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Recently, a friend cornered me at a party to discuss an urgent matter: At the age of 26, she was developing fine lines under and around her eyes, and she had no idea what to do. “Is there an eye cream that will get rid of these?” she pleaded. As her friend, I felt obligated to tell her the truth: I didn’t much believe in the purported power of eye creams . . . and had therefore skimped on trying many at all throughout my career.
With the eye cream conversation still fresh in my mind, I made a concerted effort to study the creams that rolled across my desk thereafter. Many of them, I noticed, were spiked with retinol — an ingredient known as the gold standard in fine line reduction. This realization threw me into a spiral of self-doubt. (Had I been missing out on eye creams? Had I led my friend astray?) The answer to both is a resounding yes. Just as retinol can fade fine lines overall, retinol eye creams can smooth out the undereye area. And, because they’re specifically made for the thin, delicate skin there, there’s minimal risk of peeling. Below, seven of the best retinol eye creams.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
Pixi® Retinol Eye Cream ($22) may look precious, but it’s brimming with serious antiagers. Peptides support collagen, while retinol works to increase cell turnover and smooth fine lines over time. Caffeine provides a hit of instant gratification by deflating puffiness on contact. And that tiny tip? It dispenses just the right amount of product every time.
It’s the golden glint of the Kate Somerville® +Retinol Firming Eye Cream Treatment ($85) that initially catches the eye, but it's the user experience that gets you hooked. The cool golden applicator makes the task of applying eye cream much less task-like, and hyaluronic acid plumps fine lines on contact. Of course, the cream does contain retinol. But it also contains bio-retinol — a plant derived version — to minimize the risk of sensitivity.
Hot off the heels of the Glow Recipe® Avocado Sleeping Mask comes a new addition to the guac-adjacent family. Like the mask, this Avocado Melt® Retinol Eye Mask ($42) is comprised of nourishing avocado and hyaluronic acid. This eye cream is also spiked with skin-softening superhero, squalane, which mitigates potential retinol-induced dryness. And, while it’s technically an eye mask, this formula can also be used during the day — under SPF, of course.
La Roche-Posay® RedermicTM Eyes ($47) relies on a combination of retinol and caffeine to smooth and depuff, respectively. (Read about the benefit of caffeine eye creams and get your fix here.) While technically a cream, this formula somehow manages to evoke the coolness of a gel — which, for overtired eyes, is a real treat.
There’s a reason that RoC® Retinol Correxion® Eye Cream ($18) has maintained its status as drugstore superhero. It contains a healthy dose of retinol that’s clinically proven to deliver results over 12 weeks. For retinol first-timers, the brand also has a sensitive version. Both renditions are fragrance free and hypoallergenic.
If luxury were an eye cream, it might just be the Eve Lom® Time Retreat® Eye Treatment ($75). From the packaging to the application, the experience is nothing short of divine. The cream itself is exceptionally emollient, making it a must for dry undereyes. And, while retinol is the star ingredient, brightening vitamin C is a close second.
Sensitive skin types, listen up: The Olay Eyes® Pro-Retinol Eye Cream ($17) contains pro-retinol, a gentler form of the vitamin A derivative. However, this formula still steamrolls fine lines with the rest of ‘em. In clinical studies, people noticed improved elasticity and fewer fine lines within four weeks.
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