Eye cream is a scam

Let's get into it.

Lately I feel absolutely no desire to talk/think about skincare stuff and even less inclination to do…anything at all, so my deepest apologies if you’ve been disappointed at my silence. I suspect however that most of you feel the same since you don’t seem to be filled with burning questions (or if you are then you’re not asking them to me), so that apology is, like most of my endeavors of late, halfhearted and uninspired.

How do I possibly snap out of it? Apply eye cream, of course. At last! A use for the stuff! Yes, I’m going to finally address that Most Annoying Of All Skincare Questions: eye cream.

But I realized that there’s a lot to talk about so I’m gonna break this up into more than one installment because (I think/hope) I can be bothered to write short missives on each subtopic. So right here I’m just gonna address the overall myth of eye cream, okay? Okay.

The Scam

First, let me reiterate what I said in my very first ever newsletter:

What's the best eye cream?
Being 8 years old, that's the best fucking eye cream, people. I mean sorry, I get asked this constantly and it is exhausting! I'll do a whole newsletter on the topic and it'll probably be a humdinger, as the kids say. (#KidsDontSayThat) When people ask this (incredibly vague) question, what they are usually getting at is they want to know what magic elixir to smear around their eyes to get rid of all the wrinkles and sagging. And darlings, I hate to break it to you, but: if a cream like that existed, we wouldn't have exceedingly rich people with all the resources in the world putting needles full of actual goddamn botulism in their faces.

Frankly, that answer is poetry and what more could you actually want? But okay, let’s break it down a bit.

Look, it’s a known fact of the skincare industry that eye creams are a scam. Here is the operating procedure over at Brand HQ on how to make their latest eye cream:

  1. Take our most bog standard moisturizer

  2. Put it in a tiny little tube and call it “eye cream”

  3. Mark it up by ~600%

  4. Hand it over to the marketers to work their mendacious magic

  5. Buy vacation home in Bora Bora

This is seriously like 98% of eye creams on the market. They might add a bit of water or glycerin or whatever to make the moisturizer thinner/lighter, and they tend to swap out a couple of dupe ingredients - as in, using something that is basically the same ingredient but has a different name, so the ingredient list is not identical. But basically, it’s always just insanely expensive moisturizer.

(A side note that makes me laugh is that it’s always eye creams that people ask for. And yet somehow, the thing they think is miraculous for the rest of their face is a serum. Like, I just mean people who don’t/only vaguely care about skincare until they’re looking at 40 and suddenly think “I guess I should try something?” [which: I know my audience and this is frankly at least half of you! it’s very common and perfectly okay!] We have this general idea, gleaned from all the metric tonnage of skincare bullshit out in the world, that we need a face serum and an eye cream. It’s some very consistent messaging from the beauty marketers of the world, I must say.)

The most obvious, common-sense way to put perspective on the Myth Of Eye Cream is to realize that if there was some miraculous thing that got rid of wrinkles, sagging, darkness, puffiness, and all other perceived skin imperfections, then why on god’s green earth would they not sell it for the rest of your face? Because only eye-skin suffers from these things? (No, though if your face has never been puffy, I envy you.) Because eye skin ages faster so it’s like a super-strong formula? (No, because who wouldn’t want to use super-strong anti-aging shit on all their face?) Because eye skin is so delicate? (Yeah it is, which means that whatever works there is gentle enough for the rest of your skin.) The ONLY reason to say it’s for your eye area is because they know how much we worry about that area. The thing that is so extra-special about that area is our insecurity about it, and that’s what they’re targeting - not your fine lines.

HOWEVER - there are two…caveats? stipulations? kinda-but-not-really exceptions? I don’t know the word, my vocabulator is broken lately*, sorry, I just mean like two sidecars on the it’s-a-scam motorcycle, and those sidecars carry important passengers that we will now discuss.

*If you aren’t aware, then make a note now that memory loss and verbal issues (fuck-ups? losses. inabilities. OH MY GOD YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN) can be a real problem during pre-menopause, and it’s deeply scary and hi, I’m 47 and apparently right on schedule. However it did just lead to me inventing “vocabulator” which is a word the world really needs, so there’s a silver lining.

  1. It is entirely possible to need a different kind of moisturizing in your eye area!

  2. There are some specific treatments you might need around your eye area but not elsewhere!

So basically we won’t be talking about eye creams so much as we will be talking about just your eyes.

Eye-Area Moisturizing

There are plenty of reasons to need a different moisturizer around your eyes, just like how people with combo skin (hello my brethren) will often put a heavier moisturizer on their dry-ass cheeks than on their oily-ass nose. Like for instance,

  • Maybe you have really oily eye-skin and really flakey-dry rest-of-face, or vice versa.

  • Maybe the moisturizer that keeps your eczema under control causes milia if you put it near your eyes.

  • Maybe the moisturizer that works for the rest of your face is not compatible with the one concealer that hides your cadaverous undereye circles.

  • Maybe a thousand other possibilities I can’t even think of, who knows.

The point is, it’s totally possible your eye-skin is radically different from the rest of your skin. For the sake of simplicity (sparing you costs in time, effort, and skincare shopping) it’s ideal if the moisturizer that works for your eyes can be applied to the rest of your face - as in, use just one moisturizer and make it cater to the more temperamental bits of your face.

But that’s just not possible if more than one part of your face is temperamental. And I guess my only point here is that if your eye-skin is demanding special treatment, it is entirely possible to give it what it needs without buying something that says “eye cream” on the package.

Your Eye-Related Needs

One of the reasons the “what’s the best eye cream” question gets on my nerves is because it’s like asking “what’s the best color?” I mean, the best color for what? Your kitchen wall? Your wedding invitations? Your car? Your lipstick? A stop sign? There are a LOT of possibilities, people!

And that’s what I’ll be addressing in the next newsletter (newsletters plural? maybe!) because this is getting long enough. Here is the list of specific issues people have with their eye skin that I will try to address in more details:

  • Dark circles, purple

  • Dark circles, non-purple (pigmentation & hollows)

  • Wrinkles, including: fine lines, crows feet, crepe

  • Eye bags, puffiness

  • Eye bags, sagging

That’s all I can think of, but please do let me know if there are any other issues you’d like me to address, comments are open so you can help me complete this list.

Recommended Practices

To ensure your eye area looks as awesome as possible, you should do the following as early in life as you can (but it’s never too late, okay.) It’s all about protecting what you’ve got.

  1. Wear sunglasses. Wonderfully large, dark ones that say “100% UVA and UVB protection” on them. Try to look like Jackie O any time you leave the house. (I mean, it’s nice and aspirational to look like her in all fashion senses when you leave the house, but that level of dedication to appearance is beyond me, so stick with the big dark glasses as that requires very little forethought/effort.) You can even wear them IN the house, I give you full permission to be that badass. Just please do it because in addition to making you look glamorous af, sunglasses (a) give the delicate eye-skin extra protection from the UV radiation, and (b) prevent you squinting in the sun (the more skin moves the more rapidly it wrinkles.)

  2. Keep the rubbing to a minimum. As someone who has both worn contacts for 35 years AND has seasonal allergies which pretty much occur in all 4 seasons, I deeply understand this challenge. If your eyes itch enough to be rubbing them often, get a different brand of contacts or some anti-itch drops - whatever the occasion calls for. Lay with a cool cloth over your eyes on a bad day, you deserve it.

  3. Be careful removing eye makeup, especially stubborn stuff like mascara. Spending a full minute scrubbing your eyes every night literally creates sagging skin - any makeup removal that requires a lot of friction is bad. (This is where oil cleansers are a godsend.) A great method is to soak a cotton pad in the remover/oil, set it on your closed eye for like 10-30 seconds to really soak in and loosen up the makeup, then gently swipe it away before using a (gentle) cleanser.

Recommended Products

When anyone asks me for an eye cream recommendation, I now just skip the lecture and tell the truth: my personal favorite is Dear Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence, applied in the morning as the last step in my routine. If it’s going to be a particularly sweaty day or I know I’ll be in the full sun for hours, then I like to use a stick SPF that I can carry around and reapply every coupla hours - currently I use the Bioderma Photoprès Lip Stick around my eyes on those days but when it runs out I will either get the Colorescience Sunforgettable stick to replace it or just go with the Evy mousse.

Translation: your favorite SPF is the best thing you can put around your eyes, religiously. Protecting against UV not only prevents aging but can even reverse damage, which makes sunscreen the best fucking technology we have in skincare and if it helps to think of it as “eye cream”, then by all means be my guest. If you need a separate SPF to accommodate your eye needs - more absorbent, less slippy, more waxy, less drying, more compatible with makeup, less fragrance, more sweat-resistant, less sting-y, WHATEVER - then go forth and hunt it out and dab it gently, liberally, and lovingly all around your eyes every day before throwing on your Hollywood diva dark glasses and heading out into the cruel cruel world.


There you go. Next time I’ll be back to talk about undereye circles and what can (and can’t) be done about them.

Hope you’re all okay, this whole pandemic thing has passed the 6-month point and it’s getting fucking hard and not looking like it’ll get easier soon, please take care of yourselves! Mwah!

-EK