From stretchmarks to skin slackening to cystic acne, you don't need to be stuck in post-pregnancy mode to suffer parallel grievances. As many others out there who average far less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep, I am prone to tired eyes. To treat a persistent bout of puffiness and under-eye circles, I have been using Belli Eye Brightening Cream ($37) for the past two weeks. Due to my hypersensitive skin and weary eye area, I am rather fastidious when it comes to eye products (see my bad experiences with a biodynamic eye gel and a vitamin C eye cream with SPF). But Belli managed to meet my high standards with an Eye Brightening Cream that not only does what it promises (brighten, tone, and refresh), but also makes an excellent canvas for my inevitably essential under-eye concealer.
This product is part of the Belli Motherhood line, which has been LactMed screened to avoid ingredients that have been linked to adverse effects while breastfeeding. Belli's other two collections are Belli Pregnancy (teratology screened to eliminate any ingredients remotely tied to birth defects) and Belli Baby (screened for xenoestrogens- chemicals that act like hormones to disrupt the reproductive system). Considering the meticulous precautions that went into formulating each product, I expected to find only the safest ingredients in my eye cream. Instead, I found a mixed bag of exceptional and exceptions.
There is an eyeful of antioxidants, including vitamins E, C, and K. Vitamin K has been shown in studies to reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes by enhancing circulation to the area. Green tea extract contains signaling molecules called catechins that provide protection from the sun, while saccharomyces cerevisia extract evens out the skin tone around the eye. Rice and soybean protein improve hydration and help send dark bags packing.
For high-impact emollients, it doesn't get any better than sodium hyaluronate, squalane, and glycerin. There are also excellent anti-aging extracts, from arnica montana, which has anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates blood flow to reduce discoloration of the skin, to panax ginseng root, which has all sorts of tonic and conditioning properties and whose genus name translates to "panacea" in Greek. Last but certainly not least, palmitoyl tripeptide-3 (aka Syn-Coll) mimics the skin's ability to produce collagen.
Belli does not profess to be entirely organic, though it strives to use natural ingredients when proven safe during pregnancy and to purchase from organic farmers to avoid contamination with pesticides. Every Belli product is allergy tested, fully EU compliant, and free of allergens and parabens. Unfortunately, these provisions do not fend off certain ingredients that are often frowned upon by TIA. For one, phenoxyethanol is a chemical preservative that may depress the central nervous system and trigger diarrhea. It was one of the ingredients in Mommy's Bliss nipple cream (in addition to chlorphenesin) that provoked the FDA to issue a consumer warning.
The second ingredient after water, olive oil PEG-7 esters is a film-forming emollient derived from esterifying water-soluble olive oil. It provides the phytosterols and moisturizing properties of olive oil without the pore-clogging fatty acids. Though there are concerns that olive oil PEG-7 esters can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, its material safety data sheet defines the mixture as non toxic and non irritant. Another ingredient that gives me pause is ethoxydiglycol, which contains ether and can therefore be linked to cancer, developmental toxicity, and allergic reactions. I'm not convinced these components are harmless enough for a breastfeeding mother, but they are not really hazardous enough (none exceed the Environmental Working Group's 4 rating) to scare me off.
After I dab on the Eye Brightening Cream, its milky coating absorbs into my skin almost instantly, feeling like a refreshing glass of water for the eyes. I have taken to carrying the .85 oz tube (perfect for travel) in my purse and spoiling my eye area with a pick-me-up later in the day. Two weeks of use has left my eyes looking well-rested, brighter, and somehow younger. Who cares if Belli is built for babies and their mamas? I'd trust the ingredients on the label over the brand name any day, and Belli Skin Care seems like a pretty safe bet.
Belli's founding physician wrote in with these comments:
We are aware of the 1,4-dioxane contamination concerns associated with ethoxylated ingredients such as PEG-7 esters. At Belli, we take the extra step of requiring our ingredient suppliers to vacuum-strip these ingredients to remove impurities. It’s a simple process that most companies skip, despite the urging of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Regarding ethyoxydiglycol, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review studied this ingredient and determined it was “safe in the present practices of use and concentration” at up to 80% (supporting journal citations listed on page 20). The Cosmetic Ingredient Review’s physicians, toxicologists, and chemists “thoroughly review and assess the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased, and expert manner, and publishes the results in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.”
Finally, the FDA only warned that babies may ingest phenoxyethanol in large quantities if used as a nipple cream. Used as a preservative on the skin, any absorption to mother will be substantially lower, and the benefits of preventing microbial contamination must be weighed in. The Cosmetic Ingredient Reviewed determined this ingredient was safe at concentrations up to 5% (page 49 of table).
Still, we try to err on the side of caution at Belli, and have already flagged this ingredient for replacement in our next round of formulations. There are only a handful of effective preservatives to choose from, and teratology screening rules out most of them, but we may have some ideas.
Five Best Eye Creams- June 2008
Five Best Eye Creams- updated 2009
Your Best Face Correct eye cream- recommended
Dermaxime eye cream- recommended
Deionized Water, Olive Oil PEG-7 Ester, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Glycerine, Sodium PCA, PPG-2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Esters, Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate, Phospholipids (and) Phytonadione, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopherol, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-3, Hydrolyzed Rice Bran Protein (and) Oxido Reductases (and) Glycine Soja (Soybean) Protein, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Dimethicone, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan) (and) Glucose, Panthenol, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Squalane, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate (and) Glycereth-2 Cocoate