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How to choose an eye cream for sensitive skin

Dermatology providers share which ingredients to look for and which to avoid to reduce the risk of irritating the skin around your eyes.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 30, 2023 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon
Woman Applying Eye Cream
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Oct 30, 2023 • 10 min read
Medically reviewed by Camille Dixon
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our rigorous standards.

When it comes to skincare, the area around your eyes often requires a tender touch. While eye creams aren’t a mandatory part of a skincare routine, many seek them out to address eye-area concerns like fine lines, dark circles, or puffiness. If you have sensitive skin, picking the right product for this part of your skin can be an extra-tricky challenge, as the wrong choice can lead to irritation instead of rejuvenation.

Here, we’ll explain how to make an informed decision when choosing a gentle eye cream for sensitive skin. We’ll go over ingredients that are both effective and gentle, our top selections tailored for delicate skin, and the best way to incorporate eye creams into your routine.

Do you need an eye cream?

While many people incorporate eye creams into their skincare routines, they aren’t a mandatory step. Think of them as a bonus layer—a product you can opt for if you wish to address specific concerns related to the eye area.

One of the main attractions of eye creams is their claim to target and alleviate common eye-area issues. These can range from fine lines and wrinkles to dark circles and puffiness. If any of these concerns resonate with you, then an eye cream might be worth considering.

However, how well an eye cream works depends largely on its ingredients. Since there's a myriad of eye creams on the market, each boasting a unique formulation, it’s important to choose one that’s aligned with your skincare goals.

So, while eye creams can be beneficial for addressing particular skincare challenges around the eyes, they aren’t a necessity for everyone. If you’re content with your current skincare routine and don’t have specific concerns about the area around your eyes, you might not need to use one. However, if you’re looking to target issues like fine lines, dark circles, or eye puffiness, a well-formulated eye cream might be a valuable addition to your skincare arsenal.

What to look for in an eye cream for sensitive skin

The skin around your eyes, particularly your eyelids, is among the most delicate on your body. At less than 0.5 mm thick, it’s notably thinner and more sensitive than skin in other areas.¹ Given its delicacy, selecting the right eye cream for sensitive skin types is key. Here’s what you should look out for:

Beneficial ingredients:

Caffeine: Not just for waking you up in the morning, this ingredient stimulates blood circulation around the eyes, rejuvenating the skin and making it appear fresh. Its antioxidant properties further improve overall skin health in the eye area.² 

Green Tea ExtractPacked with polyphenols, this extract offers powerful antioxidant properties, helping to shield the delicate skin from potential damage.³ 

Squalene: This hydrating emollient ensures the skin remains moisturized while also offering some antioxidant benefits.⁴ 

Glycerin & Hyaluronic Acid: Both of these are humectants. They draw and lock moisture into the skin, ensuring it remains plump and hydrated⁵, which can minimize the appearance of wrinkles.

Retinol: A favored anti-aging ingredient, retinol helps stimulate collagen production, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines around the eyes.⁶ 

Aloe: More than just a hydrating agent, aloe offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can be especially soothing for the sensitive eye region.⁷ 

Vitamin CThis vitamin is a dual-action hero. It not only helps to stimulate collagen production but also protects the skin against UV damage, which is essential for slowing premature aging.⁸ 

Ingredients to avoid:

If your skin leans on the sensitive side, there are certain ingredients that might do more harm than good. These can be irritating and might even clog pores.

Skincare ingredients known to potentially irritate sensitive skin include:⁹

  • Fragrance

  • Pentylene glycol

  • Decyl glucoside

Known comedogenic (pore-clogging) skincare ingredients include:¹⁰

  • Isopropyl myristate

  • Isopropyl palmitate

  • Isopropyl isostearate

  • Butyl stearate

  • Isostearyl neopentanoate

  • Myristyl myristate

  • Decyl oleate

  • Octyl stearate

  • Octyl palmitate

  • Isocetyl stearate

  • Propylene glycol-2 (Ppg-2) myristyl propionate

  • Acetylated lanolin

  • Ethoxylated lanolin

  • D & C red dyes

So, when you’re shopping for an eye cream for sensitive skin, make sure to scrutinize the ingredients list. Opt for products rich in hydrating and rejuvenating ingredients and steer clear of those that may cause irritation. Your delicate eye area deserves gentle and effective care.

Our 4 picks for eye cream for sensitive skin

Looking for some recommendations for an eye cream for sensitive skin? Here are a few of our top options and what we liked most about them. These are all easily available online or at your local drugstore.

1) Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream

What we like about it:

  • Free of essential oils and fragrances, which can be irritants

  • Vitamin C for collagen boosting benefits and UV protection

  • Cruelty-free formula with recyclable packaging

2) SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex For Dark Circles

What we like about it:

  • Free of alcohol and dyes, which are potential irritants for sensitive skin

  • Contains hydrating ingredients, making it a good choice for dry skin types

  • Includes optical diffusers to make eyes look brighter and less tired right away

3) Neutrogena Hydro Boost Eye Gel-Cream

What we like about it:

  • Contains hyaluronic acid, which helps skin look plump and hydrated

  • Water-based gel-cream formula absorbs quickly

  • Low price point makes it an affordable eye cream option

4) Avene Soothing Eye Contour Cream

What we like about it:

  • Specifically formulated for sensitive skin with no fragrances or pore-clogging ingredients

  • Contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin E for hydration and antioxidant benefits

  • Includes chamomile extract to soothe irritated skin

How to add an eye cream to your skincare routine

Incorporating an eye cream into your skincare routine can be a game-changer, especially when looking to address concerns like dark circles, puffiness, or fine lines. But how exactly do you fit this product into your regimen? Let’s break it down.

1. Patch test (For sensitive skin)

If your skin is on the sensitive side, you may want to perform a patch test before using a new product, including eye creams. A patch test involves applying a small amount of the product to a discreet area of your skin, like the inside of your wrist or behind the ear. Repeat this twice a day for 7-10 days to see if any irritation or adverse reaction occurs. If the skin remains calm, you’re likely good to go.¹¹

2. Cleanse

Start with a clean slate. Gently cleanse your face using your regular facial cleanser to remove dirt and impurities. 

3. Apply eye cream

Follow the package instructions regarding the quantity. Generally, a pea-sized amount suffices. Dab the cream around the eye area using your ring finger, as it applies the least pressure. Pat in gently, ensuring you don’t pull or tug at the delicate skin.

4. Seal with moisturizer

After applying the eye cream, moisturize the rest of your face. This seals in the benefits of the eye cream and keeps your skin hydrated and supple.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure that the eye cream is effectively integrated into your skincare routine, maximizing its benefits and promoting radiant, youthful eyes.

Curology can help

Choosing the right ingredients for your anti-aging routine can be tricky when you have sensitive skin. Talking with a licensed dermatology provider, like those at Curology, can help steer you toward ingredients that are proven effective and are less likely to irritate your skin.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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No matter whether you’re looking for advice on an over-the-counter eye cream for sensitive skin or a prescription-strength anti-aging formula, we’re here to help. Getting started is easy! Simply take a quick skin quiz and snap a few selfies. If Curology is right for you, you’ll be paired with one of our licensed dermatology providers who will work with you to meet your skin goals.


Why do my eyes burn after using eye cream?

The skin around your eyes is among the thinnest on the body,¹² making it extra sensitive. If your eyes burn after applying eye cream, it’s likely a reaction to the product. Immediately wash it off with cool water and discontinue its use.

Before trying another eye cream, consider performing a patch test to gauge any reactions.¹³ For personalized advice, it’s best to consult a licensed dermatology provider to find a product that’s suitable for your delicate eye area.

Why is the skin under my eyes so sensitive?

The skin beneath and around your eyes, specifically the eyelid, is incredibly delicate, being less than 0.5 mm thick.¹⁴ Due to its thinness, it’s naturally more sensitive than other parts of your face. This makes it particularly vulnerable to irritants and external factors. As a result, it’s a good idea to be cautious about the products and ingredients you apply in this area to prevent adverse reactions and ensure gentle care.

Is there an eye cream that actually works?

Absolutely! Many eye creams on the market contain ingredients shown to benefit skin health. However, because everyone's skin is unique, finding the perfect fit might involve some trial and error.

For best results and tailored recommendations, consult a licensed dermatology provider. They can guide you towards treatments that aligns with your skin's specific needs and concerns.

What's the best eye cream for sensitive eyes?

Everyone’s skin is unique, so no single eye cream will be the right choice for all. You might have to try a couple before you find your perfect fit. That said, if you have sensitive skin, you may have more luck finding your match if you look for products that are free from ingredients that can irritate sensitive skin. Some of the most common are fragrance, pentylene glycol, and cetyl alcohol.¹⁵

Why is the skin around my eyes red and irritated?

The skin around your eyes, particularly your eyelids, is some of the thinnest and most sensitive on your body.¹⁶ So, it's no surprise that this delicate skin can become red or irritated easily. If you find that regular skincare products are too harsh, look for those that avoid ingredients like fragrances, pentylene glycol, and decyl glucoside.¹⁷

• • •

PS We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Farage, M. A., et al. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors in skin ageing: a review. International journal of cosmetic science. (2008, March 13).

  2. Ahmadraji, F., and Shatalebi, M. A. 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. (2015, January 6).

  3. Bjørklund, G., et al. Natural Compounds and Products from an Anti-Aging Perspective. Molecules. (October 2022).

  4. Huang, Z. R., et al. Biological and pharmacological activities of squalene and related compounds: potential uses in cosmetic dermatology. Molecules. (January 2009).

  5. Harwood A, et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. (2022, August 21).

  6. Ganceviciene, R., et al. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermato-endocrinology. (2012, July 1).

  7. Rahmani, A. H., et al. Aloe vera: Potential candidate in health management via modulation of biological activities. Pharmacognosy reviews. (July 2015).

  8. Bjørklund, G., et al. Natural Compounds and Products from an Anti-Aging Perspective. Molecules. Ibid.

  9. Martins M.S., et al. Occurrence of Allergens in Cosmetics for Sensitive Skin. Cosmetics. (2022, March 17).

  10. Fulton, J. E., et al. Comedogenicity of current therapeutic products, cosmetics, and ingredients in the rabbit ear. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (1984, January).

  11. American Academy of Dermatology. How to Test Skin Care Products. (2021, August 10).

  12. Farage, M. A., et al. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors in skin ageing: a review. International journal of cosmetic science. Ibid.

  13. American Academy of Dermatology. How to Test Skin Care Products. Ibid.

  14. Farage, M. A., et al. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors in skin ageing: a review. International journal of cosmetic science. Ibid.

  15. Martins M.S., et al. Occurrence of Allergens in Cosmetics for Sensitive Skin. Cosmetics. Ibid.

  16. Farage, M. A., et al. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors in skin ageing: a review. International journal of cosmetic science. Ibid.

  17. Martins M.S., et al. Occurrence of Allergens in Cosmetics for Sensitive Skin. Cosmetics. Ibid.

Camille Dixon is a certified Physician Assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Curology Team

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Camille Dixon

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