We all want to look bright-eyed and awake like we get 10 hours of sleep each night (and, you know, like life hasn't beaten us down yet), but finding an eye cream that visibly helps us get there is a struggle. Eye products are so pricey, and so few of them actually produce results, that sometimes even we Byrdie editors forgo eye cream altogether—though our most trusted skincare gurus say that's a mistake.
"Since the eye area is the first to age due to wear and tear from smiling, squinting, and rubbing your eyes, keeping it hydrated and nourished is essential for preventing premature lines and wrinkles," comments celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau.
The trick is finding an eye cream that's lightweight, fast-absorbing, and full of ingredients that actually work to hydrate the skin, minimize fine lines, and decrease puffiness and dark circles. But those are tall orders. Luckily, we skeptical Byrdie editors have sifted through the stuff that doesn't work (so you don't have to) to put together this list of the 16 best eye creams, gels, and serums. Read on to find one that sounds right for you.
Fans: Faith Xue (editorial director) and Hallie Gould (senior editor)
Hallie says she's battled a lifetime of under-eye circles, darkness, and bags and had never seen any gel, cream, or serum make a difference before this Danish one.
"Like most eye creams, this one vows to target fine lines, reduce the look of dark circles, and support natural collagen production—only, it actually does instantly brighten your under-eyes," Hallie promises.
The formula is inspired by banana powder, a product used to color-correct dark under-eyes, and it contains yellow pigments that actually do that. "Only it's not makeup. It's a blend of vitamin C, collagen, and superior hydration," Hallie says.
Fans: Aimee Jefferson (social media editor) and Faith
"I look for two things in an eye cream," comments Aimee. "It has to hydrate my incredibly dry under-eye area, and it has to make me look like I've slept for days. Sunday Riley's Auto Correct does both of those things."
The product—laden with effective all-natural ingredients like caffeine and Brazilian ginseng root extract—has become a staple in both Aimee's and Faith's skincare routines.
If your budget can handle it, this luxurious Korean eye serum, which you apply with a 24K gold-plated massager (for extra stimulation—and just extra extra-ness), is one of our editorial director's favorites. Packed with a holistic and plant-based yet science-backed formula, the product promises to depuff, de-wrinkle, and brighten—and Faith swears it truly delivers.
Fan: Deven Hopp (beauty director)
Byrdie's skeptical beauty director promises this affordable serum is the only under-eye product that's visibly brightened her under-eyes. The formula is infused with peptides and active plant extracts, which work to stimulate collagen production and physically lift the skin.
Fan: Erin Jahns (assistant editor)
Though most of the Byrdie team is wary of eye creams that claim too much, our assistant editor is optimistic in her search for a product that fosters "brightness, tightness, and overall less haggardness." This (admittedly spendy) PCA find has been a recent discovery of hers, and she's already addicted.
"Not only does the teeniest amount go the longest way (therefore making that initial splurge 100% worthwhile), but it also boasts strategic technology that helps strengthen, firm, and lift the delicate area around the eyes," she says. "My main gripe is darkness and a little bit of line-age around my outer corners, but after lightly tapping on this luxe cream, I swear on the $85 price tag that I actually see a difference."
Better yet, the product comes in both cream and gel textures.
After consistent testing, our senior editor swears this is one of the few eye creams that genuinely feels like it smoothes her under eyes. ("And I'm very discerning," she says.) It makes sense considering the product's hydrating and wrinkle-blasting formula, which contains bi-retinoid, soy peptide extracts, and hyaluronic acid.
Our assistant editor stumbled upon this product in her mother's enviable skincare stash, and it's been one of her all-time best discoveries ever since. What's cool about this lightweight half-cream, half-serum is that it's infused with rare ingredients like "Okinawa red algae (for featherlight moisture), caffeine from green tea (to alleviate puffiness), and HADASEI-3 (Tatcha's precious patented blend of skin protecting nourishers)," according to the label.
It's also fast-absorbing, visibly brightening, and, as Erin says, makes you look "rested, radiant, and less like it's a Monday when in fact it's a Wednesday."
"This is the perfect eye cream for daytime use," our social media editor says. "It instantly makes you look more awake and brightens your under-eye area. It also layers perfectly under concealer and highlighter so no one has to know how tired you really are."
Fan: Amanda Montell (features editor)
Personally, my under-eyes are so sensitive that a lot of richer cream textures sting and cause milia—this vegan Tarte pick is one major exception. Its antioxidant-packed formula sinks in beautifully and makes my dry under-eyes feel bright and hydrated but never greasy. I have the mini container and bring it with me whenever I travel on dry airplanes.
Fan: Victoria Hoff (wellness editor)
Into super-luxurious, organic, plant-based formulas? So is our wellness editor, who uses one brand and one brand only on her under-eye area, and that's Bottega Organica. This serum is undoubtedly pricey, but a tiny drop of its glycerin and botanical-based formula goes a long way.
According to our social media editor, the buzz surrounding Drunk Elephant's newest eye product is completely warranted, as it has already made her droopy under-eye area tighter and brighter.
"The lightweight formula melts into my skin and leaves the thin, sensitive skin feeling hydrated all day long," she says. "It can be hard to find a natural eye cream that really gets the job done, but this little bottle of magic does just that."
I trust Sonya Dakar's natural but effective formulas with my life, and this is one of the first eye creams that I ever truly loved. The formula is packed with antioxidant-rich açaí, buriti, and jojoba oils but sinks in miraculously quickly. I massage the product in big circles around my eye area, and it makes me look instantly more awake.
Treating your dark circles can be done on a budget, thanks to this wallet-friendly but seriously brightening eye gel. Ingredients like niacin and vitamin K minimize darkness while royal jelly, aloe, spirulina, and green tea extracts soothe redness and dryness. All for an easy $31.
"If stress or lack of sleep is making your under-eye area like darker than normal, do yourself a favor and pick up a jar of this miracle cream next time you're at Sephora," our social media editor gushes. "I love to use this eye cream at night. The green formula sinks in, and I wake up looking and feeling like I got a solid 10 hours of sleep—even though that never happens."
Fans: Victoria and Amanda
If under-eye wrinkles are your cross to bear, don't waste your money on anything else: Just get this exfoliating serum. This product is unique on this list because it's more like a pre–eye cream eye cream. Just like with an anti-wrinkle facial serum, you apply its AHA-rich formula under the eyes to combat milia, dryness, and fine lines. Then, follow up with one of the hydrating eye creams above.
May this skeptic's guide to today's best eye creams give you the most wide-awake impression possible. But also sleep. Go to sleep. Like, now.
Opening image: Katie Nuehof