Eye On The Prize

A collage with the beauty editor Carly Cardellino next to her favorite eye creams
The 14 Best Eye Creams, According To A Beauty Expert & Dermatologist

A no-B.S. guide to creams that actually make a difference in smoothing, de-puffing, brightening, and more.

by Carly Cardellino
Resting Mom Face

There are two schools of thought when it comes to eye cream: First, that they’re a complete and utter scam and second, that they are a nonnegotiable part of any skincare regimen. I subscribe to the second school: I adore a good eye cream and have definitely seen results when I use certain formulas. However, I wanted to get a dermatologist’s perspective to really settle this debate. So, I called my long-time go-to: Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a board-certified Boston dermatologist, who is very honest in her reviews and whom I trust completely.

“Eye creams are not a scam,” she says. “Eye cream is a very specific thing — for a lot of people they’re great, but not everyone needs one.” So let’s start with who can benefit from one if you want to use one. If you’re starting to recognize a little crinkle in the skin around your eyes and want to help smooth those lines or help minimize puffiness, that’s when an eye cream can help. People who don’t necessarily need one are those who want to improve their overall skin tone and texture. For this set of folks, Dr. Hirsch recommends simply using the gold standard in skincare, a.k.a. retinol prescribed by a dermatologist, and apply said prescribed formula near the skin surrounding your eye (unless you have very sensitive skin — your derm will address and guide you).

If you choose to pass Go, collect $200, and then spend a portion of that on an eye cream, Dr. Hirsch warns against cream that claims to do it all. “Look for a formula that targets one or two things well,” she says, and give that formula time to work, “instead of starting and stopping a bunch of different eye creams and claiming they’re not working.” If you choose wisely you should see “some sort of difference.” She likens the waiting game to exercise: You might see some initial definition after a few workouts, but patience and time are needed to see the most prominent results.

Timing-wise, Dr. Hirsch suggests using an eye cream for a minimum of three months to really see the effects, and seven months to begin to notice the longer-term benefits. “Eye cream isn’t a fly-by type of product,” Dr. Hirsch explains. “The skin is very thin around the area and adaptable because of that, but you really have to stick with [a product] to see the greater benefits.”

Now that you know how to use eye cream, here are the ones Dr. Hirsch and I recommend using — between the two of us, we’ve used each of them extensively. I’ve also included two buzzy new eye creams that just launched and are worth checking out. (I’ve tried them and I like them so far, but I haven’t used them for an extended period of time yet).

Best For Smoothing Fine Lines

This dermatologist-tested formula (and a Dr. Hirsch recommendation) may be sold at your local drugstore, but that doesn’t mean it’s formula is any less potent or effective. In fact, it’s clinically proven to visibly reduce crow’s feet in 12 weeks, thanks to its star ingredient, retinol. Eye creams with retinol — just like any retinol product — are proven to stimulate collagen production, targeting and reversing visible lines around your eyes (which are the result of smiling, so don’t hate on them too much!). So, if you do want to minimize them, this eye cream will work to smooth over fine lines.

Best For Hydration

This eye cream was formulated for menopausal women, who deal with a loss of elasticity and firmness in the skin, but anyone can benefit from its smoothing powers. The key ingredient in this eye cream is bakuchiol, a gentler alternative to retinol, and HYACLEAR 7, the brand’s patented form of hyaluronic acid, a potent hydrating molecule. It’s also not sticky, absorbs quickly, and come with cooling metal-tip applicator, so a little goes a long way. Bonus: The formulation is EU compliant, which means the standards are even higher when it comes to ingredient safety.

Best Anti-Pollution Formula

I use this one a lot in the mornings under my Dieux Forever Eye Masks — honestly, it’s like shrink wrap for my under-eyes on nights my son Sandro doesn’t sleep. I also keep it in the refrigerator to keep it cold, which also helps minimize puffiness. As for ingredients, it uses Chromabright, the brand’s proprietary ingredient created to help fade uneven pigmentation and protect skin cells from UV damage and HEV/blue light exposure (as in, the light from our phones). It also uses lipochroman, an antioxidant derived from vitamin E, to ward off environmental aggressors, like pollution, which can bring about fine lines and age spots. It also absorbs quite fast, which is a must for busy mornings.

Best For De-Puffing

This baby has been out for a while now, but it’s still one of my faves. It’s made with caffeine for tightening and de-puffing, light-reflecting particles for all of the mothers who got two hours or sleep (or anyone going out til wee hours in the morning), watermelon extract for plumping and hydration, and antioxidant-rich lutein to fight the effects of blue light, which can bring on tired-looking, dehydrated skin and speed up the aging process (fun!). I highly recommend it.

Best For Sensitive Eyes

What’s cool about this eye cream is yes, it contains retinol, but it also contains bioretinols, a compound derived from babchi edible seeds that mimic the effect of retinol, but lower the chance of skin sensitivity, making it the perfect choice for anyone whose skin turns pink after using retinol. This unique cream also has hyaluronic acid and sunflower seed oil to plump the skin. You apply it to your eye area with a cooling tip that doubles as a little massager — I use it to create tiny circles going inward toward my nose, up and below my brow bone, and back around again.

Best Eye Mask For Overnight Hydration

This cult-favorite eye cream from Glow Recipe uses the vitamin E and C found in avocados to give your eye area a much-needed dose of hydration (my husband is a fan of this one!). The creamy texture helps to plump up crepey skin, while the coffeeberry works to de-puff, and encapsulated retinol releases over time for a gentler smoothing effect.

Best For Firming

I know I shouldn’t pick a favorite child, but when it comes to eye creams, this is mine. It’s the most gorgeous, hydrating texture and so, so creamy — even when I wake up my skin is still soft and dewy to the touch. It also contains brightening niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, that’s proven to soothe and brighten.

Best For Lifting

Dr. Hirsh is a fan of this eye cream because of how it helps firm up sagging skin, thanks to the Dermal-Epidermal Junction (DEJ) ingredient; it’s clinically proven to target and even subtly lift drooping eyelids with continued use.

Best For Brightening - Day

If you’ve ever searched the term “eye cream,” this formula from Ole Henriksen has probably come up (there’s a reason it’s gone viral on TikTok). Its peach-tinted formula is packed with vitamin C, which helps to brighten, and collagen, to boost your skin’s natural elasticity. As you age, the collagen in your skin decreases — and without a strong foundation of collagen and elastin in your skin, your under-eye area may appear more hollow and sunken. This eye cream helps plump up your under-eyes, and the peachy tint gives you an instant brightening effect.

Best For Brightening - Night

Beware any product that promises to zap away dark circles. These can be genetic and, in that case, almost impossible to get rid of. Not all hope is lost though: If discoloration is the result of the veins under your eyes, which are more visible because they are closer to the surface of your skin, vitamin C can help. This eye cream from BeautyStat contains five percent of pure vitamin C to help brighten the skin and also hyaluronic acid to draw in moisture.

Best For Dry Under-Eyes

This is another one of Dr. Hirsch’s go-to eye creams. If your issue is dry skin around your eyes, this one can help hydrate rough patches, without causing those small bumps around the eye area, also known as milia.

Best For Soothing

I started using this balmy formula from Jessica Alba’s brand the Honest Company when winter hit and the skin around my eyes started feeling especially dry. It’s made with a mix of shea butter, argan oil, and aloe, which work together to keep the skin’s barrier intact and healthy. It’s also gentle enough to be used on your upper eyelid as well as, which I definitely do. I used it this morning and my skin still feels moisturized .

Two New Eye Creams I’m Excited About

This brand-new gel-cream from Chanel relies on the antioxidant-packed red camellia extract to soothe and brighten your under-eyes. This ingredient is said to help strengthen skin (by maintaining your skin’s barrier, which is crucial to overall skin health) and minimize the appearance of dark shadows (since thin skin equals more visible veins under the eye area). It also claims to keep your skin’s cell renewal process moving (it can slow down due to age, stress, and hormonal changes). Plus, the mica in the eye cream gives an instant brightening effect. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now, and I’m a big fan so far!

Summer Fridays, created by influencer Marianna Hewitt, is known for products that hydrate the skin (the Jet Lag Mask and Butter Lip Balm are two of my favorites), so I was excited when they dropped their eye cream. The peach-toned formula instantly works to mask the appearance of dark shadows around your eyes, while vitamin C brightens, peptides firm, and caffeine de-puffs. It also has moisturizing shea butter to keep the thin skin around your eyes from looking crepey — a real win. This baby just launched, so I’m still testing it… but so far, I like its finish: it doesn’t pill under makeup and my under-eye area looks brighter instantly after applying it.

Resting Mom Face is a column from Romper contributor and beauty expert Carly Cardellino.

Studies referenced:

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Bissett DL, Oblong JE, Berge CA. (2005). Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16029679/

Kijlstra A, Tian Y, Kelly ER, Berendschot TT. (2012). Lutein: more than just a filter for blue light. Prog Retin Eye Res. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22465791/

Parrado, C., Mercado-Saenz, S., Perez-Davo, A., Gilaberte, Y., Gonzalez, S., & Juarranz, A. (2019). Environmental Stressors on Skin Aging. Mechanistic Insights. Frontiers in pharmacology, 10, 759. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.00759

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