A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist U.S.
Because the skin under our eyes is the most delicate on our entire bodies, it’s an area that often needs special attention no matter your age. There are bags, puffiness, and dark circles to contend with, in addition to those fine lines and wrinkles. But that’s what eye cream is for: It’s a highly concentrated form of moisturiser, powered with ingredients like retinol and hyaluronic acid, to help address these issues. The formulas are often pricey — you can spend well over fifty pounds for one at somewhere like Cult Beauty, but, according to ten experts we spoke to (including three aestheticians and four dermatologists), you don’t have to. Most eye creams our experts recommended for this list can be found at your local Boots or Superdrug. All will brighten, hydrate, and smooth — and most will cost you less than £30.
Best drugstore eye cream for dark circles
If you’re dealing with raccoon eyes, Dr. Noelani Gonzalez, a dermatology specialist at Mount Sinai Health System, recommends this option from La Roche Posay. “This cream has caffeine, which helps constrict blood vessels and diminish the appearance of dark under-eye circles,” she explains. The caffeine works almost immediately to reduce the appearance of dark circles for the day. According to celebrity aesthetician Jordan Mattioli, the best general application method is to dab a few dots of cream under the eye and tap it in gently to avoid pulling or tugging on the skin. “Apply to the area under the eye and the sides of the eye but avoid your upper eyelid,” she adds.
Best drugstore eye cream for sensitive skin
“This is a fragrance-free eye cream loaded with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide — a great combination of ingredients to treat signs of aging, even on those with extremely sensitive skin,” says Mattioli. Dr. Karen Hammerman of Schweiger Dermatology Group agrees and adds that not only are those ingredients extremely gentle for people with sensitive skin but they also “restore and maintain the skin’s natural protective barrier and help to keep the eye area hydrated and smooth.” Plus, the formula is nongreasy and noncomedogenic — meaning it won’t clog your pores — making it a good bet for those with oily or acne-prone skin, too.
Best (more expensive) drugstore eye cream for sensitive skin
Puffiness can be genetic, caused by dietary factors — an excess of salt has often been linked to puffiness all over the body — or it can be part of an inflammatory response from sensitive skin or allergy season. “Sometimes, using an eye cream that’s too heavy can cause puffiness, so I always recommend Toleriane Ultra Eye Cream from La Roche-Posay as a tiny amount around the eyes is perfectly hydrating and can help to soothe eyes suffering in the heat or due to allergies”, said consultant dermatologist Hiva Fassihi. Also good for eczema sufferers, it has the seal of approval from Allergy UK and has a calming ingredient called neurosensine as well as thermal spring water to soothe irritated, sore eyes.
Best illuminating drugstore eye cream
Medical aesthetician Sofie Pavitt, who counts our columnist Rio Viera-Newton as one of her clients, loves this brightening eye cream from classic drugstore brand Olay. She calls it “a great textured eye cream” that moisturises and smooths under-eye skin. But what sets it apart is its peachy tint, which helps to colour correct and brighten dark circles, both neutralising the dark shadows and providing an illuminating effect. It also acts as a good base to use under your usual concealer.
Best moisturising drugstore eye cream
For those who have extremely dry under-eye skin, Gonzalez suggests this gel-textured eye cream from Neutrogena, which is chock-full of hyaluronic acid, “a molecule which absorbs 1,000 times its weight in water and helps hydrate and plump the skin around the eyes.” If you want the same plumping formula, but with the additional anti-aging power of retinol, Dr. Morgan Rabach, a dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC, also loves Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair Under Eye Cream.
Best drugstore eye cream for under-eye bags
You know them when you see them: Those folds of puffy skin met by shadowy discolouration that we call “bags.” Generally, under-eye bags are caused by fluid retention, as well as the skin sagging and losing it’s natural elasticity over time. Sometimes they appear after a late night; some of us are born with them. In either case, Hada Labo Tokyo Age Correcting Eye Cream is full of caffeine to help tighten them up. Hada Labo is also unique for its use of super hyaluronic acid, which, according to master aesthetician Joomee Song, contains twice the moisture retention capacity of regular hyaluronic acid. Those ingredients combined help to hydrate, restrict blood vessels, retain moisture, restore radiance, and lessen dark circles, she says, which in turn will help reduce the appearance of “bags.” The texture is also superlight, so you can reapply throughout the day without having to worry about ruining your makeup, she promises. However, if your eye bags are pretty much constant — which can happen as you age — they are likely the result of a drooping fat pad under the eye. If this is the case, an in-office procedure is your best bet to fixing them permanently.
Best brightening eye cream
This brightening eye cream, which we’ve written about before, has been advocated for by influencers and makeup artists such as Nam Vo, Nikita Baffour, and Dana Alexia. What makes the eye cream special is the tint: It’s a sort of orangey-yellow hue and operates on the same principle as “banana powder,” which is a yellow powder makeup artists have long used to cancel out greyness and sallowness under the eyes. It contains vitamin E, glycerin, and vegetable collagen, which all add great surface hydration (which in turn helps smooth the appearance of fine lines), and it also has a small amount of vitamin C to help brighten the area.
As the skin is so much thinner and more delicate, the eye area is often the first to show signs of aging. “I love SkinCeuticals AOX+ Eye Gel,” said beauty journalist Ateh Jewel. “I love the light gel texture of this eye serum. I have combination skin, but I still want a product which packs an anti aging punch, and that can be hard to find, especially for darker skin tones which tend to be oilier. The nourishing blend of 5 percent Vitamin C, phloretin, and ferulic acid (two antioxidants) makes a noticeable difference when it comes to my fine lines and firmness.” The light serum also includes caffeine to help brighten the eye area and diminish the appearance of dark circles.
Veteran beauty writer Linda Dyett told us this seaweed eye cream is one of her favourite products to use at night. “It does an amazingly good job at keeping that lid skin dewy, maybe because it contains what may be an ideal blend of soothing, gel-like seaweed extract, cucumber extract (high in water content), and neem-leaf extract (a hydration booster),” Dyett wrote. “With this one, I wake up with eyelids that don’t scare me when I touch them.”
While retinoids are often thought of as being irritating due to their potency, the right one in an eye cream can help with everything from fine lines to dark circles. Consultant dermatologist Dr. Mahto said she personally used Murad Retinol Eye Cream, which uses less aggressive retinol esters. “This area is so delicate, but I can use the Murad Retinol Eye Cream every night. It gives lots of the benefits of retinol, so fine line reduction and cell turnover without being too harsh.” The cream has a light texture, closer to a serum than a rich cream, and is suitable for the whole eye area, including the brow bone. It also has marine kelp extract to add lasting hydration.
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