Eye creams are a product category that’s unfortunately one half-marketing, one half-science. It can be hard sometimes to see past the exotic ingredient names, beautiful packaging, tantalizing product descriptions and clever branding associated with so many of these products.
In some cases, what lies under the lid is nothing but an expensive jar of promises. Other times though, there can be plenty of real science to back up the claims.
We’ve reviewed dozens of these products and will be letting you in on which ones are worth their price tag, and which ones are better left on the shelf.
Because everyone’s eyes are different, we’ve split this list into three major “problem categories”:
We’ve also included a bonus section on the best eye creams for sensitive skin.
Before jumping in, however, remember that many eye creams only provide short-term results. These effects, like plumping or mild skin-tightening, are far from permanent.
“The eye creams available commercially are temporary and usually last several hours”, says Denver oculoplastic surgeon, Chris Thiagarajah, “They may be helpful for some patients but over time most people transition to fillers or surgery.”
Best Eye Creams for Puffy Eyes
Fighting tired, puffy eyes is a major reason to consider a specialized eye-cream. At the top of the list of puffy-eye reducing ingredients is caffeine. While most of us love caffeine for its fatigue-fighting powers, it’s also a powerhouse of skin restoring benefits. As an antioxidant, vasoconstrictor and topical diuretic, caffeine fights under eye puffiness on multiple levels.
Once a mild puffiness has transitioned to under-eye bags or folds, however, you’re probably going to require a professional treatment.
Here’s the lowdown on a few popular eye creams that are designed to target mildly swollen, puffy eyes:
Sunday Riley: Auto Correct
Sunday Riley’s Auto Correct is a newer eye cream chock full of natural antioxidants, botanicals and exfoliants. The addition of caffeine makes it an excellent choice for those fighting puffiness or dark circles under their eyes.
Notable ingredients include glycolic acid, which exfoliates and promotes collagen growth, and titanium dioxide, which shields the skin from UV damage. Rounding out the formulation are a host of antioxidants and natural extracts like lutein and ginseng extract.
While evidence supporting the efficacy of botanicals like topical ginseng is limited, there are enough proven ingredients in this formulation to make Auto Correct a winner. The only potential downside for some users may be its waxy texture.
Given the wide range of proven anti-aging ingredients it contains, Auto Correct is an obvious choice for anyone battling crow’s feet, puffy eyes, dark under eye circles, or mild skin laxity.
Bifida ferment (lactobacillus)
This smooth overnight product has a consistency that’s somewhere between a gel and a cream, includes a rich blend of antioxidants and peptides, and features a ball-shaped applicator. The most unusual ingredients here are tripeptide-32 and bifida ferment lysate, the latter made from a harmless lactobacillus. Theoretically, at least, both additions are beneficial, however, they’re rarely found in other anti-aging skin creams that have proven track records.
Still, even without these two next generation ingredients, there are enough well-known vitamins and antioxidants in the formulation to make Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair an excellent quality eye cream.
The addition of vasoconstricting caffeine may also make this product a good choice for treating dark circles under the eyes.
This small pump dispenser contains an antioxidant-rich gel infused with vitamin C, ferulic acid, caffeine, and the botanical extract ruscus aculeatus.
The latter comes from a phytochemical-rich shrub found in Europe and Asia and has been clinically proven to reduce edema when used topically. It works its magic on swelling and puffiness under the eyes.
The heavy hitters in this preparation are well-known antioxidants which protect the skin from dangerous free radicals. The added caffeine is both a vasoconstrictor and helps to accelerate skin cell turnover.
The preparation may be a little too sticky for some people, but AOX+ Eye Gel remains a steady favorite among consumers.
Pep-Start’s manufacturer, Clinique, touts this eye cream’s ability to “help tired, puffy eyes look wide awake and refreshed”. Although it’s not clear how any skin cream can actually make one look “wide awake”, there’s still a lot to love about this hydrator.
For a relatively low price, Clinique’s Pep-Start Eye Cream offers a solid line-up of emollients, antioxidants and peptides. In addition to these skin-healthy ingredients, Clinique has included a touch of cosmetic mineral pigments and UV-protecting titanium dioxide. Hyaluronic acid is also included in the mix, helping to both moisturize and exfoliate the skin.
While this is an excellent moisturizer and does include a nice line-up of extras, it would be better if it included more anti-aging ingredients to encourage skin cell turnover and promote collagen synthesis. However, at this price we can’t really complain.
Natural anti-inflammatory agents (Including olive oil and caffeine)
As is the case with all Aveda products, the emphasis here is on botanicals and naturally-sourced additions. This high quality eye cream is chock full of naturally occurring moisturizers, antioxidants and ingredients to promote skin repair.
Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics is a smartly formulated cream: It’s fragrance-free so it won’t bother your eyes and comes packed in an opaque, lightproof tube to preserve the potency of light-sensitive ingredients. While it won’t do much for dark circles under the eyes, it does contain natural anti-inflammatory ingredients to reduce puffiness and under eye bags.
Best of all, it’s very well priced for an eye care cream of this quality.
Best Eye Creams for Fighting Wrinkles
While no cream comes close to the efficacy of clinical solutions like Botox, dermal fillers or facial plastic surgery, applying topical eye creams on a daily basis certainly still helps.
Whether it’s by encouraging skin cell turnover, stimulating collagen production, hunting free radicals or nourishing the skin with important restorative ingredients, high quality eye creams can definitely help fight mild crow’s feet and other wrinkles around the eyes.
The following is our take on which products truly deliver on their wrinkle-fighting promises, and which ones don’t:
Vitamins C & E Peptides Human fibroblast conditioned media (growth factor) Hyaluronic acid
This overnight cream includes many standard, proven effective anti-aging ingredients. A rich, creamy formulation, it sports vitamins C and E, hyaluronic acid, TNS growth factor, peptides, and a host of impressive extras.
The added C and E vitamins combat damaging free radicals which age the skin, while hyaluronic acid exfoliates and leaves it feeling moisturized and smooth.
The most interesting highlight in SkinMedica’s TNS Eye Repair is its namesake “TNS growth factor”. While there’s still debate among dermatologists concerning the efficacy of topically applied growth factors, there is evidence to suggest they promote collagen formation and skin regeneration — particularly when combined with antioxidants like vitamin C.
This excellent eye area treatment isn’t a cream, but it checks so many of the right boxes we’re including it anyway. It boasts an assortment of antioxidants, including stabilized vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E, vitamin B9 and borage seed oil. It also includes moisturizing agents and is fragrance-free.
One slightly controversial additive is DMAE. The results of DMAE on wrinkle fighting are still unclear. Studies have shown it may work as an anti-inflammatory and possibly even increase skin firmness and muscle tone. Unlike the other proven wrinkle-fighters in the bottle, DMAE isn’t considered proven science just yet. You’ll have to judge it for yourself.
The eye serum is smartly packaged in a dark tinted glass bottle to protect the light-sensitive ingredients. If you have sensitive skin, we advise you to start slowly as this preparation definitely packs a punch.
Retinol Hyaluronic acid Vitamin C
Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair is a product whose name should be taken with a grain of salt. While it does sport some well-known anti-aging ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinol and a small amount of vitamin C, it’s highly unlikely that the speed of your wrinkle repair will be anything approaching “rapid”. As with all topical skin preparations, visible results are a long-term proposition.
Product naming issues aside, the primary active ingredient, retinol, is first cousin to prescription strength acne and wrinkle fighter Retin-A. While retinol isn’t nearly as absorbable as Retin-A, it can still have positive anti-wrinkle effects over the medium to long term. The added hyaluronic acid aids with exfoliation and moisturization.
While the preparation could be a little stronger, remember that this anti-ager also comes with an impressively low price tag.
This mid-priced eye cream from Laneige has a lot to like — if you can get past the tall tales told by the manufacturer.
South Korea’s Laneige boasts that “pure Himalayan glacial water” is the secret to their line’s potency. Needless to say, there’s no water from anywhere on Earth that’s going to turn back the clock on wrinkles, so it’s a good thing there’s more than just mountain water in this silky smooth eye cream.
Added to the mix are a bevy of moisturizers and wrinkle-reducing ingredients that work behind the scenes while that glacier water steals all the limelight. Aside from a host of moisturizers and emollients, Laneige’s Perfect Renew Firming Eye Cream contains adenosine, which has been clinically proven to reduce crow’s feet and other wrinkles around the eyes.
The product is lightly fragranced, which in some cases could potentially cause mild irritation for those with sensitive skin.
“Pitera” (Saccharomycopsis Ferment Filtrate)
In a category known for causing sticker shock, SK-II’s prices are among the most eyebrow raising. The alleged miracle ingredient that makes SK-II products so expensive is pitera, a compound derived from the Japanese yeast used to make sake.
According to its manufacturer, pitera prevents wrinkle formation and treats sagging skin. While there’s scant clinical evidence to support SK-II’s claims, their pitera products sit at the top of price charts and enjoy widespread popular acclaim.
Does their trademarked ingredient work? At these sky high prices a healthy amount of skepticism is probably warranted — at least until more third party scientific studies are available to support their claims.
Aside from the questionably effective pitera, LXP Ultimate Revival Cream doesn’t contain much else in the way of antioxidants or established anti-aging ingredients.
Hyaluronic acid Citric acid Thioctic Acid Copper Lysinate/Prolinate Copper Tripeptide-1 Niacinamide Mango seed butter
This top-quality serum has it all: A powerful blend of anti-aging peptides, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and niacinamide. A luxurious, creamy preparation, it’s perfect for moisturizing the skin around the eyes. Its mango butter and other moisturizing agents will leave your skin soft and supple while delivering its anti-aging firepower.
Shaba Complex Eye Serum fights the visible signs of aging around the eyes by reducing fine lines and eye puffiness while minimizing age spots over time.
The packaging features a simple push-button dispenser on the back end. Drunk Elephant’s Shaba Complex Eye Serum is well formulated and fragrance-free so it’s not likely to cause skin irritation.
Vaccinium Myrtillus Extract Vitamins C & E Peptides
Advanced Glycation End products (AGE’s) are the skin-damaging result of sugar molecules bonding with proteins and lipids within the skin. AGE’s are common in diabetics but also a natural result of the aging process.
While AGE’s may be a hot area of anti-aging science right now, there is no hard clinical evidence to confirm preventing the accumulation of AGE’s in the skin actually prevents visible signs of aging. Nor is there any solid evidence to suggest the topical vaccinium myrtillus extract (blueberry extract) in SkinCeuticals A.G.E. products can stop AGE’s from building up in the first place, as the manufacturer claims.
There are other positive ingredients to be found in this expensive eye cream, including vitamins C and E and an array of peptides, but the main attraction here is the supposed AGE inhibition. Does it work? There’s little evidence to show it does or doesn’t, but at these lofty prices, skepticism should be the order of the day.
Moisturizing Eye Creams
Many eye creams specialize in delivering moisture to dry, aging skin. While these luxurious, moisture-rich preparations don’t deliver quite as many anti-aging benefits as other creams, they will help keep your skin youthfully dewy and supple.
Moisturizers Caffeine Bisabolol Cutaneous lysate
This small but elegant pump bottle contains a small arsenal of moisturizers inside, all powerful ingredients designed to reduce wrinkles and improve the skin around the eyes. These include caffeine, bisabolol and a mix of polypeptides and amino acids.
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor that can help reduce the visibility of dark circles, while bisabolol is a natural anti-inflammatory that comes from chamomile. Both ingredients provide blissful therapy for the under eye area.
The PSP touted in the product’s name is cutaneous lysate. It contains a complex mix of amino acids, proteins and polypeptides derived from skin tissue. While it may promote new collagen growth, clinical studies confirming as much remain limited.
Lumiere’s Bio-Restorative Eye Cream is primarily a moisturizer, but the addition of additional notes like caffeine, bisabolol and peptides make it a great choice for the daily treatment of tired eyes.
Borage oil Mango seed butter Aloe
Tata Harper’s eye cream doesn’t have much by way of active ingredients but does contain a few luxurious moisturizers and emollients. With borage oil, mango seed butter and aloe, the lotion feels rich and restorative.
For the price tag, however, the product falls a little short in the bang for the buck department. Yes, it’s an excellent moisturizer, but it misses in a few important areas like wrinkle fighting, UVB blocking and collagen stimulation.
A potential downside for some users of this product is the addition of a mild fragrance. While the scent is bright and appealing, fragrances can cause mild skin irritation to those with very sensitive skin.
The price tag may be tempting, but unfortunately Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Eye Gel is more a case of you get what you pay for. One positive with this product is its inclusion of a low concentration of hyaluronic acid, which both moisturizes and exfoliates.
Otherwise, what you’re buying here is mostly water, glycerin and silicone.
If you’re looking for a gel that’s primarily a moisturizer, Hydro Boost Eye Gel is a good option. Just remember that it falls a little short in other categories.
Best Eye Creams for Fighting Dark Circles
When it comes to our eyes, one of the most common complaints dermatologists hear is dark under eye circles.
Because there are different types of dark under eye circles, not all creams work the same way. Some dark circles are the result of hyperpigmentation while others are the result of thinning skin. Knowing what’s causing your dark under eye circles can help you better select the eye cream that’s most right for you.
As with any cream it’s important to keep expectations under control. As Dr. Cheryl Karcher at Center Aesthetic & Dermatology in New York points out, “No cream is going to take away heavy wrinkles or dark under eye circles”.
Once under eye circles become pronounced, only clinical treatments will be effective.
The following is a list of eye creams designed to target under eye wrinkles. As you’ll see, some of them work as promised, while others probably don’t:
Given it’s low price, Olay’s Eye Lifting Serum packs an excellent array of proven anti-aging ingredients, including niacinamide, vitamin E, green tea extract, and a solid range of peptides and antioxidants.
Niacinamide has been clinically proven to improve skin elasticity, fade areas of hyperpigmentation and repair damage related to sun exposure. Olay Eyes’ inclusion of mineral pigments helps to cosmetically improve the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
As for the “eye lifting” aspect of the product’s name, it’s important to keep expectations in check:
There’s no actual “lifting” going on here, but in light of the excellent quality of its ingredients, we’re prepared to accept the title metaphorically.
For an eye cream that’s very easy on the wallet and available in your local drugstore, Olay Eyes is a welcome splash of quality.
Titanium dioxide Concealers Green tea extract Caffeine Mulberry extract Natural antioxidants
Clinique’s excellent Dark Circle Corrector addresses dark circles in two different ways. The first is a cosmetic approach involving three different concealers: iron oxide, titanium dioxide and mica.
Titanium dioxide creates a lightening effect while protecting the skin from harmful UV rays, the Iron oxide adds a very mild pigment, and the mica adds a slight amount of reflectivity. The overall effect of these three concealers is, at least temporarily, a brighter, slightly shiny area under the eyes.
While that cosmetic magic would already be enough, where this product really shines is in its second line strategy, which involves an impressive line-up of antioxidants and ingredients with healing compounds. It also includes mulberry extract, which is a natural skin lightener as well as powerful antioxidant.
The affordable price tag, excellent packaging, and fragrance-free formulation make this eye cream an all-around winner.
This popular serum comes at a medium price point and has a rich creamy gel consistency. The manufacturer claims it improves skin elasticity and reduces fine lines, wrinkles, and sagginess.
It’s not clear which ingredients, if any, address dark circles, but there are a few high points here nonetheless.
As with Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, the most notable ingredient is bifida ferment lysate. Bifida ferment lysate falls into the theoretical/unproven category of age fighters, but some clinical trials suggest it may help promote skin repair. Proven ingredients include titanium dioxide for protection against UV radiation, but most importantly, the tongue-twisting salicyloyl phytosphingosine, which has been shown to repair photoaged skin in clinical trials.
While this roll call of age fighters may seem promising, it’s important to highlight two downsides to Lancome’s Genifique Yeux. First, it contains alcohol, which can be hard on the skin. Second, the widemouth jar easily exposes its contents to oxidation, so you’ll want to use this luxurious cream as quickly as possible.
Niacinamide Caffeine Mineral pigments
This reasonably priced, lightweight cream has a few different tricks up its sleeve to help combat dark under eye circles.
The first is caffeine, which is a natural antioxidant and vasoconstrictor. The second is mineral pigment, which gives your under eye area a cosmetic color alteration and added reflectivity.
Another excellent addition here is niacinamide, which is both a natural anti-inflammatory and decreases sallowness and discoloration. Niacinamide has also been shown to reduce fine lines and wrinkles over time.
While a few more anti-aging ingredients would be nice, La Roche-Posay’s Dark Circles Eye Cream is still an excellent quality topical eye treatment for the price.
Hyaluronic acid Salicylic acid Dipotassium glycyrrhizate (licorice root extract). Alpinia Galanga leaf extract
Don’t be fooled by this serum’s clever name and packaging. It’s designed to look like a dermal filler syringe but is actually a 100% topical preparation.
The most important ingredient here is hyaluronic acid, which moisturizes the skin around the eyes and encourages exfoliation to keep it looking fresh. As a supporting cast member salicylic acid fights acne, smoothens the skin, and assists with exfoliation.
Two good botanicals are also included in the mix. These are galangal, which is a potent source of antioxidants, and dipotassium glycyrrhizate (licorice root extract), which has been shown to reduce hyperpigmentation.
One downside here is the addition of alcohol, which may cause irritation for users with sensitive skin. If alcohol in skincare products typically causes you irritation, you may want to give this one a pass.
Caffeine Ceramides Lactic acid (AHA)
Active Hydration Bright Eye Complex from Rodan + Fields contains a broad array of ingredients designed to brighten and replenish the area around your eyes. You’ll find antioxidants, ceramides, botanicals, and a blast of vitamin E in this silky smooth cream-gel.
The inclusion of mineral pigments adds a cosmetic reflectivity and brightening effect to the skin which (cosmetically) reduces the visibility of dark under-eye circles.
While this product seems to check all the right boxes, there are two other ingredients you need to be aware of. The addition of both a mild fragrance and denatured alcohol means that those with sensitive skin may experience irritation after using this product. If that’s you, you may want to choose a milder, fragrance-free eye cream.
Titanium dioxide Citric acid Hyaluronic acid Natural antioxiants
FirmX 360 Eye Renewal takes a cosmetic approach to eye creams. This “blurring” cream decreases the visual definition of fine lines and wrinkles. While the effects are only temporary, they’re still well worth the price of admission. The addition of brightening titanium dioxide and reflective mica add to this cream’s ability to visually downplay wrinkles.
What rounds out this well-formulated cream is a splash of moisturizing hyaluronic acid and an assortment of antioxidants that help destroy free radicals and protect the skin. These include citric acid and natural antioxidant botanicals like avena sativa and muira puama (a plant found in South American rainforests).
Best Eye Creams for Sensitive Skin
Many common eye cream ingredients can cause irritation. These include alcohol, some fragrances, antioxidants, acidic ingredients and some botanicals. If you have very sensitive skin, remember to start slowly. If you’re unsure whether you can tolerate any over-the-counter skincare products, you should consult with a dermatologist for specific advice.
Hyaluronic acid Multiple moisturizers
Dermalogica’s entry in the eye-cream category promises to brighten dark circles, reduce puffiness, lift the skin and revitalize the area around the eyes.
Despite the product’s name, which seems to promise surgical-quality results, there’s no physical “lifting” action offered by this, or any other, topical treatment.
The added hyaluronic acid helps to smooth the epidermis and works in concert with the other included moisturizers. But if you’re looking for a true anti-aging product, you would be wise to look elsewhere: Aside from the inclusion of some hyaluronic acid, Dermalogica’s Stress Positive Eye Lift falls a little short in the anti-wrinkle, collagen stimulation categories.
Also of note is that the number of fragrant botanicals included in the preparation could be an issue for those with sensitive eyes.
Copper gluconate Troxerutin Palmitoyl tripeptide Disodium rutinyl disulfate
Paula’s Choice RESIST eye cream takes a slightly different approach with their formulation. Most eye creams use one or more mainstay ingredients like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, titanium dioxide or caffeine. RESIST eye cream, on the other hand, seems determined to break the mold by including unusual but science-backed ingredients in their formulation.
Copper gluconate, troxerutin, palmitoyl tripeptide and disodium rutinyl disulfate are just a few of the skin restoring compounds in this original mixture.
While RESIST’s line-up of age fighters should help scavenge free radicals and promote cell turnover and collagen growth, there’s nothing here that conceals or provides an otherwise cosmetic result. If you’re hoping to cover up dark circles, you’ll still need a concealer, and if you’re trying to blur crow’s feet, this likely isn’t the right product for you either.
Still, this rich, high quality eye cream is chock full of restoring, soothing and moisturizing ingredients that stand out from the rest of the pack. With it’s very modest price, it’s certainly worth a try.
While not as rich in antioxidants as many other eye creams, Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment is a luxurious lotion that still checks a few of the right boxes. The most important ingredient here is avocado oil, which contains vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as linoleic acid, beta sitosterol and beta carotene. Studies have shown avocado oil boosts collagen synthesis and even reduces inflammation.
Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment leaves skin feeling supple and moisturized. It also stays put and doesn’t get in your eyes.
RoC’s silky smooth eye cream has a tempting low price and special formulation for those with sensitive skin. As its name suggests, this eye cream includes retinol, which is the over-the-counter version of prescription-strength Retin-A. What makes this product easier on sensitive skin? Aside from being fragrance-free, the answer is less retinol. Unfortunately, less retinol also means slightly reduced efficacy.
If regular strength retinol is a problem for your skin, this well-packaged, non-greasy formulation may be right for you. But be prepared for reduced results along with your reduced irritation.
Unfortunately, RoC’s Retinol Correxion Eye Cream is a bit of a one trick pony. Aside from retinol, it has a nice array of moisturizers but lacks a significant amount of antioxidants and other skin repair ingredients.
Eye creams are a great addition to any daily skin care regimen. But keep in mind that once deep wrinkles set in, or eye bags become heavy and pronounced, there are no over-the-counter topical treatments that will provide an effective solution. Only a cosmetic doctor can remove heavy creases or folds of skin.