The 10 Best Eye Creams for Dark Circles, According to Experts and Editors

You should only be worrying about bags at the airport.

woman looking in the mirror
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One of the most essential yet underrated steps in anyone's skincare routine is the application of a top-notch eye cream. While habits like staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet are the most important actions you can take to prevent dark circles, this crucial product can combat early signs of skin aging, aid in the prevention and treatment of dark circles, and boost hydration overall to these sensitive sections of skin. 

"Under-eye circles may be caused by a variety of different factors, and identifying your specific issue will determine the best way to treat it," says NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. He lists sun exposure (wear your sunscreen every day, people!), hyperpigmentation, and age among the most common causes. In addition, he says that some dark circles begin under the skin, when there's a barrier between the under eye and cheek area, which "causes a shadow that you perceive as darkness." 

Board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose agrees, adding that dehydration, genetics, medical conditions, and allergies can also lead to dark under-eye circles. Age, however, is the most common culprit.

"As we age, the fat pads that normally reside just under the eyes begin to drop lower and can protrude," she explains. "This repositioning of the fatty tissue can lead to formation of shadows or puffiness that we see as 'bags.' Hyperpigmentation or darkening of skin under the eyes can also cause the appearance of hollowing (and the tissue underneath that can appear as a 'bag'). As we age, we lose collagen in the skin causing the skin to thin, loosen, and wrinkle. These changes can contribute to dark circles."

Because the causes of dark under-eye circles are so varied, it's important to take your particular lifestyle and set of needs into account when looking for the eye cream that's best for you. Below, we've tapped Dr. Zeichner and Dr. Murphy-Rose to better understand how to shop for an eye cream that'll work for you, and we've included top picks from editors past and present.

How to Prevent Dark Circles

Again, Dr. Murphy-Rose cites the most common causes of dark circles as “genetics, aging, insufficient sleep, dehydration, allergies, and another medical conditions." For that reason, she says, "It is important to understand the causes of your dark circles in order to best treat them." If aging is the culprit, for instance, then replenishing lost collagen may be your best bet. Meanwhile, if you're getting less sleep than usual (eight to 10 hours would be the sweet spot), then regulating your sleep schedule is paramount.  

However, she points out that dark circles aren't often preventable. If your dark circles are genetic or caused naturally by aging, she says that the best you can do is ameliorate the situation by"getting sufficient sleep, maintaining a well-balanced diet, reducing stress as much as possible, and using preventive skincare. For some, reducing alcohol and sodium intake can help as well.  If you are allergy prone, seek medical attention to diagnose and figure out best ways to avoid known allergens and consider allergy medication."

What to Look for In an Eye Cream for Dark Circles

Although dark circles are natural, I do my due diligence by applying an eye cream each time I wash my face. But, as with all skincare, not all eye creams are built alike, and it's important to study the ingredients of the product you're considering before you decide to indulge.

"It is important to use a well-designed undereye cream that won’t cause irritation to this delicate skin," agrees Dr. Murphy-Rose. She suggests staying away from known allergens and irritants such as fragrance, advising, "under-eye creams should be hypoallergenic. This is because "The skin around your eyes is thinner and more sensitive than other areas." 

Meanwhile, some of her go-to ingredients include:

  • Vitamin C, which Dr. Murphy-Rose calls "a well-studied antioxidant for brightening skin under the eye."
  • Retinol, which she says helps with hyperpigmentation and "boosts collagen formation to improve skin quality and prevent fine lines."
  • Niacinamide, tranexamic acid, and hydroquinone, "a few ingredients that prevent and/or reduce skin pigmentation for those whose under-eye darkening is truly a pigmentation change and not just a shadowing of light."
  • Hyaluronic acid, which she recommends for dehydrated eyes. The ingredient is a humectants, which means that it has a plumping effect. It also "attracts moisture and holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water."
  • Arnica and Vitamin K, which "can decrease puffiness by reducing vascular congestion."
  • Caffeine, which also reduces vascular congestion. She adds, "Topical caffeine induces vasoconstriction of blood vessels, causing blood to flow away from the area and therefore decreasing fluid under the eyes. For dark circles caused by vasocongestion, caffeine can help to improve the undereye appearance. Caffeine can reduce puffiness."

No matter your skin issue or which cream(s) you ultimately opt for, you should still test your products before applying them—particularly if you have sensitive skin.

"Before using any new product, especially on the delicate skin around the eyes, try a spot test to test your sensitivity," advises Dr. Murphy-Rose. "Apply a small amount of cream to your inner wrist and wait at least three days to check for a reaction."

The Best Eye Creams for Dark Circles

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