- by Alyssa Montemurro
- Last Updated: Jun 08, 2021
This is the anti-aging upgrade your eye care routine has been missing.
- by Alyssa Montemurro
- Last Updated: Jun 08, 2021
Ask any dermatologist for the number one thing we should all be using in our routines for brighter, younger-looking skin, and they will answer unanimously with “SPF.” (Yes, it’s that important, people.) But ask them for the second thing, and they’ll most likely respond with some form of retinol. The reason? Retinol is one of the few active ingredients that’s scientifically-proven to reverse the signs of aging by increasing skin cell turnover and stimulating collagen production deep beneath the skin surface. As such, the powerhouse ingredient is routinely found in everything from luxury serums to daily moisturizers and face masks, but according to Dr. Muneeb Shah (aka TikTok’s favorite @dermdoctor), it also makes for a pretty effective eye cream.
“The skin around our eyes is very thin and generally has less collagen supporting it, which is why it’s often one of the first areas to show signs of aging,” explains Dr. Shah. “That’s why—if you can tolerate retinol—I highly recommend adding a retinol eye cream to your skincare routine. It’s going to help increase your skin’s natural collagen production, which will improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles and reduce hyperpigmentation, leaving you with a younger, more rejuvenated look.”
As is the case with any retinol-infused product, though, the big question is whether or not your skin can actually handle the potent ingredient. Whether it’s a prescription-strength retinoid or an over-the-counter cream, retinol can come with some pretty irritating side effects, including redness, dryness, and peeling—all things that the delicate eye area is already susceptible to experiencing. That said, if you want to incorporate retinol into your anti-aging routine, Dr. Shah recommends choosing a retinol product specifically made for the eye area (including the eyelids) and minimizing the risk for irritation by following his “low and slow” approach.
“If you’ve never used retinol before or just have sensitive skin, I always suggest following my three-month rule,” he says. “To start, you’re going to apply your retinol eye cream every third day for a month. Then, for the second month, increase that to every other day. And then finally, by the third month, you can start using it every day. Most people can tolerate it pretty well at that point and use it daily without irritation, which is the ultimate goal.”
To help save you from a potentially frustrating game of trial-and-error, we rounded up the 12 best retinol eye creams that each target a different concern. From stubborn dark circles to advanced wrinkles, discover your perfect fit below.
Shop the Best Retinol Eye Creams
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare
Ferulic + Retiniol Eye Cream
$70.00 BUY NOW
Best Overall: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream
We’ve never met a Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare product that we didn’t like, and the same goes for this cult-favorite retinol eye cream. In addition to the wrinkle-fighting powers of retinol, this professional-grade formula features a healthy dose of ferulic acid—a plant-based antioxidant known for free-radical-fighting capabilities—and evening primrose oil to help repair the skin barrier and prevent transepidermal water loss. Together, they work to moisturize and nourish the fragile eye area, brighten under-eye circles, and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, so the skin appears instantly smoother and more youthful. Its clinically proven formula is also vegan, cruelty-free, and suitable for daily use, which is to say, it checks off all of the boxes.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retiniol Eye Cream available at Net-a-Porter for $70.00 BUY NOW
Life Infusion Retinol Eye Serum
$300.00 BUY NOW
Best Multitasker: Natura Bisse Diamond Life Infusion Retinol Eye Serum
Get yourself a retinol eye cream that can do it all, like Natura Bisse’s Diamond Life Infusion Retinol Eye Serum. Capable of contouring, lifting, and sculpting the eye area, this lightweight serum combines retinol with skin-plumping collagen, silk tree bark, and vitamin K1 to stimulate the skin’s natural regeneration process, target the underlying causes of dark circles and puffiness, and improve elasticity. The result is eyes that appear firmer, smoother, and more lifted, and, thanks to a dose of hyaluronic acid and peptides, more hydrated too.
Natura Bisse Life Infusion Retinol Eye Serum available at Saks Fifth Avenue for $300.00 BUY NOW
Essential C Eye Cream
$70.00 BUY NOW
Best AM Retinol Eye Cream: Murad Essential C Eye Cream for AM
Most retinols lose their potency when exposed to the sun, which is why they’re generally reserved for nighttime use. But with Murad’s Essential-C Eye Cream, there’s no need to worry. In addition to retinol, its lightweight formula is also infused with broad-spectrum SPF 15, which helps shield the skin from the sun’s damaging rays, thereby protecting the integrity of your retinol for maximum results. Even better, it also boasts a healthy dose of caffeine for an immediate depuffing effect and light diffusers to help soften the appearance of fine lines and dark circles throughout the day.
Murad Essential C Eye Cream available at Murad for $70.00 BUY NOW
Magic Eye Rescue Cream
$43.00 BUY NOW
Best PM Retinol Eye Cream: Charlotte Tilbury Magic Eye Rescue Cream
When beauty sleep alone just isn’t cutting it anymore, reach for Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Eye Rescue Cream. Its ultra-soothing formula contains encapsulated retinol that’s time-released over eight hours to ensure it’s delivered into the skin slowly, thus minimizing the likelihood of irritation. Elsewhere, you’ll also find a supercharged dose of vitamin C to help brighten and even out the skin tone and plant-based stem cell extracts, which help strengthen the skin’s barrier function to keep your complexion looking smooth and moisturized.
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Eye Rescue Cream available at Net-a-Porter for $43.00 BUY NOW
Best for Sensitive Skin: Avène Retrinal Eyes
Just because your skin is sensitive doesn’t mean you have to swear off retinol eye creams entirely. Specially formulated for sensitive and reactive skin, this popular French pharmacy cream uses a different type of retinol known as retinaldehyde, which is slightly less potent than other varieties, making it less likely to irritate your skin. It’s also free from parabens and fragrance (two common skin irritants) and includes hyaluronic acid for an added dose of skin-plumping moisture. For the best results, be sure to follow Dr. Shah’s “low and slow” rule until your skin can safely tolerate daily use.
Avène Retrinal Eyes available at Dermstore for $49.00 BUY NOW
Time Retreat Eye Treatment
$75.00 BUY NOW
Best for Dry Skin: Eve Lom Time Retreat Eye Treatment
If the thought of using retinol around your dry, delicate eye area stresses you out, try starting with Eve Lom’s best-selling Time Retreat Eye Treatment. This silky, lightweight formula uses liposome encapsulated retinol to gently release the active ingredient into the skin and a nourishing blend of squalane and sodium hyaluronate to boost hydration levels, so your complexion stays soft and smooth for up to 24-hours. To get the most out of its highly concentrated formula, we recommend keeping this one as part of your PM skincare routine.
Eve Lom Time Retreat Eye Treatment available at Dermstore for $75.00 BUY NOW
Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel
$49.00 BUY NOW
Best Retinol Alternative: Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel
While there technically isn’t any retinol in this best-selling eye cream, it does include bakuchiol—aka the industry’s favorite new retinol alternative. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adeline Kikam (aka @brownskinderm), the bakuchiol in this clean eye gel can “offer a gentler plant-based alternative to topical retinoids while still retaining their wonderful anti-aging benefits,” making it a win-win for the retinol-adverse and natural beauty advocates alike. Additionally, Dr. Kikam points out that this cream is “soft, lightweight, hydrating, and non-irritating” and, unlike traditional retinol, is perfect for both day and nighttime use.
Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel available at Sephora for $49.00 BUY NOW
Clé de Peau
Enhancing Eye Contour Cream Supreme
$270.00 BUY NOW
Best Luxury Buy: Clé de Peau Enhancing Eye Contour Cream Supreme
Let’s be honest: Part of the appeal of eye creams is that they provide an added layer of decadence, and none more so than Clé de Peau’s Enhancing Eye Contour Cream Supreme. Like the Birkin bags of retinol eye creams, this luscious formula visibly lifts, firms, and sculpts the eye contours in the most luxurious way possible. In addition to wrinkle-reducing retinol, there’s also a rare iris extract sourced from the mountains of Italy, revered for its unique revitalizing abilities, as well as precious silk and pearl elements that moisturize and retexturize skin for a more even look. It even comes with a cooling platinum massage tool to help enhance the cream’s penetration and give you that extra little moment of calming relaxation that you deserve.
Clé de Peau Enhancing Eye Contour Cream Supreme available at Clé de Peau for $270.00 BUY NOW
The Inky List
Retinol Eye Cream
$10.00 BUY NOW
Best Budget Buy: The Inky List Retinol Eye Cream
Just because retinol is the crème de la crème of anti-aging ingredients doesn’t mean you can only find it in your favorite luxury skincare products. Case in point: The Inky List’s Retinol Eye Cream. Although a budget-friendly option, this PM-only eye cream still manages to get the job done thanks to a slow-release retinol compound that visibly brightens and firms the under-eye area while also helping to minimize the risk of dryness and flaking. Another bonus: The pointed applicator tip, which makes it easy to dispense just the right amount because, remember, a little goes a long way when it comes to retinol.
The Inky List Retinol Eye Cream available at Sephora for $10.00 BUY NOW
Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask
$42.00 BUY NOW
Best Retinol Eye Mask: Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask
Okay, so while this one isn’t technically an eye cream, it does have a creamy, retinol-infused formula that works wonders on hard-to-treat under-eye bags, wrinkles, and dark circles. The secret to its complexion-boosting powers? A blend of encapsulated ingredients like retinol, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, which are time-released throughout the night to even skin tone and reverse signs of aging with minimal side effects. Elsewhere, you’ll also find avocado to soothe and hydrate skin and antioxidant-rich coffeeberry to brighten and depuff the fragile under-eye area. The result is brighter, smoother, more awake-looking eyes by morning, whether you actually managed to get a full eight hours or not.
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask available at Sephora for $42.00 BUY NOW
Retinol Firming Eye Cream
$88.00 BUY NOW
Best for Firming: Kate Somerville Retinol Firming Eye Cream
While all of the retinol eye creams on this list will provide firming benefits, Kate Somerville’s formula takes things to another level with its unique combination of retinol and babchi seeds: a plant-based compound that provides similar firming and smoothing effects. Together, they provide double the wrinkle-fighting benefits, while a blend of natural oils helps improve skin elasticity and density for a healthier, more rejuvenated look. Safe for both morning and evening use, it also comes with a cooling gold-tip applicator that massages the product into the skin for added depuffing effect.
Kate Somerville Retinol Firming Eye Cream available at Kate Somerville for $88.00 BUY NOW
Peace Out Skincare
Retinol Eye Stick
$28.00 BUY NOW
Best Retinol Eye Stick: Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick
This eye treatment may look young and playful, but trust us, it packs a punch. While retinol remains the star ingredient of this serum-balm hybrid, it’s also combined with moisturizing squalane and a power peptide complex to ensure even the most sensitive skin types can use it. Swipe it around the entire eye area (yes, you can even use it on the delicate eyelid) before bed to both treat and hydrate your eyes in one easy, mess-free step.
Peace Out Skincare Retinol Eye Stick available at Sephora for $28.00 BUY NOW