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retinol eye cream

Should You Put Retinol on the Eye Area?

Can you use one of the strongest ingredients on one of the most sensitive areas of your skin? We explore the question below. 

Retinol is the most prized anti-aging ingredient, popular for its reparative and rejuvenating effects. The eye area is typically the part of your face that shows signs of aging first, making eye cream such a staple in any anti-aging routine. So, it makes sense that you would want to combine the two. But, is retinol really safe for the eye area? Keep reading to find out. 

Why should you consider using an eye cream that contains retinol?

“Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that works by binding to retinoic acid receptors, which then can affect gene expression,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. “This makes them very powerful and able to produce significant changes in the skin.” According to Dr. King, the ingredient has the ability to “increase the turnover of skin cells, increase collagen production and decrease discoloration.” Using an eye cream with retinol can be extremely beneficial for anti-aging as it can work to smooth fine lines and wrinkles effectively and boost collagen production under the eyes. 

What should you do to avoid irritation? 

Because retinol is a strong ingredient, using it under your eyes has the potential to cause irritation. The under eye area is one of the most delicate areas on your skin, so it’s best to proceed with caution when using the ingredient.
RELATED: Do You Really Need…to Use Retinol?
NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner recommends using retinol products specifically formulated for skin around the eyes as opposed to the retinol product you apply on your face, as they can be less irritating (though this can work for those who aren’t prone to sensitivity – patch test to be sure). “Eye creams containing retinol are usually specially formulated to contain low concentrations or mild forms,” he says. “They also contain hydrating ingredients to protect the delicate skin around the eyes.”
When implementing a retinol eye cream in your routine, both Dr. King and Dr. Zeichner recommend taking it slow and steady. They recommend starting with a small amount about two nights per week, then working your way up. You can also dilute it with your normal moisturizer to further prevent irritation.

When should you start using eye creams with retinol?

“It is never too early to start anti-aging! Retinoids are used regularly for teens for treating acne, so they are certainly safe for younger skin,” says Dr. King. However, they may not be totally necessary until you reach your mid-twenties and early thirties when cell turnover starts to slow down.

What are some retinol alternatives that can be found in eye creams? 

If you have sensitive skin and don’t want to risk the irritation, there are many other anti-aging alternatives to retinol that can be used near the eyes. Dr. Zeichner recommends bakuchiol, which is “a botanical extract that works through the same receptors as retinol to help stimulate collagen.” It’s not quite as potent as retinol, and the possibility of irritation is much lower.
Dr. King likes eye creams with anti-aging ingredients such as vitamin C, goji berry extract, and peptides. Two eye creams we love that contain peptides are the Swanicoco Fermentation Peptine Eye Care Cream and the Elensilia CPP Collagen 80% Intensive Eye Cream (shop both below!). 

Bottom Line

Retinol is a very effective ingredient, and its skin benefits can definitely be extended over to the eye area. But, it’s important to take it one step at a time. “Some people may not be able to tolerate it, but most people will be able to – if they start with a small amount of a moisturizing formula a couple of nights per week and increase as needed,” Dr. King says. And don’t forget to patch test!

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