The 8 Best Eye Creams & What To Look For
With hundreds of eye creams on the market making claims from outrageous (think: “age reversal”) to essential (like moisturizing properties), the difficulty lies in understanding what eye creams can actually deliver, and then determining which one is worth your money.
To find out, I delved into the science behind high-powered ingredients proven to make a visible difference, and tapped a celebrity esthetician, a dermatologist, and a skincare-formulation chemist. I also scoured user reviews on major beauty sites, magazines, and reputable blogs, paying attention to award winners with top nods from “best of” lists.
How We Chose the Best Eye Cream
In the quest to find the best, we spent over 35 hours poring over articles in science and beauty publications, interviewing experts, and scouring user reviews on major beauty sites, as well as reputable blogs — paying attention to award winners with top nods from “best of” lists.
Kerry Benjamin, an LA-based celebrity esthetician, creator of Stacked Skincare, and owner of spa-oasis Kerry Benjamin Skincare; and Susan Raffy, rockstar cosmetic chemist behind skincare and makeup products for companies like Guthy-Renker (makers of Proactiv) and Physicians Formula, helped determine the important characteristics of eye creams and answer our questions.
Leveraging their expertise, I found out what eye creams can realistically accomplish — if they can truly “correct” signs of aging and get rid of dark circles, puffiness, and smooth sagging skin. I pinpointed the most important features of a great eye cream, including texture, absorption, and, of course, clearly visible results, and delved into the top recommended ingredients (hint: Standouts include retinol, vitamins C and E, peptides, and caffeine).
The truth of its power lies in the ingredients: Retinol is the top-recommended anti-aging product of all time, without question. It is a compound of vitamin A that converts to retinoic acid — the actual miracle worker — at the cellular level. In an Elle article, dermatologist Doris Day says, “Anybody who can tolerate retinoic acid should use it.” Retinoic acid slows down the destruction of collagen and promotes elasticity, smooths skin, and helps with pigmentation. By synergizing with your skin’s natural mechanisms, retinol encourages the outermost cells to renew more quickly allowing new, healthier cells to quickly surface.
The selection process went from 150 eye creams to a single best: the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum. This eye cream is the ultimate all-around eye cream, delivering truly exceptional results for every eye concern, offering the best age-defying bang for its buck — from start to finish, from day one to day 365.
The 8 Overall Best Eye Creams:
Who else loves our #1 pick besides me? Sephora customers gave Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum a solid 4 out of 5 stars, and it garnered 4.4 out of 5 stars on MakeupAlley. Nicki Zevola, founder of the science-oriented blog FutureDerm and blogger Gio behind Beautiful With Brains, both recommend this hard-working serum. Beyond that, Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice, famed for her incredibly incisive evaluation of skincare products, asserts that “the formula is no slouch.”
On top of what we already love, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum is unique as an eye cream suitable for both day and night use. Although it contains retinol, which can be too harsh for sensitive skin, it cooperates well with the touchiest of skin types — including rosacea. If you’re concerned about using retinol during the day for its reputation for making skin more prone to sunburn, fear not: Allure reports that “Clinical studies have shown pretty definitively that retinoids do not lower the MED — or minimal erythemal dos — of human skin, which is the amount of UV light you can take before the skin burns.” But it’s still important to use SPF during the day and to wear sunglasses — and even when it’s cloudy or snowing. The UV rays will get you, no matter what.
Choosing the Right Type of Eye Cream for You
The skin around your eyes is the first to show your age, making this area the most prone to fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging. It’s thin, delicate, sensitive, and naturally lacking in moisture. Even smiling, blinking, squinting, and yawning causes creasing over time. So regardless of how great your genes are, we can all use a little help.
Being presented with shelves full of eye cream (which, by the way, are never in one place) might encourage you to simply grab the prettiest bottle and call it a day. Please don’t do that — we’re here to make it easy. Before buying an eye cream, consider the different types of formulations available based on your skin type, textural preference, and your specific concerns. Then determine the extra tools you might want to amplify application. Study up before you spend your hard-earned cash!
Your skin is so unique that even if you and your best friend both have oily skin, for example, you still might not jive with the same skincare product. Your friend might swear by thick, rich creams, while you would be better off with a gel-like serum. Get to know the different textures of creams and see which benefits appeal to you the most.
● Serum — These are great for all skin types, and are especially effective for combating signs of aging, as they carry a higher concentration of active ingredients and penetrate deeper than creams. On top of that, due to their lighter texture, you can apply these under makeup during the day without your eyeshadow gliding off.
● Cream — Creams are also excellent for all skin types, depending on the formulation. These can be light to very rich, and are typically formulated as a mixture of oil and water with added booster ingredients. Many people with mature skin love creams for both day and night.
● Gel — This formulation is best for oilier skin and those who prefer lighter texture. Gel-based formulas are comprised mainly of water, as opposed to a larger percentage of oil.
● Oil — Depending on the formula, oil-based eye creams work well for all skin types. Typically, they are made up of botanical oils extracted from the seeds and flowers. Oil-based eye treatments should be used only at night, especially if you wear makeup, as it might cause smudging if used during the day.
Packaging is a big deal. I’m not talking about who has the best logo — I’m talking about how your precious eye cream is housed. Is the formula secured so it’s kept clean throughout the duration of use? Is bacteria from your hand getting into the product? Do the powerful ingredients stay just as powerful from the first to the last drop? Let’s find out!
- Jars — Most eye creams come in jars, but there's ongoing discussion surrounding their inability to retain the integrity of active ingredients. Every time you open these jars, you expose the eye cream to air, causing the product to oxidize and weaken over time. Plus, there are concerns about hygiene. Two top beauty bloggers, Musings of a Muse and Beautiful With Brains, are opposed to jar packaging, as well as “Cosmetics Cop" Begoun because of the likelihood of perniciously transferring bacteria from your fingers into the cream.
● Pumps — Arguably the best kind of packaging for eye creams, a standard bottle with a pump allows you to dispense just the product you'll need onto your finger. Pumps are less messy and help conserve product while avoiding unnecessary oxidation or exposure to nasty bacteria.
● Roller — Tubes with built-in roller-ball applicators provide a luxurious, cooling effect without exposing the product to oxygen or bacteria.
Taking ingredients into consideration, I found that many were added to formulas over and over again — and for good reason. Each of the top picks contain at least one of these superstar ingredients:
● Retinol: Vitamin A, which works on skin by stimulating cell renewal. It is by and large the most prevalently recommended ingredient for anti-aging, especially for wrinkles, evening out skin texture, and combating acne.
● Peptides: These helpful parts of amino acids boost collagen creation, lending a plump, youthful quality to aging and sun-damaged skin.
● Ceramides: Skin lipids that “hold" skin cells together to help maintain structure.
● Niacinamide: Vitamin B3 helps improve skin's elasticity, diminish discolorations, and restore tone and texture.
● Hyaluronic acid: This substance found naturally in skin can hold 1,000 times its own weight in water, which means it delivers constant moisture for extra plumping action.
● Caffeine: This popular ingredient literally wakes up and temporarily tightens skin, and is commonly used to combat the look of dark circles and puffiness.
● Vitamin C: A top ingredient to produce a brightening effect, vitamin C helps stimulate collagen production and protects from free-radical damage that causes aging.
● Vitamin E: A popular antioxidant to help repair and create soft and supple skin.
● Vitamin K: The most popular agent used to combat dark circles.
● Antioxidants: Protective agents that fight off metabolic and environmental damage that cause premature aging and hyperpigmentation.
● Licorice and kojic acid: Botanical ingredients that help alleviate the appearance of brown spots.
Your eyes are front-and-center of your physical being, yet they’re the first to get older. While wrinkles and expression lines are inevitable, adding an eye cream to your skincare arsenal will help you age as gracefully as you can. At the end of the day, remember these words from good ol’ Mark Twain: “Wrinkles merely mark where smiles have been.”