If there’s one thing I’ve known for a long time, it’s that it’s never too early to start using eye cream. After a particularly harrowing breakup at the age of 22, I noticed a whisper of crow’s feet around my eyes, after which I dashed to the nearest Sephora, and never looked back. Call it deranged vanity or profoundly intelligent foresight—who can say? The only issue is the plethora of options available these days, which can be overwhelming, to say the least. It’s difficult to know which one is best for you and what actually works! That’s why I tapped a pair of skincare experts to give us the scoop on the best retinol eye creams on the market.
Certainly, someone in their early 20s won’t need the same kind of skincare products as someone in their 40s. Nearly 15 years after my first foray into the world of skincare, I’m all about retinol—and that includes my eye cream. They’re safe to use around the eyes, though you’ll want to go slow to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation. I once made the mistake of layering too many active ingredients on my skin all at once, to my great detriment.
If you’re trying out one of these retinol eye creams for the first time, make sure your other skincare products don’t contain strong active ingredients as well—take it slow! As dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce explains, “retinols are often irritating, especially on delicate eye skin, and people want instant results. They don’t want to go through any peeling or flaking that may make the area look temporarily worse—even if the long-term benefits are worth it.”
So we asked Geddes-Bruce and aesthetician Matthew Miller for their recommendations on the best retinol eye creams. As a note, most of these eye creams also contain caffeine, peptides, and humectants to plump the area so your skin should stay hydrated and healthy.
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Kick your self-care routine up a notch with one of the 15 best retinol eye creams around.
Fans of Somerville’s iconic Exfolikate are definitely going to want to give this eye cream a shot. Despite being light and silky, this cream instantly brightens, firms, and hydrates. It is made with both retinol and BioRetinols, a natural ingredient that mimics the effects of retinol but with less sensitivity, which makes it perfect for the ultra-delicate eye area. Miller loves that it helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and improves elasticity.
According to Dr. Geddes-Bruce, this French brand is perfect for the most sensitive skin. It contains retinaldehyde (the closest precursor to prescription retinoid), the sugar hyaluronic acid, and the brand’s signature thermal spring water. And you know we love a drugstore choice!
Improve the look of both wrinkles and general firmness all around the eye area with this fast-acting serum. It even makes your eyelids look fresher! It’s strong enough to deliver a visible and long-lasting effect while still being gentle enough to use both morning and night. You’ll want to check it out next time you hit your local Sephora.
Miller is inclined to recommend this cream because of how Vitamin C and a low concentration of retinol team up to help tackle signs of again while brightening the under-eye area. He also loves that it contains ceramides for deep hydration.
Encourage your skin’s renewal process with this micro-encapsulated retinol. It gives you a sustained release of retinol over the course of eight hours to smooth skin, reduce darkness, fine lines, and wrinkles. It’s a super-rich and moisturizing formula that protects your delicate eye area. Caffeine reduces puffiness and Vitamins A, C, and E soothe your skin.
According to Miller, not only is this cream amazingly beautiful, but it’s effective as well. He mentions that this holographic-like serum will deeply hydrate while retinol reduces the appearance of fine lines. A little goes a long way, so this tube should last you at least six months. (This cream can only be purchased through a spa partner. There is a clinic locator available on the site.)
This drugstore fave is formulated with pro retinol and Centella Asiatica, also known as Tiger Grass, to deliver smoother, firmer skin in just four weeks. Knocking those wrinkles, eye bags, and dark circles out in a month? Yes, please!
Blur those wrinkles with this rejuvenating eye cream. It helps to support natural collagen production and cellular turnover that minimizes crow’s feet, lines, and wrinkles. The retinol is time-released, which is what makes it safe and gentle to use around the eye area. It’s super hydrating thanks to triple weight hyaluronic acid and gives you a luminous effect thanks to micro-pearls that enhance your skin’s radiance.
A powerful concentration of peptides, squalane, astaxanthin, and encapsulated retinol work together in this serum-based eye stick. It firms up the skin, boosts moisture, gives skin a visible glow, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles.
This cream is clinically proven to slow three signs of eye aging: puffiness, dark circles, and wrinkles. It’s formulated with RoC Retinol and a mineral complex that is as nourishing and hydrating as it is effective. It’s gentle enough to use every day while still addressing those pesky fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and more.
Dr. Geddes-Bruce is a fan of this drugstore pick because it contains a patented, stabilized form of retinol that penetrates the skin and has a prolonged effect. This cream also has hyaluronic acid to provide some instant plumping and counter the potential irritation from the powerful retinol. Can’t go wrong with that!
Dr. Geddes-Bruce included this gentle Burts Bee’s alternative because “t has a natural retinol alternative called bakuchiol. It’s safe for everyone, non-irritating, and layers nicely with makeup. She notes, “For me, that’s important because I apply my antioxidant, eye cream, sunscreen, and then makeup. I don’t want any piling or rolling.”
Miller loves this “amazing under-eye cream” because it’s packed with peptides, hyaluronic acid, and other ingredients to help with puffiness and fine lines. This product utilizes Retinyl Palmitate, which is this formulation that acts more like an antioxidant, so no worries about irritation here. It’s as gentle as it is effective—our favorite combination.
Miller can’t get enough of this accessible cream. He adds, “This under eye cream contains time-released retinol that gives great results without the irritation. Also, you can’t beat the price.”