The 15 Best Retinol Eye Creams, From Drugstore MVPs to Luxury Splurges

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Debating whether you need retinol in your skin-care routine? We’ll cut to the chase: If you want to reduce signs of aging by promoting new collagen production, then yes, you do. However, it’s not as simple as purchasing the first tube of retinol cream you see at the drugstore, slathering it on and calling it a day—especially when it comes to retinol eye cream. Allow us to explain with the help of our trio of skincare experts.

The Best Retinol Eye Creams At a Glance:

Meet the Experts:

  •  Dr. Gretchen Frieling is a board-certified dermatopathologist in Boston. Known as “Dr. G,” Frieling has over 13 years of experience as a leader in the aesthetic, dermatology and pathology fields. After graduating summa cum laude from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, Dr. Frieling completed medical school at The University of Florida College of Medicine and training in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital/Harvard Medical School. She then completed her dermatopathology fellowship at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Currently, she is a practicing dermatopathologist in Newton, Massachusetts.
  • Dr. Brendan Camp is double board-certified in dermatology and dermatopathology and sees patients at MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, which has locations throughout New York. Dr. Camp graduated with honors from Cornell University, earning a degree in biochemistry. As a medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, he participated in a one-year epidemiology fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia and completed his internship in internal medicine at the University of Chicago and later completed additional residency training in dermatology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He also completed a fellowship in dermatopathology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 2012.
  • Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, focuses on adult and pediatric medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology, and skin cancer treatment at Schweiger Dermatology Group. She graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts and Science. She earned her medical degree from the MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society, and completed her dermatology training at the Cooper University Hospital of UMDNJ, where she also served as Chief Resident of Dermatology.

First, Some Quick FAQs About Retinol Eye Creams

What Does Retinol Eye Cream Do?

The skin around the eyes is extremely delicate, so many eye creams contain unique ingredients—or ingredients at lower concentrations—to effectively treat the area without causing irritation. As Dr. Gretchen Frieling further explains:

“Retinols are a great choice for the under-eye area because they boost collagen production, which makes them ideal for smoothing existing fine lines and preventing new ones from forming,” says Frieling. "The area underneath the eyes is thinner and therefore more sensitive than the rest of the skin on your face, [so] you want to choose a retinol product designed specifically for the eyes, otherwise it could be too potent and lead to irritation and dryness."

How to Use Retinol Eye Cream

"Retinol eye creams work best when used consistently. These products should be used on a regular basis for at least 12 weeks before deciding if they are effective or not," says Camp.

OftenHow Often Should You Use Retinol Eye Cream?

"Ideally, it's best to carefully introduce retinol into your routine by starting with a twice weekly or every other night application for the first few weeks," adds Ilyas. "If it's well tolerated, you can gradually increase the frequency of use to every night."

If you experience irritation, Camp says it may imply that either the product you're using is too strong or you're using too much of it and too often. He recommends halting the use of the retinol eye cream in question until your skin is fully healed, and then reintroduce it into your regimen, using less of it this time and at a reduced frequency.

How Effective Is Retinol Eye Cream?

Dr. Camp pointes us to a recent article in the New York Times, which suggested that eye creams containing retinol or vitamin C are the most effective ingredients at addressing signs of aging. Again though, retinol is a long game, so don't expect overnight results; the effects are slow and cumulative.

How We Chose the Best Retinol Eye Creams

After speaking to all three derms, we took their top tips into consideration when searching for the best retinol eye creams on the market.

As Ilyas shares, "When shopping for an eye cream, you want to focus on the ingredients over the product claims. You also want to make sure that any active ingredients are balanced with other, soothing ones. For example, a product that has retinol in addition to other alpha hydroxy acids in it may trigger so much chemical exfoliation that it can be too irritating to see benefits. Sometimes excess dryness around the eyes can actually enhance the appearance of wrinkles, which is counterproductive. Instead, you want to look for additional ingredients that are moisturizing and hydrating, such as squalane and hyaluronic acid."

OK, ready to shop? Ahead, 15 of our favorite retinol eye creams proven to fight fine lines and wrinkles, including a few cherry-picked options from our experts.

Now, the Full Details on the Best Retinol Eye Creams

  • Best For: all skin types
  • What We Love: has a fast-absorbing consistency, also includes bakuchiol (aka nature's retinol)
  • What We Don't Love: a bit pricey for the size of the bottle

Younger-looking eyes, coming right up. Ferulic acid—an antioxidant found in plants—pairs with retinol in this cream to help protect against sun and environmental damage that can cause fine lines. It also uses a blend of acids and collagen to help brighten and lighten dark spots.

Best for Nighttime Use

2. Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Eye Cream


  • Best For: the retinol newbie
  • What We Love: lightweight texture, hydrating formula
  • What We Don't Love: may not be suitable for daytime use

Olay’s Regenerist Retinol24 formula uses a proprietary blend of Retinoid Complex paired with vitamin B3 to create an OTC retinoid product that’s not only effective, but also provides 24-hour moisture. The formula penetrates deeply into the skin’s surface to visibly smooth fine lines, but is also lightweight and free of fragrance and synthetic dyes. Just don’t forget to apply sunscreen in the morning.

  • Best For: sensitive skin
  • What We Love: includes calming ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, aloe and ceramides
  • What We Don't Love: can be drying for some

This formula ensures that you’ll look like you had a full eight hours of sleep (even if it was only five). Aside from the retinol, it contains three kinds of hyaluronic acid that both hydrate and plump fine lines, plus finely milled pearl extract that delivers a subtle luminosity. Each of those ingredients work together to create the perfect base over which to apply foundation and concealer. Again, just make sure you’re wearing sunscreen anytime you use a retinoid during the day.

  • Best For: dry skin
  • What We Love: features encapsulated retinol, avocado and coffeeberry, is ophthalmologist and dermatologist tested
  • What We Don't Love: can be difficult to get out of the container when the jar is nearly empty

Rather than straight-up retinol, this product uses an encapsulation process that allows the retinol to release in smaller amounts at a time, making it less likely to cause irritation. Still, you reap similar line-fighting benefits, and there’s also nutrient-dense avocado to add a lot of hydration and nourishment. Sensitive skin types will appreciate that it’s free of parabens, mineral oil, sulfates, silicones, phthalates, alcohol, synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrance and is Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free.

  • Best For: all skin types
  • What We Love: hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, well-priced for what you get
  • What We Don't Love: sometimes too much product comes out when you squeeze the tube

Checks all the boxes in one fell swoop. It’s packed with enough retinol to zap fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin and even puffiness without an astronomical price tag. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, so it won’t disrupt the skin’s barrier or cause irritation. Dermatologists tested it and saw noticeable fading of crow’s feet in 12 weeks.

Budget Buy

6. The Inkey List Retinol Eye Cream

The Inkey List

  • Best For: combination skin
  • What We Love: stabilized, slow-release retinoid formula designed to prevent irritation
  • What We Don't Love: not as hydrating as some formulas

Generally speaking, any type of retinol product can skew a bit on the pricier side—even many of the drugstore options may be more than you’d expect. Happily, this rings in at less than lunch. It uses a slow-release retinol compound to help minimize irritation, and we also appreciate the pointed applicator, which makes it easy to dispense a tiny amount. (Less is always more when it comes to retinol.)

For the retinol regular

7. Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum


  • Best For: mature skin
  • What We Love: ophthalmologist tested, contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin and minimize dryness
  • What We Don't Love: on the pricier side

This Murad formula takes retinol seriously and actually contains three forms of it: a fast-acting retinoid, a time-released retinol and a retinol booster to help fight lines and deep wrinkles. There’s also a marine kelp complex that firms, lifts and brightens dark circles. Meanwhile, squalane soothes skin and glycerin moisturizes.

  • Best For: all skin types
  • What We Love: great for shorter trips
  • What We Don't Love: on the pricier side

A slippery slope because of the price tag, but these stretchable, super-concentrated under-eye patches deliver a targeted, potent dose of retinol right where you stick them. After just a few uses you should notice a difference in your fine lines and undereye circles, and with consistent use, the area will continue to look smoother and brighter.

Easiest Application

9. Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick

Peace Out

  • Best For: all skin types
  • What We Love: easy to pack in any bag, mess-free application, has an angled tip
  • What We Don't Love: n/a

This travel-friendly eye balm comes in a handy stick and is loaded with encapsulated retinol, peptides and bakuchiol to help target fine lines and dark circles around the eyes. To use it, simply twist the product up (like you would your favorite lipstick) and swipe it on underneath your eyes and onto your eyelids. As our commerce editor, Olivia Dubyak raves: "You won’t need to wash off any excess product in the a.m. because your skin will drink this stuff up."

The Pregnancy-Safe Option

10. Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Crème

Ole Henriksen

  • Best For: expecting and nursing mothers
  • What We Love: uses bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to retinol (which shouldn't be used during pregnancy)
  • What We Don't Love: might be too gentle for experienced retinol users

This gentle formula gradually improves the firmness and elasticity of the skin around your eyes, thanks to a blend of bakuchiol, peptides and orchid stem cells. According to multiple reviewers, it has a lightweight texture that absorbs quickly with a few pats and it doesn't settle into fine lines—even when you apply makeup over it. In fact, some even compare the eye cream to a primer in terms of its consistency and say it's a solid prep step before your concealer.

  • Best For: those with puffy eyes and/or dark circles
  • What We Love: has a refreshing gel texture
  • What We Don't Love: pricey for the size

Dr. Camp is a fan of La Roche-Posay's retinol eye cream because, "In addition to retinol, it contains caffeine to reduce
puffiness and thermal spring water with antioxidant properties, which can be soothing for those with easily irritated skin." We appreciate its cooling gel texture and the fact that the formula is non-comedogenic, dermatologist-, ophthalmologist- and allergy tested (aka friendly to contact lens wearers and the breakout prone).

  • Best For: puffy eyes
  • What We Love: refreshing gel texture and a cooling metal tip applicator
  • What We Don't Love: product sometimes gets stuck in the cap

Engineered with what the brand calls their "Optimized Surface Release Retinol," this eye cream works to improve the appearance of volume, texture and depth of wrinkles around the eyes over time. Squeeze a little product out and use the cooling metal tip to gently glide the cream underneath your eyes. This feels especially nice during allergy season or on those mornings when you wake up with extra puffy eyes.

  • Best For: all skin types
  • What We Love: non-sticky gel texture and features a cooling ceramic tip applicator
  • What We Don't Love: might be too strong for retinol newbies

This potent eye serum is packed with a 6 percent retinoid complex and centella asiatica to support natural collagen production, which helps to plump up fine lines over time. It also features ceramides, olive oil and shea butter to hydrate the undereye skin while you sleep. That said, it is a stronger formula than some others on this list, so you may want to ease into using it. As one Sephora reviewer shares, "I don’t have sensitive skin but if you do, you should only use it every other night to avoid flakiness and redness."

  • Best For: dry or mature skin
  • What We Love: very emollient, features five kinds of ceramides and vitamin C
  • What We Don't Love: might be too heavy for those with oily skin

If you have parched skin, this emollient pick might be just the thing for you. Rich and impossibly creamy, this velvety formula is intensely hydrating, thanks to its blend of not one or two, but five (!) concentrated ceramides, along with retinol to tackle fine lines, vitamin C for dark circles and two skin-firming peptides to round things out.

  • Best For: all skin types
  • What We Love: gentle formula, has a cooling ceramic tip applicator
  • What We Don't Love:

It's no secret that we love ILIA's eye cream. The cushiony formula delivers the myriad benefits of retinol without actually using retinol or its derivatives  (like retinoic acid, tretinoin, retinyl palmitate, retinyl linoleate and retinyl acetate). Instead, the lightweight cream uses plant-based, vegan ingredients that refresh the under-eyes, reducing dark circles and puffiness with continued use. The squeeze tube design also features a cooling ceramic tip that you can use to massage the product into the skin. As our assistant sales and deals editor, Destinee Scott, tells us: "I used it for a couple of days while I was on bed rest, and it made my under-eyes look and feel less tired from the inside out, so I could FaceTime without scaring people."

Why You Should Trust Us

Angela Pares is the VP of Branded Content at Gallery Media Group, where she overseas the ideation and execution of sponsored content campaigns across PureWow, ONE37pm and GMG’s social platforms. Angela began her career in copywriting and fashion editorial before joining PureWow as an Editorial Assistant in 2012. Since then she has written and edited countless articles and helped produce some of GMG’s top performing content. She lives outside Boston with her husband and 2-year-old.

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director (and resident skincare expert) who is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of the latest beauty products, trends and ingredients over the last 10 years. Equally comfortable in front of the camera as she is behind a computer screen, she always aims to deliver information that's educational, entertaining and accessible to all. On that note, please subscribe to Youngish, her weekly beauty newsletter for millennials here or find her on Instagram (where she will happily reply to any DMs regarding nail polish, sunscreen and K-Pop sensation, BTS).

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VP, Design + Branded Content

Angela Pares is the VP of Design + Branded Content at Gallery Media Group, where she oversees the ideation and execution of sponsored content campaigns across PureWow, ONE37pm and...

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...