The skin around the eyes can present notorious challenges. When we stay out too late, spend too much time with our screens, or forget to mind sun exposure, this delicate area tells on us with dark circles, puffy bags, and lines. It’s hard to hide these tattle-tale signs.
Enter under eye patches.
What Are Under Eye Patches?
These small, crescent moon-shaped masques are worn beneath the eyes, either in the morning prior to doing your makeup or in the evening before you retire for bed. They are meant to boost hydration and minimize the appearance of fine lines, bags, and dark spots.
Most eye patches contain humectants and brightening agents, as well as ingredients to provide a cooling sensation. You can choose between disposable patches made for a single use or reusable patches. The disposable patches are usually made of either paper or lyocell. Reusable patches are usually made of silicone, and while they cannot be reused indefinitely, they can be used for several days.
Some permanent silicone patches do not contain any skincare products; you put them on after you’ve used your own under-eye serums, creams, and moisturizer. The silicone draws moisture up through the layers of your skin and prevents it from evaporating rapidly.
Do They Work?
Are the results worthy of the hype? Dermatologists say yes...with qualifications.
You won’t get the best results by randomly choosing a celebrity-endorsed eye patch; it’s your needs that matter here.. Do you want to reduce puffiness? Do you want to make fine lines less noticeable? Is your skin sensitive? These are some things to consider when you choose an eye patch.
You should not use eye patches as a substitute for your usual serums or creams. They are meant to enhance the effects of your other products. Their benefits are real; they are not dramatic, however, and they are not permanent.
What To Look For in an Eye Patch
Humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin that draw moisture to the skin. This helps plump up tired-looking skin and reduces the appearance of fine lines. Humectants should be one of the first ingredients listed for your eye patch.
Hydrogels are three-dimensional polymer networks; they are hydrophilic, meaning that they absorb moisture rapidly and retain it. Hydrogels are widely used in medicine for wound dressings, cardiac tissue repair, and neural tissue repair–impressive, right? In eye patches, they draw in moisture and prevent moisture loss. They also produce a cooling effect that soothes tender skin.
Peptides are fragments of protein chains that help rejuvenate skin cells. There are innumerable peptides, each with its own task–some of them stimulate the regeneration of skin cells, others promote the healing of damaged skin cells, and others boost the production of proteins like collagen and elastin.
Ceramides are lipids that help the skin retain moisture. They are beneficial for all skin, especially skin that needs some extra TLC.
Brighteners include vitamin C, caffeine, and vitamin B3 (niacinamide). Each works in a slightly different way to make the skin look younger and more vibrant.
- Caffeine reduces blood flow to the skin, which means that broken blood capillaries and dark circles are less noticeable. It decreases puffiness, too, and makes hyperpigmentation less noticeable.
- Vitamin C (AKA ascorbic acid) reduces the effects of sun damage. It is also a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize harmful molecules you encounter in your environment. It plays a key role in the production of collagen, a protein necessary for good barrier function and the reduction of fine lines.
- Niacinamide (AKA vitamin B3, AKA nicotinamide) helps prevent moisture loss. It also combats hyperpigmentation, such as that caused by sun exposure. Like vitamin C, it is a powerful antioxidant. It tightens pores and makes the skin look brighter and healthier.
- Retinol or retinoids (AKA vitamin A) are popular ingredients for wrinkle repair. Retinoids stimulate collagen production and exfoliate dead skin cells, improving the skin’s luminosity. These ingredients can be too harsh on sensitive skin. If you're prone to sensitivity, you should apply the patch elsewhere on the face for several minutes to see if stinging, redness, or tingling occurs.
Look out for irritants such as fragrances. You might see these listed as parfum, fragrance, or essential oils. People with eczema, allergies, and sensitive skin especially should be wary of fragrance.
Don’t make decisions based on the product’s front-facing packaging or advertising! The ingredients you want–niacinamide for brightening, caffeine for puffiness, humectants for attracting moisture–should be listed as active ingredients..
When To Use Eye Patches in your Skincare Routine
You might have seen influencers wearing eye patches as they do their makeup. Others might use them before bed or even overnight. Some claim to use them for as little as five minutes. So what’s best?
Generally, the longer you wear the patches the better. Wearing them for a quick five-minute cooling ritual isn’t going to allow you to fully get your money’s worth. Try to get at least twenty minutes of wear.
Why choose between an AM application or a PM application? Do both! The more you wear your eye patches, the more you will benefit. The patches act as occlusives, blocking the evaporation of moisture from the skin and allowing it to make the most of all the good things you’re feeding it. Some can be worn overnight!
How To Use Under-Eye Patches
Get ready for some controversy! Influencers and dermatologists differ on these points, as well. You should read the instructions for your products thoroughly and follow them. Here are some basics, though:
- Cleanse first, always. This is one thing that never varies. It makes good sense; why go through the effort of giving your skin these beneficial ingredients if you’re going to wash them off right afterwards?
- Serums first, or serums after? This is where the controversy begins. Some say to apply serums before the patch; others say after. Almost all skincare experts advise using active ingredients first. Active ingredients are those ingredients with a specific target (line reduction, pigment improvement). If both your serum and your patch contain active ingredients, you may have some wiggle room.
- Moisturizer should usually be applied after your eye patch comes off. Most experts agree that applying the eye patch before heavy creams and moisturizers is best. The rule of thumb is to apply active ingredients first, and then layer your products from lightest to heaviest with the thickest, most occlusive products going on last.
Possible AM routine
Cleanse skin, tone, apply serums, add your hydrating caffeine, niacinamide, and vitamin C patch. Allow the patch to sit for 20 minutes (or more, depending on the product instructions), using this time to make breakfast, dress, and pack for lunch. Remove patch, massaging in any ingredients that seeped or leaked from the patch. Apply moisturizer/eye cream. Apply sunscreen.
Possible PM routine
Cleanse, tone, either add your serums or put on your retinol, retinoid, or anti-aging eye patch. Leave the patch on for 20-30 minutes; gently massage any leaked product into the skin when you remove. Apply your serums if you did not do it before your mask. Moisturize and use eye cream.
If using an overnight patch, or a reusable silicone patch without any active ingredients, you can apply your creams and moisturizers before applying the patch. Remove in the morning and follow your usual skincare routine. If you are using a reusable silicone eye patch, wash it regularly and thoroughly to avoid bacterial growth.
Can I add eye patches to my routine if I am having an eczema flare?
Because moisture loss and diminished barrier function are features of eczema, a hydrating mask can be particularly useful during flares. You should avoid using retinol or retinoid patches during flares, because they are drying and also increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV radiation (as do ELIDEL® and other calcineurin inhibitors used to treat eczema).
To get the most out of both your eczema cream (treatment regimen) and your eye patch, you must ensure that you are applying moisturizer and medication in the right order. A possible AM routine during treatment might look a little like this:
- Cleanse and tone
- Apply ELIDEL® or other calcineurin inhibiting creams
- Add serums or patch, in the order you prefer
- Leave patch on for the recommended time
- Apply moisturizers and/or eye creams
- Apply SmartLotionⓇ after your moisturizer.
- Apply sunscreen.
Long Story Short…
Eye patches are a simple, beneficial tool for routine skincare. Be sure you know what you want, read the ingredients, and follow the instructions for their use. Last but not least, keep your expectations realistic. Are eye patches equivalent to an eye lift? No, but they’ll give you some respectable improvements–especially when used correctly over time.
Eye Patch Cheat-Sheet for Quick Reference:
- To moisturize and plump up the skin, use patches containing humectants such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin as well as ingredients such as ceramides and peptides (AM or PM use). Hydrogels are good here, too.
- To brighten the skin, use patches containing caffeine, vitamin C, and niacinamide (B3) (AM or PM).
- To reduce puffiness and to improve pigmentation, use patches containing caffeine and niacinamide
- For anti-aging and more extensive treatment of hyperpigmentation, use patches containing retinol or retinoids –only if you are sure that your skin can tolerate these ingredients. Avoid retinol and retinoids during eczema flares!
- Apply patches after cleansing and before moisturizing.
- During eczema flares, use ELIDEL® cream before using your eye patch. Moisturize after using your eye patch, then apply SmartLotionⓇ.
If you've enjoyed our article on when to use eye patches in your skincare routine, check out our blog for other skincare and eczema-related content. You can also check out our knowledge base for the exact suggested condition protocols.