It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning — let alone look bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and wrinkle-free — after a long night. After all, the effects of exhaustion tend to show up on our face (and specifically, in our eye area) first. While there are a number of at-home remedies you can employ to erase bags and dark circles, most of them require you to sit still and hold objects like chilled spoons or slices of cucumber in place as they get to work. And frankly, who has time for that when they need to get ready for work?
That’s why eye patches and gels have become so popular in recent years: they work much faster than DIY depuffers and regular eye creams. According to Dr. Maryann Mikhail, a board-certified dermatologist and Director of Phototherapy at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, most eye creams are intended for long-term use for benefits seen over time, not immediately. Patches and gels allow you to fake a full night’s sleep in a matter of mere minutes without getting in the way of your morning routine. All you have to do is stick them on, let them get to work while you get dressed, and take them off before you head out the door.
“Eye masks are most useful as a quick fix to hydrate and de-puff the periocular area,” Mikhail explains. “Since it is applied directly to the area, the active ingredients are under occlusion [sealed in], which intensifies their strength and efficacy.”
As you shop for your perfect patches, you’ll find that this category typically comes in one of two forms: either biocellulose or gels. Biocellulose eye masks, like the Peace Out® Puffy Undereye Patches ($25 for six pairs), are a bit reminiscent of the sheet masks we love to use for a quick skincare fix and come soaked in brightening ingredients like vitamin C and K. But like sheet masks, biocellulose eye treatments can start to slip — and they tend to dry out quickly.
“Sheets can’t be left on as long,” warns board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu. “Once they are dry, they will start to lift moisture from your skin rather than deliver it to your skin.” Save them for when you’re really in a rush and know you’ll be removing them expediently (in about 10 minutes) versus lounging around (for 30 or more).
Alternatively, gel-based treatments such as Skyn Iceland® iconic Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels ($30) stick in place as soon as you apply them and create a better barrier to hold in those active ingredients, preventing them from evaporating while they start to treat your skin. Plus, you can pop gel masks in the fridge for a cooling and soothing feeling that will tamp down on puffiness even faster. They’re great for both a stressful morning and a more leisurely self-care session.
Depending on the effect you’re after, you’ll want to look closely at your ingredient list. “These days there is an eye mask for everything — dryness, puffiness, dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles, loss of elasticity and other textural issues,” says Chiu. When shopping for these products, she recommends key ingredients like vitamin C, which can help brighten, and hyaluronic acid, which hydrates and plumps up the volume of the skin. Both of these can be found in one of Chiu’s favorite picks, Frownies® Eye Gels ($20 for three pairs). She also notes that the included aloe, linolenic, and oleic acids can also add a quick moisture boost, while vitamin E soothes and softens.
The top ingredient that we recommend you keep your eye on for skincare is one you likely already have in your a.m. routine, albeit in a different format: caffeine. Not only does it help perk up your body, but it also works to eliminate eye bags by depuffing and tightening under eye skin in a snap. Both experts point to PETERTHOMASROTH® Water Drench® Hyaluronic Cloud Hydra Gel Patches ($52 for 30 pairs) as a prime example, thanks to its blend of caffeine and hyaluronic acid. Together, these help calm puffiness and hydrate the area as well as smooth the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
We’ll admit that their efficacy and potency can make it tempting to have eye masks in your rotation every morning, but it can be easy to overdo it. “The eye skin is the thinnest on the body, so the most prone to irritation and allergic reactions to products,” points out Mikhail. “With undereye patches, the occlusion increases the risk of irritation.” While the patches work in a skincare emergency — like fixing the effects of a long night — they’re meant to be a weekly treatment, not a daily one. Adds Chiu, “patches and masks should be followed up with a serum or eye cream of choice. These should be used on a daily basis.” Consult with your dermatologist if you have more questions about your eye treatment.
While eye creams should be a staple in your skincare routine already (discover our tips for finding the best eye treatment for you here), consider eye patches more of an occasional upgrade. They can be the perfect accessory to boost the effects of your daily eye cream or serum, whether you’re pampering yourself before a big event or in a pinch before work.
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Products may have been gifted to the author for the purpose of writing this article.
Dr. Annie Chiu is a paid Allergan consultant.