Whether you splurge on luxury or shop what the high street has to offer, eye cream is one of those products we've been programmed to think will fade our dark circles, deflate any puffiness and iron away fine lines if we use it religiously.
But unlike products such as cleanser or SPF, the effectiveness of eye creams has long been debated among skin experts. In fact, at the Refinery29 x Liz Earle presents Skin Deep event last month, panellist and consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto confirmed those suspicions, and revealed that if you suffer with eye 'bags' or dark circles, eye creams are pretty much redundant.
"Most eye creams do very little other than moisturise the skin's surface and therefore temporarily plump up fine lines and wrinkles due to their hydration effects," she told R29, and it pays to know your stuff. "One thing that a lot of people don't know is that eye 'bags' or puffiness is in fact different to dark circles or shadows underneath the eye," Dr Mahto continued. "Dark circles have a number of causes, but using brightening agents around the eye such as vitamin C, as well as peptides and caffeine may help to a limited degree. If, however, the dark circles are due to a loss of facial fat underneath the eye, then no amount of topical eye cream will reduce the appearance of the shadow which may develop. This is because treatments (such as eye creams, balms or lotions) are unable to penetrate deep enough into the skin. In this case, either dermal filler (often known as 'tear trough' injections) or surgical fat transfers are likely to be an option."
And we hate to break it to you, but it seems eye creams are just as ineffective on puffiness, too. "'Bags' or puffiness is a separate issue to dark circles," said Dr Mahto, "although both problems can coexist, so the same person may have dark circles and puffiness. As we age, the skin around the eyes becomes thinner, decreasing in laxity (i.e. it becomes loose). The subcutaneous fat pad which sits under the skin also starts to become thin and starts to descend, or 'go south'. These factors can result in darkness and puffiness around the eye as fluid accumulates."
So if eye cream can't help, what will get rid of eye bags? "Lifestyle measures such as stopping smoking, reducing salt intake and ensuring a minimum of eight hours of sleep at night can help to some degree with eye bags, but topical skincare plays a limited role," said Dr Mahto. She added: "Family history, certain medications (NSAIDs – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), allergies, and underlying medical conditions (e.g. thyroid disease) can all contribute or aggravate the problem. Dermal fillers have the potential to make eye bags worse, but the 'tear trough' fillers I mentioned before should only be carried out in experienced hands, as patient selection is important. If puffiness is significant then surgical treatment (called blepharoplasty) is the only thing that will make a considerable difference to appearance."
Don't give up on treating your eye area altogether, though, because according to Dr Mahto, regular moisturising and SPF can be beneficial. "In general terms, the skin around the eye is thin and vulnerable to damage from UV radiation, pollution and the environment," she added. "Moisturising the area and wearing a regular sunscreen (she rates Heliocare 360's Gel Oil-Free SPF 50, £28) is one of the best ways of preventing damage to 'normal' skin, as well as limiting further pigmentation problems once dark circles have already developed."