Caring for Sensitive Under-Eyes
Of all the nooks and crannies on our face, the under-eye area is the most sensitive. So naturally, it’s also the most high maintenance! Since this pesky area doesn’t contain oil glands, it contains less moisture to soothe dryness, fine lines, and inflammation. Frustrating, right? If you've already tried every treatment in the book—patches, serums, jade rollers, DIY experiments—with no luck, you’re probably facing a beauty burn out (along with, ironically, even more stressed-out under-eyes). But real talk—if you’re wondering how to care for sensitive under-eyes, the solution is surprisingly simple!
The under-eye area tends to be more delicate, vulnerable to dryness and quicker to show age and fatigue. Eye movements like blinking and squinting can also speed up the formation of lines and wrinkles, and if your under-eyes are especially sensitive, fluids can collect in the lower lids, causing puffiness and dark circles. So what’s the solution?
Your treatment should focus on two goals: boosting hydration and improving circulation. The combination of these two factors are the key to combating early signs of aging skin around the eyes, which are ever-so visible with the facial expressions we make every day.
Hydrated under-eyes look brighter and tighter. With good ol’ H2O, you’re helping to nourish your skin’s collagen (the basic building blocks in your connective tissue), which keeps the skin’s surface smooth and plump.
To improve hydration levels in the skin, choose eye treatment formulas with powerful ingredient combinations. The reason? The way in which ingredients are layered together in a formula matters when caring for sensitive under eyes. In skincare science, this is called synergy, and it refers to the way ingredients become more powerful when combined as compared to their individual effects.
Cucumber & Retinol
Cucumber and retinol is a high-quality combo for treating sensitive under-eyes.
According to a dermatological report on the effects of herbal moisturizers, “the silica in cucumber (Cucumis sativum) is an essential component of healthy connective tissue. It is also an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, and folic acid.” Plus, its high water content is a potent moisturizer. Combine these benefits with retinol (a form of vitamin A), and you get an exponentially more powerful skin care formula. Retinol works by speeding up cell turnover. By exfoliating away the dead layers of skin, it works to reveal a more polished and healthy look.
You can find the cucumber-retinol combo in the Defend Triple Action Eye Cream. Together, these two ingredients work in harmony to soothe and nourish under-eyes. And what’s more, this version is made with a milder form of retinol called retinyl palmitate, giving you the same exfoliating benefits without the irritation.
Safflower Oil & Polysorbate 20
Here’s another super-hydrating combo: safflower oil and polysorbate 20.
Safflower oil contains a rich buffet of nutrients, but it’s also dense with fatty acids. So basically, it transmits anti-aging antioxidants to the deeper layer of the dermis, while the fatty acids provide a protective coating—much like the kind naturally found in sebum. When applied topically to skin on its own, safflower oil is less effective, but the beauty magic really happens when it’s combined with other ingredients like polysorbate 20, allowing it to work effectively for treating sensitive under eyes. How? Polysorbate 20 is an emulsifier, and by helping oil and water mix together, it allows botanical extracts such as safflower oil to penetrate the skin more deeply. Thank goodness for skincare science!
Hydration is only half the equation when caring for sensitive under-eyes—you also need to rev up your circulation! When the blood vessels under your delicate under-eye skin are working sluggishly, they fail to transport the essential nutrients to keep the area healthy and oxygenated. That’s why we rely on eye masks, which contain stimulators like coffee or fruit extracts, to help jumpstart your circulation. By doing so, you can improve under-eye puffiness and even pigmentation.
Let’s take a look at two must-have ingredients for improving circulation for sensitive under-eyes!
Besides being yummy, honeysuckle is a floral shrub used in Chinese medicine. Known for its wonderful detox properties, this unique herb is considered a luxury ingredient in skin care. Research reveals that honeysuckle offers a variety of skin-rejuvenating compounds such as organic acids, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides, and saponins. The payoff? When applied to the under-eye area, it delivers outstanding anti-inflammatory benefits, while also promoting circulation.
Talk about a heavy-hitter in the cosmetic industry—grapefruit extract is a premium ingredient for treating sensitive under-eyes. Dermatological reports state that it’s loaded with vitamin C among other potent antioxidants, which help fight free radicals. By helping to maintain high oxygen levels, it wards off age-causing stressors caused by factors such as allergens, pollution, and stress. Through its circulation-boosting action, grapefruit extract conditions the blood vessels, helping the under-eye area become more resilient against inflammation.
The Honeysuckle-Grapefruit Combo
Under-eye masks that contain both grapefruit extract and honeysuckle are a holy grail in skincare science. When mixed together, in exactly the right concentrations, you get a formula with unparalleled benefits. But since this particular ingredient duo is more expensive for mainstream brands to produce, you can find it more commonly with sustainable brands that focus on high-quality, ethical formulations. Nuria’s Nourishing Under Eye Masks are among the rare few treatments which contain both grapefruit extract and honeysuckle.
Whatever remedy you choose, it’s important to be realistic about your goals. Understand that you can only improve the condition—not reverse it completely (unless you opt for surgery, yikes!). So ultimately, when learning how to care for sensitive under-eyes, stay practical about your expectations. And when all else fails, there’s always concealer.
About the author, Jasmin Figueroa
Jasmin is an accomplished formulation scientist and skin health expert who has spent her career listening to consumers and developing products that rock. A founding member of the Nuria community, she loves traveling with her family, chilling with her friends at the beach, and will totally judge you if you don’t wear SPF.