The Best Eye Cream
Best Night Cream (Medium Coverage)
Best Night Cream (Light Coverage)
Best Night Cream (Heavy Coverage)
Best Day Cream (Medium Coverage)
Best Day Cream (Light Coverage)
Best Day Cream (Heavy Coverage)
How We Found the Best Eye Cream
404 Eye Creams Researched
33 Products Tested
6 Top Picks
The Best Eye Cream
The best eye cream smooths fine lines and lessens wrinkles, reversing the appearance of aging. It’s a drawn-out game: You’ll need to wear the cream daily and wait for months to see noticeable effects. But the unanimous consensus from our experts was that these creams do work. We found eleven formulas with the peptides, retinoids, antioxidants and moisturizers necessary to to get the job done. Six were tester favorites for their silky skin-feel and pleasant scent — we highlight these above — but we look at the entire list of eleven later in this review.
Before you choose, you'll need to decide when you want to use your cream: Night creams contain retinoids, the most fast-acting and well-researched anti-wrinkle agent on the market — but this class of ingredients quickly breaks down and becomes ineffective when exposed to sunlight. Day creams contain peptides, a more recent addition to the skincare arsenal: Peptides are less sensitive to sunlight and less likely to irritate if you’ve got sensitive skin, but expect to wait longer for results. We've found picks in both categories.
Next, decide whether you prefer a lightweight lotion that absorbs quickly — like Youth to the People (retinoid) and Botanics All Bright (peptide) — or a richer cream that lingers on the skin, like Skin Laundry (retinoid) or SkinMedica (peptide). If you’re not sure where to start, we’d suggest the medium-weight coverage offered by Kate Somerville's Line Release retinoid cream or Mizon's peptide cream.
- Kate Somerville Line Release Under Eye Repair Cream -
Best Night Cream (Medium Coverage)
- Youth to the People Age Prevention Superfood Eye Cream -
Best Night Cream (Light Coverage)
- SkinMedica Uplifting Eye Serum -
Best Night Cream (Heavy Coverage)
- Mizon Collagen Power Firming Eye Cream -
Best Day Cream (Medium Coverage)
- Botanics All Bright Refreshing Eye Roll-On -
Best Day Cream (Light Coverage)
- Skin Laundry Wrinkle Release Eye Cream with Peptides -
Best Day Cream (Heavy Coverage)
How We Chose the Best Eye Cream
We started by compiling a list of every eye cream we could find — 404 of them. We pulled from popular online beauty retailers like Ulta and Sephora plus retailers like Walgreens and Target, then we added in recommendations by established beauty brands like Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Refinery29. We also made sure our list included South Korean beauty products — one of the hottest sources for skin care treatments. We looked at serums, creams, and lotions indiscriminately (although we did skip masks and eye rollers).
Our list of 404 in hand, we reached out to dermatologists and cosmetic chemists for help deciphering the fancy-sounding ingredients and bold claims of our contenders. Our goal: Ditch the hype and focus on ingredients proven to keep skin looking young and healthy.
We cut ingredients that are common skin irritants
First things first. “The skin around the eye is very thin and sensitive and will not always tolerate the same products that your cheeks and forehead can tolerate,” says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills and clinical instructor at the University of Southern California. The best eye cream should make your skin feel younger, not red and itchy.
Toward that end, Dr. Rhonda Klein, a dermatologist based in Connecticut, told us to avoid fragrances, “especially if you have sensitive skin or notice any skin irritation.” No product will be truly scentless, but ones with synthetic fragrances (usually written as “fragrance” or “parfum” on ingredients lists) can be particularly irritating.
We also used Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary (a cosmetic ingredients database) to identify products that contain known skin sensitizers: These ingredients include things like lemon or mint — compounds that smell great and are totally fine for occasional use. But if you’re using a skin sensitizer on a daily basis for months at a time, your skin may develop an allergic reaction. We found 44 sensitizing ingredients in our remaining eye creams.
We removed alcohols that dry out your skin.
There are two types of alcohols in cosmetics. The good guys are the “fatty alcohols,” like cetyl alcohol. This group of ingredients soothes and moisturizes and is a great addition to many moisturizers. The “bad” alcohols include denatured alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, and ethyl alcohol. These ingredients are sometimes added because they help active ingredients penetrate further into your skin — which sounds great, until you learn that bad alcohols achieve this by breaking down the outer layers of your skin. They can eventually hurt the skin’s ability to retain moisture. We took a hard line on these drying alcohols, cutting any products that included them.
And looked for sodium hyaluronate to hydrate and plump.
As we get older, our skin regenerates more slowly, loses elasticity, and can appear sunken. Moisturizing helps skin look fuller — minimizing wrinkles — and gives it the water it needs to repair and regenerate itself.
Your skin has three layersThe outer layer serves as a barrier to protect the inner layers from germs and bacteria. It's so effective that anti-aging creams must be specially formulated with ingredients that can slip past the barrier.
The one moisturizing ingredient that our experts agreed was a must-have was hyaluronic acid (HA), and its salt — sodium hyaluronate. These molecules are found naturally in your body, primarily in your skin, but our bodies produce less as we get older. As a result, the skin around our eyes starts to look less full, leading to wrinkles that look deeper and dark circles that are more noticeable.
Hyaluronic acid is most effective when it can get into the deeper layers of the skin — which is why it is a common ingredient for fillers and injections. But in topical creams, it often has a hard time getting past the outer layer of skin because it is comprised of fairly large molecules. As a workaround, the most effective eye cream will use sodium hyaluronate instead, a derivative that is more easily absorbed into the skin because it has smaller molecules. We looked only at products that contained sodium hyaluronate (although we didn't ding them for including HA).
To encourage skin to regenerate faster, we required peptides or retinoids.
Our skin is constantly shedding old cells and regrowing. Beginning in our twenties, however, this regeneration process slows down by as much as 30% to 50%: Skin can take twice as long to replace damaged cells, resulting in a less youthful appearance. To avoid this slow-down, the most effective eye cream will encourage your body to produce collagen (a building block for new, healthy skin). There are two ingredient types that promote collagen growth: peptides and retinoids.
Retinoids are related to Vitamin A, and they’re well-documented to help the skin slough off old cells and produce new ones. They vary in strength, and as cosmetic chemist and consultant Kevin Gallagher explained, their strength has an immediate trade-off: the stronger and more effective the retinoid, the harsher it is on skin. Retinoids can cause side-effects like peeling and redness at high enough doses. Over-the-counter retinoid creams typically use gentler forms — you’ll need a need a prescription for extremely potent wrinkle creams — but if you have sensitive skin, know that retinoids are more likely to cause irritation than peptides.
The flip-side is that retinoids may work more quickly than peptides, although “quickly” is still relative. At high concentrations, you’re likely to see improvements in wrinkles, skin thickness, and skin elasticity within 4 months, but be prepared for a longer wait time with most over-the-counter creams. Just as wrinkles don't appear overnight, happen overnight, even the best eye cream can't fix them overnight.
"Retinoids are one of the most important ingredients in a skin care product. Most people should be using them."
Peptides are a more recent entrant into the field of skin care, which means that they’re not as well documented. Kevin Gallagher told us that peptides were derived from medical research into wound healing, and he recommended them over retinoids because they have less risk of irritating the delicate skin around the eye area. “Peptides are small fragments of collagen and proteins that are meant to ‘trick’ the skin into thinking that its collagen is broken, and that it needs to make new collagen to replace it. Over time, it can help thicken skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles,” explains Shainhouse.
A product with peptides or retinoids is the closest you can come to a true anti-aging eye cream, and research suggests that these ingredients truly are effective. But in either case, don’t believe products that promise miracles in five days. These chemicals take months of routine use before you’ll see results.
We also looked for antioxidants to reduce sun damage.
Apart from aging, the other main culprit behind skin damage is the sun — which is why our faces and hands tend to look more aged than our chests or backs. Sunscreen is your biggest ally here. All of our experts agreed that you should wear sunscreen on a daily basis to prevent sun damage. But since the vast majority of the products we found didn't contain SPF, we couldn’t make this a requirement. (Out of our starting list of 404, only eight advertised sun-blocking properties, and onlyMDSolarSciences made it all the way to our list of finalists.) If you do need a sunscreen recommendation, we’d suggest checking out our review of the best sunscreens.
So what else can you do? Kevin Gallagher noted that antioxidants are important for preventing the development of aged skin via sun exposure. They’re another ingredient that helps your body prevent damaged skin cells. We again consulted skincare expert Paula Begoun’s ingredient database to ensure all of our finalists contained effective antioxidants (we looked for antioxidants with a "good" or "best" rating). Only one product didn’t meet the mark at this point: SkinMedica TNS Illuminating Eye Cream, which we removed from consideration.
To ensure potency, we ditched eye creams that come in pots or jars.
We gave preference to creams that came in pump-tops or squeeze tubes rather than jars. Retinoids degrade when exposed to light and oxygen, becoming less effective, and peptides may also be susceptible to oxidation, so the less contact your eye cream has with air and sunlight, the better.
We made an exception for one product, Youth to the People, which comes in a jar but is one of the few paraben-free options we were able to track down. We take a closer look at parabens below, and while we don't consider them a deal-breaker, we wanted to provide options for people who would prefer to avoid them.
We also made a couple of one-off cuts at this stage: Lumene Hehku Radiance Restoring Recovery Eye Cream is only available in the United Kingdom; and Cicatricure Eye Cream has artificial dyes. We were left with 33 contenders.
Then we divided our finalists into two categories: day creams and night creams.
Can you wear retinoids during the day? Yes and no. Retinoids have an exfoliating effect on the skin, scrubbing away dead skin, and the more powerful they are, the more effective they are. This means that they can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation, but it depends both on how sensitive your skin is, and the strength of the retinoid in your eye cream. An easy fix is to wear sunscreen overtop to protect your skin. However, we still recommend wearing these creams at night, because there is some research that sunlight can degrade retinols and make them less effective.
We sorted all other creams into the ‘day cream’ group. Day creams can be worn at any time — our finalists in this category all rely on peptides, which makes them more stable when exposed to sunlight than retinol-based creams. Our day creams also lack the mineral oils that show up in some night creams, allowing them to absorb quickly enough to be layered under makeup. But there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from wearing a “day cream” at night.
We tested to make sure our eye creams were easy to apply.
The 33 creams we tested came in variety of tubes and pumps. Our favorite designs let us portion out a small dab of cream: just enough to fully hydrate our eyes without turning our eye cream into an all-over-face cream. The worst shot cream out at the closest available target, sometimes because of a runny formula, sometimes because of a too-powerful pump. At best, this lack of portion control is a small annoyance, but since some of our anti-wrinkle creams ran upwards of $100, we wanted the ability to measure them out without wasting anything.
Testers generally preferred pump-tops over squeeze tubes or roller-balls. Clinique Pep Start had a roller-ball that turned squirt-gun on us unexpectedly and was difficult to control. Testers did like the metal ball of Botanics All Bright Refreshing Eye Roll-On, but reported that it was still a little trickier to apply than, say, a squeeze tube.
We cut 12 products for being more difficult to portion out than their compatriots.
And they had to feel soothing, regardless of skin type.
We gave our remaining 21 products to eleven testers of various skin types, dry to oily. They applied each cream and waited ninety seconds — the amount of time manufacturers typically recommend waiting before applying other products. Then our testers noted how quickly each cream had absorbed into their skin, and whether it left behind any residue.
Need to know your skin type?Paula’s Choice breaks skin types up into three categories: Dry, Normal, and Oily. They advise washing your face, and waiting two hours without applying any products. If your skin looks flaky or feels tight, you have dry skin. Shiny and slick? Oily. Neither, but smooth? Normal, or you might have a combination of oily and dry sections.
There was no single “correct” set of results. You might prefer a lighter or heavier lotion based on skin type or personal preference — one that soaks in quickly and leaves no trace, versus one that absorbs slowly and leaves behind a luxurious spa feel. There are, accordingly, lighter and heavy creams. So we asked our testers to rate how quickly each product absorbed, and split the results into light, medium, and heavy coverage. We also kept an eye out for any uniformly negative side-effects, dinging a few formulas that received repeated complaints from testers about being sticky (yuck) or overly drying. Even though one tester found SkinMedica to feel luxurious, all other testers described it as “gloopy,” or like the sticky feeling that comes from “pulling a sticker off and leaving goop behind.” Revision received similar complaints.
And while we were initially excited about our two drugstore Olay eye creams (Olay Eyes Illuminating Eye Cream, and Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Eye Swirl), our testers gave them a uniform thumbs-down, complaining of dryness, the creams’ tendency to pill up and flake off, and their shimmery pearlescent shine — meant to disguise dark circles, but producing an odd appearance when not worn under makeup. We also cut Dr. Brandt needles no more® NO MORE BAGGAGE™ eye de-puffing gel, because it turned our skin an aggressive fake-tan shade of orange.
We’ve taken the eleven that remain and grouped them based on type (day cream or night cream), and weight (light, medium, or heavy). To find the best eye cream for you, you might have to try a couple, to find out which one feel best to you — our testers can only take us so far when it comes to personal preference.
The Best Eye Cream for Nighttime Use
Looking for a retinoid-based eye cream? A medium-weight formula is best place to start if you have normal skin and no pre-existing texture preferences. These creams leave your skin feeling moisturized — you won’t be left wondering whether you remembered to put them on — but, at the same time, they aren’t unpleasantly greasy. After testing, two of our retinoid-based contenders fit this category: Kate Somerville Line Release Under Eye Repair Cream and Chanel Le Lift Creme Yeux Firming Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream.
Kate Somerville was our favorite by a very narrow margin. Both brands come with pump dispensers that dole out precise amounts of eye cream as needed. Both felt hydrating and refreshing, leaving skin moisturized without being too heavy. Kate Somerville is slightly pricier, at $125, versus Chanel’s $105. So why did we prefer the pricier option? It was virtually odorless. Chanel had a lightly floral (almost medicinal) scent on first whiff, which some of us enjoyed, but two unhappy testers reported fishy undertones as it dried. Chanel was also more prone to flaking as it dried. We’ll stick with Kate Somerville.
Lightweight night creams absorb quickly: After a minute or two, it might be hard to tell you’ve put anything on. We’d recommend this category for people with oily skin — or for anyone who doesn’t like the texture of heavy lotions.
In this category, Youth to the People Age Prevention Superfood Eye Cream ($35) was the clear standout. In fact, it holds the honor of being our testers’ absolute favorite — more people called it out as being “the best eye cream” than any other pick in any other category. It received the highest absorbency rating of all our retinol-based night eye cream, and left our skin feeling smooth and soft. That said, it has one notable downside: it comes in a jar, which exposes the ingredients inside to air and light more than a pump or squeeze-tube would. To preserve the potency of the cream, you’ll want to be extra careful to apply it only after washing your hands, and to keep it in a dark, cool spot after using it.
If you don’t want the hassle of keeping your cream in a dark room, both Murad Renewing Eye Cream and Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum are excellent runners-up, coupling pump-top dispensers with high absorbency. They’re more expensive than Youth to the People’s $35. All three come in 15 mL packages, but Dr. Dennis Gross runs about $69, and Murad is $80. But in return, they’re also a little more potent, getting their anti-wrinkle powers from retinol rather than the milder retinyl.
Only one of our retinoid-based products had heavy enough coverage to fall into our “heavy coverage” category: SkinMedica Uplifting Eye Serum ($60). Most of our testers weren’t huge fans of this option. It was repeatedly called out for being sticky and “gloopy,” and several testers felt that it didn’t absorb into their skin at all, instead sitting in a thick layer on top of it. That said, if you have extremely dry skin, SkinMedica has the power to provide an extra level of hydration that we didn't get anywhere else, with one tester describing the cream as "thick and luxurious." It all comes down to skin type and personal preference: What feels overpowering on oily skin is likely to be a blessed relief to someone constantly battling dryness.
The Best Eye Cream for Daytime Use
If you're looking for a peptide-based formula that can be worn during the day, coupled with middle-of-the-road absorbency, you've got four options. The two frontrunners during testing were Drunk Elephant Shaba Complex Eye Serum and Mizon Collagen Power Firming Eye Cream. We had no trouble dispensing the right amounts with either cream, either through Drunk Elephant’s sleek-looking pump, or with Mizon’s basic squeeze tube. Testers noted that their skin felt smooth and a little oily from the residue, ranking both creams as similarly absorbent. In fact, the most noticeable difference is their price: Mizon retails for $10, and Drunk Elephant for $60. If you don’t have existing brand loyalty, we’d suggest starting with the Mizon.
Also worth considering are NIOD Fractionated Eye-Contour Concentrate, and Eco Your Skin VOLUFILINE15 EYE ESSENCE. NIOD was the only true eye serum that made it to our list of finalists — it’s a liquid that comes in a dropper. It doesn’t absorb as quickly as Drunk Elephant or Mizon, with all of our testers reporting moderately oily residue. Eco Your Skin is heavier still — we almost bumped it into our “heavy creams” category. Its standout features is the size of its bottle. Unlike most of our finalists, which usually cap at 15 mL, Eco Your Skin comes in a 50 mL bottle. This helps explain its higher price tag ($70).
For a lightweight, fast-absorbing day cream, you've got four options: Botanics, Estee Lauder, Philosophy, and Clinique. Botanics All Bright Refreshing Eye Roll-On was our testers’ favorite, leaving skin feeling smooth and moisturized while leaving behind so little residue as to be “invisible.” Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum (despite the name, it doesn’t contain retinoids or mineral oils) was the second most popular.
The main difference between Estee and Botanics is application style. The Estee is a thin, cream-based formula with a tiny pump, good for dispensing precise amounts of cream. The Botanics uses a squeeze tube with a metal roller ball. Testers reported that the roller ball felt wonderfully cool under their eyes, but this application style does make it trickier to tell exactly how much product you’re applying.
Our two other finalists in this category were Philosophy Miracle Worker Eye Cream and Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Eye Treatment. Both absorbed easily and performed well, but testers weren’t quite as enthusiastic about them, lodging a handful of complaints about residue that felt sticky or overly drying. Still, if you want to explore additional brands, feedback was largely positive and both creams have all the powerhouse ingredients necessary to get the job done. All of our pump-based creams cost about the same — Estee ($66), Philosophy ($68), and Clinique ($50) — while our $14 rollerball surprised us with its performance and price.
Our three heavy-weight day creams all tied for absorbency, leaving a silky, creamy skin-feel behind. But Skin Laundry Wrinkle Release Eye Cream with Peptides was our testers’ favorite. It’s packaged in a tube, which makes it easy to dispense accurate and tiny amounts as needed, and at $30, it’s a relatively inexpensive option.
Belli Eye Brightening Cream ($39) and MDSolarSciences Daily Eye Repair Emulsion ($82) were more controversial. While MDSolarSciences was a top pick in our previous review, a number of testers found that it crossed the border from “luxuriously moisturized” to “uncomfortably greasy.” Belli, meanwhile, received multiple complaints for leaving a sticky residue.
What Should You Know Before Adding Eye Cream to Your Skin Care Routine?
Eye creams help fight wrinkles but have minimal impact on dark circles and puffiness.
There are plenty of eye cream ingredients that claim to improve blood circulation (like caffeine) or blood coagulation (like Vitamin K) which will theoretically reduce puffiness and dark circles. But the outer layer of your skin does such a good job protecting against invaders that it prevents most of these ingredients from penetrating deeply. You may be better off adding a cup of coffee or a spinach soufflée to your diet than waiting and hoping that these ingredients will sink in.
The best thing for puffiness is to go cold. Tom Vichroski of CRDR Consulting, Inc., a member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, recommends cool ingredients — literally. Keeping your cream in the fridge is the equivalent of giving your eye area a cold shower and helps reduce early-morning puffiness.
Dark circles can be the result of your particular genetics, a circulatory issue (your blood flow needs a boost) — or a natural consequence of aging. Dr. Greene explained that as we age, our facial anatomy shifts, which contributes to how smooth or uneven the skin around the eyes appears. Skin damage from ultraviolet light causes skin laxity. Areas that once appeared full may now look shallow. Hydration with ingredients like sodium hyaluronate can help against shallowness, but most eye creams for dark circles rely on pigments to color over dark circles, or reflective materials like mica or pearl dust to provide the optical illusion of fullness. Whether these work depends heavily on matching your skin color and tone.
Our testers weren’t wild about these pigmented products, which don’t work with all skin tones and may look odd if not applied evenly and under makeup. But if you’re intrigued by optics, Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Eye Swirl and Olay Eyes Illuminating Eye Cream both rely on mica to help hide dark circles.
Don’t start by using your eye cream every day.
Whether you choose a retinoid- or peptide-based product, take your time adding new ingredients to your skin care routine, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Starting by applying the cream once or twice a week, and give your skin time to adjust to the new routine. This is an easy way to check whether your skin is sensitive to the ingredients in your new eye cream — irritated skin will feel itchy and look red. Even if you don’t see irritation right away, keep an eye on your skin as you move from applying eye cream every few days to a daily routine. If you’re using a retinoid-based night cream, irritation or redness may be a sign to switch to a peptide-based day cream instead.
If eye creams aren’t cutting it, there are other options.
If you’ve been using eye cream daily for at least six months, and still haven’t seen a difference, there are stronger options you can try: cosmetic injections and prescription-strength retinoids are two common options. Both will require seeing a dermatologist or plastic surgeon for consultation.
Fillers — usually composed of hyaluronic acid, a hydrator that your body already produces naturally — can be injected beneath the skin to plump it up and smooth out wrinkles. A professional will help you determine what kind of dermal filler is best and where it should be used to achieve desired results. If you have a tear trough depression, for instance, Dr. Greene told us that it’s possible to plump it up to a more natural level. Any shadow the depression caused will disappear along with it.
Prescription-strength retinoid creams are another option for stubborn wrinkles, although they should be used with care. They have the potential to cause peeling, flaking, dryness, or acne flare-ups if you have sensitive skin. A dermatologist will be able to work with you to figure out what strength of retinoid is appropriate for your skin, monitor whether your skin is reacting well or poorly, and adjust your prescription accordingly.
Should You Opt for Paraben-Free Products? The Jury Is Still Out.
Parabens are a class of preservatives commonly found in cosmetics, as well as other hygiene products like toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. They’re used to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi — things that you absolutely do not want around your eyes. But they’ve recently come under scrutiny out of a fear that paraben exposure is linked to some types of cancer. One of the larger questions surrounding parabens, particularly since 90% of typical grocery items contain them, is whether they are safe in small doses but become harmful as they accumulate in large doses. In other words, you might be fine if you have parabens only in your toothpaste, but not if they’re in every product you use on a daily basis.
All of our consulting dermatologists and cosmetic chemists agreed that there is not currently enough scientific data to conclude whether parabens are actually harmful. That said, they encouraged those wary of parabens to seek out alternatives. The challenge is that there aren’t many. We could only find three paraben-free options, after nixing other potentially harmful ingredients: Both of the glittery Olay eye creams are paraben-free, as is Youth to the People's medium-weight night cream. There’s also a fourth, if you can find it: Perricone MD Cold Plasma Anti-Aging Eye Treatment. But it’s not widely available from retailers like Amazon, Ulta, or Sephora, and we weren't able to bring it in for testing.