Under eye sunscreen: Revolutionary or unnecessary? A dermatologist shares her opinion

Under eye sunscreen: Revolutionary or unnecessary? A dermatologist shares her opinion

Sun smarts

Text: Emily Heng

To some, Icarus — that's the poor shmuck who died flying too close to the sun, FYI — is a mere cautionary tale detailing the many consequences of hubris. To others, it is an everyday reality. Living a mere 137km from a colossal ball of hot gas, we run the risk of nasty sunburns, hyperpigmentation, and in extreme cases, skin cancer.

Under eye sunscreen: Revolutionary or unnecessary? A dermatologist shares her opinion (фото 1)

With odds like these, sunscreen — every variant, from the classics to hybrid moisturiser types and aerosols — naturally flies off the shelves on our sunny shores. The newest arrival to the scene: under eye sunscreens.

Formulated specifically for the skin around eyes, the dedicated sun-shield protects the area from UV rays. Some also work to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and deliver other added benefits to skin. The bountiful offerings from new suncare brand Soleil Toujours, SupergoopSkinCeuticals and Shiseido beg question: is under eye sunscreen the next suncare essential, or is it just a gimmick wrapped in some pretty darn great packaging? We get Dr Teo Wan Lin, Ministry of Health dermatologist and founder of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Center to weigh in.


Is a specific sunscreen dedicated to the eye area is necessary? 
It is not necessary if the sunscreen you're already using is a medical-grade sunscreen that has been dermatologist-tested and ophthalmologist-tested. In my practice, for example, I formulated the SunProtector, which is a lightweight sunscreen that is dermatologist-tested to be suitable for use on the entire face including the eye area.


What is the difference between the eye area and the rest of our skin on the face that you think necessitates the need for an under eye SPF?
The skin under the eyes are thinner and thus, more delicate; this explains why we tend to get dark eye circles. In the cases of women who wear eye makeup over many years as well as contact lenses, the process of dragging and pulling the areas of skin around the eyes can make it more susceptible to wrinkling and laxity.


As a tip, I often advise my patients to use their ring finger instead of the index finger to apply any sort of eye cream or eye makeup, in order to avoid exerting repeated high pressure (from the index finger) over the delicate eye area, which drags down the skin and may cause or worsen eye bags and wrinkles. 

Would you recommend Singaporeans to take extra care of the under-eye area?
It is indeed very important to take extra care of the eye area. Prevention is key, as well as using a good eye cream. In terms of treatments that can done for the eye area, laser resurfacing is great and plasma nitrogen treatments are very safe — they use ionic plasma nitrogen to help resurface and tighten skin around the eye area. 


Can sunglasses protect the eye area from excessive sun exposure?
Sunglasses are a good way to block out UV radiation. I would advise wearing sunglasses primarily within the context of preventing excessive harmful UV exposure to the eyes, for example, the cornea. At the same time, when you apply a good quality sunscreen together with physical measures such as a broad-rimmed sun hat and sunglasses, you're really giving yourself a full range of protection. 

Intrigued by the prospect of under eye sunscreens? Most are supposedly formulated containing zinc oxide and titanium oxide — a.k.a mineral formulations — where these ingredients tend to be less irritating for the eye. Here are some for your consideration.

Dr Teo Wan Lin is the founder and Medical Director of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre. She is also a Ministry of Health accredited dermatologist specialising in both medical and cosmetic dermatology.