Editor's Note
  • February 20, 2018 - We’ve updated our review to reflect the most recent research into anti-aging ingredients. We’ve also tested dozens of new finalists. We’re excited to recommend six new picks, all packed with the most effective ingredients we could find to help your skin battle signs of aging.

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.

Finalists for Eye Cream

Our six top picks and five runners-up for best eye cream.

The Best Eye Cream for Nighttime Use

Best Medium-Weight
Night Cream
Kate Somerville Line Release Under Eye Repair Cream
Kate Somerville
A retinoid cream that leaves skin pleasantly moisturized without feeling sticky.

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.

Best Lightweight
Night Cream
Youth to the People Age Prevention Superfood Eye Cream
Youth to the People
A lightweight retinoid cream that absorbs quickly and was a tester favorite.

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.

Best Heavy-Duty
Night Cream
SkinMedica Uplifting Eye Serum
SkinMedica
A heavy, luxurious retinoid-based eye cream good for dry skin.

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

Best Medium-Weight
Eye Cream
Mizon Collagen Power Firming Eye Cream
Mizon
A peptide gel that leaves skin feeling soothed and moisturized.
Drunk Elephant group photo for Eye Cream

Our picks: Drunk Elephant (left) and Mizon (bottom)

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).

Best Lightweight
Day Cream
Botanics All Bright Refreshing Eye Roll-On
Botanics
A peptide gel that applies via roller ball and absorbs very quickly.

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.

Botanics group for Eye Cream

Estee (left) and Botanics (bottom) stood out as top picks.

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.

Best Heavy-Duty
Day Cream
Skin Laundry Wrinkle Release Eye Cream with Peptides
Skin Laundry
A tester favorite, this luxurious peptide cream absorbs more slowly than our other daytime picks.
Skin Laundry group photo for Eye Cream

Skin Laundry (bottom) was our favorite from this group.

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.

Our Eye Cream Review: Summed Up