Here's Exactly When To Apply Eye Cream In Your Skin Care Routine

Dermatologists weigh in.

Dermatologists answer whether eye cream goes before or after moisturizer.
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If you’re considering adding an eye cream to your beauty routine, congrats: The skin surrounding your eye area is about to be better nourished. But, since the product category’s usage rules aren’t exactly as straightforward as, say, face cleansers or sunscreen, you may be wondering when to apply it.

More specifically, you may be wondering: Does eye cream go before or after moisturizer? There’s a high probability you’re already well-versed in how important it is to keep your face hydrated with a daily moisturizer. Eye creams, however, tend to feel like mini moisturizers — and oftentimes perform a similar function on your skin — hence the confusion. Let’s break it down.

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What Is Eye Cream?

It’s true that some eye creams are formulated to hydrate the skin, much like a traditional face moisturizer, explains Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D., a Minneapolis-based dermatologist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. Eye creams, though, are specifically formulated and tested for use on the delicate skin around the eyes, which differs from that on the rest of the face.

The skin around your eyes is thinner than it is anywhere else on the body, so it’s the first to show dryness and volume loss. It also has fewer oil glands and collagen, which means it doesn’t maintain moisture or elasticity as well as the skin on the rest of your face. And, because the skin is so thin, it’s easier to see discoloration (read: dark circles) and blood vessels. This is why eye creams are packed with ingredients that are designed to tackle a host of area-specific skin concerns, including fine lines, puffiness, dark circles, sagging, and under-eye bags.

North Carolina-based dermatologist Dr. Muneeb Shah, M.D. recommends shopping for an eye cream that contains ingredients that will address your specific concerns, versus “just getting any old eye cream just for the sake of having an eye cream.” You’ll just have to know which actives to look for on the product label (see below).

Ingredients To Look Out For In An Eye Cream

As Shah explains, your skin concerns should guide you when choosing an eye cream. “For puffiness and prominent blue vessels, caffeine is a great ingredient,” he says. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it constricts blood vessels, so the idea is that applying caffeine topically to puffy, inflamed skin or to skin with visible blood vessels could help reduce blood flow to that area.

If you’re targeting fine lines and wrinkles, Dr. Brittany Carter-Snell, a dermatologist based in Detroit, Michigan, recommends eye creams that contain antioxidants (like vitamin C), retinol, and/or hyaluronic acid. Vitamin C and retinol aid in the production of collagen, while hyaluronic acid allows your skin to better retain moisture, making it appear more plump. Peptides are also beneficial for crepey skin, adds Liu. If the skin around your eyes is chronically dry, look for hyaluronic acid or ceramides, a fatty acid found in the skin, as another moisturizing MVP, says Liu.

Thankfully, it’s easy to find a product that addresses multiple under-eye skin concerns at once. “These days, most eye creams will have a combination of ingredients that have multi-function and work together to address common eye area concerns,” Liu tells Bustle.

How To Use Eye Cream

As for when to apply your eye cream: All of the derms Bustle spoke with agree that eye cream should be applied after cleansing and toning but before moisturizing. That’s because moisturizers are designed to do just what their name suggests: moisturize. But eye creams tend to contain more active ingredients designed to address an array of more specific concerns. As Carter-Snell puts it, “You don’t want products with active ingredients having to fight through another product in order to target the skin properly.”

Shah also notes that applying eye cream first, before any other products, will help protect the delicate area from the harsher products you may have in your regimen, like serums containing retinoids or exfoliating acids, that may irritate the sensitive skin around your eyes. Think of your eye cream as a base layer-slash-shield for the area.

When you apply it, experts recommend using your ring finger (it’s the weakest one) to gently pat the product into the hollow of your eyes and up into your brow bone twice a day. It’s a super quick and easy addition to your skin care routine that’s sure to pay off in the long term.

Shop Eye Creams

The Multitasker

This eye cream comes highly recommended by Carter-Snell for its gentle but multi-functional formula. It contains a host of ingredients for hydration — including hyaluronic acid and niacinamide — as well as dark circles, puffiness, and crow’s feet, such as peptides, caffeine, and vitamin C.

The Primer

Featuring hyaluronic acid, green tea (an all-star antioxidant), and horse chestnut (for puffiness), this product from Rihanna’s skin care line is designed to address dark circles, puffy eyes, hydration, and fine lines. Bonus: It doubles as a concealer and primer.

The High-Tech Option

Liu likes this eye cream for its combination of peptides for smoothing puffiness and fine lines. It also contains blueberry extract (an antioxidant), and optical diffusers to immediately reduce the appearance of dark circles.

The Super Hydrator

This is one of Shah’s favorites for its “super moisturizing” ingredients like squalane — an ingredient that mimics the skin’s naturally occurring hydrators — and a marine algae complex that helps target fine lines.

The Brightener

New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love, M.D., recommends this restorative treatment that addresses fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles, and puffiness — and immediately brightens the eye area thanks to a cross-polymer that diffuses light.

The Depuffer

This caffeine-spiked eye serum comes highly recommended by Liu. Its cooling tip applicator helps to further quash puffiness and help you look more awake.

The Drugstore Buy

This nighttime eye cream is gentle enough for overnight wear and contains retinol and niacinamide to brighten and even skin tone, both of which help address crepey under-eye skin as you sleep.

The Skin Smoother

Along with firming peptides and silk tree extract to address dark circles, this multitasking eye cream also contains squalane, niacinamide, and ceramides to infuse your skin with hydration.

Studies referenced:

Ahmadraji, F., & Shatalebi, M. A. (2015). Evaluation of the clinical efficacy and safety of an eye counter pad containing caffeine and vitamin K in emulsified Emu oil base. Advanced biomedical research, 4, 10.


Dr. Muneeb Shah, M.D., dermatologist based Buies Creek, North Carolina

Dr. Brittany Carter-Snell, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in Detroit, Michigan

Dr. Elyse Love, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in New York, New York

Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota