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We’ll cut right to the chase: You really do need a dedicated eye cream in your skincare arsenal. To put it simply, the skin around your peepers is different than the skin on the rest of your face, and, as such requires a little extra TLC. It’s the thinnest and most fragile on the body, making it the most susceptible to environmental damage from UV rays and pollution, as well as any kind of irritation.
While many eye creams often do contain the same proven anti-aging ingredients found in the serums and moisturizers you’re using, they're specially formulated to ensure maximum efficacy and minimum irritation for the eye area. In other words, you’ll reap all the benefits, without any unwanted side effects. And let’s not forget that eye creams can do way more than combat the signs of aging, such as crow's feet and sagging skin. They’re also essential for hydrating this delicate skin and are a must-have for de-puffing, brightening, and generally making you look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when those coveted eight hours of sleep are hard to come by.
You'll want to avoid eye creams that contain fragrance, a potential irritant. Instead, look for proven ingredients like collagen-boosting retinol and plumping peptides. You'll also want a cream packed with hydrating ingredients to smooth and nourish the eye area.
The gist is—you need an eye cream, and there are plenty of options out there to choose from. Read on for the best eye creams you can buy now.
Best Overall: Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème
There’s no actual banana in this superstar, rather, the name comes from the inspiration behind this dark circle defeater—banana powder. A light yellow powder used by makeup artists to counteract purple and blue-ish shadows, this has that same yellow tint to pull double duty as both an eye cream and an instant color corrector.
Plus, it’s also packed with vitamin C to deliver long-term brightening benefits and collagen to improve elasticity and keep skin smooth, so much so that in an independent clinical study of 37 women, 94% of users saw an average of 40% improvement in lines and wrinkles in just four weeks. And we’d be remiss not to mention the featherweight, silky texture, ideal for use under makeup.
Byrdie senior editor Hallie Gould 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.
Best Budget: RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream
When it comes to finding an affordable, effective eye cream, dermatologists recommend this formula time and time again. It boasts retinol, and addresses not only lines but dark circles and puffiness as well, giving you plenty of bang for your buck. Plus, it’s lightweight, non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic.
While it is gentle and specially-formulated for your eye area, you are still dealing with retinol. If you want to play it safe, start by using it every other night at first, gradually increasing the frequency.
Best for Wrinkles: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream
There are lots of eye creams to be found at the drugstore, though this is one of the most effective (yet still wallet-friendly) options out there. It boasts tried-and-true retinol, coupled with a glucose complex that works to speed up said retinol’s effects. Namely, smoothing out crows’ feet, and generally evening out the tone and texture of the skin around your peepers.
What Our Testers Say
"When I used this cream for the first time, my skin immediately felt softer and more hydrated." — Jenna Igneri, Product Tester
Best for Puffiness: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
Whether you pulled an all-nighter or just had one too many martinis the night before, a few drops of this eye cream is the secret to quickly tamping down puffiness. True to its name, it boasts a powerful concentration of caffeine—a choice de-puffer, thanks to its ability to constrict blood vessels. There’s also epigallocatechin gallate (say that three times fast), also known as EGCG in the mix, an intense antioxidant derived from green tea leaves that further helps boost this formula’s de-puffing prowess.
What Our Testers Say
"The combination of EGCG and caffeine is like a refreshing cup of tea for your eyes—it wakes them up and gets them ready to face the day." — Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best Color Correcting: IT Cosmetics Confidence in an Eye Cream
To be totally honest, a good concealer is always going to be your best bet for completely camouflaging dark circles. That being said, layering a color-correcting eye cream underneath will only help matters, not to mention is a great choice on days you want to go makeup-free. Enter this pick, a favorite of Byrdie’s Commerce Editorial Director Jessica Magherefteh, as well as Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Naissan O. Wesley, who loves the way it instantly helps conceal discoloration.
Credit the apricot tint that’s super subtle, yet enough to deliver an instant brightening effect, quickly and efficiently neutralizing the look of dark circles. Bonus points for the addition of skin-barrier boosting ceramides and plenty of soothing and hydrating ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal and coconut oil.
What Our Editors Say
"When I can't get a full eight hours of sleep (which is way more often now as a new mom), I turn to this eye cream to help me look more awake. It's super hydrating, glides on easily without tugging at the delicate skin, and doesn't irritate my eyes. It may not look obvious to anyone else, but I feel like my dark circles are less noticeable when I'm good about using this religiously." — Jessica Mahgerefteh, Commerce Editorial Director
Best Natural: Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm
For those wary of using products with potentially questionable chemicals around their eyes, this clean cream—a 2019 Byrdie Eco Beauty Award Winner—takes the cake. It uses a litany of different plant-based extracts to impart everything from hydration to antioxidant protection. Particularly noteworthy is the addition of bakuchiol, a natural alternative to retinol that’s been proven to have equally as powerful wrinkle-fighting effects, without any of the associated irritation. And because it is a bit of a richer balm, it’s a great pick for those with very dry skin or who simply want to use a thicker product around their eyes.
Best With SPF: Colorescience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35
You definitely do not want to be skimping on sunscreen around your eyes, so opt for a dedicated eye cream with SPF to use every morning. We’re big fans of this one for many reasons, the SPF 35 included, of course. Along with that is a long list of other ingredients that work to combat bags, dark circles, and fine lines with continued use, plus a subtle tint (it comes in four shades) to instantly make you look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Wesley is a fan, too, pointing out that the metal applicator makes it feel nice and cooling, a win for puffy or tired eyes.
Best Splurge: La Prairie Skin Caviar Eye Lift Serum
According to Byrdie Senior Editor Hallie Gould, this pick is worth every penny. And to be fair, it will cost a lot of pennies, but hear us out. It’s specially made to legit lift and firm your entire eye area—both upper and lower lids, and even your brows—and blends two formulas in one bottle. The dual-phase serum blends encapsulated beads plus a gel-cream emulsion, both loaded with the brand’s signature caviar extract. Gould also notes that, per the serum point of things, it’s super lightweight and as such is a good choice for anyone prone to developing milia around the eyes.
What Our Testers Say
"Over the course of my testing period, my eyes continued to look and feel the best they ever have. I can’t say the serum faded my faint lines entirely, but my skin was so supple and soft that they were virtually undetectable." — Jenna Igneri, Product Tester
Best With Vitamin C: BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector
This line was created by a cosmetic chemist, so you can feel confident knowing that the products contain only the highest quality, most efficacious ingredients and pairings. In particular, vitamin C is the star of the show. The ingredient earns major props in the skincare world, but is especially choice for using around the eyes; it can help stimulate collagen production to diminish the look of fine lines, even out skin tone, and offers antioxidant protection. What more could you want? This formula uses a 5% concentration of a pure, patented, and extra-stable version of vitamin C, along with CBD to help tamp down inflammation or redness.
Best Brightening: Tatcha The Pearl Tinted Eye Illuminating Treatment
Yes, this layers beautifully under concealer, but you could also wear it on its own. The makeup-skincare hybrid contains pearl extract to address pigmentation and thinning skin (which only makes dark circles look worse) as well as brightening and firming niacinamide. It comes in three different shades that deliver a nice amount of—just slightly lustrous—tint as well. Plus, a little goes a long way, so the one (very pretty) jar lasts quite a while.
Best for Sensitive Skin: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Soothing Eye Cream
As we said, the fragile skin around your eyes is already more susceptible to irritation—and that’s even more so the case if you’re dealing with sensitive skin to begin with. Since the last thing you want is red, dry, flaky, itchy skin near your eyes, reach for this safe bet. With a streamlined ingredient list, it’s free of common irritants such as parabens, fragrance, and alcohol, instead full of soothing niacinamide and mineral-rich spring water.
Best Applicator: SheaMoisture Matcha Green Tea & Probiotics Eye Cream
Those metal applicator tips might seem gimmicky, but trust us, they’re not. One, they always feel innately cooling, a major boon when it comes to reaping any de-puffing benefits. Two, they make it easy to precisely deposit and massage in the eye cream, even in the small areas in the corners of your eyes. And three, they ensure that you never have to dip your fingers into a jar of eye cream, a win for germaphobes.
There are plenty to be found out there, but we’re partial to this pick, thanks to both the applicator and the formula. Namely, a formula packed with hydrating shea butter, soothing probiotics, and protective matcha green tea.
Follow our lead and stash it in the fridge, and it will feel even better going on.
Best Gel: Cetaphil Hydrating Eye Gel-Cream
Have oily skin and/or don’t love the feel of thick creams around your eyes? Opt for a gel formula, more specifically, this one. Packed with lightweight-yet-crazy moisturizing hyaluronic acid, it soaks in quickly and doesn’t feel in the least bit greasy, though still leaves skin plenty hydrated. Also nice: It’s dermatologist-tested, ophthalmologist-tested, and hypoallergenic, another good pick for those with sensitive skin or eyes.
Best Serum: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum
Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus is a fan of this formula, which uses arguably the best wrinkle-fighting ingredient of all-time: retinol. The vitamin A derivative is well-known for effectively stimulating collagen production to smooth out wrinkles. Here, it’s paired with ferulic acid, a standout antioxidant to help prevent environmental damage, plus brightening licorice root extract. On top of all of that, because it’s more of a serum than a cream (with a gel-like texture), it’s lightweight enough to use morning or night, and on both top and bottom lids.
Best for A.M.: Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado
Byrdie’s Editorial & Strategy Director Kathryn Vandervalk raves about this ultra-hydrating option. Applying eye cream in the morning can often be a recipe for mascara smudges and concealer smears, but happily, that’s not the case here. It actually helps grip makeup, pulling double-duty as a primer. All while imparting plenty of moisture (credit avocado oil) and brightening AND de-puffing.
What Our Editors Say
"This is the ultimate, hydrating eye cream--so strong that it can also be slathered on and used as an under-eye mask. I apply this when I look tired, and it perks up my face immediately. A little goes a long way, so each jar lasts me about six months." — Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Best Retinol-Alternative: AgeWell Enriching Eye Cream with Caffeine + Bakuchiol
There’s no denying that retinol is a great ingredient to look for in an eye cream; that being said, it can often simply be too irritating, not to mention that you can’t use it while you’re pregnant. Enter this option, which boasts bakuchiol, a plant-based ingredient that’s been shown to have wrinkle-fighting effects nearly identical to that of retinol, but doesn’t elicit irritation. It’s a favorite of Wesley’s, who lauds it for also containing caffeine, squalane, and vitamins C and B3 to address multiple signs of aging simultaneously.
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it—you need a dedicated eye cream in your skincare routine. The OleHenriksen Banana Bright Eye Créme is a favorite among Byrdie editors and a best-seller, offering both instant and long-term benefits. Drugstore shoppers should pick up the RoC Skincare Retinol Correxion Eye Cream, another cult-favorite that is both super affordable and is packed with retinol to deliver serious line-smoothing results. Another wallet-friendly option is The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + ECGC, a stand-out when it comes to combating puffiness. And if you want to be extra sure that the product you pick won’t irritate the already-sensitive skin around your eyes, try the gentle-yet-effective La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Soothing Eye Cream.
What to Look For In an Eye Cream
Because the skin around your eyes is more sensitive, Wesley suggests avoiding formulas that contain fragrance, which can be one of the more common sources of irritation or allergy in this area.
Tried-and-True Anti-Aging Ingredients
Wesley recommends sticking with ingredients that have proven benefits. Think classics such as retinol, peptides, and growth factors.
Signs of aging aside, the skin around the eye is naturally prone to being dryer than the skin on the rest of your face. Make sure the eye cream you pick has plenty of hydrating ingredients like ceramides, niacinamide, and/or hyaluronic acid.
How do you apply eye cream?
Apply a small amount onto your ring finger and gently tap—don’t rub or tug—underneath and along the side of the eye. “Be careful to not pull hard or be aggressive on this already thin and delicate skin,” says Wesley. You can also apply eye cream along the brow bone underneath your eyebrow, but Wesley cautions against putting it on the actual upper lid itself, unless the product you’re using specifically says it can be used on this area.
When should you apply eye cream?
“Most eye creams may be used morning and night,” says Wesley. “Twice daily application better ensures that the moisturizing or active properties of the eye cream have a chance to work.”
How long does eye cream take to work?
This largely depends on the product, but you will have to be patient. While you may notice some benefits within a few weeks, most will take two to three months, or even longer, to work, says Wesley. But remember that long-term use will yield both benefits toward helping existing issues and prevent further signs of aging, she says.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. A skincare junkie, eye creams have always held a soft spot in her heart because the lines around her eyes are her biggest complexion concern. She loves using the color-correcting Tatcha option featured in this article in the morning, and often rotates between many of the other options at night.