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At this point, you’ve probably seen your favorite influencer preaching about self-care or getting their makeup done with some crescent-shaped patches under their eyes. Maybe they were gold or sparkly or iridescent. You were intrigued. What do those do? you wondered, but ultimately didn’t care because they looked luxurious and you wanted some.
My first experience with these little under-eye patches was years ago when a fellow bridesmaid tossed me a pair while we were preparing for a wedding. We were tired, and she said they’d make me look less so. I remember the slimy patches sliding down my face until I was annoyed enough to take them off, negating any potential results.
But here we are in 2023 with a million different under-eye patches on the market promising to hydrate, tighten, lift, and soothe that sensitive bit of skin (while also staying in place). With the plethora of skincare options out there, many of which are not cheap, you want to know that what you’re buying has a purpose beyond showing off your self-care practices on social media.
Do under-eye patches work?
“Patches are nice because they add an occlusive characteristic,” said Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. An occlusive ingredient in skincare creates a protective barrier to essentially help seal in the good stuff and keep out the bad.
She explained that while most of these patches have the same ingredients as her recommended eye creams, the thicker occlusive material of patches allows those ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin and therefore have a more substantial effect.
When it comes to active ingredients, you want to look for substances that are known to be safe on most skin, like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and peptides, Nazarian said. Those will help in plumping and hydrating the area. For depuffing and improving pigment, she recommends looking for caffeine and licorice root extract.
“Start with the basics,” she said. “I think the [eye patches] that address anti-aging or the ones that are more collagen-stimulating tend to have a higher irritant potential. If you have sensitive skin, I would test them out someplace else before you apply them under your eyes. If you feel tingling or stinging after applying one, just abort. It’s not even worth it.”
However, there are some ingredients with higher potential for irritation whose benefit can be worth the risk, she said, like retinol. It’s still best to test those products on less delicate skin first and work your way up to regular use on the eye area.
How to use under-eye patches
Although Nazarian believes in the potential benefits of under-eye patches, the downside is that most people don’t wear them long enough to see results.
“If you’re going to apply it and then take it off like two minutes later, I would say you’re probably missing the point,” she said. Instead of just throwing them on while you do your makeup, she suggests finding some that you can wear overnight or at least for several hours for the greatest efficacy. Otherwise, the penetration likely won’t go beyond your everyday eye cream.
Another important piece of advice from Nazarian is to understand the maximum potential of these products.
“You will not be disappointed by an eye patch if you manage your expectations as to what they can do,” she said. “They’re not going to fix the hollows under your eyes. You’re not going to get rid of that contour issue. But if you’re trying to manage wrinkles, if you’re trying to manage puffiness, if you’re trying to manage even pigment, I think they’re phenomenal.”