How To Care for the Sensitive Skin Under Your Eyes

Angela Christiansen|March 20, 2015

Eye Skin

Have you ever applied products to your face to find it burns or stings on your under-eye skin?

Do you know how to care for your under-eye skin?

The skin below your eyes has its own set of skin care "rules." It's uncommonly sensitive, thin, and for better or worse, is often a window into your overall vitality for others to see. Have you had someone say to you "Are you okay? You look tired today," just because the skin under your eyes is a little puffy or the under-eye circles are darker than normal for some reason? Understanding how to care for the skin under your eyes is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it's so noticeable. It's also important to prevent this sensitive skin from becoming damaged from sub-par skin care products, from improper practices, or from sun exposure. The unique properties of under-eye skin require subtle differences in moisturizers, products, and product application techniques. We want to help you understand the unique aspects of the skin around your eyes and provide basic guidelines so that you can take good care of this important area of your complexion. 

Retinol products for anti-wrinkle and anti-agingWhy is the skin under your eyes different?

The eyes are important sensory organs. Naturally the design of the body accommodates special requirements and protection for organs essential for our survival. For this reason, the surrounding eye skin is much more photosensitive and environmentally sensitive compared to the skin on other parts of the body due to its thinner nature and proximity to an area designed to collect light. In addition, the skin under your eyes is thinned to provide room to cover tiny fat pads that cushion and protect your precious eyeballs from trauma or force injury. This lower eyelid skin is not as mobile as our upper eyelids, thus the underlying muscles are not as thick and developed in your lower eyelids. The skin on the rest of your body is much thicker than the skin around your eyes. Thicker skin is more resistant to harsh chemicals, harsh weather, and UV sun rays. It means your eyelid skin is often "the canary in the mine shaft" for allergic reactions or irritation from skin care product ingredients. It also thins and wrinkles faster from sun damage than anywhere else on your body. In contrast to your eyelid skin, have you noticed that your skin is thickest in areas where the most contact and use occurs (hands, feet, elbows, etc.)? The body's adaptation is really fascinating to me, but I digress. The bottom line is that the lack of mobility, the thinness, and underlying protective fat pad behind your lower lids result in a unique skin type that requires different care compared to the skin covering the rest of your body.

What problems arise due to the unique nature of under-eye skin?

The thin aspect of the skin under your eyes makes it more susceptible to overall issues occurring in the body. If you are dehydrated, sleep deprived, fighting a cold, etc., often your under-eye skin appears dark and puffy. The blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients are smaller in thin skin, so if you are dehydrated or not well (e.g. lacking sleep, are ill, etc.), the thinnest parts of your skin will start to show it first. It is important to maintain adequate hydration, good sleep hygiene, and general health to nourish your skin so that being "under the weather" doesn't show right through your under-eye skin. The under-eye skin is also one of the first areas of your skin to show the signs of aging. The thin skin loses its elasticity faster and the fat deposits underneath start to shrink, creating that puffy and "sunken eye" look. This is why it's important to protect this skin from sun damage to prevent thinning. It's also important to target one or more of the skin care methods to boost the strength of your skin and promote collagen growth to retain the structural integrity. Check out Dr. Bailey's original blog for treating under-eyelid issues. Lastly, the location and nature of the under-eye skin makes it very sensitive. It will be easily irritated by harsh cleansers, anti-wrinkle creams, and beauty products. It is always important to read the labels of each product to determine if it is safe for application around the eyes, because in most cases, it is not. Skin care manufactures develop products specifically designed to treat and to care for under-eye skin for this reason; it is difficult to create a beauty product that can effectively treat all the different skin types of your face.   Now for some practical skin care tips for treating the thin and delicate skin under your eyes 

Tips on How to Care for Your Under-Eye Skin

1. Avoid harsh cleansers and skin care products around the eyes.

  • Even be cautious with hypoallergenic skin products.
  • Choose products designed for eye skin or that indicate on the label it is safe for eye use.
  • Apply new products sparingly at first, such as once, a day to see if irritation develops.

Best sunscreens for rosacea and facial dandruff2. Protect the under-eye skin with sunscreen designed for sensitive skin and that does not migrate easily when it warms to skin temperature.Raw Elements Sunscreen non-migrating and won't sting eyes

  • The under-eye skin is thin and photosensitive, making it more prone to sun damage.
  • Zinc oxide sunscreens generally do not irritate the eyes. Try Raw Elements Eco Stick   for extremely sweaty or wet activities or Glycolix Elite for daily under-eye application.  

3. Wear broad spectrum sunglasses for all-day outdoor activities.

  • Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to protect both your eyes and surrounding skin, especially during all-day physical activities.  Glasses that wrap around the sides of your eyes are the best.

4. Maintain Healthy Life Habits.

  • Exercise.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene.
  • Eat healthy foods and keep your body well hydrated.

If you have any questions on how to care for your under-eye skin, let us know in the comments below. Also please feel free to share any of your natural or favorite products for under-eye treatments. Written by: Angela imageAngela is a nursing student that is just few months away from getting her RN license! In her previous life, she was a chemical engineer, and (like Dr. Bailey) is a bit of a nerd when it comes to science. She has been part of the Dr. Bailey Skin Care Team for the past two years and is very passionate about the field of dermatology and skin care. Currently she works on a Burn ICU learning how to treat severe trauma to the skin. If she manages to take a break from her hectic school/work schedule, she enjoys knitting fancy scarves and hats for her friends, camping or backpacking in the great outdoors, and finding new local restaurants and microbrews to satisfy her inner “foodie.” Photo: Thanks and Gratitude to © Brüderchen & Schwesterchen GmbH/Corbis


Lewis, Sharon L., RN, PhD, FAAN, Shannon Dirksen, RN, PhD, FAAN, Margaret Heitkemper, RN, PhD, FAAN, Linda Bucher, RN, PhD, CEN, CNE, and Mariann M. Harding, RN. PhD, CNE. Medical- Surgical Nursing: Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems. Ninth ed. St. Louis: Elsevier, Mosby, 2014. Print.

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