When we wake up feeling less than perky or find our energy fading midday, many of us rely on caffeine (oat milk latte, anyone?). As it turns out, if tired eyes are showing the world just how exhausted you are, the same ingredient could be the solution. We’re not talking about a hot cup of coffee, but eye creams infused with caffeine. “Caffeine in eye cream is primarily used to brighten, tighten and wake up the skin,” explains Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist in Birmingham, Alabama. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts, or tightens, blood vessels. “This increases circulation while acting as an anti-inflammatory,” he says. This is what makes the ingredient great for both dark circles and puffiness—increased circulation means less darkness under the eye, while reduced inflammation means deflated bags.
Byrdie Researched & Approved
Caffeine is also a powerful antioxidant, so it helps defend your skin from some of the free radical damage caused by environmental factors like pollution and sun exposure. “This is important since the skin on the eyelid is much thinner than it is on the rest of the face,” says Dr. Michele Koo, a board-certified plastic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri.
These benefits make caffeine one of the most popular ingredients in eye creams across the beauty industry—which makes it incredibly hard to find the very best ones out there.
We conducted hours of research on the best vitamin C eye creams, evaluating each formula on active ingredients, key benefits targeted, and formula type. We also took into consideration size and value, because price can vary greatly when it comes to eye creams. After consulting two celebrity dermatologists and considering dozens of brands, we landed on the following best in show.
BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector
Sits well under makeup
A little goes a long way
May cause irritation in easily sensitized skin
If you’re a faithful reader, you know that the team is already fans of the BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector, and for good reason. It’s formulated by a long-time cosmetic chemist (you know, the people responsible for making our skincare products actually work) Ron Robinson, the brain behind the now-iconic Universal C Skin Refiner. This iteration for eyes uses five percent pure vitamin C to protect against free radical damage while promoting a firmer, smoother eye area. Caffeine is combined with magnolia and hemp oil to wake up and depuff, soothe, and nourish; the formula also features a dose of epigallocatechin gallate, a derivative of green tea. “Green tea works well with caffeine,” says Dr. Hartman. “Green tea is also an antioxidant that reduces puffiness and inflammation, so paired with caffeine, you get a double dose.”
Price at time of publish: $65
Format: Cream | Key ingredients: Vitamin C, caffeine, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Brightens, smooths fine lines, depuffs | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
The INKEY List Caffeine Eye Cream
Cooling and soothing
Can be drying
Not effective on dark circles
If you’re looking to deflate under-eye bags without spending too much, this pick is worth a try. Products formulated by The Inkey List are recognized for being affordable while spotlighting effective (and popular!) ingredients, this one included. ”Its formulation consists of caffeine and peptides as its main actives, so it will give you a boost when applying in the morning,” says Dr. Hartman. The peptides in question are blended into a trademarked complex, Matrixyl 3000, which also contains hyaluronic acid to help plump up fine lines and wrinkles with hydration, so you’ll notice a smoother eye area almost immediately after slicking it on.
Price at time of publish: $10
Format: Gel cream | Key ingredients: Caffeine, peptides | Benefits: Depuffs, smooths fine lines and wrinkles | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best with Vitamin C
SkinBetter Science InterFuse Treatment Cream Eye
Packed with effective ingredients
We’re fans of this line overall—it’s frequently recommended by derms and plastic surgeons thanks to its careful blends of potent ingredients. That includes Dr. Hartman: “It’s a multitasker for eye concerns,” he says. “It has moisturizing properties as well as a bit of caffeine to help with discoloration and puffiness, and also helps with fine lines and wrinkles.” The vitamin C in this formula comes courtesy of kakadu plum, a fruit that’s believed to be the richest natural source of vitamin C in the world. While not all brands perform clinical studies, Skinbetter Science does—and the photographic evidence of this product’s efficacy is pretty darn impressive.
Price at time of publish: $110
Format: Cream | Key ingredients: Caffeine, kakadu plum, peptides | Benefits: Brightens, smooths fine lines and wrinkles, firms, depuffs | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best with Retinol
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum
Can be used on eyelids
Wears well under makeup
Packaging pump is inconsistent
While you may know Dr. Dennis Gross as the MD who put chemical peels on the map, his range of formulas go far beyond exfoliants. His heavy-hitting Retinol + Ferulic collection includes this pretty potent eye serum, which combines the depuffing antioxidant caffeine with fellow antioxidant ferulic acid and must-have anti-aging ingredient retinol. To deliver even more line-smoothing benefits, the formula also features bakuchiol, a plant-based, irritation-free retinol alternative. Bonus: Unlike many eye creams, this one can be applied to the eyelids for a comprehensive treatment that also functions as an eyeshadow primer.
Price at time of publish: $69
Format: Serum | Key ingredients: Retinol, caffeine, ferulic acid | Benefits: Smooths fine lines and wrinkles, firms, depuffs, brightens, hydrates| Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Anti-Aging
SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex
If your skin is on the drier side and you’re already seeing signs of aging, reach for this cream from SkinCeuticals, a must-have of Dr. Hartman’s. “It’s been a hero product for years,” he says. “It is an intensely moisturizing cream that contains prosylane and blueberry extract to pack an antioxidant punch as it combats puffiness and dryness.” This rich formula almost has a balmy texture, delivering relief from dryness while plumping up fine lines. It also adds a bit of luminosity under the eyes to instantly combat the look of dark circles.
Price at time of publish: $105
Format: Cream | Key ingredients: Caffeine, peptides, blueberry extract | Benefits: firms, hydrates, brightens, smooths fine lines and wrinkles | Size: 0.5 oz. | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin
Macrene Actives High Performance Eye Cream
Creamy yet lightweight
We can’t get enough of this recent launch from NYC dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades. Using it is a luxe experience from start to finish—the small jar comes with a beautiful spatula to scoop out the elegant cream (so you don’t have to touch it and contaminate it with germy fingertips). Though the texture is rich, it feels lightweight on the skin and soaks in instantly to instantly depuff with three forms of caffeine, including organic yerba mate tea. While this formula is pricey, it’s worth noting that it contains almost exclusively potent ingredients, many of them organic and/or plant-derived—and Dr. Alexiades sources a lot of these plant extracts from her own organic farm.
Price at time of publish: $135
Format: Cream | Key ingredients: Caffeine, amino acids, peptides | Benefits: firms, hydrates, brightens, smooths fine lines and wrinkles | Size: 0.5 oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Garnier SkinActive Clearly Brighter Anti-Puff Eye Roller
Cooling and soothing
Rollerball not especially hygienic
This product made major waves when it first launched about a decade ago thanks to its (at the time) very unique packaging, a rollerball that instantly cools skin on contact while providing a depuffing lymphatic massage. The massage is made extra soothing thanks to a chilly-feeling mint extract, and caffeine strengthens the depuffing benefits. This one is great for throwing in your purse to get some undereye relief throughout the day. That said, serums in rollerballs easily get contaminated by dirty skin (germs, concealer, you name it), so be sure to use this product exclusively on clean skin.
Price at time of publish: $13
Format: Serum | Key ingredients: Caffeine, vitamin C, mint | Benefit: Depuffing, brightening | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Puffiness
100% PURE Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream
A little goes a long way
Calendula can trigger ragweed allergies
Scent may be too strong for some
If you want bang for your buck, this clean formula from 100% Pure is your best bet: At one ounce, it’s the largest bottle of eye cream on this list. The three forms of caffeine come from natural ingredients—coffee and green tea extracts—to seriously depuff, while vitamin C helps brighten and rosehip oil works to moisturize and nourish dry skin. However, if you are prone to seasonal allergies, be aware that this formula contains calendula, a plant extract that is related to ragweed, which can cause sensitivities in some.
Price at time of publish: $29
Format: Lightweight cream | Key ingredients: Green tea extract, green coffee extract, coffee cherry extract | Benefit: Depuffs, brightens, hydrates | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Dark Circles
Sunday Riley Auto Correct Brightening + Depuffing Eye Cream for Dark Circles
Packaging pump is inconsistent
If you’re looking for something that instantly counteracts dark circles but isn’t glittery, check out this formula from Sunday Riley. It’s got a subtle pearlescence that helps neutralize darkness under the eyes while stimulating circulation with caffeine, ginseng, and horse chestnut. Shea and cocoa seed butter help moisturize to add even more glow. While this one is nice for no-makeup days thanks to that illuminating effect, it also sits nicely under concealer.
Price at time of publish: $65
Format: Creamy serum | Key ingredients: Caffeine, ginseng, horse chestnut | Benefit: Brightens, depuffs, smooths fine lines | Size: 0.5 oz. | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Tula Rose Glow & Get It Cooling & Brightening Eye Balm
Soothing cooling sensation
Can double as highlighter
Shimmer may be too much for some
Tula’s bestselling eye balm is as fun as it is fast-acting. As soon as you glide it under your eyes, it helps cool and soothe tired under eyes while depuffing with caffeine, hydrating with hyaluronic acid, and imparting a luminous rosy glow. Because we love dabbing it on the high points of our face as a highlighter, it makes for a nice two-in-one product. That said, those who are bothered by fine lines around the eyes may not like this formula as the shimmer in it can exacerbate their appearance.
Price at time of publish: $32
Format: Stick | Key ingredients: Caffeine, hyaluronic acid, rosehip and rosewater | Benefits: Brightens, depuffs, smooths fine lines and wrinkles, hydrates | Size: 0.35 oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Dr. Koo Private Practice Replenishing Eye Serum
A little goes a long way
Dr. Koo’s own formula is a serum that sinks into skin quickly to deliver a ton of hardworking ingredients. They include hydrating sodium hyaluronate, conditioning ceramides, line-smoothing retinol, brightening vitamin C (in this formula as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, in case you were wondering), and, of course, depuffing antioxidant caffeine. While the major price can’t be overlooked, know that the serum is very, very fluid, meaning a little goes a long, long way, so you’ll get months of use out of this one tube.
Price at time of publish: $200
Format: Serum | Key ingredients: Retinol, caffeine, peptides | Benefits: Brightens, smooths fine lines and wrinkles, firms, depuffs | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Neutrogena Hydro Boost+ Caffeine Eye Gel Cream
Best suited for those with minimal concerns
This budget-friendly option from Neutrogena gets the job done—and thanks to its fragrance-free formula, it’s a great pick for those prone to skin sensitivities. In addition to caffeine to depuff and hyaluronic acid to hydrate, it’s formulated with a peptide complex to help fade the look of dark circles. The gel-cream texture is soothing on the skin and never feels heavy—a plus if you’re applying this before a layer of concealer.
Price at time of publish: $29
Format: Gel cream | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, caffeine, peptides | Benefits: Hydrates, smooths fine lines and wrinkles, brightens, depuffs | Size: 0.5 oz. | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Dry Skin
Kopari Starry Eye Balm
Could be too shiny for some
Product may liquefy in warm weather
It’s rare that an eye cream can be described as fun, but Kopari’s definitely qualifies. The balm is housed in a travel-friendly compact that slips easily into a purse pocket for on-the-go brightening and depuffing. There’s a subtle shimmer in the formula, which features a coconut oil base, so when you apply it with a fingertip, you’ll get a double dose of luminosity from the shimmer and nourishing oil, respectively (and that oil makes it great for dry skin, which’ll drink the product right up). However, if you live in a particularly warm climate, be sure to store this product upright in the fridge—coconut oil melts in high temperatures.
Price at time of publish: $29
Format: Balm | Key ingredients: Coconut oil, caffeine, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Brightens, smooths fine lines and wrinkles, firms, depuffs, hydrates | Size: 0.2 oz. | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
We declared cosmetic chemist-founded brand BeautyStat’s Universal C Eye Perfector as our winner because of its hard-hitting ingredients and impressive clinical results. For those on a budget, it’s hard to beat the ultra-affordable formula of The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream.
Meet the Expert
What to Look For in Caffeine Eye Creams
Hydrating and Active Ingredients
Don’t just think that any ol’ eye cream with caffeine will do. Because of how thin the skin is around your eyes, you want to look for a product that contains hydrating ingredients, like humectants. “Humectants attract water from the air or deeper into the skin to add moisture,” says Dr. Hartman. “Hyaluronic acid and glycerin are popular options.” Dr. Koo also suggests sodium hyaluronate, which functions similarly to hyaluronic acid but is able to better penetrate the skin for further hydration.
You’ll also want to consider other active ingredients beyond caffeine, depending on your goals. Dr. Koo recommends iconic anti-ager retinol to help increase collagen production and smooth eyelid skin. Peptides are another worthy ingredient to search for. “Peptides are amino acids essential to the creation of collagen and elastin in the skin—the body creates them naturally, but products with peptides have become more commonplace as they provide a helpful boost to the skin, typically a more moisturized, firmer appearance,” says Dr. Hartman. And, because your eye area is so delicate, antioxidants are a must. “[Eyelids] are very difficult to protect from the sun,” says Dr. Koo. Antioxidants like vitamin C will help defend your skin from the free radical damage caused by UV exposure (and a good pair of sunglasses will help, too).
Which ingredients—and how much of them—are in your eye cream are extremely important factors to take into account when shopping. “Everyone is familiar with receiving a prescription for their medications—there is a reason for a certain dosage of medications just as there is a reason for a certain concentration of ingredients,” says Dr. Koo. “At certain concentrations, the ingredients are effective, below that concentration they are merely marketing tools.” Adds Dr. Hartman, “Usually you want to see anywhere from .5 percent to five percent of an active ingredient in a formula to ensure efficacy.”
The balance of the ingredients in your caffeine eye cream is essential to both an effective and comfortable product. “Too high of a concentration could be irritating to the skin,” warns Dr. Hartman. If you’re prone to irritation as it is, he says to look for a formula geared towards sensitive skin—it’ll either say that or “hypoallergenic” on the label. “If the hypoallergenic claim is on a skincare product sold in the U.S., it has undergone testing to ensure it does not contain allergens,” he says. It’s also worth looking for a product that was tested by an ophthalmologist, which means it is safe for use around the eye area and further decreases your risk of irritation. Lastly, you can look for a fragrance-free eye cream; fragrance additives can be very sensitizing. Dr. Koo also advises avoiding dyes, paraben, phthalates, and dioxin precursors—known carcinogens.
If your formula has an ingredient that is known to be potentially sensitizing, such as retinol or vitamin C, make sure the eye cream also contains hydrating and nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, jojoba esters, or squalane. These can help counteract the irritating effects of those aforementioned actives.
You’ll find eye cream in a broad range of packaging options. It’s less important for a caffeine eye cream to be in an opaque package than it is for ingredients like vitamin C. “Caffeine is relatively stable in skin care products and not sensitive to oxidation from exposure to UV light,” says Dr. Hartman. However, because the eye area is so delicate and prone to irritation and infection, you may want to avoid a jar if possible, as repeatedly touching a product with your fingertips could contaminate it. Both Dr. Koo and Dr. Hartman recommend airless pump containers. And no applicators are necessary: “Your finger can control the application into tiny areas on and around the eyelids much more effectively than an applicator,” says Dr. Koo. Just be sure to wash your hands!
Is caffeine cream good for under eyes?
Yes, because caffeine helps tighten blood vessels, it can help lighten dark circles caused by fluid retention (late nights out drinking too much champagne and eating salty snacks will do this, as well as seasonal allergies!) by stopping the blood under your eyes from pooling. Getting rid of that fluid retention also relieves puffiness. But caffeine isn’t just helpful for under eyes: “Caffeine is wonderful for puffy, baggy eyelids,” says Dr. Koo.
Is retinol or caffeine better for dark circles?
The ingredients are not the same, so one isn’t “better” than the other—what’s more important to consider is your skincare concerns and goals. If you’re buying an eye cream to treat dark circles, take note of what’s causing them. “Dark circles can be caused by redness and inflammation; caffeine would be best for these types of dark circles,” says Dr. Hartman. “If dark circles under the eyes are due to hyperpigmentation, a retinol would be the better choice as a retinol is best for evening skin tone.”
That’s not to say you shouldn’t shop for an eye cream that contains both retinol and caffeine. “Retinol’s effects are long-lasting and added for continuous increased elasticity and pigment control,” says Dr. Koo. “Retinol is a necessary ongoing ingredient.” Remember, retinol is the only skincare ingredient that’s clinically proven to treat signs of aging. (There’s a reason it’s one of the most highly-recommended ingredients by MDs and skincare experts worldwide!)
How long does caffeine eye cream take to work?
Caffeine eye creams are so popular because of how quickly they can work—within an hour. “Many eye creams with eye cream provide somewhat of an immediate improvement in inflammation and puffiness to the area as caffeine constricts the blood vessels and blood pumps through the area more efficiently,” says Dr. Hartman. However, the instantaneous effect of caffeine on undereye circles and bags is fleeting, says Dr. Koo. But regularly using an eye cream formulated with effective actives is a worthy endeavor: “Caffeine coupled with other powerful antioxidants and pigment-controlling ingredients is a powerful one-two punch against tired, dark, puffy eyes overall,” she says.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Emily Orofino has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry. You can find her work on sites such as POPSUGAR, Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE, InStyle, Editorialist, and RealSelf. She has also lent her expertise to marketing departments and product development teams of some of the industry’s most prestigious and well-recognized brands.