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The appearance of dark under-eye circles is a common skin concern. Whether you’re sleep-deprived, sniffling from seasonal allergies, or simply experiencing signs of aging, dark circles arise for a multitude of reasons. Dark circles, often accompanied by under-eye bags, may make you look more tired.
Luckily, pesky dark circles aren’t invincible. Getting a full night’s sleep and drinking enough water can help reduce the appearance of dark circles over time. For more stubborn cases, sometimes caused by genetics or skin aging, an eye cream can soften their appearance.
The skin under the eyes is extremely thin, and often shows the first signs of aging. Because the skin is so delicate, you’ll want to use a dedicated product made for treating the under-eye area.
Eye cream products can target:
- dark circles
- fine lines
“Treating the delicate eye contour area is all about prevention, so the earlier you start using an eye contour product, the better,” says Dr. Luigi L. Polla, the founder of Forever Institut and Alchimie Forever.
Aging isn’t the only culprit to take into account. Dr. Erum N. Ilyas, the CEO and founder of AmberNoon, finds that many of her patients have noticed dark circles as early as their teen years.
Read on to learn how to pick the right eye cream for your needs.
Eye creams are not created equal.
“The key to choosing the right product for under the eyes is understanding what is causing those dark under-eye circles in the first place,” Ilyas explains.
Different formulas can treat the root cause of your eye concerns. Some key ingredients to look for include the following.
Want plump, hydrated skin? Hyaluronic acid is your new BFF.
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan found throughout the body’s connective tissue. It holds water onto the skin to keep it hydrated. Since the under-eye area can often be dry, hydration and support is essential.
Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, the chief medical officer of Ideal Image and co-founder of Modern Dermatology PC, recommends creams with hyaluronic acid, as well as peptides and ceramides, to keep skin supported and hydrated.
Caffeine isn’t just a cure-all to get through the work-day slump. It turns out that caffeine in your daily latte can be just as effective for the eyes.
“Caffeine is a well-known and beloved ingredient you’ll often find in under-eye products, as it works to constrict the blood vessels under the eyes,” Polla says.
Caffeine can also brighten the under-eye area and leave tired eyes looking more awake.
Dull skin under the eyes is a common companion of dark circles.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can brighten the under-eye area, strengthen thinning skin, and boost collagen production — aka the protein that keeps your skin plump and supple. Adding an eye cream that’s rich in vitamin C can help perk up your under-eye area.
Vitamin K is a popular ingredient in eye creams due to its healing properties. It’s sometimes used after surgeries to aid in blood-clotting and heal incisions.
“Vitamin K promotes cellular metabolism and has anti-inflammatory properties, with known effects to help with blood-clotting,” says Dr. Jeannette Graf, a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.
Its ability to aid blood-clotting makes it a formidable ingredient to combat dark circles.
As people age, the skin under their eyes can become thinner and create a crepe-like appearance. Fine lines, often called crow’s feet, can begin to form over time.
“If thinning skin is a culprit, find an eye cream with a gentle retinoid that can help thicken the skin over time,” Graf notes.
Retinoids help slow the body’s natural reduction of collagen production by helping with skin cell turnover.
One caveat is that retinoids are incredibly potent, so proceed with caution. Find a formula that’s specially made for the under-eye area. When applying a retinoid cream, a little goes a long way.
Stop by any drug store or beauty retailer, and you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of eye creams on the market.
We interviewed dermatologists around the globe for their personal favorites and top recommendations for patients.
Our list of recommended products also includes bestselling products that hold a customer rating of at least 4 or 5 stars and include ingredients dermatologists recommend for targeting dark circles.
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: vitamin C complex, 8-peptide blend, cucumber, superoxide dismutase, hesperidin methyl chalcone, ubiquinone, and vitamin E
- Helps treat: fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, dark circles, and loss of firmness
- Pros: helps lighten dark circles over time
- Cons: some reviewers reported sensitivity after use
- Best for: skin care fans who want to try a beauty community favorite
Beauty gurus and skin care aficionados flock to Drunk Elephant’s line of trendy products. While the pretty packaging and hype stand out, the formulas do the heavy-lifting needed to target skin conditions.
The C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream includes a complex of five forms of vitamin C to brighten the under-eye area. Rich in hydrating peptides and soothing active ingredients, like cucumber extract, the formula refreshes the under-eye area and brightens the appearance of dark circles.
The formula is also fragrance-free and doesn’t include any scented essential oils. While many reviewers saw dramatic results, some did complain of sensitivity and redness after use.
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: 3-O-Ethyl ascorbic acid, GABA, and an energy complex
- Helps treat: tired eyes and dark circles
- Pros: firms under-eye skin, minimizes fine lines, and brightens dark circles
- Cons: pump dispenser can be difficult to use
- Best for: those wanting a vitamin C infused staple
Dr. Dennis Gross is a familiar name for many skin care enthusiasts.
This formula includes 3-O-Ethyl ascorbic acid — a vitamin C complex that tackles the hydro and lipophilic phases of the cell to minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles. Vitamin C also brightens the under-eye area, leaving tired eyes looking more awake and livelier. The formula’s antioxidants also help aid in the production of collagen.
Reviewers rave about noticeable lightened and brightened under-eyes seen within the first few weeks.
While a few reviewers dislike the product dispenser, others find it to be helpful in delivering the exact amount needed for the application without being wasteful.
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: resveratrol grape juice extract, squalane, and rose of Jericho
- Helps treat: wrinkles, fine lines, dark circles, and puffiness
- Pros: hydrating and de-puffing with an easy-to-use applicator
- Cons: one reviewer shared difficulties with the product clumping in the applicator
- Best for: anyone looking for natural ingredients
Fans of organic beauty will love Inika Organic Phytofuse Renew Resveratrol Eye Cream. The applicator gently glides across the under-eye area to deliver a formula of natural actives.
Grape juice extract carries resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps to neutralize free radicals from the environment and support collagen production. Similarly, squalane is used to fight off skin damage from environmental factors and also helps protect the skin’s barrier. Rose of Jericho works with these ingredients to lock in moisture.
This eye cream is vegan, cruelty-free, and ideal for the socially conscious shopper.
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: vitamin C, collagen, and banana pigments
- Helps treat: dark circles and fine lines
- Pros: isn’t greasy and brightens, smooths and color corrects, according to reviewers
- Cons: some reviewers report allergic reactions
- Best for: those looking for a lightweight and effective brightening cream
Australia-based dermatologist Dr. Robert Goldman loves to recommend Ole Henriksen’s Banana Bright Eye Cream to patients looking to brighten dark circles. The product features brightening vitamin C and collagen to support skin elasticity.
One special ingredient that sets this powerhouse product apart is the “banana powder.” The yellow pigments act as a color corrector for the under-eye area to reduce the appearance of dark circles upon application.
Reviewers tout the product’s smooth application and lightweight formula.
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: caffeine and niacinamide
- Helps treat: tired, puffy eyes and dark circles
- Pros: fragrance-free and soothing
- Cons: product design may be too slippery and slide off, according to some reviewers
- Best for: anyone who loves pampering and face masks
While it’s not exactly an eye cream, dermatologist Dr. Adam Mamelak finds that eye gel patches and under-eye masks have “concentrated ingredients [that] work much faster than the under-eye cream you apply each day or night.”
“If you feel like you always have dark circles, no matter how many hours of sleep you get, find eye masks or patches with ingredients, such as tea extracts, vitamins C and K (to brighten or reduce the appearance of dark circles), water from extra-pure locations, and hyaluronic acid,” he says.
There are many eye gels on the market, but we love the perk that Good Molecule’s caffeine-infused eye gels give after a sleepless night. The soothing, cool-to-the-touch patches can also help reduce puffy and swollen eyes.
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: sodium hyaluronate
- Helps treat: dry skin and dark circles
- Pros: low price point, hydrating, and most reviewers saw reduced dark circles
- Cons: some reviewers saw little change in the appearance of their dark circles
- Best for: those on a budget and those seeking hydration
You don’t need to spend big to see results. Drug store brands, like Neutrogena, have products that target dark circles and fine lines for a fraction of the price. Ilyas recommends Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Gel-Cream due to its moisturizing hyaluronate.
“With hyaluronate, this product packs in extra hydration around the delicate eyelid skin. [It’s] an effective cream to improve the turgor of the thin eyelid skin,” Ilyas says.
The product has an average of 3.9 out of 5 stars on the Neutrogena website, with a majority of happy shoppers. Reviewers find that the product left their skin feeling plumper, smoother, and more awake.
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: European blueberries (anthocyans, quercetin, resveratrol), alfalfa (vitamin K), grape seeds (anthocyanidins, catechin, quercetin, resveratrol), cocoa butter, and jojoba
- Helps treat: dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles on all skin types
- Pros: brightens dark circles, provides ample hydration, and defends against signs of aging
- Cons: scent may be too strong, according to a few reviewers
- Best for: those with sensitive skin
Alchimie Forever has a dedicated fan base who love the brand’s no-nonsense, science-based approach to skin care. The family-owned brand, founded by Polla, formulated this antioxidant-rich balm to fend off dark circles and premature aging.
“[Our] Rejuvenating Eye Balm features one of our signature ingredients, the European blueberry, which has powerful vaso-constricting and vaso-protective properties, so it is wonderful to help minimize dark circles,” Polla explains.
“The eye area is often dry, as there are fewer sebaceous glands than in the rest of our facial skin, so I chose jojoba and cocoa butter to help nourish the skin,” he continues.
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: caffeine, glycerin, dimethicone, niacinamide, silica, iron oxides, phe-resorcinol, titanium dioxide, and La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water
- Helps treat: dull, darkened under-eye area
- Pros: cooling, metal applicator helps de-puff and soothe skin
- Cons: some reviewers report the product didn’t look good under makeup
- Best for: those with sensitive skin
Skin sensitivity is a common concern when shopping for products and testing new items.
La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Eye Cream is a caffeine infused product that’s gentle for those who experience skin irritation with harsh ingredients.
The metal applicator is a nice bonus to the dark circle warrior. It provides a cooling feeling under the eye that can help de-puff tired eyes and soothe swollen skin.
Pro tip: Try putting your product in the refrigerator before use for an extra-chilly and soothing treatment.
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: vitamin C, turmeric extract and niacinamide
- Helps treat: dullness, dark circles and signs of aging
- Pros: clean, cruelty-free, and lightweight formula with antioxidant-rich ingredients
- Cons: some reviewers report an allergic reaction after use
- Best for: those wanting noticeable results on a budget
Graf recommends the Sweet Chef Turmeric + Vitamin C Booster Eye Cream as a “gentle, everyday eye cream” to treat dehydrated and sallow under-eye areas.
“It’s a cooling and hydrating eye cream that also brightens with a blend of turmeric, vitamin C, ginger, niacinamide, and probiotics,” Graf says. “It’s very lightweight and wears well under makeup.”
The anti-inflammatory properties in turmeric give this product an extra dash of flair. Some reviewers swear by the budget-friendly buy and saw noticeable results.
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media (TNS), palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, palmitoyl oligopeptide, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, tocopheryl acetate, retinyl palmitate, N-hydroxysuccinimide and chrysin, boron nitride
- Helps treat: dark circles, discoloration, wrinkles, and fine lines
- Pros: smooths under-eye skin, hydrates, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Cons: high price point
- Best for: those looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines
“I often recommend TNS Eye Repair by SkinMedica — formulated to improve fine lines, wrinkles, tone and texture, [and] dark circles,” Mamelak says.
While the product is a splurge, it targets dark circles and fine lines with a powerful lineup of ingredients. The smoothening under-eye cream is great for anyone who’s concerned about dark circles and signs of aging.
- Price: $$–$$$
- Key ingredients: vitamin E, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid
- Helps treat: damage from free radicals and puffiness
- Pros: reviewers say cream is lightweight and absorbent, and a majority feel the cream was effective at addressing puffiness, tightening skin, and brightening dark circles
- Cons: some reviewers didn’t see an improvement
- Best for: anyone in need of a lightweight cream that isn’t greasy
Another favorite of Mamelak is the Neocutis Lumière Illuminating Eye Cream.
Reviewers love the lightweight formula and find that it quickly absorbs into the skin. One review says, “very little is needed for each application, and it is very effective in maintaining the health of the delicate skin underneath the eyes without clogging pores or leaving a greasy effect.”
The formula’s hyaluronic acid and vitamin E help keep the skin hydrated throughout the day and ward off damage from free radicals.
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: cucumber, rosemary, and ginseng
- Helps treat: dry, crepey under-eye skin and fine lines
- Pros: cooling cream nourishes and smooths fine lines
- Cons: several reviewers report irritation after use
- Best for: those in need of a hydration boost
“This eye cream combines ingredients, such as cucumber, ginseng, wheat germ, and algae extracts, to reduce puffiness around the eyes. It also has green tea extract that has an antioxidant effect to fight the signs of aging around the eyes,” Ilyas explains.
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: caffeine, Brazilian ginseng root extract, horse chestnut extract, watermelon rind extract, and lutein
- Helps treat: puffy eyes and dark circles
- Pros: De-puffs, decreases dark circles, and leaves eyes looking awake
- Cons: some reviewers dislike the container
Sunday Riley’s chic packaging and clever product names have contributed to the skin care brand’s wild popularity. More than just a statement for your vanity, the Auto Correct Brightening and Depuffing Eye Contour Cream leaves Sunday Riley devotees with alert and awake eyes sans dark circles.
Including staple ingredients, like caffeine and ginseng, this eye cream creates a lifted look that complements your morning coffee habit.
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: flavanoid, peptides, blueberry extract, caffeine, and Proxylane (a hydrating SkinCeuticals solution)
- Helps treat: dark circles, puffiness, and crow’s feet
- Pros: reduces the appearance of dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, and dry eyes
- Cons: cost is high
- Best for: dry, normal, and mature-looking skin
Mraz Robinson is a big fan of the SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex.
The anti-wrinkle eye cream helps improve the appearance of dark circles, puffiness, and crow’s feet associated with aging.
According to the brand, advanced glycation end-products (A.G.E.) contribute to the aging process. This peptide and caffeine-packed eye cream targets dark circles, puffy eyes, and wrinkles caused by aging.
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: retinoid, alpha hydroxy acid, and antioxidants
- Helps treat: dryness, crepiness, puffiness, fine lines, wrinkles, and darkness
- Pros: addresses signs of skin aging with a tolerable amount of retinol and hydration
- Cons: expensive and can only be used at night, so a different eye cream is recommended for daytime
- Best for: anyone looking for a safe retinol eye cream
Another staple in Mraz Robinson’s toolkit is the skinbetter science EyeMax AlphaRet Overnight Cream. The eye cream combines retinoid and alpha hydroxy acid to reduce the appearance of fine lines around the eyes that often come with age.
In contrast to your regular prescribed retinoid, this eye cream is gentle enough to support the thinning skin under and around the eye. The formula’s hydrating properties and peptides also fight off environmental aggressors and dryness.
Anyone with mature-looking skin can benefit from a small dab of this overnight cream.
Dark circles can be difficult to treat without knowing their root cause. Ultimately, Polla notes that dark circles are a vascular problem.
“The skin in that area is fair and very thin, and thus the deeper blood vessels are more visible to the naked eye,” he explains.
Blood vessels in the under-eye area can become more noticeable due to fatigue, eye strain, and other reasons.
Below, we spoke with dermatologists about the most common causes of dark circles they see in patients.
Genetics can make you predisposed to dark under-eye circles that can appear as early as childhood.
Whether your facial anatomy makes dark circles more noticeable or you have a family history of
Those with allergies may notice that their sniffles come with a side of dark circles. Mraz Robinson refers to these dark circles as “allergy shiners” that are triggered by seasonal allergies.
“Inflamed sinuses lead to swollen blood vessels, which dilate and darken the veins in the under-eye area,” she explains.
For those who experience itchiness from allergies, rubbing the under-eye area can exacerbate the appearance of dark circles and cause harm to the delicate under-eye skin.
Lack of sleep
Getting adequate sleep can prevent dark circles, yet many people complain of insufficient sleep. Whether pulling the occasional all-nighter or battling insomnia, missed sleep is a common cause of dark circles seen in Graf’s office.
“Lack of sleep is a common cause due to blood vessels dilating around the eye, which makes dark circles look more prominent,” she explains.
We hate to break it to you, but watching hours of TikTok and binging your favorite TV shows comes at a price.
Staring at your screen for an extended period of time can cause eye strain, which enlarges the blood vessels around your eye. The enlarged blood vessels can darken the appearance of your under-eye skin.
Signs of aging are often first noticed in the under-eye area.
“As we age, the collagen and elastin in our skin break down, which makes our skin thinner and more translucent to the vascular structures below,” Mraz Robinson explains. “Additionally, the under-eye is one of the more prominent areas where fat loss stands out, creating a hollow appearance that casts a shadow and gives a dark appearance.”
Dark circles may be a nuisance but, thankfully, there are plenty of eye creams to add to your arsenal. If you’re experiencing dark under-eye circles, determining the root cause can help you find effective ingredients to address your concerns.
Adding an eye cream to your morning and night routine can help you kick your dark circles to the curb and even prevent signs of aging in the long run.
Jillian Goltzman is a freelance journalist covering culture, social impact, wellness, and lifestyle. She’s been published in various outlets, including Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Fodor’s Travel Guide. Outside of writing, Jillian is a public speaker who loves discussing the power of social media — something she spends too much time on. She enjoys reading, her houseplants, and cuddling with her corgi. Find her work on her website, blog, Twitter, and Instagram.