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Dark Circle & Tired Eyes? All The Products That Can Help With That

mbg Beauty Director

By Alexandra Engler

mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.

Image by JAMIE GRILL ATLAS / Stocksy

July 21, 2022

It’s an all-too-common scene: You’ve had a long week at work, with perhaps not enough sleep and far too much stress. Just as you’re nearing the end of it, you greet your appearance in the bathroom mirror only to remark how tired you seem. And while sallow skin and a dulled complexion are major indicators that you may need some rest and relaxation, the most obvious signs are dark circles. If you’ve never complained of shadows under your eyes, lucky you; for the rest of us, don’t worry, there’s help.

Dark circles are, like many things as it relates to the skin, a combination of genetics and lifestyle. Yes, they tend to show up when we are tired and aren’t taking care of ourselves. And yes, some folks are genetically predisposed to them more than others. First and foremost, you’ll want to address any environmental triggers that may be causing them (reduced sleep quality, increased stress, dietary influences, allergies, and so on). But given we aren’t always in complete control of our circumstances, having an eye cream on hand can help tend to their appearance as well. (Hey, sometimes we just need a quick swipe of cream to get us on our way!) If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place.

Here, the best eye creams for dark circles.

Ingredients to look for:

All of the options below have robust formulations that contain hydrating botanical ingredients and targeted actives. You’ll see many unique ingredients utilized by the brands to achieve bright, hydrated eyes–but as a baseline of what to look for, these are a great place to start.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a beloved antioxidant for a reason: It supports collagen production, fights free radicals, and can brighten dull skin. Caffeine: Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (meaning, it compresses blood vessels in the skin). This can reduce the appearance of shadows, as they are caused by pooling blood in the area. The most common sources of caffeine used in eye creams are from teas or coffee. Additionally, it has antioxidant properties. Hyaluronic acid and glycerin: These star humectants pull in and hold water in the skin, providing a plumping and dewy effect. This can help with hydration, easing the appearance of fine lines, and provides a luminescent finish. Look for hyaluronic acids with lower molecular weights for deeper penetration. Niacinamide: A trendy antioxidant, this multitasker addresses fine lines, dullness, pigmentation, and irritation. Antioxidants: While several options on this list are also antioxidants, there are many more to choose from. Antioxidants can help fight free radicals and brighten the complexion, making them amazing additions to eye creams. Peptides: Peptides are chains of amino acids, or the building blocks of proteins. While more research needs to be done on the use of peptides in topicals, what is out there now looks very promising: Including one report that notes they can help improve collagen production.

How we picked

Clean formulas

Everyone has their own standards of clean, but the below list includes options that pass our rigor–with a variety of options that may include organic, naturally-derived, and responsible synthetics.

Science-backed ingredients

The actives in these formulas are informed by research and professional recommendations.

Testing

All of the below have been tested by the mbg beauty team, come recommended by professionals, or have outstanding user feedback.

Variety

Everyone has unique wants and needs out of their beauty products, from sensorial experience to price point. We tried to cover a wide range for the consumer.

The best eye creams for dark circles

Best overall: Origins GinZing Vitamin C & Niacinamide Eye Cream To Brighten And Depuff

Origins GinZing Vitamin C & Niacinamide Eye Cream To Brighten And Depuff

VIEW ON Sephora | $37VIEW ON Origins | $37

Pros

Comes in two shades to better color-correct based on your skin tone

Cons

Contains silicones, in case you avoid those

Considerations: Vegan, Cream, Clinically-backed results

Four incredible actives make this cream my top pick, as each work together to address dark circles from multiple angles. The vitamin C (as aminopropyl ascorbyl phosphate, a more stable form of the ingredient) fights free radicals and addresses dark pigmentation. Niacinamide boosts hydration and barrier support. Ginzing and caffeine from coffee beans act as vasoconstrictors that reduce the blood flow to the area, which is the cause of dark circles.

Best for sensitive skin: Youth To The People Superfood Eye Cream

Youth To The People Superfood Eye Cream

VIEW ON Sephora | $35VIEW ON Youth To The People | #35

Pros:

Very hydrating

Cons:

Thicker texture

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream, Organic ingredients

A simple formula that packs in plant-derived nutrients that soothe reactive skin and are loaded with restorative properties. It contains a custom superfood blend of kale, spinach, green tea, and vitamins C and E. The green tea and vitamin C can address dark circles, and then the rest of the rest of the complex delivers hydration, peptides, fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Best with SPF: Supergoop Bright-Eyed 100% Mineral Eye Cream SPF 40

Supergoop Bright-Eyed 100% Mineral Eye Cream SPF 40

VIEW ON SuperGoop | $38VIEW ON Sephora | $38

Pros

Delightfully light texture

Cons

Not as many additional actives for skin care needs

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream

An ideal option for daytime wear, this non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen is specifically formulated for the delicate eye area. Along with wearing sunglasses and hats, using a SPF infused eye cream can protect the skin from UV damage. We love this one from Supergoop (the masters of sophisticated sun care) because it doesn’t pill over your other skin care items, has a peach hue for subtle color-correcting, and can double as a primer under concealer.

Best lightweight: Versed Vacation Eyes Brightening Eye Gel

Versed Vacation Eyes Brightening Eye Gel

VIEW ON Versed | $17.99

Pros

Great price

Cons

Doesn’t address mature skin needs as well

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Gel or serum

When it comes to eye treatments, texture can make or break an experience. Some are partial to thick, dense formulas, while others want something silky and fast absorbing. If you count yourself in the latter group, this gel is for you. The clear formula instantly absorbs into skin: The vitamin C, ginseng and niacinamide work together to refresh tired looking skin.

Best overnight: True Botanicals Resurrection Radiance

True Botanicals Resurrection Radiance

VIEW ON True Botanicals | $78

Pros

A well-rounded formula

Cons

Thick texture, if you like light options

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream, Organic ingredients, Clinically-backed results

A rich cream that blankets the skin in comforting hydration: This antioxidant-packed eye treatment uses a science-backed, sophisticated blend of botanicals that address almost all eye concerns (dryness, sensitivities, fine lines, dark circles, puffiness, etcetera). Just to name a few: There’s tree bark and licorice root extracts to target dark circles, coffee for puffiness, turmeric for soothing antioxidant support, resurrection plant extract for hydration and water retention, and more.

Best brightening: Naturopathica Vitamin K Brightening Complex

Naturopathica Vitamin K Brightening Complex

VIEW ON Amazon | $86VIEW ON Blue Mercury | $86

Pros:

Extremely hydrating

Cons

Pricey

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream, Organic ingredients, Clinically-backed results

This soft, silky cream uses a totally underrated skin care ingredient: Vitamin K. It’s actually most commonly found in medicinal skin care products (like those used by patients after surgeries or those with skin injuries since research shows it significantly reduces healing time of skin). But in addition to its skin rejuvenation properties, it can ease discolortation, minimizes swelling, and soothes inflammation. In addition the formula has niacinamide and horse chestnut for hydration and brightness.

Best for deeper tones: Fenty Flash Nap Instant Revival Priming Eye Gel Cream

Fenty Flash Nap Instant Revival Priming Eye Gel Cream

VIEW ON Fenty | $34VIEW ON Sephora | $34

Pros

Great for under concealer

Cons

Contains fragrance if you avoid that

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Gel or serum, Clinically-backed results

Part makeup primer, part skin care, all amazing. This multitasking product is cooling, lightweight, and sinks in effortlessly, blurring dark circles and fine lines in the process. But the real results come from the four actives: horse chestnut extract reduces the look of puffiness, hyaluronic acid hydrates and fills in fine lines, persian silk tree targets visible signs of exhaustion around the eye, and green tea contains caffeine and antioxidants to add luminosity.

Best multi-tasker: Evolve Organic Beauty 360 Eye and Lip Contour

Evolve Organic Beauty 360 Eye and Lip Contour

VIEW ON Sephora | $34VIEW ON Amazon | $34

Pros

One product, two uses

Cons

Not as potent, targeted actives as the other products on this list

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream, Organic ingredients

Fun fact: The eyes and the lips are some of the thinnest areas of skin on the face. This is why both areas need more consistent and targeted hydration and care. This product is formulated with the ability to be applied both places. The peptides work to increase firmness, and the low-molecular weight hyaluronic acid adds plumping moisture.

Best hydrating: Tatcha The Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream

Tatcha The Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream

VIEW ON Tatcha | $62VIEW ON Amazon | $62VIEW ON Sephora | $62

Pros

Incredible texture

Cons

Bulky, plastic packaging

Considerations: Cruelty-free, Cream, Clinically-backed results

Three innovative actives keep your skin seriously hydrated, instantly upon application and throughout the day. It works so well thanks two the multiple layers of hydration: the silk extract acts as a “second skin”, aiding in water retention; the Japanese white peony extract improves skin barrier function and soothes any sensitivities; the antioxidant complex protects the area against free radical damage, which can contribute to dryness among collagen decline and pigmentation.

Best for mature skin: Kiehl’s Super Multi-Corrective Anti-Aging Eye Cream

Kiehl’s Super Multi-Corrective Anti-Aging Eye Cream

VIEW ON Kiehl’s | $55VIEW ON Sephora | $55

Pros

Fragrance freePCR packaging; Manufactured with renewable energy sources

Cons

Contains silicones if you avoid those

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream, Clinically-backed results

This gel-cream hybrid targets more set-in wrinkles with niacinamide and collagen-focused peptides. The peptide is made of three amino acids that can support collagen in the skin, resulting in the appearance of firmer skin. Niacinamide is a powerful antioxidant that has several benefits, including protecting the collagen layer by fighting free radicals and brightening the skin.

Best with retinol: Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Cream

Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Cream

VIEW ON Sephora | $42

Pros

A very gentle retinol specific for the eye areaOphthalmologist & dermatologist testested

Cons

Pricey

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream, Clinically-backed results

Retinol is an excellent ingredient to spur collagen production, ease fine lines, and a host of other skin benefits. However it can be very irritating to delicate skin, of which the eye area certainly falls under that category. So if you want to use the ingredient to address wrinkles around the eye area, only do so with a product that’s formulated as such (and ideally comes with an ophthalmologist stamp of approval!). Along with a slow release encapsulated retinol (which makes it more gentle), this is further buffered with avocado for major hydration, and coffeeberry extract for brightening and antioxidant support.

Best for men: Disco Eye Stick

Disco Eye Stick

VIEW ON Amazon | $34VIEW ON Disco | $34

Pros

Easy roller ball application

Cons

May have to wait a few weeks to get substantial results

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Gel or serum

This plays the short and long game. Instantly the caffeine gets to work on puffiness and circles, helping improve their appearance in the moment. (Another instant bonus: The roller ball provides a cooling sensation, which can help address puffiness too). Then the antioxidants pycnogenol and niacinamide work to improve the skin overtime. Pycnogenol is a pine tree extract that neutralizes oxidative stress, and niacinamide can help ease fine lines and dullness.

Best budget: The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream

The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream

Pros

Smart ingredients at an affordable price

Cons

Lightweight cream for those looking for something ultra hydrating

Considerations: Cruelty-free, Cream

Clocking at just under $10, this is a smart option for those who are looking for no-frills efficacy. It uses a simple combo of actives that are known to help the eye area. The first is caffeine to temporarily reduce swelling and darkness in the area; the second is a peptide to address fine lines and wrinkles in the long term. The result is a one-two punch that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Best splurge: Kypris Ad Astra Nighttime Eye Cream Emulsion

Kypris Ad Astra Nighttime Eye Cream Emulsion

VIEW ON Credo | $150VIEW ON Kypris | $150

Pros

Unique ingredients

Cons

Very pricey

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream, Organic ingredients

Tap this luxe cream on in the evening and wake up with bright eyes and hydrated skin. The seaweed derived amino acids can aid barrier function. Peptides ease the appearance of fine lines and enhance hydration. The antioxidant glutathione brightens the skin and fights free radicals. And a fermented ocean extract aids in water retention, for long-lasting moisture. Trust us, the results will leave you starry-eyed.

Best under makeup: Jones Road The Eye Cream

Jones Road The Eye Cream

VIEW ON Jones Road | $34

Pros

Deeply hydrating

Cons

Not as strong of a brightener

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Cream

Developed by the queen of makeup herself, this number from Bobbi Brown’s clean makeup and skin care line Jones Roads pairs well with any concealer. This cushiony hydrator is made with natural extracts that pull in water into the skin and keep it there. This creates an ideal canvas for makeup–but if you opt to wear it all alone, it helps the skin appear brighter and dewy, too.

Best cooling: Milk Makeup Cooling Water

Milk Makeup Cooling Water

Pros

Feels great on skin

Cons

Not very eco-friendly packaging

Considerations: Vegan, Cruelty-free, Gel or serum

This handy little tube of eye serum feels oh-so-refreshing on the skin (sensorially, it’s an instant pick-me-up). And the ingredients are just as revitalizing. The seawater and aloe vera practically splashes onto the eye area, providing hydration. Then caffeine deals with puffiness and dark spots.

Best for puffiness: Sephora Brightening Eye Cream

Sephora Brightening Eye Cream

VIEW ON Sephora | $18

Pros

Jar is 72 percent recycled plastic plus 17 percent from sugar cane residueAffordable price point

Cons

The cream’s texture isn’t a standout

Considerations: Vegan, Cream, Clinically-backed results

If you’re one to wake up with both puffy lids and dark circles, caffeine should be your ingredient of choice. Thanks to the natural caffeine extract from coffee beans, this will help visibly depuff the eye area, stat. The sodium hyaluronate is a smaller form of HA that can better penetrate the skin, delivering intense hydration. It also contains other natural hydrators to keep the skin hydrated throughout the day.

Best for drugstore: Burt’s Bees Truly Glowing Gel Eye Cream

Burt’s Bees Truly Glowing Gel Eye Cream

VIEW ON Burt’s Bees | $17.99VIEW ON Target | $17.99

Pros

Budget-friendlyWorks great under concealer

Cons

Only temporarily brightening

Considerations: Cruelty-free, Gel or serum

This option focuses on plumping fine lines and adding a layer of hydration to help the eye area appear brighter and more youthful. The hyaluronic acid is an excellent humectant that attracts and holds water, thereby plumping the skin with hydration. The cream also contains squalane to act as an occlusive layer, which can keep the water in the epidermis (i.e. supports water retention throughout the day). The dewy finish can temporarily make the eye appear brighter in the mornings, too.

FAQ about eye creams

What causes dark circles?

Dark circles appear as discolored half-moons under your eyes. They can be purple, red, olive, or brown depending on your skin tone and undertones; they can be genetic, chronic, or exacerbated from lifestyle factors (lack of sleep is the common complaint).

To explain further: Thin skin around the area reveals blood vessels underneath, contributing to discoloration. While you can simply have thin skin in the area naturally, the color can become exacerbated by lack of sleep or lifestyle issues that cause blood vessels to expand, resulting in more blood in the area. This is addressed with vasoconstrictors, like caffeine and a select other botanicals.

Or more melanin production can cause skin in the area to become darker naturally. This is more common with people with darker skin tones. This is addressed by antioxidants, such as vitamin C.

Eye cream vs. regular moisturizer?

If your eye concerns aren’t major, you can absolutely use a regular moisturizer on the eye area. With a caveat that the formula doesn’t contain too potent of active ingredients that may bother it, like high concentrations of essential oils or strong form of retinol, most face creams are perfectly suited for the area.

So when–if at all–should you add an eye cream to your routine? The answer is simply when your eye circles, fine lines, or puffiness become noticeable to you and you want to do something about it. Since these issues all take unique approaches and targeted actives to adequately address them there’s certainly a case for using an eye cream. Because while a regular face cream hydrate the area, it won’t be able to address the root cause of dark circles, like an eye treatment might.

mbg’s review process.

At mbg, high standards are earned–and there are no shortcuts. Our beauty editors stay up to date on the latest ingredient research and innovation. It’s a dynamic, continuously evolving space, and it’s important we look into the science so we can make informed choices about which formulas earn our stamp of approval (figuratively speaking).

Our high standards also come from testing products–many, many products. Our editors and writers rigorously test and research the products featured in our roundups to offer you the best, most informed recommendations. When we write reviews, you can trust we spend quality time with the formulas: We don’t simply rave about products we’ve slathered on the back of our hand. We endorse products we’ve tried and loved.

Learn more about our testing process and clean beauty standards here.

The takeaway.

Eye circles are a very common concern that can be caused by genetics or lifestyle factors. To help treat them, find an eye cream that has a targeted selection of ingredients that can get to the root cause of the problem. Want more tips on addressing fine lines in the area? Here’s our explainer on crow’s feet.

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