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Eye serum vs eye cream: What is the difference and which one should I be using?

The delicate skin around our eyes requires a concentrated amount of care to remain supple, hydrated and vibrant. They can become irritated and dull with age, an area of the epidermis that can be more volatile than the rest. The answer to helping rejuvenate the area? Employing an eye serum – in addition to your eye cream – may just be the trick to help alleviate any concerns you have, or simply to add an additional boost of hydration. To simplify the process, allow us to unpack the difference between and eye serum and an eye cream, and how you can utilise both products to your advantage.

What is eye serum?

Eye serums are typically highly-concentrated in active ingredients, of smaller molecule weight meaning they penetrate your skin more effectively. An eye serum is used to target common concerns localised to the eye area, including dark circles, puffy bags, tiredness and fine lines and wrinkles.

Dependent on the concern you are targeting, the ingredients to choose for your serum will change. Caffeine is common in many eye serums, working as an antidiuretic, meaning it can help with water retention which leads to puffy bags. Conversely, retinol helps the skin retain water and stimulates collagen production, thus the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles will be less.

What is eye cream?

Contrasting with eye serum, eye creams consist of a lower ratio of active ingredients to non-active ingredients and may not include actives in their ingredients list.

Dryness surrounding the eyes is a common concern, with inadequate hydration a factor into the development of fine lines, wrinkles and tiredness. As such, moisturising your eye area is a key component of every skin care routine and while eye creams are hydrating in nature, the ingredients matter too. These include:

  • Humectants: Help to extract water from the surrounding air to hydrate skin. Notable humectants include hyaluronic acid and aloe vera.
  • Occlusives: Moisturising substances which create a barrier on the skin’s surface to seal moisture. These include Beesewax and plant-derived oils.
  • Emollients: Help soften the skin to promote a smooth, supple appearance. Fatty acids and squalene are classified as emollients.

How is do the pair differ?

As mentioned above, eye serums are used to treat specific concerns while the purpose of an eye cream is to hydrate the delicate skin surrounding the eye area. As the ingredients in a serum are of smaller molecular weight, absorption is faster and means they can work as a reparative beauty treatment. Eye creams are preventative treatment, working to prolong hydration to reduce the prevalence of concerns.

Eye serums are lighter in texture as they are meant to be easily absorbed into your skin, while eye creams are heavier and thicker. As a result, eye creams help to form a hydrating barrier to prevent dryness and promote moisture retention beneath the surface of the skin.

Is it better to use an eye serum or eye cream?

As with most skin care, the choice to use an eye serum or cream (or both) is entirely dependent on what you are trying to achieve and your skin type. If your skin has no overt signs of concern around the eye area – like dark circles or bags – you may not need to employ a serum as yet. If you are instead working to pre-empt any concerns prior to their development, utilising an eye cream will be the best fit.

If you have oily skin, an eye serum is a suitable alternative to an eye cream as the thinner layer the product forms will likely absorb into the skin and minimise a greasy appearance that cream can leave. Conversely, if your skin tends to be on the drier side, an eye cream in conjunction with an eye serum helps to combat excessive dryness.

When do you use eye serum and can it be used in conjunction with an eye cream?

Eye serums and creams can be used in conjunction with one another. When applying the two in-tandem, remember the golden rule of skin care application: heaviest products go last.

Apply your serum prior to applying the cream to ensure you’re applying your skin care in the correct order. This ensures maximum product absorption, thus producing results.

Here are some of the best eye serums to try now

Dermalogica Bio Lumen-C Eye Serum 

eye serum 

Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line-Reducing Eye Serum 

eye serum 

Ella Bache Retinol Renewal Eye Serum 

eye serum


Clinique All About Eyes De-Puffing Serum 

eye serum 


Skin Virtue Advanced Eye Serum

eye serum

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