Let me establish my ‘sensitive eyes bona fides’ right out of the gate. First, I’m a lifelong glasses wearer, so anything that dares to come within about an inch of my eyeballs is simply too close. Up until my early twenties, my mother had to apply my eyeliner and my little brother had to remove my contacts on the odd occasion I could stand wearing them. To this day, another person just talking about something being wrong with their eyes is enough to make mine water. Secondly, the skin around the eyes? Using topical cream for acne (nowhere near my eyes) gave me severe periorbital dermatitis, so severe that someone once complimented my avant-garde fuchsia eyeshadow. Now, I take oral medication for my skin that leaves me ludicrously dry and prone to irritation. So I hope you’ll agree that I really do know what I am looking for when it comes to eye creams that will soothe, and mascaras that won’t add to the problem.

The Top Three Eye Creams

Best eye cream to use under makeup
Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Eye Base

I normally have a strong aversion to eye cream housed in jars – having to dip your whole finger into a jar makes it hard to get out the tiny amount you need. I willingly ignore the packaging for this smooth yellow cream, though, which sinks in immediately and so requires no potentially-irritating rubbing in. It gives dry skin a pretty dewy look. Having been specifically designed for use prior to makeup, it has a useful grippy texture to layer concealer on top of without drying out and further aggravating the delicate skin.

Best eye cream containing active ingredients
iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex

Questionable name aside (let’s banish the word ‘youth’ from all products, please), this cream is a perfect example of why so much in skincare is trial and error. iS Clinical is a famously ‘active’ brand, and yet this is one of so very few eye creams I have tested that never stings my reactive eyes. Copper peptides, long been shown to increase collagen production that slows down as we age, are the star of the show. A smart silver airless pump keeps the actives from oxidising. Mid-weight, the cream sinks in quickly and leaves skin feeling plump and protected.

Best eye cream overall
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Eyes

I have repurchased this more often than any other eye cream, and it is one of maybe three skincare products I refuse to ever be without. Coming in at a brilliantly affordable price point, it is not for you if you want a cream to change your eye area, but it certainly is for you if you want a product that relieves and nourishes without exacerbating any problems. It’s a light cream, which may not immediately seem soothing-blanket-adjacent enough when things are dire, but I’d still urge you to consider it when the very thought of your usual products is making you wince; just reapply it regularly. Its clear plastic airless pump twists to lock, making it a great option to take out and about without worrying about excess weight or mess.

The Top Three Mascaras

Best mascara for an everyday look
Le Volume de Chanel

No matter the condition my eyes have been in, this has never once irritated them. Better yet, it gives a very pretty, fluttery look. When things are a little red or watery, a soft, fluffy lash is far more flattering rather than adding a lot of length or dramatic colour.  This combination of formula and larger brush gives definition without drawing too much attention – how very Chanel. It is also exceptionally simple both to apply and to take off. The one downside of that is that it does smudge, but I will happily take some minor smudging over having to go in endlessly with makeup remover at the end of the day on eyes that can’t bear to be touched. Speaking of which, it is of course entirely up to you whether you find traditional mascara or tubing versions (these wrap your lashes in little fibres and are removed gently with fingers and warm water) easier on your sensitive eyes. I have somehow managed to get some of the tubing mascaras’ tiny spider leg fibres into my eyes on more than one occasion, so often just find it easier to use a traditional formula which hasn’t been designed to withstand a tornado. The key is to douse a cotton pad with a great eye makeup remover – Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution, forever and always – be patient enough to hold it in place over the eye for a good ten seconds, and gently swipe it all off.

Best mascara for dramatic lashes
Hourglass Caution

Another traditional formula, this is a luxurious option all the way down to its gold triangular packaging. A medium brush tapers to a fine point, which allows for easy coating of lashes of all size. It gives an inky black, voluminous look, which makes it very glamorous indeed as a night time option. Once festivities are over, it is also easily removed with micellar water.

Best mascara overall
MCoBeauty Xtend Lash

Each time I reach for this tubing formula, I am impressed all over again – not least by its very affordable price. A simple everyday option guaranteed not to smudge is a great find in and of itself. However, you can also continue coating the lashes in the liquid fibres until you’re firmly in va-va-voom territory. Whichever look you choose, it all slides off in warm water. Magic, really.

And a final note…

If you can’t face mascara (a feeling I absolutely understand), though still want to add a little something to your eye look, curling your lashes really does help. I was in my mid-thirties before I appreciated the power. Find an eyelash curler that suits your eye shape best – for me, that is the one by the late, great makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. It is wide with a decent curve, so it gets the middle lashes which sit higher up, as well as the lower ones down the end of the eye. Whichever model you choose, the trick is to do each eye for sixty second. I know, I know, an aeon, but if you do it to one eye and stand back and see the difference, it really is quite remarkable. My other find is the ModelCo Lashwand Heated Eyelash Curler (Original). It gives fabulous, long lasting, eye-opening results and the very gentle heat near the eyes is actually quite comforting.

Story by Zoe Briggs. Main image by Soroush Karimi via Unsplash.

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