Do you have sensitive skin or milia? Here Are 3 of the Best Gentle and Effective Eye Creams.
Have you ever had little white pearls around your eyes or temples, or do you know someone who does? These little bumps could be Milia. But, before determining that, you need to get this diagnosed by a doctor or dermatologist. Getting diagnosed will help you attain a real treatment plan so you don’t have to try ineffective or detrimental products. Many OTC products, especially eye creams, can make milia worse. Fortunately, there are OTC products that not only work with milia but improve it. But, before we get into products, let’s define milia.
What are milia?
Cassandra has had milia on her eyes and ears. Milia are little keratin cysts that ball up underneath the skin. Keratin composes our hair, nails, and skin. Keratin skin cells create keratinocytes. Keratinocytes represent the major cell type of the epidermis, the outermost of the layers of the skin. They make up about 90 percent of the cells there. They are created in the deepest layer of the epidermis, the stratum basale, and move up to the final barrier layer of the skin, the stratum corneum.
But, during this formation process, things can go a little haywire for reasons that aren’t totally known. These tiny, little cysts or pearls of keratin can form under the skin. Sometimes people mistake milia for whiteheads or acne, but they are very different. Acne is caused by bacteria in a hair follicle whereas milia don’t always happen in or near a hair follicle. On top of that, milia don’t usually have the pus or inflammation associated with acne.
What causes milia?
Some professionals believe that it’s due to sun exposure which is yet another reason to wear SPF. Others believe it’s due to an issue with desquamation. Desquamation is your skin’s natural process of exfoliation. If your skin cells aren’t turning over enough, little deposits of keratin protein can form and get stuck in the skin. For some people, milia can also be a result of trauma to the skin such as scarring, abrasion, or an intense medical peel. There have been some medical studies showing milia as a result of such.
However, the most common thing Cassandra hears about is products triggering milia. At the same time, whether a product can truly cause milia is debatable. But, thick, occlusive moisturizers have been known to exacerbate it.
Do milia go away?
Milia needs to be diagnosed by a dermatologist. Although milia can be lanced and extracted in a professional setting, they can resolve and disappear on their own. Furthermore, there are over-the-counter products that truly help to lessen them.
What eye creams are safe for milia?
When you are looking for milia-safe eye cream, it can be very difficult to find one, but here is Cassandra’s list of criteria.
1) Look for a product that doesn’t pill up. This will cause creasing and streaking, and we don’t want that.
2) Look for something that’s not overly suffocating. We want something lightweight and hydrating, not something that gets all goopy and gunky on the skin.
3) Avoid petrolatum, paraffin, or anything that has Vaseline. For people with eczema or psoriasis, petrolatum can be a great ingredient, but you may want to avoid it around the eye area. If you’re prone to milia, avoiding mineral oil and even olive oil is a best practice, too.
4) And most importantly, look for ingredients that truly work. If we’re spending money on a dedicated eye cream, it needs to be efficacious.
Milia or not, you should be cognizant of what you’re truly trying to treat on the undereye area. Are you trying to treat wrinkles, discoloration, or bags? All three of these issues need different solutions. So, let’s chat about milia-safe eye creams that work for each eye condition.
Milia safe eye cream for wrinkles
Best for wrinkles and color: Beauty of Joseon - Revive Eye Serum with Ginseng & Retinal - $9.29
Let’s start with Cassandra’s personal favorite. For Cassandra, this is not only an eye cream but a face cream. She uses it on her forehead fine lines, marionette lines, and the nasolabial folds. Because it has retinaldehyde, she loves this for fine lines.
This eye cream is from Korea, and it is an eye serum with ginseng and retinal. Retinoids are known as the gold standard in dermatology. They were originally created for acne, but they’re also great for fine lines, wrinkles, scars, hyperpigmentation, and even the eye area. But, there are different strengths of retinoids. The word retinoid is the umbrella term, and it relates to all vitamin As, including retinaldehyde aka “retinal.” Retinal is more potent than retinol, and it converts into retinoic acid upon entering the skin. Retinoic acid binds to our skin cells and causes the skin to create more cells in that basal layer.
Retinoids are phenomenal, especially if you are struggling with fine lines and wrinkles. However, you may have heard that we should layer or “sandwich” our retinoids to prevent irritation. This means putting a retinoid in between two layers of petrolatum or a thick moisturizer. While this is true, this is a disaster if you’re prone to milia!
Can I layer or “sandwich” my retinoids if I have milia?
If you have sensitive eye skin, retinoids can lead to redness or dryness in the eye area. But, if we are using something like Vaseline or petrolatum to buffer this retinoid, this can trigger milia. The good news is – layering isn’t necessary if you find a retinoid eye cream that moisturizes and nourishes the skin without overly suffocating it.
This is why we suggest the Beauty of Joseon Eye Cream. It is an extraordinarily plumping eye cream that helps with fine lines and wrinkles. If you are worried about aging in the under-eye area, you can use the smallest amount and put it around your under-eye area. You can even put a bit of it above the eye area and the rest all over your face.
This eye cream is vegan and cruelty-free, and it’s very hard to find a retinaldehyde that is vegan and cruelty-free. In addition to retinaldehyde, this also has ceramides, niacinamide, and ginseng which acts as an antioxidant.
Although ceramide, niacinamide, and ginseng are antioxidant ingredients, Cassandra’s favorite ingredient is still the retinaldehyde because of how powerfully it works on fine lines and wrinkles. The retinoids boost the EGF (epidermal growth factor) when they are in the skin. More simply, retinoids help the skin heal and build its lower layers. So, while a lot of people think that retinoids are exfoliating, this is not truly the case. In reality, they’re causing the outer layers of the skin to shed off a little faster since they speed up skin cell turnover. Retinoids cause the skin’s lower layers to plump up, and it makes the inside of the skin thicker, pushing off older skin cells. This process plumps the skin and prevents fine lines and wrinkles.
As your skin rebuilds, you’ll start to see the under eyes look brighter and smoother. Plus, the ginseng and the niacinamide are antioxidants, meaning they’ll brighten the under-eye area. Even though this is not Cassandra’s number-one choice for pigmentation, this product is still very helpful for darkness and pigmentation in the under-eye area.
Now, what causes eye discoloration?
There’s actually a multitude of things that can cause it. It could be smoking or drinking, not drinking enough water, or not moisturizing enough. Anemia or an iron deficiency can also contribute to this and can cause blood vessels to show up more. However, if you are someone who struggles with natural hyperpigmentation or pigmentation around the eyes, vitamin C and other tyrosinase inhibitors can be phenomenal.
Best for pigmentation: Paula’s Choice - C5 Super Boost Eye Cream -$16
If you have any form of under-eye discoloration or darkness, check your allergies, sleep habits, and make sure that you don’t have anemia. But, also, get yourself something with vitamin C. This product from Paula’s Choice is relatively new. They are a multitude of milia-safe eye creams. But, if you want something milia-safe, this doesn’t have ingredients that are going to overly suffocate the eye area. This actually has a special form of vitamin C that truly does help.
It is potent, but it also doesn’t irritate the under-eye area. This has a 5% vitamin C and a very special antioxidant peptide blend. Also, they say it has zerumbone which is essentially an extract from ginger root. It’s supposed to be super potent without being irritating. The antioxidants are wonderful, especially when it comes to free radical damage. While eye cream is not going to erase the damage, it can fight against contributing free radical damage.
This Paula’s Choice formula has peptides as well which can strengthen and plump the eye area, and it also has rice bran which is nice and hydrating. That’s what Cassandra loves about this. It’s a lightweight, gel texture too. So, the formula is not overly suffocating and thick cream. The formula is very beautiful. It’s a good vitamin C cream. And if you struggle with pigmentation, but you have milia or want to refrain from retinoids, this is it.
But, what if you do have undereye bags and milia? What eye cream should you use?
This can actually be one of the hardest ones to treat. Sometimes we don’t have control over what causes undereye bags. For example, under-eye puffiness can come from a septal hernia. We have a tiny septum under our eyes and natural fat pockets. But, if that pocket weakens, it can push out and forward, giving us these puffy under-eye bags.
Fortunately, Colorscience has a very effective eye cream that is tailored to people with skin condtions. Although it comes in a tiny bottle that’s $94, it’s absolutely worth it.
Best for firming puffiness: Colorescience - Total Eye Firm & Repair - $98
If your under-eye puffiness is something that can be addressed with a topical cream, this is going to be the one to do it. This is more like a cream rather than a gel, and this deeply soaks into the eye area. It doesn’t peel up or ball up under makeup, and it doesn’t have any of those ingredients that could trigger milia. This has antioxidants and peptides that firm and tighten. It also contains caffeine which can constrict blood flow when applied topically. Applying caffeine to your skin causes the under-eye area to constrict blood flow. So, any puffiness that is coming from lymphatic fluid or little capillaries is handled. Under-eye patches also do this. But, if you’re not using those, this is going to be the next best thing.
If you want a budget version, The Ordinary’s caffeine eye cream is great. It has caffeine and EGCG, and it is a tenth of the price.
Also, milia can be caused by sun exposure so make sure you’re wearing sunscreen to fortify your skincare!
Coverphoto cred: Beautiful Canadian Laser & Skincare Clinic