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Gwyneth Paltrow, Under Eye

Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Barneys New York

Eye cream: What is it really good for?

In one camp, there are those that question the need for the product, especially if you're already using facial moisturizer. At the same time, we're inundated with specialized eye creams that promote age-defying properties and Gwyneth Paltrow-championed picks (she reportedly uses Restorsea Revitalizing Eye Cream and looks great!).

But is eye cream a skin-care essential or just another unnecessary product thrown our way by the beauty industry? For a definitive answer, we turn to Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Wilma Bergfeld and celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau.

Firstly, those under-eye areas are super sensitive: "Skin around the eye is extremely delicate," said Dr. Bergfeld. The skin is much thinner and will be the first place to show aging or wear. "What [people] do wrong is they treat that area of the skin as any other parts of the face. But you don't want to rub it, stretch it or pull it." Using your ring finger, gently dot cream around the eyes, from inner to outer corner. Then gently glide that finger along the skin.

The formula is everything: Most eye creams tout anti-aging or cell rejuvenating ingredients like peptides, caffeine, vitamins C and E, lactic acids and botanical fruit extracts. However, the perfect cream needs to contain an emollient, which will help the cream absorb smoothly into the skin at the slightest pat. "Many face creams could go around the eyes if they were diluted with something light, like Cetaphil and CeraVe moisturizers," said Dr. Bergfeld. "You just need the elegance of the emollient, the fluidity."

ESC, Face Cream

Read the ingredients list: We mentioned the ingredients above that will stimulate skin metabolism and promote collagen production, but be wary of creams made with mineral oil or petroleum (save the Vaseline for those lips), "which doesn't absorb well and seeps into the eyes, which can cause puffiness," said the celebrity aesthetician. "Also avoid synthetic fragrance or perfume, which can cause irritation to the skin." 

You don't need to swim in the product: Heavy use will not improve your skin faster. "The skin acts as a sponge," said Renée. "It only takes what it needs and the rest will live on the surface." In this case, more is not better. 

Eye creams aren't a cure-all: Although using creams with the right active ingredients can enhance the skin up to 60%, according to Dr. Bergfeld, it doesn't perform miracles. "People rely too much on eye cream," Renée added. She also suggested exfoliating the skin with a serum containing glycolic or lactic acids every three nights, which will help remove dead skin cells—no scrubbing or pulling on the skin required. 

The bottom line depends on your skin: "Unfortunately, every person is his or her own test site," said Dr. Bergfeld. Some people have better responses to products than others. Avoid products that sting or cause redness or irritation. And remember: You could possibly do more damage to the skin around your eyes if you mishandle it or use the wrong products than if you neglect it.

Restorsea Revitalizing Eye Cream, $85; Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 15, $16.99