This is another installment in the skincare series. Earlier articles included What’s in a skincare regimen, Something that really works, Treat your skin with Vitamin A, and Topical growth factors.

I’m a very literal person. I’ve been embarrassed in some social situations because I have taken things too literally and totally misunderstood what was meant by a comment.

When I hear something described as a firming cream, I imagine that it is going to make my tissues thicker and firmer so I had to learn that the literal translation of firming in the cosmetic world is actually smoothing.

Firming eye contour creams help to smooth out the eye area. The way they do this is actually pretty cool. The better products contain a small protein, called a hexapeptide, that interacts with the muscles around the eye to reduce muscle contraction.

Fine lines and wrinkles around the eye are caused by repeated corrugation of the skin every time the underlying muscles contract. At first, these lines are only present when the muscle contracts — these are called dynamic lines. If you ask a child to squeeze her eyes tightly shut, you’ll see that crow’s feet form at the corners of her eyes but disappear when she relaxes.

Eventually the repeated folding of the skin alters the collagen at the base of the fold and the line remains visible when the muscle is relaxed — these are called static lines.

The hexapeptide reduces the muscular contraction so it is primarily going to reduce dynamic lines. Hexapeptide is about 1/3 as effective as BOTOX® Cosmetic at relaxing the muscle, and, of course, only works as long as you keep applying the cream.

High quality eye firming creams, like Vivier’s Firming Eye Contour Cream also contain ingredients that will help to build up the skin and collagen to actually firm the skin so I suppose they could call it a Smoothing and Firming Eye Contour Cream (I know … I’m very literal).

What sort of ingredients build up tissue and collagen? Vitamin C — again in a high quality product — will penetrate the skin and stimulate collagen formation. Allantoin stimulates new, healthy tissue growth. We can promote healing and skin cell regeneration with squalene, Calendula officinalis flower oil and Centella asiatica extract. (The gardeners amongst us will recognize those as marigold and pennywort, respectively.)

All of the above ingredients are present in the Vivier Firming Eye Contour Cream, as well as a great, lightweight moisturizer. I emphasize the need for a high quality product because the ingredient list doesn’t tell the whole story — you need the ingredients to be formulated in such a way that they penetrate the skin. Vivier achieves this with their IntraDermal System IDS.

Bottom line: firming eye contour creams do work, about 1/3 as effectively as BOTOX® Cosmetic at smoothing the eye area. They can help to prolong the effects of botox too.

Here’s a tip if you’re using a firming eye contour cream: I usually get more than I need out of the tube so I apply the extra cream anywhere that I have dynamic lines, like the frown lines between the brows or horizontal forehead lines, rather than waste it. Every little bit helps.