11 Ways to Improve the Look of Your Under-Eyes, According to Dermatologists

woman applying under eye serum


Most of us are no strangers to puffiness and dark circles. But the good news is that whatever your under-eye concern may be, there's likely a solution. So to find the absolute best ways to improve the appearance of your under-eye area (that doesn't require a trip to the dermatologist or plastic surgeon), we tapped a few experts—board-certified dermatologists Dr. Rebecca Marcus and Dr. Marisa Garshick, doctor of nursing practice Dr. Jodi LoGerfo, and makeup artists Sabena Collier and Eddie Duyos—for their go-to solutions. Ahead, they share nine tips for improving the look of your under-eye area.

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Use a Delicate, Gentle Approach

The under-eye area is incredibly delicate. According to Dr. LoGerfo, it's the thinnest skin on the body, measuring approximately 0.2 millimeters in thickness. Its thin nature makes the area more susceptible to irritation and sensitivity as well as more prone to signs of aging. All this to say, improper treatment and a lackadaisical approach can wreak havoc on the area.

Regardless of any particular woes you're looking to address, it's important to use caution and proceed with a gentle approach. From an ingredient perspective, avoid high percentages of already-strong ingredients like retinol and prioritize non-irritating formulations. Luckily, many (if not most) eye products already take this into consideration.

In terms of manual treatment and application methods, less is more. Dr. Marcus suggests applying products with a gentle tapping motion and taking extra care to avoid tugging and pulling on the skin.

Collier only uses a pea-sized amount of product (for both eyes!) and applies it with her ring finger, which has a naturally light touch and won't put too much pressure on the skin. This will help avoid skin pulling and stretching and stimulate circulation, which can help wake up and depuff the area.

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Apply Sunscreen Daily

As is the case with almost all skincare concerns, SPF is key. "In general, for the under-eye area, my number-one treatment recommendation is sun protection," Dr. LoGerfo says. "Sun exposure contributes to photo-aging, fine lines and wrinkles, skin dryness, sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and other skin issues. Additionally, the eyes (upper and lower eyelids) are often neglected when we apply sunscreen to the rest of our face and body."

Dr. Garshick agrees, adding that sunscreen will help protect the skin from experiencing any further damage—which is especially important given that the skin in the eye area is thinner and more susceptible to irritation than the rest of the face. As far as low-lift approaches go, sun protection is pretty easy; apply a little extra SPF around the eye area in the AM, and you're good to go. And while any facial sunscreen will do, Dr. LeGerfo recommends opting for a mineral/physical formula if possible since they tend to be less irritating.

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Opt for Lightweight Hydration Before Applying Makeup

When preparing the under-eye area for makeup, Duyos suggests avoiding rich, silicone-heavy eye creams (unless you're dealing with excessively dry skin). Using ultra-rich products can work against concealing and brightening efforts, while silicone-heavy formulas create too much slip on the skin and can lead to creasing issues. Instead, he says a more hydrating, gel-like formula will help prevent creasing.

Both Dr. Marcus and Dr. LoGerfo agree and suggest paying particular attention to formulas with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, as well as lightweight ceramides.

Meanwhile, Collier is a fan of lightweight, multifunctional formulas that act as a moisturizer and primer. She suggests Bobbi Brown's Vitamin Enriched Eye Base ($58), a nutrient-rich but lightweight formula with a concealer-gripping finish.

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Focus on Enhancing Blood Circulation Around the Eye

Poor blood circulation can wreak havoc on the eye area. Insufficient toxin drainage and fluid buildup—both direct results of poor blood circulation—can cause swelling and puffiness. Deoxygenated blood can also cause dark shadows to appear under the eye as well. As a result, enhancing blood circulation is a great technique for waking up the eyes regardless of your particular concerns.

Dr. Marcus suggests prioritizing an eye cream with circulation-enhancing ingredients. She's a fan of vitamin K—which supports microcirculation in the capillaries to improve dark circles, and redness—and caffeine to help depuff. "Getting the blood flowing can help to depuff and wake up the eyes and can also help with product absorption," she says.

For this reason, she also points to manual stimulation and lymphatic drainage. This can be as simple as a gentle under-eye massage or as involved as a high-tech massage tool like Foreo's IRIS Illuminating Eye Massager ($149).

Dr. Gershick also highlights the importance of improved blood circulation, though she opts for more DIY at-home remedies like using green tea bags (which have been shown to potentially help with under-eye puffiness) or applying a cold spoon or facial roller.

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Use Products That Target Pigmentation

For those with discoloration or hyperpigmentation around their under-eye, our experts suggest prioritizing ingredients that will illuminate and even pigmentation. Dr. Garshick says antioxidants like vitamin C can help brighten the skin and protect against free radical damage. She's also a fan of niacinamide, which not only soothes the skin but can also help with pigmentation and improve the appearance of dark circles.

Dr. LoGerfo suggests utilizing gentle but clinically proven ingredients like arbutin, kojic acid, and azelaic acid to lighten darkness without irritating the skin. Additionally, Dr. Marcus suggests opting for eye creams containing light-diffusing particles, such as mica, to help visually camouflage darkness in the area.

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Focus on Depuffing With Cooling Tools

Under-eye puffiness is fairly common. Dr. LoGerfo says puffy eyes are often the result of aging—the tissue around the eyes weakens as we age, as well as the suspensory ligaments and muscles that support the lower eyelid, which can result in mild swelling or bulging in the area. In other cases, certain conditions like allergies and thyroid issues can lead to increased under-eye puffiness. She also points to increased fluid retention, high-salt diets, and lack of sleep as potential culprits. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that some people are just genetically susceptible to puffy eyes.

Regardless of the cause, all our experts agree that physically cooling the area is a great start. This can be done with cooling under-eye gels (throw them in the fridge overnight to up the cold factor!), eye creams with cool metal applicators, ice rollers, and even a cool compress like chilled spoons placed under the eye. These will help shrink dilated blood vessels and soothe inflammation and swelling.

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Consider Adding Retinoids Into Your Under-Eye Routine

Retinoids are the gold standard for aging concerns—they stimulate new collagen synthesis, help prevent collagen degradation, improve fine lines and wrinkles, and amplify cell turnover. In this case, it's important to use a product that won't dry or irritate the delicate area.

For that reason, Dr. Marcus suggests looking for formulas with encapsulated retinol, which provide a time-released delivery mechanism that decreases the risk of irritation seen with traditional retinols. Dr. Garshick suggests looking for ultra-nourishing formulas like balms to avoid irritation.

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Utilize Color Theory in Your Makeup Routine

According to Duyos, the best way to address under-eye concerns is by utilizing color theory to camouflage problem areas. He generally suggests using a medium-coverage, hydrating concealer with a blurring effect. From there, you'll want to tweak your shade choice based on your biggest concern.

To reduce redness, he suggests trying a concealer shade with a more neutral or golden tone, as hints of yellow help neutralize redness. Meanwhile, warm-hued color correctors are great at addressing under-eye darkness and creating a more even complexion. Look for correctors with pink, peach, or orange undertones depending on your skin tone, Duyos says.

"When concealing puffiness under the eyes, it's important to choose a concealer that is not too light or bright," Duyos notes, debunking the widespread belief that when it comes to under-eye concealer, the lighter the shade, the better. "The goal is to conceal the volume of the puffiness, so opt for a concealer shade that matches your skin exactly or is slightly deeper, and apply it only to the puffy areas."

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Use Caffeine-Infused Products

All three derms suggest looking for eye creams that contain caffeine. As Dr. Garshick explains, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it can tighten or constrict the blood vessels, which can help depuff the eye area. Per Dr. Marcus, caffeine also supports microcirculation in the capillaries. Dr. LeGerfo says it's important to note that caffeine provides temporary relief only—once you stop using the ingredient, the puffiness may come back.

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Look for Products With Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Consider products with soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients. "If some of the puffiness is a result of excessive dryness leading to inflammation, this can be a helpful way to address it," Dr. Garshick explains. Look for ingredients like ceramides, chamomile, cucumber, aloe vera, or colloidal oatmeal.

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Keep Your Morning Routine Simple

During the day, less is always more. As Duyos explains, using too much product can work against you, especially around the eye area, which is already prone to creasing. Collier suggests applying ultra-thin layers of eye cream, color corrector, and concealer to prevent the product from settling into fine lines and wrinkles. As a general rule of thumb, a pea-sized amount of product (at most) should be sufficient for both eyes. That said, feel free to pack on the product and hydration before bed—just remember to be gentle.

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