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 of will cost you less than $30.
Best overall drugstore eye cream
All four of the dermatologists (and two aestheticians) we spoke praised the RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream due to 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, 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 founder of event series Skin Folks 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
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 instantaneously. 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
“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 noncomedogenic — meaning it won’t clog your pores — making it a good bet for those with oily or acne-prone skin, too.
Best drugstore eye cream for mature skin
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 using 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
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 dark shadows and providing an illuminating effect. It also acts as a good base to use under your usual concealer.
Best moisturizing drugstore eye 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 which 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 puffiness
Generally, puffiness under the eye is caused by a build-up of fluids in the area. To help treat it, master aesthetician Joomee Song loves this cooling eye gel, which has a steel rollerball massaging applicator. “Massage it around the area just like you would with a jade roller,” she says. The cream is formulated with caffeine, peptides, and plant extracts to “soothe, tighten, and brighten” tired, swollen-looking eyes.
Best drugstore eye cream for under-eye bags
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 it’s 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 the morning
“This cream is ideal for morning routines because the mineral pigments (mica, commonly found in beauty products) soften dark marks,” and the effect lasts throughout the day, says Mattioli. The lightweight formula, which includes both a hydrating gel and firming cream, is fragrance-free and fast-absorbing. It also contains “an effective mix” of nourishing peptides and niacinamide, which helps with overall skin tone and reinforcing the skin’s barrier.