Photo: Heather Hazzan
While logging a full night’s sleep seems like a reasonable fix to dark under-eye circles, it doesn’t work for most of us. Regardless of how well-rested you are, dark circles can also be caused by genetics, pigmentation, allergies, and thinning skin. Using an eye cream won’t banish dark circles, but a select few creams really work, mostly by using high-tech ingredients to constrict blood vessels (which cause dark shadows), diffuse light, and brighten pigmented areas for a noticeable improvement in their appearance. Read on for a list of our favorites.
The Best Budget Eye Cream
This highly emollient formula practically evaporates on contact and moisturizes without leaving a shiny finish. It contains a cocktail of high-tech ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and skin-lightening niacinamide to suppress dark shadows. The drugstore price is nice, too.
The Best Highlighting Eye Cream
At first glance, you’d be justified in confusing the pearlescent formula for an illuminator. But after you apply this easy-to-blend cream, the mineral pigments go to work, diffusing light to detract from stubborn under-eye circles. In addition to its eye-brightening benefits, it’s also loaded with anti-aging actives like niacinamide (to fade dark spots), vitamin E (to defend against environmental aggressors), and an anti-wrinkle peptide (to smooth creases and crow’s feet).
The Best Eye Cream for Sensitive Eyes
If eye creams irritate your eyes and cause you to tear up, try an eye gel. This one feels light but still packs a serious moisturizing punch, thanks to a formula heavy in hyaluronic acid and peptides. It comes with a metallic tip so it feels extra cooling and soothing on impact.
The Amazon Favorite Eye Cream
This is by far the best-reviewed eye cream on Amazon, with close to 3,000 five-star reviews. It contains caffeine, an old-school ingredient that works to constrict blood vessels and temporarily lighten the appearance of dark eye circles.
The Internet Favorite Eye Cream
This is the internet’s current favorite eye cream for treating under-eye circles. It has over 2,000 four-star reviews at Sephora, and we’ve tested it and loved it (and so has Strategist). The secret is a mix of vitamin C, a proven ingredient for hyperpigmentation and brightening, and a “secret pigment” (most likely from the yellow color of the cream) that deflects and lightens the gray and purple tones of dark under-eye circles. Note that it’s scented, if you are sensitive to fragrances.
The Best Tinted Eye Cream
Is it a tinted moisturizer? Is it an eye cream? After trying this lightly tinted and unscented formula, we’ve determined it’s both. Dispensed from a cooling metal tip (which provides relief to puffy eyes), the sheer, lightweight consistency helps disguise dark circles and leaves the thin skin in this area significantly smoother. Bonus: It was rated five stars by cosmetics cop Paula Begoun due to its impressive blend of antioxidants and plant extracts. Downside: It won’t work very well with with darker skin tones, as it comes in only one shade.
The Best All-in-One Concealer and Eye Cream
Similar to the Ole Henrikson and Clinique above, this is a makeup and skin-care product in one. Silk powder, niacinimide, and plant botanicals all help to smooth lines and moisturize the under-eye area and de-puff bags. The pearl powder has a tiny bit of pigment which helps to reflect light and slightly conceal dark circles. Best of all, it comes in three different shades.
The Smoothest Eye Cream
This cream from beloved “natural” beauty line Drunk Elephant takes a maximalist approach with not one but five different types of vitamin C, known for its skin-lightening properties. It’s a creamy, soothing mixture that blends easily into the thin under-eye skin.
The “Natural” Eye Cream
You know a product is high end when it features diamond dust. While this pricey ingredient has been met with skepticism in the beauty industry, Tata Harper’s Illuminating Eye Crème has a luminous golden gleam and plumps parched skin with hyaluronic acid, olive oil, and mango-seed butter.
The Nongreasy Eye Cream
One of the original green-beauty brands, Aveda has produced a sophisticated option for those wanting to treat tired eyes naturally. Elegant in texture and not the slightest bit greasy, it boasts a blend of licorice root (a known skin lightener) and caffeine for reducing darkness and puffy patches.
The Best Eye Cream With Retinol
Retinol is the gold standard of anti-aging ingredients, and this silky serum has plenty of it. The vitamin A derivative works to stimulate collagen production under the eyes, making dark circles less visible. The weightless, gel-like texture absorbs in seconds and provides surprising hydration, thanks to skin-smoothing antioxidants and plant-based ingredients. Bonus: It sits well under makeup.
The Best Eye Cream for Dry Skin
A little of this really rich formula goes a long way, so apply it sparingly. The ingredient list includes Rosa roxburghii, a flower containing brightening vitamin C to lighten brown spots and fade dark areas. Mica particles diffuse light to mimic a full night’s sleep, and the dense texture melts into skin when applied — making it ideal for super-dry types.
The K-Beauty Eye Cream
Korean beauty is know for its effective usage of botanical ingredients. This one from Glow Recipe contains avocado extract and oil, which are chock-full of vitamins C and E. It takes things one step further with an encapsulated form of retinol that’s effective and gentle (so it won’t give you the “retinol uglies.”)
The Tightening Eye Cream
More than just a fast fix, this gel-serum hybrid brightens and tightens the delicate skin around the eyes (not in a painful way) with two forms of hyaluronic acid. After gently patting it on, it dries quickly without a sticky residue, and your eye area will feel smoother, plumper, and looked more radiant. The clever formula contains two forms of hyaluronic acid to fill fine lines, while light-reflective pigments camouflage the tell-tale signs of fatigue.
The Japanese Beauty Eye Cream
Dense in texture, this cream works on two levels — by breaking down melanin pigment (brown spots) and by improving microcirculation to banish blue rings, thanks to a dark-circle-diminishing blend that includes vitamin C. For a blurred effect, a multi-luminizing powder boosts radiance levels.
The Blue Light Fighting Eye Cream
This cushiony gel is the eye cream version of the brand’s cult Advanced Night Repair serum (the serum you see advertised all over the world in airports and that your fancy relative owns). It glides on seamlessly and works overnight to fade dark circles and repair damage from environmental aggressors. Plus, it allegedly helps fight the damage caused by the blue light given off by our screens and phones.
The Very Fancy Eye Cream Loved by Celebrities
This is the most luxurious eye cream in every sense (including price). Reviewers praise how indulgent, smooth, and rich this cream feels, and how it glides over dry eye skin and moisturizes with just a dab. The eye cream also comes with a tiny wand which you can use to massage and de-puff the under-eye area. Unsurprisingly, it’s Martha Stewart’s longtime favorite.