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We have nothing against eye cream, but when it comes to delivering big-time benefits, eye serums may be the answer. The difference between the two is essentially the same as the difference between the moisturizers and serums that you’d use on your face. “Eye creams are thicker, as they contain more oils and fats. Eye serums are usually water-based and less viscous,” explains dermatologist Dr. Ife J. Rodney. “While creams are ideal for hydrating and retaining moisture on the surface of the skin, serums penetrate more deeply and usually contain more active ingredients,” she says.
The bottom line: If you’re simply looking for a quick hit of hydration, stick with eye cream. But, if your goal is to target more stubborn issues such as discoloration, wrinkles, or sagging, an eye serum is definitely the way to go.
Read on for the best eye serums.
Best Overall: Organys Spark Rejuvenating Eye Formula
Effective and impressively affordable, this one-stop shop addresses pretty much every type of eye concern. Hyaluronic acid helps to hydrate and plump, vitamin C can help fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation and address fine lines and wrinkles, and caffeine can be helpful in combatting dark circles. Plus, the lightweight and fast-absorbing formula is great for applying both morning and night.
Best Drugstore: Olay Eye Lifting Serum
Pick up this guy the next time you’re at the drugstore. The peptide- and vitamin-packed formula can be used all over (lids included) and can help address your smoothing, tightening, and hydration needs. It’s non-greasy and fragrance-free, a boon for those with sensitive skin.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Drunk Elephant Shaba Complex Firming Eye Serum
“I love this eye serum for those with sensitive skin because it’s free of irritating fragrances and oils,” explains Dr. Rodney. What it does contain are copper peptides and a black tea ferment, which help to improve skin elasticity and texture, she says. We also love the satiny texture and quick dry-down, with no trace of unwanted residue or tackiness.
Best for Crow's Feet: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum
Reach for this formula to help smooth out those pesky lines around your eyes. It contains two different types of retinoids plus a retinoid booster to target both fine lines and deeper wrinkles. In fact, the brand claims users may see noticeable results in just four weeks. Still, despite its potency, it’s incredibly gentle, so much so that you can use it around the entire eye area and even on lids without worrying about irritation.
Best Firming: Dermalogica BioLumin-C Eye Serum
If you’re looking to firm up sagging skin, Dr. Rodney says this serum is a perfect choice. At work is a mushroom extract, which can have an antioxidant effect to stimulate collagen production and help firm, as well as chia seed oil, which is loaded with skin benefits. There’s also vitamin C and a gently-exfoliating papaya enzyme in the formula, which ensure it helps brighten, too.
Best for Dark Circles: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG
Here’s the bad news: There’s really no topical product that will fully eliminate dark circles. The good news? Of all the active ingredients out there, caffeine is your best bet for scoring a noticeable improvement. This pick touts a 5% concentration of caffeine, which helps boost circulation and constrict blood vessels, minimizing the look of discoloration and helping to reduce puffiness, too. The other namesake ingredient is an antioxidant-rich compound from green tea, for even extra benefits, and the wallet-friendly price can’t be beaten.
What Our Testers Say
"Ultimately, to find success with this product, make sure that your issue is one that it—or any topical product, for that matter—can fix. If it is, this serum is packed with ingredients that can help." — Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best for Elasticity: Arcona Peptide Eye Serum
As the name suggests, peptides are the star of the show here. Specifically, several different types—including Matrixyl 3000, well-known for collagen-building effects. The formula aims to boost the elasticity of thinning skin and help smooth out wrinkles, while added caffeine offers fast-acting de-puffing.
Best Fast-Acting: Stacked Skincare Firming Eye Complex
Patience is a virtue when it comes to waiting for skincare results. But if time is of the essence, try this speedy serum, a go-to for Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus. The brand claims it can have a quick tightening and lifting effect on the skin, making the entire area around your eyes look smoother and more youthful for up to eight hours. And the benefits don’t stop there; a peptide also works to improve the loss of elasticity and look of wrinkles over the course of a few weeks.
Best Multi-Tasking: IS Clinical C Eye Advance+
“This vitamin C-based serum is great for all skin types and helps address puffiness, dark circles, and wrinkles,” says Dr. Rodney of another one of her picks. (It’s also worth noting that it’s not just any type of vitamin C, but l-ascorbic acid, one of the more potent and effective versions of the vitamin.) Rounding out the mix is a copper peptide and hydrating hyaluronic acid.
Best Natural: Epara Skincare Eye Serum
This results-driven serum is formulated to help tackle discoloration and absorb excess oil, plus it's filled with natural ingredients like plankton, licorice root, ash tree bark extracts, and bamboo silk. Also nice: It's chock full of natural oils for hydration. What it doesn’t contain are parabens, phthalates, dyes, fragrances, or any potentially irritating acids, nor any questionable chemicals.
Best Retinol: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum
Dr. Rodney lauds this pick for combining a trio of heavy-hitting actives. Along with the retinol, which addresses fine lines and wrinkles, it also touts licorice root to improve hyperpigmentation, along with ferulic acid, a potent antioxidant that offers protection against the damaging free radicals that can ultimately lead to more wrinkles. It’s also worth noting that the retinol used is super gentle, so much so that this serum can even be used on the upper eyelids to address crepiness.
Best Splurge: Zo Skin Health Growth Factor Eye Serum
Byrdie Commerce Editorial Director Jessica Mahgerefteh sings the praises of this pick, a luxe option that’s well-worth the price. A hyaluronic acid derivative works quickly, hydrating and plumping the skin; growth factors and a peptide work to combat fine lines and wrinkles. Equally noteworthy is the metal tip applicator, which feels both cooling on the skin and helps gently massage in the product for improved penetration.
Best for A.M.: Peter Thomas Roth FirmX 360 Eye Renewal
“This serum can easily be used as a primer. It dries down with smooth, matte finish and makeup glides on easily over it,” says Dr. Rodney of one of her favorite products to use in the morning. It can be used around the entire eye area to hydrate, smooth, and brighten; per the brightening part of things, it also touts light-reflecting diamond powder, further helping to minimize the look of imperfections even before you apply concealer.
Eye serums offer an easy way to reap the benefits of higher amounts of active ingredients that penetrate deeper into the skin, and as such are better able to target concerns like wrinkles and sagging. Both the Organys Spark Rejuvenating Eye Formula and the IS Clinical C Eye Advance+ are top-notch multi-taskers that address a litany of different concerns. And for those looking for both instantaneous and long-term results, the Stacked Skincare Firming Eye Complex, a team Byrdie favorite, works in just minutes.
What to Look For in an Eye Serum
“The skin under the eyes is the thinnest on the face, and is prone to damage,” explains Dr. Rodney. “An eye serum should both heal and maintain the overall health of your skin.” Her recs? Common ingredients like vitamin C and retinol, which can help target puffiness, lines and wrinkles, and improve the appearance of dark circles.
Because the skin surrounding the eye area is so delicate, Dr. Rodney recommends reaching for formulas packed with hydrating ingredients. “These will plump the skin, making it more vibrant and youthful,” she says. “Some helpful ingredients include glycerin, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.”
Clean, Vegan, and Cruelty-Free
Finally, Dr. Rodney recommends clean, vegan, and cruelty-free formulas, something notes she's seen an increase in demand for from her patients. “I look for as few ingredients as possible, which reduces the chance of skin irritation or clogged pores,” she says. “These are also free of fragrance, parabens, and sulfates”—all of which are known to potentially cause irritation and reactions, especially in those with sensitive skin.
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.
Meet the Expert
Ife J. Rodney, M.D., is a dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, Maryland. She has extensive experience in cosmetic, surgical, and medical dermatology for all skin types.