Do eye creams work for ageing Indians?


There’s a vanity associated with ageing that has us chasing anything that resembles an elixir to hold on to our youth. And no matter what changes happen in the body, we think we can take on the world with a twinkle in the eye and a radiant smile, looking good and feeling great. But time etches fine lines on our skin, particularly around our eyes and lips. This desire to be unbeaten by age or insecurity about our own sense of self-worth, depending on which way you look at it, has fed the demand for anti-wrinkle creams, eye creams in particular.

The question is are they another sales pitch or do they really work? Some users swear by them, slathering on generous amounts in an elaborate eye care routine, while others claim there is no impact beyond the temporary. Such varied testimonials have for long put the efficacy of eye creams under doubt. “That’s because the skin around our eyes is the most fragile, delicate and, therefore reacts to the effects of sun exposure and a series of micro-movements over the years. It needs an intensive repair and care protocol,” says Dr Kuldeep Singh, Senior Consultant, Plastic Surgery and Cosmetology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.


“The classic mistake that most Indians make is they equate their skin to their White Caucasian counterpart, which is more prone to wrinkling. Our ageing eye problems are somewhat different. Most Indians have a problem of dark circles, pigmentation and a hollowing out of the eye cavity. Racially, ethnically and genetically, we are predisposed to recessed under eyes. Our infra orbital rim is structured differently. Also, dark circles mean that the blood vessels around our eyes become more visible, enlarged and permeable. This means sometimes there’s leakage of blood cells that pool up as spots. So, we need to take care of pigmentation. If you’ve hereditary bags or dark circles, creams wouldn’t work,” says Dr Singh.

Another common complaint among Indians is the crepey skin syndrome. This refers to the skin becoming granular and loosening up under your lower eyelid. Basically, it sags and can become baggy, especially if you hold fluid in these sacs. Mildly loose skin, according to Dr Singh, can be taken care of by a multi-pronged approach — with laser therapy, energy devices that stimulate cell regeneration and collagen synthesis and use of medicated eye creams. For severe cases, there has to be some sort of corrective surgery. “When it comes to creams, I recommend three different kinds. There’s the retinol-containing cream meant to be applied at night as it boosts cell turnover while resting. A derivative of Vitamin A, it has long-proven efficacy when it comes to fighting ageing. Then there’s a hydrating cream containing hyaluronic acid, and a Vitamin K cream. Hyaluronic acid helps the skin retain large quantities of water. It improves skin elasticity and firmness, reducing the grooves of wrinkles,” he adds.


Creams work only when they are therapeutic, their application follows a protocol set by the dermatologist and are treated as a dosage. “When a dermatologist prescribes a clinically tested and proven cream, understand that it has the concentration of the ingredients required. Commercially available creams have extremely low percentages of active ingredients. What the cosmetic majors don’t tell you is that their products are at best daily maintenance creams. Besides like every other medication, therapeutic creams have to be used in cycles,” says Dr Singh.

That eye creams are meant to be therapeutic rather than cosmetic has been dominating discussions in the West. According to a report in the New York Times, Dr Sara Perkins, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale University School of Medicine and Dr Zakia Rahman, a clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University, have found that eye creams work only when they contain some key active ingredients: retinols (or prescription retinoids) or vitamin C. Dr Perkins was quoted as saying, “When we’re talking about the efficacy of eye creams, it’s not fair to lump all eye creams together. Because some of them may just be glorified moisturizers without any biologically active ingredients in them.” Both retinols and prescription retinoids are closely related chemical compounds derived from vitamin A. Retinoids are typically prescription strength, while retinols are generally found in over-the-counter products. In the report, the two experts noted that both retinols and retinoids — but particularly retinoids, which are more potent — can cause skin irritation, though that should diminish over time. Dr Perkins even recommended looking for one with at least 0.25 per cent to 1 per cent retinol. She suggested these be applied at night as sunlight interferes with their effectiveness. Some experts have also suggested vitamin C to inhibit and repair wrinkles, largely because it is an anti-oxidant and can neutralise skin-damaging free radicals.


“The wellness market is a big sham because companies prey on the insecurities of the consumer, communicate with them directly, promise them the moon and do not want to go through the tedious process of rolling out a medically-approved product. Most of these products peddle advertisements showing young people or computer-generated images. Women are the worst victims and somehow think they will improve their skin by using Western ‘credible’ products. First, they do not agree with the Indian skin type and second, they could do more damage than good. Also, many women do not stay with a product and when one fails to have a desired result, they hop on to another brand. Many of my patients have at least 20 cosmetic jars on their bathroom counter that they do not use more than once,” says Dr Singh.

As for the Indian tendency to go for herbal and ayurvedic creams, thinking they are organic and safe, Dr Singh says, “These are not lab-tested, do not subscribe to or comply with ethical practices, laboratory protocol or manufacturing standards. Often some of these have resulted in rashes, allergies and caused further skin irritation because they do not use the recommended ratios of active ingredients.”

At the moment, if your crow’s feet are not too pronounced and your furrows not too deep, you can use sunscreen, protect the eyes from as much sun exposure, drink water and maintain a healthy regime. Eye rejuvenation therapies for Indians involve a holistic and composite process and should be done only through a dermatologist. Other than that, for maintenance and moisturisation, any emollient cream works.

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