The skin around the eye is the most delicate, sensitive area on our body and especially prone to the effects of ageing. Exposure to UV radiation from the sun, smoking, stress, hormonal changes and the natural deterioration of the collagen and elastin in our skin, leads to the permanent wrinkles, bags and dark circles that develop around the eye. The use of cosmetics has accelerated dramatically in the 20th Century, with the commercial marketing of an increasingly diverse array of products. These include anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle creams for the face and eye area. Synthetic, chemical based cosmetics are increasingly linked to allergies and skin conditions such as eczema, acne, dermatitis and psoriasis. This has led to an increased demand for naturally derived products, usually identified by an organic or natural skin care label.
Topical face creams are a mixture of chemicals, typically an emulsion i.e. a mixture of oil and water. Active ingredients (natural or synthetic substances) are responsible for the action of the product for e.g. an antioxidant, whilst inactive ingredients help deliver the active ingredients to the skin, for e.g. a base oil. There are a plethora of products on the market, many with firming, anti-wrinkle or anti-ageing claims. An effective eye cream should not add unnecessary oils to the skin and allow your skin to breathe.
Common ingredients in commercial products include:
- Retinol (vitamin A) - a firming agent, side effects include sun sensitivity
- Alpha hydroxy acids - an exfoliant, with side effects that include skin sensitivity
- Collagen - a very common firming agent, though it cannot be absorbed by the skin
- Caffeine - a firming agent
- Copper - a firming agent
The cosmetic industry is a potentially lucrative market, so take the time to see what is in the product before you purchase it! One way to do this is to examine the ingredients on the product label. Some chemical ingredients are in products because they are cheaper than the natural alternative. Here are some that should be avoided in an eye cream:
- Mineral oil - this may appear as liquid paraffin, paraffin wax or petrolatum on a product label. Mineral oil clogs the pores and may cause acne and/or irritation due to the skins inability to breathe. Paraffin is linked to carcinogens
- Alcohols - this may appear as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol or isopropyl on a product label and causes excessive drying of the skin
- Parabens - these are preservatives which can cause irritation/dermatitis. They are increasingly thought to be toxic and potentially harmful
- Dioxanea - a synthetic derivative of coconut, which is a peroxide, thought to be a carcinogenic and an eye irritant
- Fragrances - an unnecessary irritant in an eye cream
Look for the following ingredients when shopping for your next eye cream. They are some of the many naturally sourced ingredients found in modern natural eye care products.
- Vitamin C - a powerful antioxidant
- vitamin E - a powerful antioxidant
- vitamin K - preliminary studies have found that this cream may help with dark circles around the eye
- grapeseed oil - suitable for oily skin types, grapeseed extract is a natural antibiotic that contains antioxidant pigments that help to strengthen blood vessels
- wheat germ oil - a versatile oil for general skin, high in many vitamins and minerals and often used as a natural preservative
- horsetail extract - plumps up the skin, an alternative to collagen based products
- avocado oil - suitable for dry skin types
- sesame oil - a natural sunscreen
- peanut oil - suitable for dry skin types
- shea butter - a natural sunscreen
- jojoba oil - suitable for oily skin types
- kojic acid - a bleaching agent to reduce dark circles, useful for dark circles around the eyes
- bitter orange extract - a preservative
- olive leaf extract - a preservative
- wakame - an extract from Japanese sea kelp that is a skin detoxifier and toner
- Coenzyme Q10 - an antioxidant that is increasing in popularity. It is a small molecule that can easily penetrate skin cells to repair and regenerate skin tissue
Always test a product on skin (away from your eyes) to determine whether it is receptive to the active ingredients. Any face product should be applied to a warm, cleansed, moisturised skin. Also look for products that have genuine organic certification from a nationally or internationally recognized body. This will ensure the integrity of any ingredients in the product. Prevention is the best cure! Wear sun block, UV protection sun glasses and a hat when you are outdoors. This in combination with a balanced diet, that includes daily intakes of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help your skin retain its condition. Consult your local beauty therapist or dermatologist if you have concerns about your skin.