- Vitamin C eye cream can help reduce dark circles around the eyes by strengthening the delicate skin and reducing the visibility of blood vessels in that area.
- This cream can also reduce other visible signs of aging such as crow’s feet and fine lines by boosting collagen production and protecting against UV-induced skin damage.
- Vitamin C can be combined with other anti-aging products for additional benefits.
Due to the thin skin and delicate nature of the eye area, it is typically among the first areas of the body to show early signs of aging. These signs include puffiness, sagging skin and dark circles that can often be easily prevented and treated using topical products.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin in the production of collagen, the protein that forms much of the skin’s connective tissue. It works to keep skin tight and plump; higher levels of this protein can even help treat certain skin blemishes.
This vitamin also aids in protecting the skin against UV rays, a major cause of skin damage that contributes to visible signs of aging.
Vitamin C is typically obtained through foods and supplements, however these sources have their limitations.
While orally administered vitamin C reaches the skin through the bloodstream, once the blood is saturated with vitamin C, the excess vitamin C is simply flushed from the body without reaching the skin. This limits the amount of vitamin C that can effectively be delivered to the skin through the blood.
Fortunately, topical applications circumvent this limitation by delivering a dose of vitamin C directly to the area in need.
What Causes Dark Circles Around the Eyes?
Dark circles typically develop due to visible vasculature or pigmentation issues.
Under-eye skin is thinner compared to the balance of the face. This makes the blood vessels in the skin around the eyes more visible, and causes the area to appear darker, even with a balanced skin tone.
Poor circulation around the eyes and an excess of melanin in the skin can further darken the area.
Both of these conditions occur naturally, but certain genetic and lifestyle factors can cause them to worsen with time.
Stress and dehydration
Lack of sleep, psychological distress and lack of hydration all have a negative effect on skin and can cause pallor, which increases the visibility of the dark capillaries underneath the skin. This results in the skin darkening around the eyes and taking on a bluish or purple hue; it can also cause swelling.
Allergies, crying and excessive rubbing can impact the skin beneath the eyes and rupture the capillaries in the eye area. This can cause blood to pool beneath the skin, resulting in bruising that increases the darkness of the area.
While some exacerbating factors can be avoided, dark circles around the eyes will inevitably worsen with age. Skin around the eyes naturally thins and loses elasticity over time due to decreased collagen production. This makes skin more translucent and increases the visibility of dark underlying veins.
Circles around the eyes can also be caused by pigmentation issues. Hyperpigmentation is a common pigmentation disorder characterized by an excess of melanin in a specific area. It is usually triggered by the use of certain medications, hormonal fluctuations or sun damage.
Vitamin C Eye Creams for Dark Circles
Vitamin C addresses thinning skin by boosting collagen production. This thickens the skin, improving its elasticity and obscuring dark underlying veins. This effect also strengthens capillaries, preventing breakage and bruising, further reducing the appearance of dark circles.
Vitamin C also contributes to regulate melanin production, making dark spots less likely to form and protecting the skin against sun damage, further limiting pigmentation issues.
While Vitamin C can help treat dark circles after they appear, it can also be used preventatively. Adding a vitamin C cream to your skin care regimen can work to bolster collagen formation on an ongoing basis, preventing skin from thinning.
Additionally, vitamin C’s ability to block UV radiation can contribute to preventing the appearance of dark circles from sun exposure.
Vitamin C Creams for Crow’s Feet, Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Crow’s feet, fine lines and wrinkles are all triggered by similar issues: lack of collagen, sun damage and natural wear gradually brought on by repeated facial movements.
While the body naturally produces less collagen with age, damage caused by UV rays and certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, further decrease production. This reduces the elasticity of skin, which over time leads to creasing and wrinkling.
Topical vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is effective in combating signs of aging around the eyes. When used regularly, vitamin C increases collagen production, to help diminish wrinkles and fade fine lines in this area.
The UV protection provided by vitamin C also offers benefits by maintaining the body’s natural collagen production levels, further delaying wrinkle formation.
What to Look for in a Vitamin C Eye Cream
An effective vitamin C cream should have a 10–20% concentration of vitamin C. At less than 10%, there is not enough active ingredient to have an effect; at a concentration of 20%, its effects begin to plateau, making higher concentrations no more effective than 20% concentrations.
Most vitamin C creams also include moisturizing ingredients to hydrate skin. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid (HA) can be particularly beneficial for those with naturally dry skin.
Eye creams that include ferulic acid and vitamin E can improve the antioxidant properties of vitamin C, further increasing collagen production and reducing darkness around the eyes.
Vitamin C Eye Cream: Safety and Concerns
Although negative reactions to vitamin C creams rarely occur, patch tests can determine if your skin exhibits any sensitivities.
While generally safe, the added moisturizing elements of these creams may lead to breakouts for those with particularly oily skin. If this is your case, you may want to consider an alternative form of vitamin C, such as a vitamin C serum.
pH balance and absorption
There is some contention over how effective some vitamin C topicals are at actually penetrating the skin. The most studied and widely accepted form of vitamin C in dermatology is L-ascorbic acid (LAA).
LAA is at its most stable and is most easily absorbed by the skin when used in a formulation with a pH lower than 3.5. Human skin typically has a natural pH of 4–6. As effective LAA eye creams are more acidic than skin, the pH balance of the skin may be disrupted by these products.
Effects on sensitive skin
Those with particularly sensitive skin may find products at high acidic pH levels uncomfortable and should should seek less acidic vitamin C creams, ideally with a pH of 5–6. Although they are sometimes less effective, these products are also less likely to cause irritation.
Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) and ascorbyl-6 palmitate are stable at a neutral pH level, and often cause less discomfort than typical LAA vitamin C products. That being said, these forms of vitamin C have not been thoroughly researched in topical forms and may not provide as many benefits as LAA.
Effects on oily skin
As vitamin C creams often contain oily ingredients that bolster skin hydration for dry or normal skin, many creams are not well suited to oily skin.
Those with oily skin should look for vitamin C creams that are light in texture and have oil-absorbing ingredients. Lighter vitamin C creams offer many of the same anti-aging benefits as other vitamin C creams without causing breakouts for those with oily skin.
One of the key ingredients to look for in lighter vitamin C creams is kaolin clay, as its absorbent properties can reduce excess oil.
Those with particularly oily skin should seek out other forms of vitamin C, as the added moisture provided by vitamin C creams may lead to further breakouts.
In a liquid or cream form, the effectiveness of vitamin C begins to degrade when it is exposed to heat, air or light. When exposed to sunlight, it will begin to oxidize, losing its potency and darkening in color.
As it oxidizes, vitamin C eventually degrades into erythrulose, one of the ingredients used in self-tanners. In this form, its skin care benefits are no longer effective, and it may stain the skin an orange color.
For this reason, vitamin C creams should be in sealed containers and stored in a dark, cool place.
Vitamin C powders are more stable and maintain their effectiveness over longer periods of time. Powders are a useful alternative for those looking to make a DIY vitamin C cream or serum.
Many common skin care products should not be combined with vitamin C, as they may render it ineffective.
Vitamin A, which commonly appears in skin care products as retinol, cannot be combined with vitamin C due to the opposing pH balances of these products. While vitamin C is best absorbed by the skin at a pH of less than 3.5, retinol is only stable at a pH between 5.5–7. Combining these incompatible pHs would cause both products to neutralize each other and become ineffective.
Benzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in acne treatment topicals, should also not be combined with vitamin C as it can oxidize vitamin C, rendering it ineffective. While both ingredients can be used together in a regimen to treat oily skin, they should always be applied separately. It is advised to wait a few minutes for their skin to absorb one product before starting to apply the other.
Alpha and beta hydroxy acids, ingredients commonly used in anti-aging cosmeceutical products, can safely be combined with vitamin C. However, as these chemicals are all acidic, they may be irritating to sensitive skin when used together.
Alternatives to Vitamin C Creams
Many anti-aging alternatives to vitamin C eye creams are available. These include other forms of vitamin C and products with other active ingredients. Each option has its own benefits, and each may be better suited to a different skin type or issue.
Alternative Sources of vitamin C
Other forms of vitamin C can be used in conjunction with vitamin C creams to provide additional skin care benefits. They can also be used as alternatives to vitamin C creams for those who are sensitive to the added ingredients in these creams.
Supplements and vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, can increase the level of vitamin C in the bloodstream. Although not as effective as a targeted dose of vitamin C below the eyes, oral consumption of vitamin C can increase collagen production across the body.
While many of the ingredients in vitamin C creams offer an added moisturizing effect, those with sensitive or oily skin may prefer to avoid the potential irritants. Vitamin C serums are a good alternative as they have few added ingredients and they offer a concentrated dose of vitamin C. They can be applied daily as part of a morning routine to combat many of the visible signs of aging.
Alternatives to vitamin C
Other than vitamin C, there are other creams and products that contain effective anti-aging agents.
Retinoids are vitamin A compounds that are often available in a cream form. When used regularly, they can improve collagen production and balance skin tone. Retinoid creams are particularly suited to eliminating fine lines and reversing sun damage.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic, citric and lactic acid can be used to hydrate skin and even out skin tone. Some forms of AHA also increase the skin’s natural cell turnover rate, improving the look and texture of skin.
In addition to over-the-counter topical products, some procedures can treat wrinkles and get rid of dark under-eye circles permanently.
Facial fat transfers can both smooth wrinkles and help to mask dark circles. During these procedures, fat is extracted from a donor site on the body and carefully reinjected in the face to plump the skin.
Synthetic fillers can also be used in a similar manner to facial fat transfers. Hyaluronic acid-based fillers can be injected below the eyes to provide a fuller, more youthful look. Unlike facial fat transfer procedures, which provide permanent results, fillers must be reinjected every 6–18 months.
Vitamin C’s many benefits including its antioxidant function, ability to stimulate collagen production and power to regulate melanin formation, make it a key anti-aging ingredient.
Vitamin C creams are effective at treating fine lines, wrinkles and dark circles under the eyes, and have few side effects.
The best vitamin C creams will contain a 10–20% concentration of vitamin C, and can contain a number of other ingredients for further benefits. Vitamin C creams that include HA can help moisturize the area around your eyes; creams with vitamin E can provide you with a more youthful and energized appearance.
- Al-Niaimi, F., & Chiang, N. (2017). Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 10(7), 14–17. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605218/
- Sauermann, K., Jaspers, S., Koop, U., & Wenck, H. (2004). Topically applied vitamin C increases the density of dermal papillae in aged human skin. BMC dermatology, 4(1), 13. doi:10.1186/1471-5945-4-13
- Ellen C. Gendler, Treatment of Periorbital Hyperpigmentation, Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Volume 25, Issue 6, November 2005, Pages 618–624, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.asj.2005.09.018
- Crisan, D., Roman, I., Crisan, M., Scharffetter-Kochanek, K., & Badea, R. (2015). The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 463–470. doi:10.2147/CCID.S84903
- Ali, Saba M.; Yosipovitch, Gil. (2013) Skin pH: From Basic Science to Basic Skin Care. Acta Derm Venereol 2013; 93: 261–267. medicaljournals.se/acta/content_files/files/pdf/93/3/3854
- Sethi, A., Kaur, T., Malhotra, S. K., & Gambhir, M. L. (2016). Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian journal of dermatology, 61(3), 279–287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427
- Pavicic T, Gauglitz GG, Lersch P, Schwach-Abdellaoui K, Malle B, Korting HC, Farwick M. Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Sep;10(9):990-1000. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22052267