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The best retinol eye creams

Learn how to find the right anti-aging products for your unique skincare needs.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Mar 1, 2024 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
Retinol Eye Cream
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Mar 1, 2024 • 8 min read
Medically reviewed by Elise Griffin, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What is retinol?
More

We all have different skincare goals and needs, but if we want to maintain a healthy, vibrant look, a good skincare routine is vital. And as facial skin is thinner compared to other areas of the body,¹ the signs of aging may appear there more easily than elsewhere.

There are many factors to consider when aging, such as collagen production, which decreases with age.² This is especially true around the eyes, where the signs of aging often first appear.³ If you’re looking for eye cream recommendations as a part of your skincare routine, you have come to the right place! Here, we’ll explain what you need to know about retinol eye creams, how they might benefit your skin, and which product options available now we recommend.

What is retinol?

Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that increase cell turnover, protect collagen from breaking down, and help slow the aging process of the skin. Some types of retinoids are only available with prescriptions; however, over-the-counter retinoids such as retinol are accessible, affordable, and may be a good addition to your skincare routine.

Your dermatologist may opt to prescribe retinoids, or you can try over-the-counter options to see which type of retinoid is best for you. Their names may be confusing, but retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid are all derivatives of vitamin A.⁴

The role of retinol in skincare

So how exactly does retinol work as an effective eye cream? Retinol can increase natural collagen production in the skin, which in turn smoothens the skin and evens the skin tone, especially in the case of photoaging.⁵ The face, neck, and hands are especially prone to photoaging as these areas are more exposed to the sun.⁶ A prescription retinoid, tretinoin, has been shown to be effective for the long-term treatment of photoaging.⁷

Do you need retinol?

The short answer may be yes, if it aligns with your skin concerns and goals. Wrinkles are caused by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which can contribute to the appearance of crow’s feet around the eyes. Intrinsic factors of aging are inevitable and natural and occur over time. These include changes in hormones, natural aging, and the presence of other diseases. Extrinsic factors may be somewhat controlled to different degrees and include exposure to pollution, cigarette smoking, diet, sleeping position, repetitive muscle movements, and exposure to UV light.⁸ Retinol, vitamins C and E, and phytonadione have been shown to reduce wrinkles and dark circles around the eyes when applied for at least 8 weeks.⁹

Skincare goals vary and it’s important to find skincare products that work for your unique skin needs. Personalized skincare can help you address your specific skin concerns and achieve healthy skin.

How retinol works for aging

Retinol increases keratinocytes proliferation, reduces water loss, and slows down the rate of degradation of collagen, resulting in smoother skin with fewer fine lines.¹⁰

Retinols are a mainstay of treatment for reducing signs of photoaging. The key to treating the signs of aging is by preventing the degradation of collagen and elastin, since these factors contribute to the formation of wrinkles.¹¹ Retinol does all of this and more. It can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, even out pigmentation, and smooth the surface of the skin. OTC retinol is generally less irritating than prescription tretinoin.¹²

So, how can you incorporate retinol into your skincare routine? Read on to find out if retinol is for you.

How can I enjoy the benefits of retinol eye cream?

When choosing the best eye cream, patience and research are key.

Choosing the right retinol eye cream is as important as using it regularly. Are you more concerned about fine lines, puffiness, or discoloration? Or a combination of all three?

Treating fine lines and wrinkles necessitates tackling the three most important factors in skin aging: collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid.¹³ Aging skin has been shown to have decreased levels of hyaluronic acid. The decreased levels contribute to the separation with collagen and elastin, resulting in reduced turgidity and wrinkling.¹⁴

On the other hand, banishing dark eye circles (also known as periorbital or periocular hyperpigmentation) may require additional ingredients or treatment options. To address this concern, it is important to identify and treat the underlying cause of the hyperpigmentation and any contributing factors. Topical treatments include retinoids, vitamin C, kojic acid, azelaic acid, and hydroquinone.¹⁵ Vitamin C is an antioxidant that’s been shown to treat hyperpigmentation, including the eye area.¹⁶ When applied around the eyes, niacinamide has been shown to not only improve fine lines and skin texture, but also reduce hyperpigmentation.¹⁷ Licorice may potentially brighten the skin and is being incorporated into topical products for this benefit.¹⁸

If your concern is puffiness, look for a retinol eye cream that contains caffeine because it may help reduce this.¹⁹ After you’ve selected your products, do a patch test first and observe for any itchiness. A red, itchy reaction might mean an allergic reaction to the product.

The top two retinol eye creams

  1. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum: This serum is quickly absorbed and uses the phyto-retinol blend to address skin aging in three ways: reducing wrinkles, boosting hydration, and firming skin.

  2. Neostrata Comprehensive Retinol Eye Cream: This retinol eye cream is packed with retinol, NeoGlucosamine, and peptides, which are all potent ingredients that help fight the appearance of eye wrinkles and discoloration.

How do I choose which type of retinol is right for me?

Choosing which type of retinol eye cream is best for you may seem like a daunting task, especially since there are countless brands and formulas to choose from. So let’s break it down step by step.

First, assess which skin type you have. Do you have dry skin? Sensitive skin? Oily skin or perhaps combination skin? Determining your skin type may be helpful for finding the right retinol eye cream for you. Next, you need to determine if your skin is easily reactive or not because you may not be able to use certain products due to their ingredients.

Remember to do a patch test before using any product to determine if it will trigger an allergic reaction. Closely observe the area where you apply the cream. Check for any puffiness, redness, peeling, and irritation.

Last, you should consult a dermatology provider for skin concerns that you may have. It can take several trials before you find the retinol eye cream that’s best for you.

Ready for optimized skincare?

Retinol eye creams are safe, effective, and affordable solutions to wrinkles around the face, especially the eyes. Fortunately, retinol eye creams are widely available, and choosing which one works for you is the first step towards integrating it into your skincare routine.

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FAQs

What is the best eye cream in 2023?

The best eye creams are products that contain other ingredients as well, to deliver a more powerful effect on your skin. These may include vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, kojic acid, and caffeine.

Is eye cream with retinol good?

Yes. Retinol addresses discoloration and crow’s feet and wrinkles. It is a proven treatment for fine lines around the sensitive eye area.

What is retinol?

Retinol is a type of compound that enhances skin cell turnover, making it an ideal treatment for a range of skin issues.

Is retinol eye cream better than vitamin C eye cream?

Retinol is typically used for fine lines and wrinkles whereas vitamin C is generally used to smoothen and brighten the skin’s appearance.

How long does retinol take to work under the eyes?

It can take several weeks or months of use before you start seeing the effects of retinol. In addition, your skin may look worse before it gets better so it’s important to start slowly and increase the dose gradually. 

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don't have to:

  1. Tagami, H. Location-related differences in structure and function of the stratum corneum with special emphasis on those of the facial skin. Int J Cosmet Sci. (December 2008).

  2. Zhao, X., et al. Collagen peptides and the related synthetic peptides: A review on improving skin health. Journal of Functional Foods. (November 2021).

  3. Kaczvinsky, J.R., et al. Efficacy of anti-aging products for periorbital wrinkles as measured by 3-D imaging. J Cosmet Dermatol. (September 2009).

  4. Zasada, M. and Budzisz, E. Retinoids: Active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postępy Dermatol Alergol. (2019, August 30).

  5. Zasada, M. and Budzisz, E. Retinoids: Active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postępy Dermatol Alergol. Ibid.

  6. Rabe, J.H., et al. Photoaging: Mechanisms and repair. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (July 2006).

  7. Sitohang, I.B.S., et al. Topical tretinoin for treating photoaging: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Int J Womens Dermatol. (2022, March 25).

  8. Farage, M.A., et al. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors in skin ageing: a review. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. (2008, n.d.).

  9. Mitsuishi, T., et al. The effects of topical application of phytonadione, retinol and vitamins C and E on infraorbital dark circles and wrinkles of the lower eyelids. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (June 2004).

  10. Zasada, M. and Budzisz, E. Retinoids: Active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postępy Dermatol Alergol. Ibid.

  11. Ganceviciene, R., et al. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. (2012, July 1).

  12. Mukherjee, S. et al. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical Interventions in Aging. (2022, October 18).

  13. Baumann, L. Skin ageing and its treatment. The Journal of Pathology. (2007, January 2).

  14. Baumann, L. Skin ageing and its treatment. The Journal of Pathology. Ibid.

  15. Sarkar, R., et al. Periorbital Hyperpigmentation: A Comprehensive Review. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (2016, January 1).

  16. Sarkar, R., et al. Periorbital Hyperpigmentation: A Comprehensive Review. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  17. Pilkington, S.J., et al. The Tricky Tear Trough. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (September 2015).

  18. Ciganović, P. et al. Glycerolic Licorice Extracts as Active Cosmeceutical Ingredients: Extraction Optimization, Chemical Characterization, and Biological Activity. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland). (2019, October 1).

  19. Vrcek, I., et al. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. (April-June 2016).

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary. Restrictions apply. See website for full details and important safety information.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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