I’ve spent way too much time sleuthing the internet for ways to help improve my permanently dark undereyes. Dark circles, as it turns out, are one of the hardest cosmetic issues to address topically, especially if you’re genetically predisposed to them like me. But pre-COVID, I got a facial with Shamara Bondaroff of SB Skin (who does magical micro-current facials in the city, by the way). After examining me, Bondaroff explained that my dark circles were caused by both excess pigment and shadowing.
According to Dr. Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist based in Manhattan, under-eye shadowing is due to a combination of factors. We lose fat and bone in the area, which produces a hollowing effect. On top of that, our skin loses collagen (it gets thinner), and blood vessels grow larger and their walls weaken (and therefore become more visible). All of this happens as we age, and the result is under-eye shadowing or darkness that has nothing to do with our skin’s pigment. Dr. Idriss explained that caffeine addresses one aspect of this shadowing — blood vessels. It constricts those blood vessels under your eyes, making them less visible, which temporarily improves the appearance of shadows (and puffiness). Caffeine doesn’t lighten pigment, so it won’t have any effect on darkness caused by excess melanin. It’s also important to remember that the caffeine only provides a transient effect, so the results will expire within hours, much like a buzz from your morning cup of coffee.
But despite its fleeting results, caffeine has been a wonderful way for me to take the edge off of my dark circles before a big Zoom meeting or walk in the park with friends. Just set realistic expectations: Will caffeine make your dark circles totally disappear? No! — but I have noticed that I look generally less exhausted whenever I apply a caffeine-based eye cream in the morning. And I’ll take it!
Below, a list of some wonderful caffeine eye creams for different budgets to help brighten up your shadows.
This cheap, $10 caffeine-based eye cream from the Inkey List is a fan favorite. In fact, one of my friends texted me the other day saying, “Drop everything and buy this eye cream!” I did, and I’m happy I followed her advice! It didn’t bother my ultra-sensitive undereyes, and did a wonderful job at taking some of that darkness away, though it’s not the most hydrating.
This deeply hydrating and antioxidant-rich eye cream from Neocutis is one of Dr. Idriss’s top caffeine-based eye cream picks. This particular cream uses a blend of hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to help soothe, moisturize, and protect the skin while simultaneously delivering the brightening benefits of caffeine. This is great for sensitive, dry-skin types who are hoping for hydration boost and brightening.
If you prefer pampering yourself with eye patches rather than applying a cream, these patches from Acure are for you. Their hydrogel is infused with reparative kale and green tea, which deliver protective antioxidant benefits to your skin and can also help soothe your tired eyes. Keep them in the fridge for an extra cooling, de-puffing effect!
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.