How to use retinol around the eyes to tackle signs of ageing like crow’s feet and sagging skin

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Retinol and other retinoids – which are derivatives of vitamin A – are widely accepted as the gold standard in anti-ageing skincare ingredients, known for their ability to boost cell turnover and helping to smooth, firm and rejuvenate the skin.

But used too much or at too high a strength, they can also irritate sensitive skin – and so in the past, applying retinol around the delicate eye area was always a no-no.

But as (bad) luck would have it, the skin around the eyes is often where the first signs of ageing show themselves, from fine lines and wrinkles to dark circles and under-eye bags. Does this mean you can never enjoy the benefits of retinol in this area of the face? 

Luckily, nowadays that’s not the case. Use the right products in the right way and retinol can seriously perk up your peepers.

Here’s how to safely and effectively use retinol around the eyes…

Choose the right formula

Don’t just apply your regular retinol face serum or cream right up to your eyeballs; use a product specifically designed for the eye area. These often contain a lower strength of retinoid, sometimes encapsulated for slow release or combined with hydrating, calming ingredients to minimise the risk of irritation.

Try: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum. Combining three different retinol technologies with hydrating ingredients to minimise dryness, this had 93% of testers noticing a reduction in lines and wrinkles around the eye area in just four weeks.

A full size bottle normally costs £73 but you can get it for just £45 in Lisa Snowdon’s limited-edition OK! Beauty Box, along with nine more of the TV presenter’s all-time beauty must-haves (the box is worth over £200 in total!).

Speaking about the Murad eye serum, Lisa says: “This is a great introduction to retinol – it instantly hydrates and brightens the eye area while also minimising fine lines.” 

Apply retinol to the right places

If it’s your actual eyeballs that are sensitive, apply your retinol eye cream just to the orbital bone above and under the eye, avoiding the eyelid. Most formulas will naturally migrate inwards ever so slightly towards the eye, so you’ll still be getting the effects where they’re needed – just with less risk of your eyes watering.

Build up tolerance

If you’re completely new to using retinol, introduce it gradually into your routine. The first week, only use it once a week. Then the second week, use it twice a week – and so on. You may be able to build up to using it every day but see how your skin reacts to it, and reduce frequency if needed.

Use an SPF

Retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, even if you’re using it at night, so always ensure you apply an SPF in the mornings (there are even a number of eye-specific SPFs available nowadays).

Always follow the instructions on the box on any retinol product.