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Dark circles, which can range from shadowy to almost bruise-like, may be one of the toughest things to address with skin care. But depending on the cause (more on that if you keep scrolling), a brightening eye cream may be able to help, at least in the short term. With ingredients like vitamin C and niacinamide, they put the focus on awakening and energizing the eye area, and many have refreshing properties too.
We tapped dermatologist Gloria Lin at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City to share the eye creams she recommends for dark circles, plus shared a few Bazaar-approved products. Keep reading for a brighter future—at least when it comes to your under-eyes.
D.E.J Eye Cream
Revision Skincare channeled their best-selling D.E.J Serum into an eye cream, which shares its beloved anti-aging benefits. It uses an amino acid copper complex and ingredients like goji fruit extract to brighten skin while reducing fine lines and deeper set wrinkles.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "The only eye cream I have ever found to effectively improve small lines under my eyes. I naturally have dry skin, especially under my eyes. This cream not only locks in moisture all day, it also prevents cracking of my makeup." —Linda
Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Under Eye Cream
Lin says this "excellent" drugstore formula is "formulated with retinol, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin to help with dark circles and fine lines and wrinkles." However, she notes that "It may not be suitable for those with more sensitive skin though since the retinol can be irritating, and it increases the risk of a sunburn."
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I have always struggled with dark bags under my eyes and now that I am in my late 30s, its gotten really bad and nothing has helped, until I found this! I wish taken before and afters because this has drastically made a difference with my bags!" —Christy
Redermic R Eyes Retinol Eye Cream
Lin also likes this option from La Roche-Posay, which contains niacinamide, caffeine, and thermal spring water to help with dark circles, puffiness, and promote hydration.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "This stuff is seriously amazing. I saw visible (and lasting) results quickly. I've always had dark circles under my eyes (and those little dots) and they are all diminished. I also have a slight keloid scar under one eye that is really only noticeable to me and even that has gone down significantly."
Eye Repair Cream
The derm recommends this inexpensive eye cream from CeraVe for those with sensitive skin, as it's hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic. "It contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and a 'Marine and Botanical Complex' that is meant to hydrate and reduce dark circles and puffiness," she explains.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I love this eye cream! My eye area is much brighter within just a couple of weeks! I will forever be a happy customer" —madaly
C-Tango Vitamin C Eye Cream
Another one on Lin's short list, this highly rated option from Drunk Elephant "contains peptides, ceramides, vitamin E, and cucumber extract to help hydrate the area and improve discoloration," says the derm, who adds that it also vegan and cruelty-free.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "Finally an eye cream that works. I have genetic dark circles and I get bags and puffiness sometimes. This eye cream has not irritated me one bit and it’s been once month since using. Every day I see results. My skin type is dry and combo if this helps." —auraqz
A.G.E. Eye Complex
Naturally, derm-beloved brand Skinceuticals also makes Lin's list. It may be pricey, but she notes it "can be helpful for dark circles and puffiness with its antioxidant-packed formula with blueberry extracts and peptides."
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I’ve recently started using this and can see results already. Also the price may give sticker shock—a little goes a long way and know this jar will last a while!" —Michelle
K-Ox Under-Eye Brightening Cream
The ceramic applicator on this option may be the initial draw, but what's inside is just as great. "It contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin K to decrease dark circles and puffiness," explains Lin. Plus, "The ceramic application can offer a cooling effect that may also help with any swelling."
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "K-Ox Eyes is the first product for eyes that works for me. I can actually see an improvement under my eyes. I am 75 years old. Through the years I have tried most products on the market. This one is the only one that actually improves the texture of the skin under my eyes. " —Haydee
Bright Start Retinol Alternative Eye Cream
Ilia Bright Start Activated Eye Cream has a cooling ceramic tip that doubles as a relaxing massage tool to reduce puffiness and dark circles. Did we mention it also happens to be a 2023 Bazaar Skincare Award winner?
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I tried the Ilia retinol eye cream and I really liked it, it goes smoothly on the skin, it leaves the skin brightening and looking beautiful, it seems like it's glittery but is very settled. The skin looks beautiful after you put it on."—Mayra
The Return Eye Concentrate
This eye cream from U Beauty goes beyond just moisturizing by addressing discoloration, dark circles, stagnant water, and lines and wrinkles. Our beauty director, mother of a sleep-fighting one-year-old, says this is the only eye cream she's ever used that really works.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "This eye cream is advertised as being specifically formulated to target signs of aging around the eyes, and I definitely noticed some improvements after using it for a few weeks. The cream itself is thick and creamy, but not greasy or heavy, and it absorbs quickly into the skin.After using it consistently, I've noticed that my under-eye area looks brighter and more hydrated, and the fine lines around my eyes are definitely less noticeable." —Melissa
Super Nova 5% THD Vitamin C + Caffeine Brightening Eye Cream
In addition to having a substantial amount of skin-awakening vitamin C and caffeine, this creamy formula also acts as a fantastic base under concealer.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "Wow! Ok Herbivore! You really have impressed me with this eye cream. I woke up looking rough and tired. I applied this eye cream for the first time and the results blew me away! Bright, hydrated, and awake looking under eyes!" —Lollikitten
Guava Vitamin C Bright-Eye Gel Cream
Spiked with guava, vitamin C, and green caffeine, this gel-cream is a fan favorite (we're talking number-one-selling eye cream at Sephora fan favorite, as of September 2022).
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I’ll be honest, when I first started using this in my skincare routine, I didn’t see any impact or change. But over the past month, my dark circles and eye bags under my eyes look so much brighter!" —emmagschultz
Thicc N Smooth Rich Peptide Eye Cream
The name doesn't lie. With polyglutamic acid, baobab oil, and illipe butter, it's ultra-nourishing for dry skin and still offers brightening benefits.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "This is my new favorite eye cream! It is so thick and hydrating, wears well under makeup, and makes my dry skin so happy! The packaging is fun and different than any other eye cream I’ve used." —genuinejulia
Pro-Collagen Vitality Eye Cream
Beauty editors love Elemis, but we can't keep this one to ourselves. The non-greasy, multitasking formula isn't cheap, but it may just help prolong a derm appointment.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "To be honest wasn’t sure it was any different from other eye creams I’ve used but decided to persevere with it and started to notice a difference. The skin under my eyes looked more hydrated and dark circles faded and skin softer " —Lynn
Superhue Brightening Eye Cream
This new eye cream from Live Tinted has a cooling metal applicator to instantly help with depuffing. But it's the Hyperpigmentation Triple Complex—a blend of vitamin C, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid—that will keep your undereyes looking happy.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I'm South Asian so happy to see us represented in the beauty space! It's no surprise that this product made my under eyes bright and glowy! I love the applicator, it was easy to use and cooling. I couldn't stop looking at my eyes, they look great after putting this on. I don't even need concealer most days!" —Tara
Vitamin C + Peptide 24 Eye Cream
Lightweight and refreshing, this cream can be used in the morning for an eye-energizing wake-up call, or at night to keep the brightening power going.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "This product really brightened my skin and left it feeling nice and smooth. Was easy to use under foundation. Very hydrating." —Melissa
Vinoperfect Dark Circle Brightening Eye Cream with Niacinamide
Caudalie fans know all about Viniferine, the brand's patented grape extract—and it's a key ingredient, along with niacinamide and caffeine, in this new formula.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I'm absolutely loving this Vinoperfect dark circle brightening eye cream. I've been using it for about a month now, morning and night. It is very moisturizing and brightening around the eye area. My favorite part is the applicator, it is the perfect size and shape for exactly where you need it, and it always feels so cooling and nice, it's like a bonus eye massage with every application!" —mjc419
Brightwave Vitamin C Brightening + Energizing Eye Cream
This creamsicle-colored formula is great under makeup, but is also rich enough to use at night.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "There is so much about this eye cream that I absolutely love. First, I used to get dry around my under eyes and on the inner part of my eye lid. Since using this eye cream it's like the skin has had a makeover—zero issues with dryness. Its creamy, pudding-like texture is a dream and the slight orange hue cancels out my dark circles. It's a freakin dream." —Lauren
Brighten-i Eye Cream
If you like instant gratification, this inexpensive eye cream contains one percent mica to illuminate the undereyes right away. Plus, it also contains ingredients that will work to brighten the skin over time.
What the Reviewers Are Saying: "I got this in late December and have been using it every night after taking my make up off ever since. (It’s April.) If you have hereditary eye bags this works so well. I’ve noticed my eyes getting lighter and I feel like I don’t have to wear as much concealer!" —haydenjones
What causes dark circles?
In some cases, they are simply genetic. But others are from outside and behavioral factors. “Lack of sleep, dehydration, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and poor nutrition are all potential causes of dark circles,” Lin says, though she adds that underlying medical conditions like anemia or vitamin deficiencies can also contribute. They also tend to get more pronounced with age.
“The natural aging process causes volume loss over time, particularly in the area underneath the eye. As the eyelid skin tends to be thinner, it is easier to see the vasculature underneath when this loss of volume occurs, making the area appear darker,” explains the derm. Allergies are another culprit, as are other skin concerns. “Other dermatologic conditions like contact dermatitis can cause inflammation in the area leading to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which will also appear as dark circles,” she notes.
Can an eye cream actually help improve dark circles?
“The effectiveness of eye creams may depend on the underlying cause of the dark circles,” Lin adds. “For some people, lifestyle modifications like adequate sleep, hydration, and healthy diet, along with treatment of any underlying medical conditions, may be the first step in the treatment plan.”
But we know the reason you’re here is because you are looking for a quick fix, which an eye cream likely won’t provide. “The eye creams may not lead to instant results, so consistent use may be required to see these more long term benefits,” she says. There are different formulas or ingredients that can address pigmentation, general puffiness, and the standard aging process. If that’s the case, then “Brightening creams with ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid, and niacinamide may be helpful,” says Lin. “If the dark circles are due to underlying swelling or puffiness, then consider creams with caffeine or vitamin K instead.” And finally, “For those who are experiencing more age-related changes, then the addition of retinol can help boost collagen production.”
Meet the Experts
Gloria Lin, M.D., M.S., F.A.A.D is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
Why trust Harper's Bazaar?
For more than 150 years, Harper’s Bazaar has been the preeminent fashion and beauty resource for women at every age. We cover what’s new and what’s next in beauty by working with the world’s leading authorities in dermatology, plastic surgery, cosmetics, skincare, haircare, and fragrance. Every story we publish has been thoroughly researched and vetted by our team of beauty editors and industry experts.
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