While logging a full night’s sleep seems like a reasonable fix to dark under-eye circles, it doesn’t work for most of us. Regardless of how well-rested you are, dark circles can also be caused by genetics, pigmentation, allergies, and thinning skin. Using an eye cream won’t banish dark circles, but a select few creams really work, mostly by using high-tech ingredients to constrict blood vessels (which cause dark shadows), diffuse light, and brighten pigmented areas for a noticeable improvement in their appearance. Read on for a list of our favorites.
The Best Budget Eye Cream
This highly emollient formula practically evaporates on contact and moisturizes without leaving a shiny finish. It contains a cocktail of high-tech ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and skin-lightening niacinamide to suppress dark shadows. The drugstore price is nice, too.
The Highlighting One
At first glance, you’d be justified in confusing the pearlescent formula for an illuminator. After applying this easy-to-blend cream, mineral pigments go to work, diffusing light to detract from stubborn under-eye circles. In addition to its eye-brightening benefits, it’s also loaded with anti-aging actives like niacinamide (to fade dark spots), vitamin E (to defend against environmental aggressors), and an anti-wrinkle peptide (to smooth creases and crow’s-feet).
The Internet Favorite
This might be the internet’s current favorite eye cream for treating dark-eye circles. It has over 2,000 four-star reviews at Sephora, we’ve tested it and loved it (and so has Strategist too). The secret is in a mix of vitamin C, a proven ingredient for hyperpigmentation and brightening, and a “secret pigment” (most likely from the yellow color of the cream) that deflects and lightens the gray and purple tones of dark eye shadows.
The Best Tinted Eye Cream
Is it a concealer? Is it an eye cream? After trying this lightly tinted formula, we’ve determined it’s both — although those with darker tones may need to layer a separate concealer to be safe. Dispensed from a cooling metal tip (which provides relief to puffy eyes), the sheer, lightweight consistency helps disguise dark circles and leaves the thin skin in this area significantly smoother. Bonus: It was rated five stars by cosmetics cop Paula Begoun due to its impressive blend of antioxidants and plant extracts.
The Concealer and Eye Cream In One
Similar to the Ole Henrikson, this is a bit of a makeup and skin-care product in one. Silk powder, niacinimide, and plant botanicals all help to smooth lines and moisturize the under-eye area and de-puff bags. Pearl powder has a tiny bit of pigment which helps to reflect light and slightly conceal dark eye circles. Best of all, it comes in three different shades.
The Very Smooth One
This cream from beloved “natural” beauty line Drunk Elephant takes a maximalist approach. It contains not one but five different types of vitamin C. It’s a creamy, soothing mixture that blends easily into the thin area under the skin to lighten the darkness of dark eye circles.
The “Natural” One
You know a product is high-end when it features diamond dust. While this pricey ingredient has been met with skepticism in the beauty industry, Tata Harper’s Illuminating Eye Crème does plump parched skin with hyaluronic acid, olive oil, and mango-seed butter. When I dabbed the luminous golden cream under my eyes (the texture is similar to a crème eye shadow), my dark areas were instantly brightened.
The Non-Greasy One
One of the original green-beauty brands, Aveda has produced a sophisticated option for those wanting to treat tired eyes — naturally. Elegant in texture and not the slightest bit greasy, it credits a blend of licorice root (a known skin lightener) and caffeine for reducing darkness and puffy patches.
The One With Retinol
Retinol is the gold standard of anti-aging ingredients, and this silky serum has plenty of it. The vitamin A derivative works to stimulate collagen production under the eyes, making dark circles less visible. The weightless, gel-like texture absorbs in seconds and provides surprising hydration, thanks to skin-smoothing antioxidants and plant-based ingredients. Bonus: It sits well under makeup.
The Mega One
A little of this really rich formula goes a long way, so apply it sparingly. The ingredient list includes Rosa roxburghii, a flower containing brightening vitamin C to lighten brown spots and fade dark areas. Mica particles diffuse light to mimic a full night’s sleep, and the dense texture melts into skin when applied — making it ideal for super-dry types.
The One That’s Not Too Much
With a reputation for natural products that deliver results, it’s no surprise the Greek pharmacy brand nailed this formula. The silky cream spreads evenly for a potent dose of wild rose oil (rich in vitamin C) to even and fade bluish tones. Add to that rose-gold optical brighteners that act as a highlighter for an incandescent effect.
The One That Isn’t Sticky at All
More than just a fast fix, this gel-serum hybrid brightens and tightens the delicate skin around the eyes with two forms of hyaluronic acid. After gently patting it on, it quickly dried without a sticky residue, and the eye area felt smoother, plumper, and looked more radiant. The clever formula contains two forms of hyaluronic acid to fill fine lines, while light-reflective pigments camouflage the telltale signs of fatigue.
The One That Also Works As a Primer
A triple-duty beauty, this occlusive balm primes skin for eye makeup, fills fine lines, and treats dark circles with a few dabs. Alguronic acid (known for its skin-smoothing benefits) combines with brightening vitamin C and circulation-stimulating caffeine to promote a more youthful appearance.
The J-Beauty One
Dense in texture, this cream works on two levels — by breaking down melanin pigment (brown spots) and by improving microcirculation to banish blue rings, thanks to a dark-circle-diminishing blend that includes vitamin C. For a blurred effect, a multi-luminizing powder boosts radiance levels.
The Light Feeling One
Boasting the benefits of the cult-classic serum in an eye cream, this cushiony gel glides on seamlessly and works overnight to fade dark circles and repair damage from environmental aggressors. ChronoluxCB technology (a blend of hyaluronic acid and antioxidants) has been clinically proven to reduce wrinkles and boost radiance.
The Fancy One
While $210 is a lot to drop on an eye cream, this silky formula has the science to back its claims. Packed with proven plant extracts including padina pavonica (to promote collagen), orange blossom (to fade dark circles), and licorice (to lighten skin), the appearance of the eye area improved significantly with continued use.
The Rich One
This eye cream is very, very, very pricey. But this could be a great gift from someone who wants to buy your love or a random rich relative who wants to spoil you. It’s a fluid, creamy formula that’s so rich and pearlescent, you can use it to smooth out lines and the dry area under your eyes.
This article was originally published October 31, 2018. It has been updated throughout. Additional reporting by Aimee Leabon. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.