. so far, the best i've come across is YSL's touche eclat ( i think thats the name), but it is so super pricey and would LOVE a cheaper alternative.
heatherhas heatherhas 7 years
You and me are in the same boat, bella! My mom's side calls it the family curse, since everyone has the same deep undereye circles. Thanks so much for doing this! I have been on the same journey, because I am getting married in April, and don't want to worry about seeing my dark circles in all my photos.
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