At What Age Should You Start Using Eye Cream?

Once upon a time, 10-step skincare regimens were everywhere, overflowing our medicine cabinets with products while draining our bank accounts. The options for cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and face masks were dizzying, and now you might be left wondering which skincare steps are actually necessary — and which are okay to skip.

While many have ditched their lengthy routines in recent years, according to Vox, eye cream is one staple that is here to stay. That doesn't mean that these creams aren't without controversy, though. One of the longest-running debates in the world of skincare is whether or not it's okay to use moisturizer in place of eye cream, or just skip the eye area altogether when applying products. But as dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian told The New York Times, specific concerns like dryness or puffiness around the eyes warrant a little help from a specially formulated product. And because this skin is extra sensitive, regular moisturizer likely won't cut it.

Still, eye creams aren't one-size-fits-all, and the decision to add them into a skincare routine can depend on several factors, including age.

Reasons to start using eye cream

First, before deciding what kind of eye cream you should use and at what age, it's important to understand the biggest reasons for investing in one in the first place. Dermatologist Dr. Craig Kraffert told Forbes that the skin around the eyes is much thinner than other areas of the face. Additionally, this skin experiences much more movement when we use our muscles to smile, squint, and make other facial expressions. These two factors contribute to more wrinkles and fine lines around the eyes.

Skincare brand Fleur & Bee also explains that the skin surrounding the eyes also doesn't produce as much oil as the rest of the face, making it especially prone to dryness — and that, too, can cause wrinkles over time.

Eye creams are formulated to target this unique, delicate skin, offering hydration while smoothing out fine lines. It's worth noting, though, that eye creams aren't miracle potions, and there are some skin concerns that they can't help. For example, eye creams may not nix hereditary or lifestyle-related eye bags or circles (per Healthline).

Here's when to start using eye cream

Since eye cream is best known for treating unwanted wrinkles and fine lines, it's easy to assume it's unnecessary until later in life. But not so fast — eye creams can be beneficial for a wide range of ages. The experts at apothecary brand C.O. Bigelow suggest using eye cream as early as possible because its efficacy relies on prevention just as much as treatment. In other words, even if you don't have wrinkles yet, using eye creams now can do wonders for your skin later. Esthetician Renee Rouleau agrees, telling Bustle that it's best to start using a lightweight cream as early as age 20.

When it comes to incorporating eye cream in a skincare routine, the verdict is generally the earlier the better. But is it ever too late to start using eye cream? Research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology shows that eye creams can improve the appearance of deep wrinkles, such as crow's feet, proving their anti-aging benefits even after lines and grooves have already set in the skin.

What ingredients to look for by age

Eye creams are useful at almost any age, but that doesn't mean every age group should be using the same kind. Just as people outgrow their old face wash or update their serum lineup as their skin changes, eye creams can be swapped out depending on age too.

People in their 20s might be tempted to hop on a TikTok eye cream trend, but a better bet is to look for products formulated specifically for the eyes containing brightening ingredients like vitamin C or caffeine (per DermStore). Both work to hide the evidence of long overtime hours or late nights out.

For eye cream newbies in their 30s, Deirdre Hooper, M.D., told Well+Good that it's best to look for growth factors and peptides, which help to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. Meanwhile, people in their 40s should consider retinoids for a more potent kick of collagen.

For those in their 50s and beyond, The Derm Review recommends looking for retinoids in addition to hydrating hyaluronic acid and glycerin. The added moisture from these ingredients will save dry skin around the eyes.

How to use eye cream

Whether you're 20 years old or 60, now's a good time to start using eye cream if you haven't already. But if you're new to using them in your skincare routine, there are a few things to know before slathering one on.

Firstly, though eye creams are called eye creams, there are also eye gels that deliver the same beneficial ingredients but in a lighter formulation. Skincare company Paula's Choice suggests using an eye gel in the morning and a richer eye cream at night. For those with chronically dry skin, an eye cream might be a safer choice all day, while those with oily skin may find that a gel is best for both morning and night.

When applying eye products, it's important to be gentle to avoid damaging delicate skin. According to dermatologist Michele Green (via Everyday Health), try using the finger with the lightest touch, such as your pinky or ring finger, to carefully dab on eye cream. Don't smear or rub — this could cause more wrinkles and skin sagging over time.

Other ways to boost skin around the eyes

An eye cream can lock in moisture, protect the skin, and prevent signs of aging around the eyes — but eye cream alone can't do it all. One of the best steps to take at any age is to shield the eye area from the sun. Crow's feet and age spots around the eyes are signs of sun damage, according to WebMD. While eye cream can mitigate these concerns, they're no match for SPF and big sunglasses.

For bags and dark circles, going to bed a little earlier to get a good night's rest can help. The Derm Review also notes that taking over-the-counter antihistamines could reduce under-eye circles caused by allergies.

For pesky eye bags, an adjustment to your diet might be the key. Johns Hopkins Medicine says that sodium is one culprit for puffy eyes, so it's best to lay off the saltshaker and drink plenty of water instead.