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Because the skin under our eyes is the most delicate on our entire bodies, it’s an area that often needs special attention no matter your age. There are bags, puffiness, and dark circles to contend with, in addition to those fine lines and wrinkles. But that’s what eye cream is for: It’s a highly concentrated form of moisturizer, powered with ingredients like retinol and hyaluronic acid, to help address these issues. The formulas are often pricey — you can spend well over a hundred dollars for one in a department store, but, according to seven experts we spoke to (including three aestheticians and four dermatologists), you don’t have to. Every eye cream our experts recommended for this list can be found at your local drugstore. All will brighten, hydrate, and smooth — and most will cost you less than $30.
What we’re looking for
Eye creams tend to target different concerns, so the ingredients are tailored to fit. Eye creams for brightening and smoothing might contain ingredients like vitamin C and retinol, while an eye cream to depuff tends to include caffeine (it constricts the blood vessels and tightens the skin). Some eye creams (like our top pick) help with everything from dark circles to wrinkles to hydration.
While all of these picks are technically “creams,” not all of them have the same weight or feel. Some have a lightweight thin texture while others are heavy, like a night cream. This can be a deciding factor if you have an oily or dry skin type, where you might be looking for something that won’t feel heavy on the skin or want an extra dose of moisture.
Best overall drugstore eye cream
Active ingredients: Retinol, hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream
All four of the dermatologists (and two aestheticians) we spoke to praised the RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream for its ability to target and treat a variety of under-eye concerns. “This is one of my personal favorite eye creams for under $20,” says Dr. Karen Hammerman of Schweiger Dermatology Group, who suggests it for pretty much everything (including crow’s feet, fine lines and wrinkles, dark circles, uneven texture, and puffiness). According to Dr. Amanda Doyle of Russak Dermatology NYC, this is because the formula contains retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient, which helps to maintain and build collagen over time, resulting in the smoothing of wrinkles and the softening of the appearance of dark circles. And although retinol is a potent form of vitamin A that has a reputation for being potentially irritating, Hammerman says patients should not be concerned about applying it to their delicate eye skin, due to the time-release formula, which “absorbs slowly and won’t aggravate skin.” That being said, since retinol can make skin more sensitive to the sun, make sure you apply it only at night and be diligent about wearing sunscreen during the day after you use it. Aesthetician and beauty writer Simedar Jackson is also a fan and recommends starting out by using it once a week to get your skin accustomed to it and then increasing frequency. For sensitive-skin types, she recommends using a dab of moisturizer in the area first so the active ingredients sink in a little slower.
Best eye cream for dark circles
Active ingredients: Pro-xylane, Linactyl, caffeine | Consistency: Lightweight cream
If you’re dealing with raccoon eyes, Dr. Noelani Gonzalez, a dermatology specialist at Mount Sinai Health System, recommends this option from La Roche Posay. “This cream has caffeine, which helps constrict blood vessels and diminish the appearance of dark under-eye circles,” she explains. The caffeine works almost immediately to reduce the appearance of dark circles for the day. While this is the most expensive cream on our list, it also contains reflective pigments that help brighten the under-eye area instantly. According to celebrity aesthetician Jordan Mattioli, the best general application method is to dab a few dots of cream under the eye and tap it in gently to avoid pulling or tugging on the skin. “Apply to the area under the eye and the sides of the eye but avoid your upper eyelid,” she adds.
Best drugstore eye cream for sensitive skin
Active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, niacinamide | Consistency: Lightweight cream
“This is a fragrance-free eye cream loaded with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide — a great combination of ingredients to treat signs of aging, even on those with extremely sensitive skin,” says Mattioli. Hammerman agrees and adds that not only are those ingredients extremely gentle for people with sensitive skin but they also “restore and maintain the skin’s natural protective barrier and help to keep the eye area hydrated and smooth.” Plus the formula is nongreasy and non-comedogenic — meaning it won’t clog your pores — making it a good bet for those with oily or acne-prone skin.
Best drugstore eye cream for mature skin
Active ingredients: Retinol, vitamin B3 | Consistency: Rich cream
Founder of Tone Dermatology Caroline Robinson, MD recommends this eye cream for mature skin — it tackles both fine lines and dullness, she says, using “a hydrating, effective blend of retinol and vitamin B3.” If you’re sensitive to retinols, Dr. Robinson recommends trying Olay Eyes Ultimate Eye Cream instead, which has a similar formula but uses amino peptides in place of the retinol.
Best illuminating drugstore eye cream
Active ingredients: Vitamin B3, vitamin E, vitamin C | Consistency: Rich cream
Medical aesthetician Sofie Pavitt, who counts our columnist Rio Viera-Newton as one of her clients, loves this brightening eye cream from classic drugstore brand Olay. She calls it “a great textured eye cream” that moisturizes and smooths under-eye skin. But what sets it apart is its peachy tint, which helps to color-correct and brighten dark circles, both neutralizing the shadows and providing an illuminating effect. It also acts as a good base for your usual concealer.
Best moisturizing drugstore eye cream
Active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Gel cream
For those who have extremely dry under-eye skin, Gonzalez suggests this gel-textured eye cream from Neutrogena, which is chock-full of hyaluronic acid, “a molecule that absorbs 1,000 times its weight in water and helps hydrate and plump the skin around the eyes.” Jackson also likes this formula and recommends it for anyone who’s trying an eye cream for the first time, “particularly those looking to boost hydration levels around the eyes and consequently treat very fine lines.” If you want the same plumping formula, but with the additional anti-aging power of retinol, Dr. Morgan Rabach, a dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC, also loves Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair Under Eye Cream.
Best drugstore eye cream for under-eye bags
Active ingredients: Caffeine, super hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream
You know them when you see them: Those folds of puffy skin met by shadowy discoloration that we call “bags.” Generally, under-eye bags are caused by fluid retention, as well as the skin sagging and losing its natural elasticity over time. Sometimes they appear after a late night; some of us are born with them. In either case, Hada Labo Tokyo Age Correcting Eye Cream is full of caffeine to help tighten them up. Hada Labo is also unique for its use of super hyaluronic acid, which, according to Song, contains twice the moisture retention capacity of regular hyaluronic acid. Those ingredients combined help to hydrate, restrict blood vessels, retain moisture, restore radiance, and lessen dark circles, she says, which in turn will help reduce the appearance of “bags.” The texture is also superlight, so you can reapply throughout the day without having to worry about ruining your makeup, she promises. However, if your eye bags are pretty much constant — which can happen as you age — they are likely the result of a drooping fat pad under the eye. If this is the case, an in-office procedure is your best bet to fixing them permanently.
Best drugstore eye cream for puffiness
Active ingredients: Caffeine, peptides | Consistency: Cream
While this eye cream from the Inkey List isn’t technically a drugstore eye cream, it’s well within the drugstore price point at $10 and available at Sephora, which is fairly ubiquitous. Viera-Newton told us about this eye cream a few years ago, noting that it didn’t bother her “ultrasensitive” under-eyes and “did a wonderful job at taking some of that darkness away.”
Best drugstore eye cream to wear under makeup
Active ingredients: Peptides, hyaluronic acid, cucumber, shea butter, green tea | Consistency: Rich cream
E.l.f. is first and foremost a makeup brand, so it’s no surprise its skin care works beautifully under face products. That includes its eye cream, which contains a blend of peptides and hyaluronic acid. Together, they plump and hydrate the under-eye area to ensure makeup doesn’t sink into any wrinkles or fine lines. Peptides are also helpful for dark circles, particularly if they occurred as a result of a lack of collagen. The amino acid stimulates collagen production, which in turn helps to bring some of that volume back to the area. As we mentioned before, if it’s the result of a drooping fat pad, an in-office treatment will likely work best.
Some more Strategist-approved drugstore skin-care products
• Dr. Amanda Doyle of Russak Dermatology NYC
• Dr. Noelani Gonzalez, dermatology specialist at Mount Sinai Health System
• Dr. Karen Hammerman of Schweiger Dermatology Group
• Simedar Jackson, aesthetician and beauty writer
• Jordan Mattioli, celebrity aesthetician
• Rio Viera-Newton, beauty columnist and esthetician
• Sofie Pavitt, medical aesthetician
• Dr. Morgan Rabach, dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC
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.