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Anti-aging is a tricky market to navigate. While it may be a few more years before I ask my dermatologist for a little Botox pick-me-up, wherever you are in your anti-aging journey, it’s always the under-eyes that are the first areas to start looking a little worse for wear. Puffiness, fine lines, and dark circles are just some of our woes. And while using an eye cream is a great way to give them some love, it can feel like there are so many promises made, but very few treatments are truly effective. But if you can trust just one ingredient, it’s retinol. Beauty editors know how essential retinol is in our routines, but adding it to an eye cream feels risky, primarily since retinol is known for causing some unseemly reactions. To answer all our questions, we turned to dermatologists Dr. Omar Ibrahimi and Dr. Karan Lal to give us the facts.
What is retinol?
A derivative of vitamin A, “Retinol is one of the most evidenced-based and tried and true anti-aging molecules we have today,” says Dr. Ibrahimi. “[Retinols] help produce collagen, thicken skin and improve its overall health. The skin around our eyes is the thinnest we have on our body, and with time, collagen loss tends to sometimes be most dramatic in this area.” Be warned that retinols can have side effects: “The major caveat we have with retinol is that in individuals with sensitive skin or those who use too much, retinol can be too irritating or drying.” Whenever you’re using a retinol, it’s essential to pair it with a great sunscreen to avoid sun damage.
Is retinol safe to use on the under-eyes?
“It is absolutely safe to use retinol creams around your eyes,” says Dr. Lal. But that doesn’t mean that precautions shouldn’t be taken. “If you have sensitive skin or very thin skin, you may notice some redness, stinging, flaking early on with use, [which] is common. The cure-all is to use very little and moisturize on top [of the retinol eye cream].” Investing in a good moisturizer is an excellent way for anyone with sensitive skin to avoid irritation. “It’s too good a molecule to pass up on when it comes to anti-aging,” says Dr. Ibrahimi.
How should you use a retinol eye cream?
“I recommend people use 1/2 a pea-sized amount to both eyelids total and follow this with a great moisturizer to reduce the risk of irritation,” says Dr. Lal. “Don’t expect miracles—it will take months to see some improvement. This is why I recommend starting retinol creams at 25 to prevent and delay [the] development of fine lines and crepey skin.” If you’re worried about side effects, start slow. “I would start by only applying the product every other day, or every third day, and if there are no issues, one can work towards applying it nightly,” says Dr. Ibrahimi. “At any time, if it gets too irritating, then take a few days off to allow things to calm down.”
Here, find the 14 best retinol eye creams to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and give some life back to your under-eyes.
Best For Beginners
Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream
- May not be suited for very sensitive skin
For newbies to the retinol eye cream game, this product has all the basics covered: Retinol reduces crow’s feet and uneven skin texture, while hyaluronic acid plumps and reduces the chances of excessive dryness in the under-eye area.
Best All In One
Retinol Correxion Under Eye Cream
- Requires daily commitment
The most common complaints about the under-eyes are fine lines, puffiness, and dark circles–and this cream addresses all those woes. Using retinol and glycerin, you can count on noticeable results without any irritation.
Best For Puffy Eyes
Redermic R Eyes Retinol Eye Cream
Having a cup of coffee to treat your drowsiness is commonplace, but adding caffeine to this eye cream is a genius move. Combating fine-line reducing retinol and awakening caffeine means you don’t need to worry about puffy eyes in the morning anymore.
Best For Deep Wrinkles
Pro-Retinol Eye Treatment
So many products promise to improve fine lines, but this product actually helps combat those deeper crevices where your concealer keeps settling in. With the help of retinol and niacinamide, you might be able to cancel your Botox appointment now.
Best For Dry Skin
Smooth Landing Advanced Retinoid Eye Balm
- Requires daily commitment
Retinol can be very drying, so, understandably, people who already have dry skin might be wary of using this powerhouse ingredient. But the solution is in this balm-textured eye cream. While retinol reduces fine lines, vitamin E and natural extracts expertly hydrate the area.
Best For Sensitive Skin
Ageless Phyto-Retinol Eye Cream
For people with incredibly sensitive skin who want the benefits of retinol without the irritation, bareMinerals uses phyto-retinol—a faux retinol—to give similar effects without the drawbacks. It will still combat fine lines, but the retinol averse can use it without risking a reaction.
Best For A Budget
Retinol Eye Cream
For great results on a budget, this eye cream does a lot for not much cash. While retinol treats fine lines and wrinkles, this product also helps brighten the under-eyes, so you can cut back on your concealer routine.
Best For Quick Results
Pure Retinol Eye Cream
- May not be suited for sensitive skin
This cream really does it all: It reduces fine lines, addresses dehydration, plumps the skin, and significantly brightens the under-eyes. The best part is that you’ll start to see results in just a few weeks.
Best For Plumping
Retinol Eye Stick
This eye stick is so fun and soothing to use. While it gives your under-eyes a dose of firming retinol, squalane and peptides help plump the skin for youth-boosting results. Plus, the texture of this balm feels like a primer that immediately makes your skin feel better.
Best For No Irritation
Advanced Retinol Eye Treatment
StriVectin has created a patented technology so you can get all the benefits of retinol without the irritation associated with the ingredient. Instead, you’ll just reap the rewards: Reduced fine lines, extra hydration, and brighter under-eyes.
Best For Gentle Results
FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid
This eye cream uses time-release technology to give the benefits of retinol over a longer time period, so no irritation occurs. It also uses hydrating hyaluronic acid and shimmering pearls for brighter, more hydrated under-eyes.
Best For Fine Lines
Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare
This eye serum isn’t playing any games. If your goal is to get smoother under-eyes without any fine lines, this product uses retinol, bakuchiol—a common retinol dupe—and anti-aging rambutan to treat all those concerns.
Best For Cell Turnover
+Retinol Firming Eye Cream
For near-instant results, this eye cream is committed to the anti-aging game. Retinol reduces fine lines, while other retinol-like ingredients help increase cell-turnover for brighter, younger-looking eyes.
Best For Smooth Under-Eyes
Argan Pro-Retinol Eye Cream
Using hydrating argan oil, retinol, and natural extracts, this eye cream is committed to reducing fine lines while also giving your under-eyes plenty of nourishment. The combination of these ingredients means your under-eyes will feel more cared-for and smooth than before.
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