You may wonder what precipitated this current flurry - nay, frenzy - of research. And actually there was a reason, though I also had to dig quite deep to figure it out. Firstly, the recent business with my finger meant I lost out on over two weeks' work, so had time to twiddle my thumbs, which luckily have full mobility. Though to be fair, doing the washing up without getting the affected finger wet is taking up a ridiculous amount of my day, and all chores are proving more tricky and time-consuming indeed. But I suddenly had a tract of time I was not expecting, and which I could devote to research.
As for why I chose to go mad on this particular topic, it was prompted by a casual comment from my local pharmacist to the effect that I may need to have a medication review with the doctor's surgery to which I recently switched, before I can be prescribed further supplies of antibiotics for my rosacea- and acne-prone skin.
So the mere thought that my customary safety net of 'big gun medication' might be removed - and having some sympathy for that decision, for who knows what decimation the drugs may be wreaking on the delicate ecosystem that is my gut flora ;) - I decided to investigate the very best regimes that could help me look after my skin in the absence of a more heavyweight solution.
It wasn't easy, I should say, right off the bat. I have googled and googled - deep into pages 4 or 5 on any given search term, and studied each citation with interest. I have watched endless videos by Sali Hughes and Lisa Eldridge (who are both fab); I have read posts galore by other beauty bloggers, including the formidable Caroline Hirons. Following a tip off from Olfactoria I have browsed the highly scientific website of Paula Begoun, a veritable Oprah Winfrey of the US skincare scene. Then I also had an email exchange with Katie Puckrik, who gave me the topline on her own skincare MO, and mentioned a couple of her favourite products. I also read the famous book by Leslie Baumann, 'The Skin Type Solution', which reader AnnieA commended to me in a comment on an earlier Bonkers post. It didn't take long to establish that I am an OSPW type (Oily, Sensitive, Pigmented & Wrinkled). Arrggh!
None of which is directly related to eyes, I hear you say. Which is true, and if I ever go on to write about suitable cleansers and moisturisers for OSPWs, anyone with fundamentally different skin characteristics may wish to skip that post. Though some of the best products I found are in fact 'broad spectrum' in their benefits, to borrow an antibiotic term for a moment. One thing led to another, basically, and the discoveries about eye care were pretty startling! To someone like me anyway, who has clearly been living under a rock.
And the most striking thing about my inquiries generally was the sheer, dizzying, hyper-segmented diversity of the skincare market. It has exploded beyond all recognition since my childhood, when an opaque tub of Nivea or Astral and the iconic green and white pot of Pond's Cold Cream were the mainstay of our mothers' beauty regimes. It is so deeply, bafflingly scientific nowadays, and the Internet is rife with conflicting information. If you are the sort of person who is likely to find inconclusive research a stressful waste of time, I would counsel you not to undertake any in the skincare sphere, for it nearly drove me over the edge....
You need toner; you don't need toner...fragrance is pleasant and soothing; fragrance is a sneaky way to disguise shoddy ingredients...'you get what you pay for', or cheap doesn't have to mean 'cheap and nasty'...SPF50 is the gold standard sunscreen; SPF30 is better because the sun is a good source of Vitamin D...moisturisers with SPF built-in are a good idea - or a lazy, inferior choice... facial oils make oily skins oily, or oils are good for everyone......foaming gels are good for acne, or they dry the skin out unduly....splash your face with cold water; splash your face with tepid water...you need a separate eye cream; eye creams are a waste of money (see below). If I had a quid for every flagrant contradiction I encountered in my reading, I could afford a resident dermatologist. And someone to do the washing up!
'Orbital "eye bypass" cream'
The biggest paradox I stumbled upon was to do with eye creams. In the past I have often noticed on pots of day cream the warning 'avoid the eye area'**. For the longest time I thought that was synonymous with 'avoid contact with eyes', as in 'don't get this stuff in your eye', but it is only relatively recently that I learnt that in the case of day creams, the whole area in and around the eye should be given a wide berth, and that specially formulated eye creams were designed to be more suited to the thin and ultra-sensitive skin here. Though that premise is disputed by some beauty experts in a YDMMV (Your Dermatological Mileage May Vary) kind of a way, including by Sali Hughes herself.
"I'm not convinced that eye cream is anything more than a tiny pot of anti-ageing moisturiser (which I like, by the way), and I don't think all skins need the extra product and considerable financial outlay."
And whether you believe they are more marketing hype than not, who knew eye creams ALSO shouldn't actually be used in the eye area?! Well, most of it, anyway. This bombshell has yet to 'sink in' in fact. I had not twigged that according to 'lid hydration best practice' - which I didn't even know existed as a concept either till this week - you should never put eye serums or moisturisers on your actual eyelids, or the crepey stretchy bit just above (which some readers may know as their 'upper eyelids'). Or, for that matter, on the skin immediately below the eyelashes, but rather follow the orbital bone structure of your eye socket and bypass the eye itself completely.
The idea is that if you dot the cream or serum on the bone well away from the eye itself the cream will migrate to where it needs to go. You need to use your weakest finger for the purpose (typically your ring finger), and blend the dots in in a clockwise motion for the right eye and an anti-clockwise one for the left. This is in order to avoid stretching the super thin skin around the eye, thereby completely negating the effects of using a restorative product in the first place. Too rough a touch, and you might even precipitate the creation of new wrinkles. Actually, the idea of blending is also hotly contested. Some people say that dotting and tapping only is the way to go.
Now I am sure that to the vast majority of readers, especially those in the US who have recourse to dermatologists - an all but unknown breed of healthcare professionals over here, outside of Harley Street, maybe - none of this is news, but it was a staggering revelation to me! For when you buy a mass or mid-market moisturiser completely unaided by a sales assistant, the information on the pack simply does not clarify this point about the correct deployment of eye cream. No indeedy. It was only in the act of buying an expensive eye serum in Boots that the Estee Lauder sales consultant happened to volunteer this nugget of information about the orbital blobbing technique - I wouldn't have had the first clue where to put the serum otherwise, and would doubtless have slapped it all over my eyelids, as I have done with pretty much everything else that looks remotely emollient. Though not SPF-containing products anymore, thanks to a recent tip off from Undina in a comment on my post about Aldi's Lacura range.
|Some of my motley collection of day creams - pre-research|
Yes, I gather now that if the cream gets applied directly to the eyelid and immediate vicinity, it may irritate for starters, and there was some (admittedly rather apocalyptic) talk about eye creams transferring to the eyeball, singleblobbedly forming under-eye bags and taking up permanent residence - and causing swelling - in eyelids. Plastic surgeons performing eyelift surgery were said to have discovered gunky deposits of eye cream in the course of doing their procedures. This could be true or scaremongering by the manufacturers, fearful of claims from people who have stung their eyes on account of creams having been applied so close to the eye itself. Me, I am going to avoid the eyelids from now on and see how I go, if it is not too late to reform my ways. And eye cream in my view should be renamed: 'Orbital "eye bypass" cream'.
(**So I just reread the instructions on some of the many day creams I have accumulated in recent years. Two say 'avoiding the eye area', while a further three say 'avoid contact with eyes', which as I have established above, is not the same thing at all. One was more explicit, with 'avoid direct application into the eye'. FOUR just say 'apply to face and neck'. Well, hey - are eyes not part of one's face? They were the last time I looked in the mirror. One - Astral (which appears to have missed the photo shoot) - calls itself an 'all over moisturiser' and claims to provide 'all the intense moisturing care your skin needs'. So just based on that small straw poll, you can see why I might have been confused.)
|My shameful stash of facial wipes|
Wiping wipes off the face of the earth
And here is the other area of skin maintenance where I have been going wrong all my life - using wipes to remove make up from the delicate eye area. Wipes - with their often harsh formulae, rough textures, resultant pulling and incomplete cleansing action - are the abomination of make up artists and beauty experts, for all but emergency and in-flight scenarios. Yup, I am afraid that my own chronic use of wipes to take off eye makeup has been so cavalier and rufty tufty as to be tantamount to dragging my face through a hedge backwards. Moreover I have stockpiled a load of packets of wipes that were on offer - probably at least 3-4 months' worth! They are mostly by the brand Simple, whose products are generally well regarded in the budget category, but they remain wipes and hence are still off-limits. I do also possess a Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish set, and should be using that for makeup removal as well as my morning cleanse it seems. At least I was doing something right! The watchword generally on the beauty blogs is to use a gentle product - even for oily skins - and to take makeup / dirt off with a hot muslin cloth or impregnated cotton wool pads. And to do so in such as way as to minimize tugging of any kind...
|Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish|
Now I haven't tried all the products for eyes which my research threw up, but here is a tiny(!) list of products I have ordered or am already using, plus a few promising-sounding things to investigate. Though I must use up some of those wipes first!
Eye serum (day / night) - Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum Synchronized Complex II (currently using).
Eye cream (day / night) - at the moment I only possess sundry Crème de la Mer samples Blacknall kindly gave me in a swap package (eg Baume de la Mer, Emulsion de la Mer), so I will carry on using these all up. Additionally I do have my eye on Boots Botanics 80% Organic Hydrating Eye Cream - which Lisa Eldridge cites as a cheaper alternative to Kiehl's Eye Treatment with Avocado - and I have also come across multiple recommendations for Eucerin Hyaluron Filler Eye Treatment and Eyes It's Potent! by Benefit. I would be very open to further suggestions here, as I haven't properly eyeballed this category by any means. ;)
Cleansers suitable for the eye area (also to take off makeup) - Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, Bioderma Sensibio (a Lisa Eldridge recommendation which I have ordered), Clinique Take The Day Off Balm Cleanser (recommended by a friend, and also well rated on blogs).
There is one eye-related procedural conundrum I haven't cracked yet. Short of wearing prescription sunglasses - as Katie Puckrik favours - I don't know how to go about applying SPF protection to the eye area without provoking another stinging episode. And I am also not sure I would be brave enough to use a retinol cream near the eye without medical supervision!
|My hotchpotch collection of skincare samples|
Yes, this post has been more about my methodological epiphany than about recommending the perfect skincare products for eyes, not least because everyone is different. And I may in fact be the only person in the world who didn't know that you should put dots of cream around your eye and give wipes a miss. But if anyone would like to share their favourite eyecare finds, that would actually advance the cause of skincare wisdom - or eye lore...a bit further. That's 'eye lore' as opposed to 'Eyelure', which, as everyone knows, is the world's favourite eyelash brand.
Oh, and the picture at the top of this post reminds me that I also learnt you shouldn't stand with your head under the shower, not even in the interests of hydration - the skin around the eyes isn't robust enough to withstand powerful jets of hot water. So there you go.