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Eye Creams, Serums, and Gels…and Moisturizers…Oh My!

I recently had a birthday. I’m not going to reveal my age, but let’s just say that when people get nostalgic about certain decades, I have a couple more decades to be nostalgic about.

I hadn’t really thought about my age too much…

In fact, I would’ve told you that I’m one of those guys who genuinely doesn’t care. But now I find myself thinking about it more often. It’s been on my mind.

Not always, but there are certain times when I’m reminded that I’m not my vibrant, youthful, handsome (well, I’m still handsome) self anymore.

The other day, my partner and I went to buy some ‘adult’ beverages. She was taking too long and I had already made my decision. I told her I would pay for mine, and she could meet me in the car after she had written down her Pros and Cons list and weighed up the best choice of wine to pair with takeout pizza and some Netflix.

I paid for my drinks and went out to the car. Nothing to report here.

But when my wife came with her bottle, she was smiling.

“I got carded!” she said triumphantly.

The same cashier who served me thought my wife looked suspiciously underage and asked for her ID.

I should be happy, right? I mean, I have a hot, young looking partner. But I was most definitely NOT HAPPY.

We’re just a few months apart in age! She’s not a decade younger than me. It’s, like, 103 days between us!

I mean, why didn’t that cashier even think to ask me? I mean, I’m glad she saw a mature man buying alcoholic beverages, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask for my ID as well. Not so much for my age, but my pride. I realized that I didn’t look as young as my partner did.

And so it got me thinking about what is it that makes me look older? What is it about my appearance that shouts “Old Man Coming Through!”

I take care of my body. I wear what all the cool kids are wearing these days. I couldn’t work it out. But then I saw myself in the mirror one morning…


Now that I was already thinking about an aging face, I noticed what it was. I saw my face, specifically my eyes, and how tired I looked.

I had sunken bags.

I had dark circles.

I had this look of age and (wisdom) around my eyes.

So immediately, I went scouring through my partner’s makeup. She had eye creams, eye gels, eye serums, and enough moisturizers to bathe in.

In other words, I noticed that she looked after her face, including her eyes.

And I did not.

Note: For those who like watching instead of reading, here is a quick video I put together explaining much of what is covered within this article:

[sc name=”yt-lite” VID_ID=”c4LNuEAcnAU” ]

Should You Start Using Eye Care Products?

“Your eyes are the window to your soul”

   Somebody Smart

       – Michael Scott

Your eyes are the first thing people will notice about you. They’ll notice your clothes, your shoes, your walk, your laugh, but when it comes to your face, your eyes are what they’ll notice first.

So, what kind of “eye-mpression” (give me break, it’s late) are you giving them?

  • Do you get asked if you’re tired? Even though you’re on your 5th latte from Starbucks?
  • Do you notice excess skin underneath your eyes that wasn’t there last year?
  • Is there any discoloration around your eyes?

In our recent articles, I’ve been sharing about how important it is to care for your skin. BUT you should be aware that the skin underneath and around your eyes is different to the rest of your face. It needs to have special treatment.

It’s thinner and prone to age-related imperfections easily. When people look you in the eye, they’re noticing the first signs of old age that you’re showing. Your eyes will give you away every time.

And, let’s be honest, you’re a guy. Guys tend to ignore these things more than girls do. Which is why I didn’t get carded at that liquor store. It’s not that girls have a radically different skin on their face that looks healthier.

Guys just care less.

I don’t know what it is about guys (*scratches butt…casually sniffs*), but there’s something different about us. It could be that we’re lazy.

So, the short answer is ‘YES!’. You should be using some eye care products. Your eyes are prone to:

  • Crow’s Feet / Wrinkling
  • Puffiness
  • Dark circles

But how are you to know which product is which? After going through her makeup case, I found no less than 127 varieties of eye care products, each promising close to the same thing?

Well, let me help there.

man holding face wash in palm of hand

Eye Creams/Serums/Gels

Most eye care products you’ll come across will fall under these categories. It will be labelled as a

  • Cream
  • Gel
  • Serum

They’re all going to perform the same action; anti-aging of your eyes. They’ll all act on the skin around your eyes to reduce those signs of aging that has Cashier Cathy not questioning your beer purchase at the store.

There are some differences in what you’ll be applying to your skin.

Creams tend to be…

Wait for it….

Creamy! Yes, you guessed it. The eye cream has a creamy texture that applies about the same as any face cream you already own. Eye creams are an oil-based cream that feels luxurious because of all the moisture in the compound.

Eye gel is less like a cream because it’s not an oil-based substance. It’s gooey in texture and is a silicone substance that’s been suspended in water. You’ll find plenty of eye cooling gels on the market that promote clearing up puffy eyes and dark coloring. It’s not unique to the gels, but that’s what they tend to target.

Eye serums sound more scientific. They can contain a variety of medicinal and chemical compounds, but their claim is the same; eliminate those signs of aging. The consistency of the serum will be runnier and clearer than a cream. It might even come in a syringe-packaging to sell the idea of being more medical.

Eye Products Dirty Little Secret

If you click here, you’ll see that all of these products fall under the FDA category of being a ‘cosmetic’.

What does that mean?

Basically, it means that the FDA does not require an approval process to classify these products.

That’s right…

There’s no standard for what is on the label.

For you, the consumer, that means that you could be buying an eye gel, labeled as a serum, performing the same action as a cream.

It’s true!

There’s absolutely no oversight as to what constitutes a gel, a serum, or a cream.

So what should you do? How do you decide what is best to put on your delicate, thin eye skin? The best option is to look at the ingredients, and decide what you want to target.

So let’s go over those.

top down view of an amber bottle

The Active Ingredients

Although I’m not going to give you the complete list of what’s available, you should know that these key active ingredients are found in 99% of the eye care products out there.

  • RetinolRetinol is listed in many eye care products as a key ingredient to fight aging. The main compound found in retinol is vitamin A. It’s an antioxidant that you don’t need to ingest for it to work.

You’ve heard of antioxidants and the power they have to slow aging. It’s because they combat free radicals, tiny molecules that bombard your cells because they are unstable. They leech electrons from cells, prematurely aging them, and causing your skin, organs, and health to deteriorate faster. Retinol counteracts that effect, slowing it down in your skin.

  • Vitamin C – This is one of the key vitamins your body needs to remain in good health. The reason you’ll find it in almost all eye care products is because Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant agent. It slows and protects your cells from damage, either from free radicals or by building collagen. Reducing the signs of aging as well as building up healthy collagen for a fuller skin on your face makes you look youthful. Youthful people get carded at the liquor store. Even if they’re well slightly over the legal age.
  • Hydroxy Acids – By now, you should be an expert in hydroxy acids (Alpha and Beta). If not, you can click here to check out our detailed AHA vs. BHA guide to refresh your memory.Quickly, hydroxy acids are effective at cleaning out the pores around your eyes, ridding the skin of bacteria and build-up, and exfoliating the dead skin cells that make you look older. You can use hydroxy acids to get a thorough and deep clean and bring out that youthful, tighter, fresher skin underneath.
  • Tea Extracts – If you’ve heard how healthy it is to drink tea, it’s because of all the antioxidants you can find in them. Green, oolong, and black teas all contain natural and plentiful antioxidants to combat those nasty free radicals. If you see green tea listed as an ingredient, it’s not a gimmick. It’s actually a vital way to get those antioxidants to target your skin around your eyes without drinking 4 cups of it every morning.
  • Niacinamide – While being proven to work well fighting diabetes and high cholesterol, niacinamide is also a healthy way to improve the elasticity of your skin. It can be quite effective at reducing inflammation and discoloration, one of the key signs of aging. Niacin is included in skin care products that reduce the signs of acne and severe inflammation.
  • Hyalauronic Acid – This mouthful of a word is an additive that actually already exists in your body. It’s a lubricant that is found most often in your eyes and nose. Hyalauronic acid is known in skin care circles as the ‘fountain of youth’ because of its effectiveness against aging signs. It lubricates your skin and keeps it from drying out and looking worn. It also seems to apply to healing wounds and burns at a faster rate.
man applying cream to face

Why Not Just Use Face Moisturizer?

I asked myself that question at first. If there are all these creams and gels and serums, why can’t I just skip it all and moisturize really well?

Well, let me tell you why that turned out to be as wrong as I could be.

You see, in my efforts to be skeptical and save money, I thought that eye care products weren’t that necessary when I could get a fairly cheap tub of moisturizer from my local CVS.

But I forgot a couple key factors.

Most moisturizers work the way they’re intended to work on the places that they’re intended to be applied. And the smart folks at these research facilities create these moisturizers to work on the skin in your T-Zone.

The area known as the T –Zone is your forehead and down the bridge of your nose. If you squint your eyes just right, you can see how that vertical and horizontal part of your face looks like a T. It’s hard to see, but you’ll get it.

That’s where your moisturizer goes. The skin around your eyes behaves differently. It is a thinner skin. In fact, the thinnest skin on your body, so it’s going to respond differently to a generic moisturizing cream.

Also, there are so many more factors to anti-aging than simply having moisturized skin. Your eyes droop, they lack brightness, they can discolor and darken…

And moisturizer doesn’t do diddly squat for those symptoms.

They do serve a purpose though. Moisturizers are designed to be emollient and humectant. Simply put, emollient creams draw moisture into the skin and softens it. Humectants retain that moisture and prevent loss.

This is good for men.

You shave a lot (or you should), and your skin could get affected by a dry climate or dry season. Your skin needs that moisture.

Let’s Get It On Your Face

Ok, a word about application, now that you’ve decided you want to try and look as young as you actually are…or even younger.

(Reminder: I’m just going to leave this here. Your skin around your eyes is thin. Have I said that already? It is delicate and doesn’t need a heavy hand. But guys aren’t renowned for having a nimble approach and a light touch. Please be gentle when putting these creams around your eyes.)

The best time to apply an eye care product is right after you’ve cleaned up. So if you’ve applied the cleanser and you’ve gone through the process of properly cleaning your skin, you can apply the delicate and specifically produced eye cream or serum.

Take a pea-sized blob of the cream and pat it around your eyes. I would strongly advise using your pinky or ring finger to do this. They apply the lightest touch and you can be extra fine while patting it in.

Take the time to properly dab in all the cream, taking care not to rupture the delicate capillaries just underneath the skin of your eyes. Yes, you do want to make sure it’s all absorbed, but no, you don’t want to rub it in quickly and firmly. And don’t go too close to your eyes. It doesn’t work well in there.

Also, it’s a little stingy when it gets into the eyes. The area around your eyes does not have many pores, but it will seep in where it needs to go without you getting too close.

Don’t wipe off any excess. Just keep on patting the cream around the eye until it’s all in there. Just like a hand lotion, it should be completely absorbed after 20 minutes.

And that’s it!

You shouldn’t need to apply eye products more than 3-4 times a week. If it’s particularly dry where you live, or you’re trying to undo damage, apply it as part of your evening routine. But more than that actually reduces the ability of the cream or serum’s effectiveness.

man with sunglasses and thick beard on blue background

Further Eye Care

Now, while we’re on the subject of caring for your eyes and preventing the appearance of aging, let me add a couple addendums here.

Particularly, sunglasses.

Caring for your eyes and the skin around it is much easier if you’re preventing damage from happening in the first place.

A good pair of sunglasses (aviators please!) can be the key to caring for the delicate eyes and the skin surrounding it. It doesn’t have to be designer (that does look cool though), but a good pair is worth their weight in gold.

First, take those free glasses you get from the booth at the summer fair. Got them? Good. Walk them over to your garbage can and open your hand to let them fall in. That is literally the best place for these “sunglasses”, if you can even call them that.

No, get yourself a decent pair of UV-blocking glasses that reduce the UV light reaching your eyes and skin. UV light can eat away at the tissue in your eyes, causing cataracts and macular degeneration.

Also, when you are outside and not wearing sunglasses, you tend to squint. That can form those crow’s feet we were talking about earlier; the first sign of wrinkling, and old age, around your eyes.

Last Notes on Skin Care

I’m writing this assuming that you’re already interested in looking after your skin. It’s the first thing people notice about you, and the eyes play a part in helping your appearance look younger.

As always, I recommend not just using eye care products, but including them as a more holistic approach to caring for your skin.

Start off with a cleanser – any the one of the best face washes and cleansers for men listed in this article should suffice. You need a way to get rid of all the gunk and build-up that accumulates on your skin. It also gives you a clean and fresh canvas for actively preventing anything else from happening.

Exfoliating is the next most important step (check out these products designed for a man’s naturally rugged skin). This isn’t really about cleaning but a way of reducing those signs of aging that make you look tired, weary, and generally 15 years older than you actually are.

Exfoliating your skin just removes that build-up of dead skin cells. It tightens and firms your skin and exposes the healthy, younger skin that is naturally there.

And lastly, don’t forget your SPF. Sunscreen prevents the harmful UV rays from undoing all the work you’ve put into looking younger and caring for your skin. It’s nice to get a bit of Vitamin D from the sun, but it’s even nicer to look young and fresh.

There’s a reason I harp on about sunscreen all the time, and this is it. If there’s one thing that I can’t stress enough, it’s that sunscreen should just become part of your everyday routine, no matter how much (or little) you’re caring for your skin.

I hope that you choose to start using some form of eye cream, or gel, or serum, in whatever form you choose. Pay attention to the ingredients and additives in the compound you choose. Your eyes are the one part of your face that everyone is already looking at.

Give them something nicer to look at. Look after your eyes.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more.

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