What is the best anti-aging eye cream that’s cruelty free & not too expensive out there? I have lots of fine lines, puffy eyes, and dark circles. Nothing works as well as it claims to work.

I’m sorry to hear that you have been a bit underwhelmed by the creams you have tried. I can give you a few pointers to help you select something that is more likely to work. When you are searching for a product keep in mind what it is you want to achieve and don’t let the marketing take you down a ‘rabbit-hole’.

Anti-ageing isn’t really a ‘thing’, so don’t select something because it has that on the label. Ageing is a process, whether we enjoy it or not! This is just a term used to market products to people worried about the lines that say they are no longer 20. Cruelty-Free is also a bit misleading; it implies other brands are all fine with a bit of cruelty! Even if the people making the cream want you to know that they are definitely not cruel, it doesn’t tell you anything about whether their cream will work.

In terms of animal testing - it is illegal to test cosmetics in EC, UK, India, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, South Korea, Turkey and many more. Some companies use the logos of organisations, like the Humane Society or Cruelty Free International. The cosmetic company pays to use these logos, after they have completed questions about their supply-line and production, to ensure they are not buying raw materials from somewhere that animal testing is still legal. So, the logos are worth looking for, but not everyone with the same responsible attitude can afford to subscribe and none of the countries mentioned (40 countries worldwide) permit animal cruelty in cosmetic manufacture anyway.

If you have been applying ‘eye creams’ made especially for puffy eyes, lines around eyes and dark circles, don’t, especially if you are paying more for it because it is an eye cream. The skin around your eyes is thinner than anywhere else, so what is underneath the top layer is more evident that in other places. You don’t need to buy a special cream, just put on a good moisturiser or serum with gentle, dabbing strokes around the eyes. It’s important not to rub it in too hard or on the lids, but providing you choose the right ingredients, from a reputable manufacturer, it should help. But remember that you are looking to improve three things here: puffiness, darkened skin and lines - the same ingredient is unlikely to sort them all, so you may have to address them separately.

Dark circles can be caused by iron-deficient anaemia, dehydration, lack of sleep, poor circulation or it can be simply hereditary. Look at the people you are related to, if they have them, this might be something you have to learn to accommodate. These can often be improved though (even whole family bags!), but maybe not eradicated entirely. So, before spending money, make sure you are drinking enough water, getting the sleep you need, taking exercise and that you are eating a diet rich in important vitamins, minerals and iron. Trials have shown that when the blood, and therefore the skin, is saturated with vitamin C, applying it topically probably doesn’t do much. It seems to work best on people who are older aren’t getting an optimum amount in their diet.

Now I make moisturisers… so I believe they make a difference, I just don’t believe they are the only way to improve skin. So for the same reason, I can’t recommend a brand, but I can suggest what should help, in terms of ingredients and you can then choose a brand that seems worthy of the investment. Remember that most useful ingredients don’t need to be applied at 10% concentration, many work best at lower levels - but they also won’t do much at 0.01% either - and it can be written on the jar if it has even a drop in there. So, with most of these, you want to find it listed above the preservative, but it doesn’t need to be the first ingredient on the list. If in doubt, ask the maker - they should be pleased to tell you.

For the darkened areas of skin, having already put right any deficiency that might be there, you can see some improvement with kojic acid, alpha-arbutin and liquorice root. You don’t need a high percentage - especially not around the eyes, and they can all make your skin more sensitive to UV light - so put on a broad spectrum sun-cream if the sun is out. They work by blocking the melanin production and fading the melanin already on the skin’s surface. So you need to be patient, 2–3 weeks for the surface lightening, but 4 - 6 months to see the effects of the tyrosinase-inhibition, deeper down in the skin. It is worth sticking with it.

If the lines are a lot worse than say ten years ago, or more pronounced than people of the same age, then you may have some inflammation issues and dryness. (Areas of skin can be dry even if there are oily area too). So a really good combination of hyaluronic acid with the salt, sodium hyaluronate, aloe vera extract or juice and colloidal oats - (both are very soothing), glycerine, niacinamide and glutamine, frankincense oleoresin (this contains Boswellic acid - not in the essential oil). They are beneficial to dry, inflamed skin and have demonstrated effectiveness, in double blind trials, in improving lines and elasticity. If you can afford it, CoQ10 is a nice addition and good quality peptides can help restore some firmness and elasticity to skin. Then look for light oils like rice, hemp seed, borage seed, apricot. Rose, green tea, chamomile and evening primrose extracts can all help inflammation and repair damage.

The puffiness is more tricky. Again, if medical reasons are ruled out and your diet and hydration are good, then look for any of the following, which have some anti-inflammatory properties: cornflower hydrosol or extract (this is often used for conjunctivitis), rose, algae, honeysuckle or yarrow. I would treat this problem separately and actually soak a cotton wool pad in one of these hydrosols, as cool as you can get them and place than on your eyelids. Let them do their thing for 5 to 15 minutes at the end of the day and for at least a minute or two when you wake. When that is done, you could apply any of the same plants as an extract.

A light serum may be the best option, but even a thick cream can be used. Just mix it with a bit of aloe vera gel, to thin it out for the eye area.

Keep your expectations set to medium and be prepared for this to take some time and effort, but you should see a noticeable improvement if you are prepared to search for the right ingredients, made by someone who knows what they are doing.


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