There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best, so our team of licensed dermatology providers reviews and assesses countless products on the market based on safety, efficacy, and accessibility criteria. So here, you’ll find eye creams that hold up to our rigorous standards.
Some may argue they’re unnecessary, but many who take eye cream products out of their skincare routine notice the difference. Dark circles deepen to purple, fine lines seem to get less fine—so an effective under eye-cream becomes a must-have. There’s a weird prestige associated with anti-aging creams. No one bats an eyelash at eye creams that cost $80 or more—but do you have to pay that much just for eye creams that work?
To help you get the most bang for your buck, we’re going to cover the top affordable eye creams and give you insight into what ingredients to look out for when choosing an eye cream.
Before we get into the top picks for drugstore eye creams, let’s look at what makes a great product. First, we want to find an eye cream with active ingredients, meaning they’re meant to target specific skincare concerns and help them improve. Next, we want to make sure the active ingredients have evidence-based benefits—meaning there is credible research showing they actually make an impact.
When we age, our skin’s collagen and elastic fibers naturally begin to break down, leading to crow’s feet, dark circles, and thinner skin.¹ Because the skin around your eyes is thinner than the rest of your face, you’ll want to look for a gentle formula specifically meant to be an eye cream. Also, try to pick one that targets your concerns. For instance, a product with caffeine may help improve under-eye puffiness.²
While some skincare products, like sunscreen, are intended to cover our whole body, eye creams are only meant for one small part of the skin—under and around the eyes. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to dish out tons of money on a smaller part of your skincare routine. The best eye cream is one that fits comfortably into your budget.
If you’re a long-time reader of the blog, you’re probably already familiar with the most irritating, acne-inducing, allergic-reaction-causing ingredient of all time: snake oil. Not the essential oil derived from snakes, but an expression that refers to ingredients that may be bad for your skin.
If you want to decipher the ingredients of your skincare products, you can use our support page to check for potentially pore-clogging ingredients. Be on the lookout for the following troublesome ingredients:
Alcohol Denat., a.k.a. Specially Denatured (SD) Alcohol (irritating)
Cocos Nucifera Oil, a.k.a. Coconut Oil (pore-clogging)
Ethylhexyl Palmitate (pore-clogging)
Fragrance (may cause irritation)
Isopropyl Myristate (pore-clogging and irritating)
Isopropyl Palmitate (pore-clogging)
Laureth-4 (pore-clogging and irritating)
If you have ultra-sensitive skin, you’ll likely want to avoid all of the above.
If you’re already using an eye cream with some of the above ingredients, it may be totally fine, so long as your skin reacts well to it. Some ingredients—like alcohol and fragrance—are nearly impossible to avoid completely. Keep in mind that the higher up an ingredient is on a list, the more of it is within the product.
At the core, eye creams are meant to be super hydrating moisturizers, although they can offer a range of skincare benefits. If your skin is getting enough watery love from your current creams or your body’s oil production, then there’s no reason to add another. Because eye creams come in such small sizes (usually a half-ounce), it’s easy to pack them with effective moisturizing ingredients, many of which are common, safe, and affordable.
Squalane is an emollient that helps reinforce the skin’s natural skin barrier. As a lipid, squalene occurs naturally in the skin, but our natural production of squalene tends to drop off as we age—this might be why it’s found in so many “anti-aging” eye creams. To reap the benefits of squalene, you can also try using The Rich Moisturizer.
Glycerin is a great moisturizing ingredient. As a humectant, it absorbs water from the atmosphere and deeper layers of skin. If you want to try other types of products with glycerin, check out The Cleanser and the Acne Cleanser.
Butylene glycol acts as a delivery agent and solvent that assists in absorbing other ingredients. It’s also a humectant, so it’s often found in products that are meant to be extra hydrating.
Hyaluronic acid (a.k.a. sodium hyaluronate) is a common moisturizing ingredient with a reputation for revitalizing skin. It has been shown to positively affect the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.
Moisturizers like The Moisturizer use hyaluronic acid to give your skin a quick boost of hydration.
Ceramide lipids occur naturally in the skin—similar to squalene. They’re great for dehydrated skin, as ceramides help your skin retain the water it needs to look and feel hydrated.
Caffeine, often in the form of green tea extract, is one of the best ingredients in eye creams for bags and puffiness. When caffeine is applied to the skin, it constricts the blood vessels, which helps reduce swelling and even skin tone.
Retinol is an over-the-counter anti-aging ingredient proven to be one of the most effective, which is why it’s often found in eye creams for wrinkles. Although prescription retinoids will likely give you better results, over-the-counter ingredients such as retinyl palmitate may improve the appearance of skin texture over time.
Aloe (a.k.a. aloe barbadensis leaf extract) is the coolest plant, well-known for its skin-soothing and skin-healing properties. It’s one of the oldest and most reliable skincare ingredients because of its multifaceted purposes and tendency to improve the appearance of acne and other kinds of skin inflammation.
Also, look out for vitamin C. One study found that vitamin C can help significantly treat pigmented skin associated with dark circles.³ It also can help promote collagen production and protect against UV-induced photodamage (which can include wrinkles).⁴
Below are some of the best drugstore eye creams for dark circles, wrinkles, and puffiness that sell for under $25. Here’s how they rank in terms of value:
$8.00, 0.68 oz ($11.76/oz)
Moisturizes skin with glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.
Contains some caffeine to fight dullness and dark circles.
But! Caffeine is also the last ingredient on the list, meaning it doesn’t have a very high concentration.
$20.99, 0.5 oz ($41.98/oz)
Contains ceramides (true to CeraVe form), as well as glycerin and hyaluronic acid to moisturize the skin. .
It also contains caffeine, which may improve puffiness.
A versatile eye cream that works well with many different skin types.
$14.00, 0.5 oz ($28 per ounce)
This formula contains 10% vitamin C to help target dark circles and photodamage and to stimulate collagen production.
It also hydrates with ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
As a bonus, this serum is fragrance-free, which may be a beneficial choice for the delicate skin around your eyes.
$10.99, 0.5 oz ($21.98 per ounce)
This product has an ultra-moisturizing formula with glycerin, squalane, and butylene glycol.
It also contains caffeine (in a decent concentration) to help improve dark circles and dull skin.
The most bang-for-your-buck eye cream, in our opinion!
$18.89, 0.5 oz ($37.78 per ounce)
It has an ultra-moisturizing formula with glycerin, squalane, and butylene glycol.
It also contains caffeine to help improve dark circles and dull skin.
For fans of J-beauty products, this is an affordable and effective addition to your collection.
$23.99, 0.7 oz ($34.27 per ounce)
Good for oily skin lids, with a lighter moisturizing formula featuring glycerin and squalane.
It also contains caffeine to help improve dark circles and dull skin.
Cruelty-free and fragrance-free.
$20.49, 0.5 oz ($40.98 per ounce)
Tends to work well for oily lids, with glycerine and aloe extract.
It contains caffeine (in the form of green tea) in a decently high concentration.
It also contains retinyl palmitate and vitamin C to help improve the appearance of wrinkles.
$18.00, 0.5 oz ($36/oz)
Richly moisturizing formula with glycerin and aloe.
If that wasn’t enough, it contains both hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate, which means this cream will either be doubly plumping or doubly disappointing.
Age-defying formula without retinol or caffeine (if you want to avoid those ingredients).
$6.00, 0.5 oz ($12/oz)
This vegan formula contains glycerin and butylene glycol. The latter is listed as the third ingredient, so the product should contain it in a high amount.
You’ll also get hyaluronic acid for hydration and caffeine to de-puff under-eye bags.
Let’s face it: We all grow up, and so does our skin. Everyone deals with signs of aging, like dark spots and wrinkles; growing older is a privilege. No matter how much money you drop on skincare, you can’t turn back the clock, but a simple skincare routine will help you restore, replenish, and improve the skin you’re in. With Curology, licensed dermatology providers will prescribe you a custom cream with ingredients proven to hone the glow. Claim your offer today for a consultation with a licensed dermatology provider and a personalized treatment plan.
It depends on your skincare concerns. Retinol is an over-the-counter anti-aging ingredient in eye creams that often helps treat under-eye wrinkles. It’s a strong exfoliant, but it can cause some irritation for sensitive skin and should typically be applied at night.
Vitamin C, on the other hand, targets dark under-eye circles and signs of photoaging. It also stimulates collagen production to help with wrinkles and fine lines. Unlike retinol, products with vitamin C should generally be applied in the morning.
Eye creams that contain active ingredients with evidence-based benefits can help target specific skincare concerns. A few examples of ingredients that may improve the appearance of your under-eye skin include:
Squalane (a version of squalene): An emollient that helps reinforce the skin’s natural skin barrier. As a lipid, squalene occurs naturally in the skin, but our natural production tends to drop off as we age—this might be why it’s found in so many “anti-aging” eye creams.
Hyaluronic acid (a.k.a. sodium hyaluronate): A common moisturizing ingredient with a reputation for revitalizing skin. It’s been shown to affect the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin elasticity positively.
Caffeine, often in the form of green tea extract: One of the best ingredients in eye creams for bags and puffiness. When caffeine is applied to the skin, it constricts the blood vessels, which helps reduce swelling and even skin tone.
While we’ve rounded up some of our top picks for affordable eye creams that contain effective ingredients, it’s best to get professional advice about your specific skincare concerns. To do so, consult a licensed dermatology provider, like those at Curology.
You can start using eye cream at any age to address specific concerns. Some, like puffiness, may not always be age-related. However, collagen production begins declining in early adulthood, so if you want a frame of reference, try starting eye cream usage in your early 20s.⁵
Pilkington, S. J., et al. The Tricky Tear Trough. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (2015, September).
Pilkington, S. J., et al. The Tricky Tear Trough. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.
Ahmed, N. A., et al. Treatment of periorbital dark circles: Comparative study of carboxy therapy vs chemical peeling vs mesotherapy. J Cosmet Dermatol. (2019, February).
Pullar, J. M., et al. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. (2017, August).
Reilly, D. M., et al. Skin collagen through the lifestages: importance for skin health and beauty. Plast Aesthet Res. (2021, January 8).
Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.
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Meredith Hartle, DO