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Eye cream really divides opinion in the beauty world. Some people swear by it (the usual argument being that skin around the eyes is different – thinner – than elsewhere and so you want a dedicated formula to suit) and some people think that you should just use whatever you’re using on your face and take it right up around the eyes. Why spend on a separate product that is going to do virtually the same thing, especially when eye creams are notoriously more expensive per ml than the equivalent face version?

I have now been in both camps. I started off very firmly in the Eye Cream Supporters Team, defected to the other side for a while and then meekly crept on back to my original people hoping they’d never notice I’d left.

I had been a solidly pro-eye cream since my modelling days. I used to love the way that the makeup artists would pat-pat-pat it in, give it a little de-puffing massagery, take it lightly onto the lids, push up the eyebrows to waken you up and give everything a little lift. And of course they could have done this whole routine using a face cream, and often did, but it was notable that they gave such care and attention to the eye area. And that’s because if there’s one place that’s going to look haggard/hungover first then it’s around the eyes.

The skin is thinner, the area is altogether more delicate – prone to puffiness, to circles, to sensitivity. Which brings me onto my next pro-eye cream argument: formulation. The eye needs are significantly different to the face needs, a lot of the time. You can have puffy eyes when the rest of your face looks fine. Why would you de-puff the whole thing with a cooling gel? The eyes will be fine but the face will feel tight and uncomfortable. You might want to blast your face with high-strength retinoid, but that same product under the eyes might be drying or too strong to tolerate.

And so there you have, in a nutshell, my two main reasons for using a dedicated eye cream: application, formulation. If I use a separate product then for some unfathomable reason it does make me pay particular attention to the way that I pat-pat-slide the product on. If I just treat my eye area as another part of my face then I don’t tend to do any sort of special love, I just sweep over it at the same time as my cheeks. It’s a cheek extension.

And if I have an eye cream with the perfect formulation, day in, day out, for my eye area then why would I not use that? Then the rest of my face can do what it wants – be radically exfoliated, be filled to bursting with hyaluronic acid, be self-tanned or retinoided – and my eyes will have a steady, appropriate treatment that tackles whatever the concern might be. For me it’s fine lines and, er, deeper lines. Lines, basically.

The reason I defected to the anti-eye-cream camp, momentarily? Research. And laziness. I was honing my routine (morning: vitamin c serum/moisturiser/SPF, evening: retinoid every other night, or hydrating serum/moisturiser on the “off” days) and the eye cream seemed a step too many. (Never mind all of these mists and essences that are all the rage: I simply cannot see how they could have much more benefit than a good serum and moisturiser combo. Maybe that’s my next bit of research.)

So I started using whatever face stuff I had to hand all over rather than using an eye cream and then the serum, moisturiser, whatever. But I’ll tell you what started happening, and I noticed this after around three months or so: my eyes were significantly more crepey and dry. It was a marked difference. And I realised that not only was I not really taking the products into the eye area with the same thoroughness as I would a separate eye cream (really tired of typing eye cream at this point, please make it stop), if I used a strong retinoid or an exfoliating face product then I was missing out the eye area almost completely!

And so, without really realising it, I had gone from giving my eyes a twice-daily mini-facial of their own to giving them…not much at all. My eye cream routine was a (little ten second) workout, my “eyes as part of a face” routine was the equivalent to doing no exercise whatsoever. Walking to the car from the front door. Some effect, but really, negligible.

I’m back using an eye cream, safe to say. Every night, at the very least. Sometimes in the morning I skip it, because I am far more pressed for time and my eyes tolerate vitamin c serum very well anyway, so it’s not so much of an issue. But in the evening: eye cream ahoy. And it’s almost always one with retinol. Why? Well. It’s pretty much the top rung of the ingredients ladder and, when it comes to eye creams, you can almost guarantee that the retinol will be easily tolerated and the formula gentle. So if you’re seeing fine lines creeping in around the eyes, the skin is starting to crease or go fine and papery, then retinol is your friend. Smoothing, firming, plumping. Won’t help massively if puffiness is your problem, but there are great eye creams for that, too. That’s a whole separate post, when I’ve recovered from having to type out “eye cream” so many times.

Here are three retinol eye products worth the spend:

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Olay Retinol Max Eye Cream – £44 but currently £19.55 at Amazon here*: a beautifully formulated, non-greasy eye cream that absolutely does the trick if you want to see a difference in skin texture. Olay test to the high heavens to make sure that products are easy to use and suitable for the mass market so you can be pretty sure you’re not going to make your eyes fall out with this one. Though start carefully – once every few nights – just to ease yourself in.

Beauty Pie Super Retinol Eye Cream, £13 with membership here*: this contains slow-release retinol and loads of hydrating ingredients so it’s a comfortable cream that’s nourishing in feel but – like Olay’s – non-greasy. Use the code RUTHSENTME for money off annual membership – you can find out more on how the membership works here*.

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum, £82 here*: the priciest option, but Murad really go to town with their retinol range, combining three types of retinol and formulating a product that is as effective as humanly possible whilst minimising adverse reactions. The eye serum (which feels more of a light cream) can be used all around the eyes and on the lids. Seems slightly weird and scary, but I have tested that claim thoroughly and it’s fine and it works. Bravo. It’s a very good investment, if you can make it.

Here’s a video of me saying all of the above:

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