The Best Retinol Eye Creams for All Your Under Eye Woes

Our best overall pick is Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Expert Tested: The 12 Best Retinol Eye Creams in 2022

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

There are few ingredients more scientifically proven to reduce signs of aging than retinol. It both helps the skin retain water and stimulates collagen production, resulting in diminished fine lines and wrinkles. While it’s a choice ingredient to use all over your face, retinol can be particularly useful around the eyes, says New York City dermatologist Jeremy Fenton, MD.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Overall, our top choice is Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream which absorbs quickly and uses an antioxidant that can help protect your skin from pollution. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly product, consider Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream, which contains hyaluronic acid to plump thin, delicate skin around the eyes.

"The skin around the eyes is naturally thin and fragile, making it more susceptible to the aging process as collagen and elastin fibers break down with age,” Fenton explains. “We also have a lot of movement in the area as we smile, squint, and rub our eyes, which further induces the formation of wrinkles.” By increasing collagen production, retinol can help thicken this thin skin and improve fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, adds New York City dermatologist Morgan Rabach, MD.

Because retinol can often have irritating side effects including redness and peeling, if you use retinol around your eyes, Fenton recommends choosing a product specifically made for the eye area; they’re specially formulated to be extra hydrating and minimize the likelihood of irritation.

We went to work and tried a handful of top-rated eye creams with retinol spanning a range of budgets, skin types, and concerns. After using them for weeks at a time, our testers rated each formula's texture, skin-feel, and how well it diminished the signs of aging around the eyes. We then combined these results with the recommendations of board-certified dermatologists as well as our own research to compile a list of the best in show.

Ahead, the best retinol eye creams clinically proven to smooth away lines.

Best Overall: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Protects against pollution

  • Non-drying

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This is a favorite for both Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus and Dr. Rabach. Along with the boosting properties of retinol, you also get a healthy dose of ferulic acid, a potent antioxidant known for its ability to protect against pollution. There’s also caffeine in the formula to help depuff as well as a proprietary blend of collagen, ellagic acid, and gallic acid to hydrate and moisturize.

Active Ingredients: Ferulic acid, vitamin E and amino acids, retinol | Benefits: Plumping, moisturizing, anti-aging | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Overall, Runner-Up: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Can be used on eyelids

  • Absorbs quickly

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t put any eye cream (especially a retinol-based one) on your actual eyelids, unless the directions specifically say that it’s okay to do so. This formula is one of those rare ones that can be applied around the entire eye, including on the lids, ensuring you get a 360-degree anti-aging effect. Because it’s a serum, the silky texture sinks into the skin beautifully. And as far as retinol goes, this formula touts a retinoid complex that combines a time-released version of the ingredient with a fast-acting one, plus a booster that ups the efficacy of both.

Active Ingredients: Retinol Tri-Active Technology, cotton wool grass extract, marine kelp complex | Benefits: Anti-aging, moisturizing, lifting | Dosage: Apply a thin layer nightly | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: Olay Eyes Pro Retinol Eye Treatment

Olay Eyes

Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Quick results

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note results aren't drastic

The drugstore is a treasure trove of great retinol eye creams, and this is one of the best. It’s a favorite of New York City board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD who lauds the very moisturizing formula. It also works fast, decreasing the look of even super deep fine lines and wrinkles in just four weeks.

Active Ingredients: Pro-Retinol, vitamin B3, vitamin B5 | Benefits: Anti-aging, moisturizing | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Multi-Tasker: RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Eye Cream

4.5
RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Eye Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Non-greasy

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Cannot be used on eyelids

Reach for this to knock out all of your eye area concerns. “RoC is a well-known producer of a variety of retinol creams, and this one also contains a mineral complex that has other benefits to improve the appearance of skin,” says Fenton. (Namely, reducing dark circles and puffiness. Yes, please.) Both he and Rabach also laud it for being gentle.

Active Ingredients: Pure ROC Retinol | Benefits: Anti-aging, reduced puffiness, fades dark circles | Dosage: Apply small dots around the area | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream

Byrdie / Leigh Weingus

What Our Testers Say

"Overall, I was very happy with RoC’s Retinol Correxion Eye Cream. I didn’t experience any irritation with it and saw some pretty immediate results as far as reduced dark circles and puffiness." — Leigh Weingus, Product Tester

Best Budget: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream

3.9
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream

Ulta

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Lightweight

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't work as fast as promised

“This lightweight formulation also has hyaluronic acid that pulls in moisture to help to rehydrate the skin, further reducing the appearance of fine lines,” says Fenton of another one of his picks. King is a fan, too, noting that the formula also contains glycerin, another humectant ingredient that can help hydrate. Bonus points for the featherweight feel and fast-acting effects; thanks to a unique retinol booster in the formula, you may start to see some results in as little as just one week.

Active Ingredients: Retinol SA, Glucose Complex, and hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Anti-aging, fades dark circles, moisturizing | Dosage: Dab a small amount around the eye area | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

neutrogena rapid wrinkle repair eye cream

Byrdie / Jenna Igneri

What Our Testers Say

"Despite some initial redness and stinging, my eyes felt super soft the next morning." — Jenna Igneri, Product Tester

Best Firming: Kate Somerville +Retinol Firming Eye Cream

4.6
Kate Somerville

 Sephora

What We Like
  • Cooling applicator

  • Quick results

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If you’re looking for both fewer wrinkles and firmer skin around your eyes (and really, who wouldn’t want that), reach for this cream, a staple among beauty editors. It relies on both retinol and a plant-based compound from babchi seeds that has similar firming and smoothing effects. There’s also a blend of natural oils that help increase skin’s elasticity, and you can use it both under and around your eyes, as well as on the upper brow area. The best part might be the applicator, though, a gold tip that feels cooling and makes it easy to gently massage in the product.

Active Ingredients: Retinol, bio retinol, hyaluronic acid, natural blend of bidens pilosa extract, lime pearl | Benefits: Firming, smoothing, radiance-boosting, anti-aging, moisturizing | Dosage: Pat a small amount around the eye area morning and night | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Eye Cream

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum

Courtesy of Dermstore 

What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Allergy-tested

  • Non-comedogenic

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it can be drying

Yes, you can still use a retinol eye cream even if you have sensitive skin–you just have to be slightly more judicious. Dr. King says this is one great choice, given that it’s both fragrance- and paraben-free, as well as allergy-tested. It combines retinol and retinyl linoleate, another vitamin A-derivative, in a concentration that’s enough to be effective but without making your skin totally freak out. It can also help combat dark circles, too.

Active Ingredients: Pure retinol, caffeine, glycerin, dimethicone, La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water | Benefits: Anti-aging, lifting, fades dark circles | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for A.M.: First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream With Triple Hyaluronic Acid

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream

Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Works well under makeup

  • Great for sensitive skin

What We Don't Like
  • Cannot be used on eyelids

Microencapsulated retinol in this formula helps to fight fine lines and wrinkles, but it’s the other ingredients that make it an A.M. go-to. Namely, three kinds of hyaluronic acid that both hydrate and plump fine lines (and also make this blend extra soothing, notes King), plus finely milled pearl extract that delivers a subtle luminosity. That two combined help create the ideal base over which to apply foundation and concealer, helping you appear bright-eyed and wide awake. Like we said, just make sure you’re wearing sunscreen anytime you use any kind of retinoid during the day.

Active Ingredients: Skin Saver Complex, microencapsulated retinol, triple weight hyaluronic acid, micro-pearls | Benefits: Anti-aging, reduces puffiness, fades dark circles, firming | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for P.M.: Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask

Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask

Amazon

What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Rich, thick texture

  • Non-greasy

What We Don't Like
  • Unhygienic container

Sunlight can render retinol inactive, so make sure you load up on SPF if you’re using it during the daytime. Or, to be safe, you can also reserve it for the evening and use this choice p.m. pick from Glow Recipe. Just a tiny dab under your eyes (a pea-size dollop is enough for both) before you hit the sack, and let the encapsulated retinol do its thing while you snooze, helping to strengthen skin and smooth out the look of fine lines. Meanwhile, the namesake ingredient imparts plenty of hydration to counteract those potential drying side effects.

Active Ingredients: Avocado, encapsulate retinol, niacinamide, coffeeberry | Benefits: Anti-aging, radiance-boosting, moisturizing | Dosage: Apply a pea-sized amount around eye area morning and night; morning use SPF | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Editors Say

"While most of my face can tolerate potent, prescription-strength retinoids, my under-eyes are a different story. Most products with active ingredients leave my under-eyes feeling raw and red, but the Glow Recipe's encapsulated retinol eye cream is a completely different story. I can use it every night without experiencing even the slightest bit of irritation." —Holly Rhue, Byrdie Editor

Best Retinol Alternative: Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm

Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm

 Courtesy of Alpyn Beauty

What We Like
  • Great for sensitive skin

  • Alternative for those who can't use retinol

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Yes, technically there’s no retinol in this formula but we think it deserves a place on the list because some people truly can’t tolerate retinol at all. Not to mention that it’s a no-no when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The next best thing? Bakuchiol, a plant-based ingredient that’s been shown in studies to have almost identical anti-aging effects to retinol but without any side effects. It’s the star of the show in this creamy balm, which also boasts caffeine and algae to tighten, firm, and de-puff. There is also a slew of hydrating ingredients—hyaluronic acid, squalene, ceramides—that help to give this blend its pleasingly rich texture.

Active Ingredients: Vitamin C, licorice root, bearberry leaf, bakuchiol, caffeine, algae | Benefits: Anti-aging, moisturizing, fades dark circles, firming, plumping | Dosage: Massage a small amount around the eye area morning and night | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Natural: Tata Harper Boosted Contouring Eye Balm

Tata Harper Boosted Contouring Retinol Eye Balm

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Quick results

  • Rich, thick texture

  • Eco-friendly packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Those looking to clean up their beauty routine will appreciate this formula that's free of a litany of different chemicals. In fact, rather than containing synthetically derived retinol, it instead relies on plant-based ingredients that are natural sources of vitamin A, including rose seed oil. The benefits don’t stop there; peptides in the formula help to firm the skin and a unique fruit extract assists in tamping down puffiness, fast.

Active Ingredients: Lipopeptides, triple natural retinoic acid, java fruit | Benefits: Firming, anti-aging, moisturizing | Dosage: Small amount around the eye area morning and night | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Easy Application: Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick

Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note results aren't dramatic

This solid formula is unlike any we’ve ever seen, a serum-balm hybrid that comes in a twist-up stick that looks more like concealer than eye cream. But don’t be fooled; it contains encapsulated retinol in the formula to smooth wrinkles, anti-aging peptides, super hydrating squalane, and astaxanthin, a super powerful antioxidant for extra protection. It glides seamlessly along the skin, no pulling or tugging, and there’s no rubbing or patting required.

Active Ingredients: Encapsulated retinol, power peptide complex, vegan squalene, vegan astaxanthin | Benefits: Anti-aging, fades dark circles, improves texture, moisturizing | Size: 0.14 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Luxury : Shani Darden Retinol Reform Treatment Serum

Shani Darden
What We Like
  • Lightweight texture absorbs easily

  • Gentle, time-release formula

  • Smoothes lines in 2 weeks

  • De-puffs

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers note formula stings

Developed by a Hollywood esthetician, this formula is featherlight, and contains a time-release formula to deliver a steady stream of encapsulated retinol throughout the night to avoid irritation. Lactic acid also helps to brighten tired eyes, and a blend of antioxidants add lightweight hydration.


Active Ingredients:
Encapsulated retinol, lactic acid, aloe | Benefits: Anti-aging, improves texture, moisturizing, de-puffs | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Editors Say

"I love how gentle this time-release retinol formula is; I use it every night tapping it into the under eye area. It absorbs within seconds and works overnight to tamp puffiness." —Jill Di Donato, Senior Editor

Final Verdict

Overall, our top choice is Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream which absorbs quickly and uses an antioxidant that can help protect your skin from pollution. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly product, consider Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream, which contains hyaluronic acid to plump thin, delicate skin around the eyes.

Meet the Expert

  • Jeremy Fenton, MD is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. He practices both cosmetic and general dermatology and is also a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital. 
  • Morgan Rabach, MD is a board-certified dermatologist, the co-founder of LM Medical in New York City, and a media expert on all things skin. She’s also an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
  • Hadley King, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. She is also a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and specializes in both medical and cosmetic dermatology.

What to Look For in Retinol Eye Creams

Type of Retinoid

Not all retinoids are considered equal. While retinol is the most popular over-the-counter option, there are also other options—retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde—which have similar effects but are slightly less potent. If you have sensitive skin and/or this is your first time using a retinoid, it can be a good idea to look for these.

Fragrance-Free

Given that retinoids can be irritating in and of themselves, it’s a good idea to steer clear of any other potentially irritating ingredients like fragrance.

FAQ
  • What benefits do retinol eye creams have?

    They’re great for combatting signs of aging, specifically wrinkles, given their proven ability to stimulate collagen production, says King. They can also help decrease discoloration, she says, so while they’re not working on dark circles necessarily, they can leave the skin around your eyes overall luminous and more even.

  • How do you apply retinol eye creams?

    Dab a pea-size amount with your ring finger around both eyes, patting rather than rubbing, moving from the outside corner in. Don’t use it on the eyelid unless the directions specifically state that it’s okay to do so.

  • How often should you use retinol eye creams?

    “When first adding any retinoid to your routine, I recommend starting with two to three nights per week,” suggests King. “Increase to nightly use as tolerated.”

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. She considered dozens of eye creams with retinol for this roundup. Our testers also evaluated top-rated formulas on texture, skin-feel, and how well they diminished the signs of aging around the eyes.

Updated by Jill Di Donato
Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Kafi R, Kwak HS, Schumacher WE, Cho S, Hanft VN, Hamilton TA, King AL, Neal JD, Varani J, Fisher GJ, Voorhees JJ, Kang S. Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol). Arch Dermatol. 2007 May;143(5):606-12. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.5.606

  2. Mukherjee S, Date A, Patravale V, Korting HC, Roeder A, Weindl G. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(4):327-48. doi:10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327

  3. Milani M, Hashtroody B, Piacentini M, Celleno L. Skin protective effects of an antipollution, antioxidant serum containing Deschampsia antartica extract, ferulic acid and vitamin C: a controlled single-blind, prospective trial in women living in urbanized, high air pollution area. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2019 May 29;12:393-399. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S204905. PMID: 31213870; PMCID: PMC6549792.

  4. Dhaliwal S, Rybak I, Ellis SR, Notay M, Trivedi M, Burney W, Vaughn AR, Nguyen M, Reiter P, Bosanac S, Yan H, Foolad N, Sivamani RK. Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing. Br J Dermatol. 2019 Feb;180(2):289-296. doi:10.1111/bjd.16918

Related Stories