How to apply eye cream

Ever wondered how to apply eye cream for the best results? Here's everything you need to know

Woman smiling and applying eye cream
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s something quite comforting and de-stressing about practicing the same beauty rituals every day; it’s as good for the skin as it is for the soul. However, it’s all too easy to go on autopilot – such is the nature of routine. As a result, we might be unaware of the common application mistakes that we could be making. One such example is exactly how we apply product – your best eye cream, for example – around the eye area.

The skin around the eye is susceptible to a range of problems that include dark circles, crow’s feet and puffy eyes. Additionally, as consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall tells us, “it has fewer oil glands and is thin, so it is more vulnerable to dry skin and dehydration. This can make the skin barrier less effective, which in turn makes the area more prone to irritation.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to use a specialist eye product though, she says. If your primary concern is dryness and you’re using a fragrance-free moisturiser formulated for sensitive skin on the rest of your face, if you want, it can be taken up a notch and used around the eyes. 

For most other skin scenarios, an eye cream is a safer and gentler bet as it’s likely to have been created with the specific sensitivities of the eye contour area in mind. Meaning it’s unlikely to include common irritants such as perfume – although you should certainly take time to carefully check its label and ingredients list before parting with your hard-earned cash. 

Whatever option you decide to go with, here’s your 5-point eye-cream application plan to help you achieve the best results.

1. Gently cleanse skin 

To allow your product of choice to shine, the skin around the eye needs to be thoroughly but carefully cleansed. Over-cleansing is a common mistake that Dr Hextall sees regularly; she recommends opting for a non-drying milk and avoiding foaming options, which can be harsh and drying. 

If you’ve been wearing makeup during the day, use a micellar water or specially formulated eye makeup remover before reaching for the richer hydrating cleanser

2. Choose your texture wisely

Opt for lightweight formulas such as serums and gels. “Avoid heavy creams that just sit on the skin,” recommends holistic therapist and facialist, Katie White.  “These can lead to puffy eyes in the morning.” It’s worth noting that if you’re particularly prone to puffiness, it can be beneficial to try avoiding eye creams altogether in the evening. 

If the skin around your eyes is especially dry (for example, in the winter), really focus on your ingredient selection. “Instead of overcompensating with too heavy a moisturiser, we should be thinking about how we hydrate the skin,” explains Dr Hextall. “Be smart with it. For example, ceramides are great for strengthening the skin barrier and long-term hydration, shea butter is very similar to the fats in our skin, while hyaluronic acid holds up to a 1000 times its weight in water, which is great for attracting moisture. Adopt a multilayered approach.”

Swoosh of skincare cream

(Image credit: Getty images)

3. Apply eye cream after cleansing

If you apply your other products before your eye cream, you risk them getting onto the eye area and preventing it from being fully absorbed. 

Another benefit of applying a hydrating eye product first is that it can protect the eye contour from irritation caused by the stronger active ingredients in your skincare routine. “If you’re using a prescription-strength retinoid for acne on your chin, for example, it may creep over to the eye area during the night,” explains Dr Hextall. And it’s not just what you intentionally put on your face; if you touch your eyes while sleeping, irritative ingredients in a hand cream could potentially transfer over. In either of these scenarios, eye cream can act as a sort of semi-barrier to possible discomfort. 

If you’re using an eye cream or a safe-for-the-eye-area face serum containing active ingredients – such as a retinoid or vitamin C – consider applying a hydrating eye cream or fragrance-free face moisturiser for sensitive skin underneath, as well as on top of it half an hour afterwards. This can lessen the sting of the actives and, if new to your regime, can help increase your tolerance to them.

4. Use a pea-sized amount of product – maximum

It’s true: a little really does go a long way, so apply a less-is-more attitude when it comes to eye cream, as using too much can lead to puffiness. Blend your chosen product together using your fingertips and dot it onto the line of the orbit (meaning the bone that forms your eye socket, or the area that your sunglasses would usually cover). 

5. Gently pat it on with your ring finger

On delicate skin you need a gentle touch. As, according to Katie, the ring finger is “the lightest finger,” you should use this digit to “press, rather than rub, the product in.”

For those of you who wake up with puffy eyes frequently, you can opt to (very) delicately massage your eye cream in to stimulate lymphatic drainage around the area. “Gently sweep skin from the inner corner outwards,” recommends Dr Hextall. Follow up with a cooling eye pack if needed for an extra swelling-reducing boost.