Forget fancy packaging or unrealistic promises, this straight-shooting serum is all about achievable results on tired eyes
Powerful depuffing and brightening
Very good value
Functional, rather than indulgent
By Fiona McKim
If you’re already familiar with The Ordinary, then the name, price and packaging of their stab at making the best eye cream will come as no surprise. The Deciem-owned brand specialises in targeted skincare named after its star ingredient at “How can they do it?” prices.
If you aren’t acquainted with this brand, you probably looked at this clinical little bottle and wondered what on earth it’s even for. Not only does its name contain percentages and an acronym that’s likely to be unfamiliar, it doesn’t even have the word “eye” on it.
First impressions aside, this could actually be the eye treatment of your dreams, thanks to a formulation centred around two very effective active ingredients: 5% pure caffeine and epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside – that’s the EGCG bit and is a form of green tea polyphenol with powerful antioxidant properties. The inclusion of hyaluronic acid and glycerin result in a very well-rounded formula to hydrate, tackle puffy eyes and brighten at an almost laughably low price.
That’s all the good stuff; the flipside of this is don’t expect a luxurious texture, lovely scent or show-it-off packaging. You might also need to swot up on skincare ingredients to know if this is right for you – this is a brand that expects you to put in a bit of research and earn that considerable skincare bang for your buck.
At a glance
Targets: Puffiness, dark circles, fine lines
Star ingredients: Caffeine, epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside, hyaluronic acid (HA)
Caffeine is the star of the show here, which, according to the buzz, works in much the same way when applied topically as it does sipped from a steamy mug. Wake up all tired and puffy and sluggish-looking, apply caffeine to the eye contour and it’ll perk your skin right up, or so says the hype.
In truth, caffeine doesn’t magically firm up tired eyes. In fact, no topical ingredient can instantly tighten skin, so don’t believe products that claim otherwise. But it can stimulate microcirculation, which brings helpful nutrients and oxygen to the area, and boosts vasoconstriction (the tightening of blood vessels), which can help depuff as well as diminish blue-toned blood showing through the skin, a major cause of dark circles. It also works as an antiinflammatory and has antioxidant benefits, which protect the skin from environmental damage, associated dullness, pigmentation and collagen degradation.
Further antioxidant fun comes courtesy of EGCG, which is a polyphenol from green tea and known to be one of the most well-researched and non-irritating antioxidants around. This will help defend the skin from the ageing effects of free radicals from pollution and UV. This means that dark circles caused by environmental damage can be gradually reduced. As with almost all skin improvements, this is a long game, so stick with it for at least a month if you want to see results.
Although Caffeine Solution 5% EGCG does not bill itself as a hydrating or nourishing product, it does include hyaluronic acid, a line-plumping ingredient, and glycerin to soften the skin.
Texture and immediate effects
This is probably not a product you would buy for its texture. That’s not to say there is anything deeply unpleasant about it, but a gorgeous buttery-rich cream it is not. Instead, The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% EGCG is a slippery serum that dispenses in little viscose droplets and feels a touch sticky for a moment after you rub it in. That tackiness is very much par for the course when it comes to products containing high-ish concentrations of hyaluronic acid and does abate after a minute.
After that, you’ll be left with a fresh, lightweight layer that’s a little bit cooling – very pleasant indeed on puffy morning eyes that have a tendency to feel a bit hot and irritable. You can expect a subtle line-plumping effect from that hyaluronic acid and a refreshing sensation of perky firmness. As The Ordinary will be first to tell you themselves, this is not a product that will instantly magic away deep bags or hollow dark circles, but caffeine is best employed with a little-and-often approach. Use it consistently twice a day and you can expect subtle but tangible results on the worst of your morning shadows and puffiness.
As with the majority of The Ordinary’s products, this comes in a very functional UV-proof glass dropper bottle. This ensures the active ingredients are not destabilised by light and avoids any hygiene issues from open jars and repeated finger-dipping. The pipette also sends out perfectly sized little drops for each eye, so you needn't worry about overloading the thin skin in this area.
The box and bottle design is clinical, rather than aspirational. This will appeal to those who like their skincare on the scientific side and find overtly glamorous or girly products a turn-off. If dressing-table appeal is important to you, then the ever-so-slightly complicated product labelling still comes with its own cachet – this looks like skincare for people who really know their stuff.
Also (lest it has slipped your mind), this product costs under £6. At that price, who really cares about a designer brand name, fancy fragrance or sexy gold jar anyway?
Who should buy The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% EGCG eye cream?
Anyone who wants effective skincare for their eyes but doesn’t have vast amounts of money to spend. The Ordinary is almost always the first skincare brand I recommend to students or anyone else on a budget, with just about every product they offer coming in under £10.
This brand also has a pleasing zero-tolerance strategy on beauty BS – meaning it clearly tells you what it can and can’t do. Case in point: on the product description for Caffeine Solution 5% EGCG, the notes point out that it will not help with hollowness in the eye contour or fat deposits in the eye contour. You might find this off-putting or, like me, you might find it pleasingly refreshing. There is a limit to what topical products can achieve and personally I respect any skincare brand that acknowledges this, rather than peddling snake oil for the sake of a quick buck.
In terms of results, if puffiness, dark shadows or generally tired-looking eyes are your main concern, then this could be a great choice. Its unusual texture, which is closer to a serum than a traditional eye product, would be welcomed by anyone who prefers lightweight formulas to rich creams. For this reason, normal to oily skin types, rather than those with severely dry or dehydrated skin around the eyes, will find this a good fit.
As I mentioned before, this is a brand that demands a little bit of knowledge, or at least the desire to amass some knowledge in order to get your head around what to buy. For that reason, if you are a complete newcomer to skincare or someone who just wants a lovely pot of cream without a lesson in cosmetic chemistry on the side, this might not be for you.
As woman&home's Senior Beauty Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant beauty find on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair dye experiments and cute shih-tzus)
Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013, working under legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know about the industry (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism).
In a previous life, Fiona studied journalism back home in bonnie Scotland and honed her skills as a magazine features writer, with a brief and terrifying stint on the showbiz gossip pages of a tabloid newspaper in between. She's a skincare fanatic who can’t resist adding an extra step to her routine if it’s all the rage in Japan, loves fragrance, has fun with makeup and never turns down the chance to test a new hair tool. Basically, she loves it all.
When not slathering herself in self tan or squinting at a tiny ingredients list on a moisturiser, you’ll probably find Fiona enjoying something to do with food - cooking it, eating it, cajoling her friends into trekking across London to try a hyped pop-up in a dirty car park.
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