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The compounding stressors of the election, an uptick in destructive hurricanes and the coronavirus pandemic might be taking a toll on your quality of sleep. As a result — or for other reasons — you may have noticed that you feel both sluggish and may be dealing with pronounced dark circles, puffiness and lines and wrinkles. In addition to a lack of sleep, Doris Day, MD, a board-certified dermatologist previously told NBC BETTER that over-consumption of alcohol, dehydration, rubbing your eyes and eating unhealthy foods can also contribute to dark circles.
While making time for the recommended eight to nine hours of sleep a night isn’t always possible depending on your lifestyle, there are products you can add to your skin care routine to help fake a wide-awake appearance. One popular option is under-eye masks which can help hydrate your skin and have anti-aging benefits. “You need a formulation specific to the eye area because the skin is very thin — 40 percent thinner than the rest of the skin on the face to be exact,” said Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon. Under eye masks are multipurpose. Engelman shared a “genius trick” someone shared with her: After using eye patches for the directed time, remove them, flip over and place over smile lines. “The patch doesn't know that it's only supposed to help the eye area, so if it hydrates in the periorbital region, it will do the same for the smile lines as well,” she said.
Anyone can rock under-eye patches if they want — brands such as Kiehl’s and Blu42 have created under-eye masks targeted towards men. You can typically find under-eye masks at your usual beauty retailers — Sephora, Ulta and Dermstore — as well as Amazon, Walmart, Target. Popular under-eye mask brands include Tarte, Glam Glow and Joanna Vargas, which are all available directly through the brands and at retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Net-a-Porter and Macy’s. We consulted dermatologists to learn more about the efficacy of under-eye patches. Additionally, we consulted skin care and beauty experts — a celebrity esthetician and makeup artists to Hollywood stars— for their product recommendations.
SKIP AHEAD Best eye patches
What do under eye patches do to your skin?
According to the medical experts we consulted, under-eye patches work by targeting dark circles, crows feet, wrinkles, fine lines and help reduce puffiness. In addition to helping you look more well-rested, under-eye masks hydrate and nourish your skin through high-quality ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, and anti-aging ingredients like retinol, as well as caffeine and niacinamide to brighten dark under-eye circles. “Eyes are the first area we see the signs of aging and [fine lines and wrinkles] can become noticeable in our mid-twenties,” said Engelman.
Do eye masks really work?
Are under-eye patches effective? Yes, Engelman said: Eye masks featuring hyaluronic acid and ceramides help plump the skin. Engelman called under-eye masks are “amazing” given their ability to quickly infuse ingredients into your skin. “The active ingredients are a higher concentration because they should usually stay on for only about 20 minutes and give an instant pick me up,” she added. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, agreed that under-eye patches are efficient. She added the actual patch is occlusive, meaning it can prevent water loss and coupled with the hydrating active ingredients found in the eye masks, your skin can soak up the eye mask ingredients easily. “I think the biggest benefit is that the skin under the patch will feel very hydrated,” said King, so there’s no need to apply eye cream after wearing eye patches unless you feel compelled to do so.
8 best under eye patches and masks of 2020
Whether you’re under-eye area needs some extra TLC because you’re exhausted, have dehydrated skin, are hungover or are just looking to try something relaxing while sheltering-in-place, consider incorporating eye patches into your skin care routine.
Best overall eye patches: Exuviance
Rachel Maiman, MD, a dermatologist at Marmur Medical in New York, said this mask from Exuviance is a must-have. “The key ingredient contained within the mask is lactobionic acid, a poly-hydroxy-acid that hydrates and firms the skin by acting as a humectant, a substance that helps attract and hold onto water,” she explained. Maiman noted there is a “dramatic improvement” in hydration, the skin is visibly plumped up and lines are “immediately” softened. Lactobionic acid also provides long-term anti-aging benefits by working similarly to alpha-hydroxy-acids like glycolic acid, Maiman added, noting it helps stimulate the production of collagen and gently exfoliates the outermost layer of skin. Due to the larger molecule size of lactobionic acid, it has a limited ability to penetrate your skin which “makes it highly suitable for the inherently thin under-eye skin and also makes it an excellent product for patients with more those with sensitive skin,” because it’s fragrance-free she added. The mask also contains a combination of vitamins A, C and E “that help soak up skin-damaging free radicals known to wreak havoc on collagen and elastin, critical structural proteins that also wane in concentration as we age.”
Best high-end eye patches: Chanel
Maiman argued you should consider investing in these splurge-worthy eye patches. You place the hydrogel patches to your under-eye area and apply the roll-on serum on top of the patches, then leave them on for 10 minutes. The rollerball helps move fluid away from the under-eye, where it likes to collect. “The purpose of the hydrogel patches is to create an evaporation-free barrier. This ensures the ingredients contained within the serum are maximally absorbed by the skin,” she added.
Best overnight eye patches: Sio Beauty
Engelman “loves” these eye patches from Sio for a few reasons. First, they’re made from medical-grade silicone “gently compressing your skin, keeping it smooth.” Second, “they intensify hydration and support your skin's natural ability to retain moisture, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.” And you can achieve these skin benefits on other parts of your body since Sio makes masks for your face, neck and decollete. You can sport these patches while you cozy up under your weighted blanket and can reuse them up to ten times each.
Best 2020 release: Loops Beauty
King recommended Loops, a skincare line specializing in masks and launched in mid-March. She said these hydrogel eye masks “are designed to fit into moments of your daily life.” She noted it’s rich in niacinamide, which is “great” for tone and texture, as well as retinol, a hydrating pearl extract and a nourishing flower complex. King also noted these eye masks hydrate, moisturize, brighten, smooth, depuff and protect from free radicals. Another notable Loops value for King: Loops masks are compostable, cruelty-free and free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates and synthetic fragrances.
Best reusable eye patches: Wrinkles Schminkles
King said Wrinkles Schminkles eye pads are shown to help soften wrinkles and lines under and around the eyes. “These medical-grade silicone pads keep the skin taut so it can't crease or wrinkles while locking in moisture,” she said. They can also be used up to 30 times each, making the $1 cost per use practical. According to the brand, the hypoallergenic and cruelty-free eye masks can also be used to target stretch marks and scarring.
Best hyaluronic acid eye patches: Peter Thomas Roth
Tai Young, a celebrity makeup artist and founder of Tai Young Beauty, called these eye patches from Peter Thomas Roth her “absolute favorite.” It features hyaluronic acid, while caffeine helps depuff and marshmallow extract helps soften your skin. “I keep them in a mini-fridge at my makeup station and my actors on “Grey's Anatomy” love them, even the guys,” she said. It’s not necessary to store your eye patches in a fridge, but the cold temperature can enhance your user-experience because it leaves behind a refreshing, cooling sensation and can help further reduce puffiness.
Best brightening eye patches: Patchology
“These gel patches are soothing to the under-eye area and contain retinol and peptides so they will help target fine lines and wrinkles, and help to stimulate collagen,” said Celeste Rodrigues, esthetician and owner of Celeste Rodrigues Skincare in Beverly Hills, California. Collagen is a protein that keeps your skin looking plump and youthful. There’s also squalane, which helps soften and hydrate your skin, and offer protection from free radicals, or particles that damage healthy skin cells. Cedrus atlantica bark extract brightens and cucumber extract calms inflammation and puffiness. Rodrigues added these “amazing” eye patches have a cooling effect and also helps to “bring down puffiness, especially before makeup application.”
8. Best travel-friendly eye patches: Tatcha
Meredith Baraf, a celebrity makeup artist to Lea Michelle and Hailey Clauson, said she actually regularly uses several eye masks — 111Skin, Estée Lauder andWander Beauty among them —, and noted: “All of them successfully hydrate, depuff and brighten the under-eye area using skin-loving, nourishing ingredients.” Another of her favorites is this travel-friendly option from Tatcha, a Japanese skin care line. Each order includes 10 individually-packed sheets that are compact enough to keep in your jacket pocket, slide into your purse or pop into your carry-on bag — in fact, make use of your (socially distant and otherwise safe) layover and pop on this eye mask while lounging on your next flight.
How do under eye patches target dark circles, puffiness and fine lines?
The popular benefits you receive from wearing an under-eye mask fully depends on the ingredients infused into the patches.
Under-eye masks for dark circles
While you can splurge on expensive under-eye creams and patches, both King and Engelman noted your under-eye circles are in some ways genetic and based on how your face is structured. “Genetics play a large role because dark circles are often the result of shadowing caused by our bone and fat structure — your facial contours will determine where shadows fall,” said King. Engelman added, “The darkness that is perceived is often the result of the underlying vasculature that is lying right underneath thin, translucent skin.” If you look at your inner wrist below the palm, that’s not blue skin, Engelman explained. The thin skin shows veins through it — it’s called the Tyndall Effect. “Traits that contribute to thin or pale skin or more pigment, slowing movement of blood, will increase the appearance of dark circles,” she said.
Under-eye masks to treat puffiness
Puffiness can come from either fluid or from a fat pad. “If you notice that the puffiness is worse in the morning and better by evening, and worse some days than others, then your puffiness is probably from fluid,” said King. Her remedy is to drink more water, eat less salt and sleep propped up on a couple of pillows so the fluid does not all collect in the under-eye area. “Hormonal status will also affect your fluid retention and, if this is an ongoing issue for you, then you may consider an oral contraceptive that has a diuretic effect,” said King.
Allergies can also contribute to puffiness, “in which case an oral antihistamine may be helpful.” If your eye bags are consistent then it is more likely the result of anatomy — a fat pad that has become lower over time, according to King. “The only real fix for this kind of problem is surgery: a lower lid blepharoplasty. A radio frequency device called the Venus Freeze may offer temporary improvement in the appearance,” she added.
Under-eye masks for fine lines and wrinkles
King said to look out for humectants such as hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and make your skin look plumper, which can temporarily soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Anti-aging peptides, growth factors and retinol can help stimulate collagen and elastin production to help reduce fine lines over time. Just be sure to use the products regularly for best results, advised King.