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12 Best Retinol Eye Creams for Dark Circles, Bags and Wrinkles

Brighten undereyes with these anti-aging formulas that actually work.

a graphic of the best retinol eye creams as picked by the good housekeeping institute, including retinol eye cream from garnier, no7, roc and skinbetter science
Good Housekeeping

As dermatologist's gold standard anti-aging skincare ingredient, retinol is sought after for its myriad benefits like smoothing, firming, brightening and more. Plus, it has the proven studies to back it up; Research has found that retinol can help decrease the appearance of dark circles and stimulate collagen and elastin production to reduce the appearance of lines. Here's the caveat: The notoriously tricky vitamin A derivative can be strong and cause irritation, so not all retinol creams are safe around the eyes. But thanks to recent advancements in skincare technology, there are now retinol eye creams made specifically for those delicate areas.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab regularly tests skincare products, both evaluating them in Lab and with consumer testers. In our quest to find the best eye creams with retinol, we assessed samples for efficacy using technical instruments in our Lab. Our panel of consumer testers also tried them out IRL for four weeks, then reported their feedback on the eye cream's attributes, application and look and feel of their skin after use. With that, we gathered over 5,900 data points to determine the best retinol eye creams you can buy, as tested by the GH Beauty Lab.

Our top picks:

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Best Overall Retinol Eye Cream
Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum

  • Significantly firms, moisturizes and reduces wrinkles
  • Not irritating
  • Reduces puffiness

  • Pricey

Starring retinol as the main active ingredient, Murad’s eye serum was a GH Beauty Lab test winner with strong firming, wrinkle-reducing and even skin-hydrating effects. The lightweight formulation increased skin’s firmness by 33% after four weeks of daily use with the Lab's Cutometer machine and moisture levels by 18% according to calculations with the Corneometer device. It also decreased wrinkles by 7% in digital imaging with the Visia Complexion Analyzer in four weeks and improved the look of undereye bags. Despite it containing retinol, our testers ranked it nearly perfect for not irritating skin. "Finally, an eye treatment that actually delivered on its promises," a consumer tester raved. "I’m thrilled with how this product improved my undereye area. Best I’ve ever used!" Another reported: "It never caused irritation or redness."

• Key ingredients: Retinol, amino acids
• Primary benefits: Firming, hydrating, wrinkle smoothing
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Value Retinol Eye Cream
Ultra-Lift Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream with Pro-Retinol
Garnier SkinCare
Now 25% off

  • Increases skin firmness and moisturization
  • Diminishes dark circles
  • Bargain price

  • Didn't show improvement in wrinkles

A top bargain in the GH Beauty Lab eye cream testing, this Garnier eye cream with retinol performed well at firming and softening skin. It increased skin's firmness by 32% and hydration by 31%, though it didn’t visibly reduce wrinkles in Lab assessments. The silky formula was also a tester favorite, earning high scores for minimizing dark circles and its pleasant scent. "It really seemed to diminish my dark circles so that I used much less concealer!" a consumer tester said. "It also was a great moisturizer and seemed to brighten the whole area."

• Key ingredients:
Retinol, caffeine, peptides
• Primary benefits: Firming, moisturizing, dark circle reduction
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Retinol Eye Cream for Dark Circles
Retinol Correxion Under Eye Cream
Roc Skincare
Now 36% off

  • Reduces dark circles and bags
  • Smooths wrinkles
  • Gentle on skin

Stubborn dark circles, undereye bags and crow's feet don’t stand a chance against this Good Housekeeping Seal Star Roc eye cream, proven to tackle all three issues with a potent blend of line-smoothing retinol and vitamin B5. A study found that the majority of testers’ eye-area wrinkle depth was reduced by 50% after 12 weeks. More than 60% also agreed that it visibly minimized dark circles and puffiness in four weeks. "It is a great retinol eye cream that is tolerated well by sensitive skin, effective and at a good price point," says Lindsey Yeh, M.D., a dermatologist and co-founder of B.TOX.BAR. in Los Gatos, California.

• Key ingredients: Retinol, vitamin B5
• Primary benefits: Reduces dark circles and puffiness, smooths wrinkles
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Retinol Eye Cream with Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C
Lift & Luminate Triple Action Eye Cream

  • Several powerful anti-aging ingredients
  • Brightens, smooths and firms skin
  • Quick results

No7’s eye cream, a GH Seal Star, visibly improves three of the top signs of aging in the eye area: Wrinkles, lack of firmness and uneven skin tone. Loaded with active ingredients like retinol, peptides, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, a study showed that consumers noticed improvements in as little as two weeks. "I have been using this for about one week, and it has already started fading my crow's feet and tightening the drooping skin under my eyes," an Ulta reviewer commented.

• Key ingredients: Retinol, vitamin B5, peptides, hyaluronic acid
• Primary benefits: Brightening, smoothing, firming
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Dermatologist-Recommended Retinol Eye Cream
EyeMax AlphaRet Overnight Cream
SkinBetter Science
SkinBetter Science

  • Potent anti-aging ingredients
  • Moisturizing and plumping

  • Expensive

Dr. Yeh recommends SkinBetter Science's overnight retinol eye cream, which she uses in her own skincare routine. "It has the equivalent of a prescription-strength retinoid combined with alpha-hydroxy acids and antioxidants, which gives additional anti-aging benefits and protection from daily environmental exposure," she explains. "It is also very moisturizing, which goes a long way in improving the appearance of the undereyes." GH Beauty Editor Dori Price is also a fan of the formula: “I love how nourishing this eye cream is — it sinks right in and plumps up my skin," she says. "I also love that it has a combination of a retinoid and AHAs, two powerful anti-aging ingredients to treat the crow’s feet around my eyes.”

• Key ingredients: Retinol, niacinamide, peptides, AHA
• Primary benefits: Brightening, smoothing, firming
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Retinol Eye Cream for Wrinkles
Restore & Renew Multi Action Eye Cream

  • Visibly minimizes wrinkles
  • Increases skin's firmness
  • Several anti-aging ingredients

Zero in on pesky eye area creases and sagging skin with No7’s retinol and peptide blend, which was a winner of the GH Beauty Lab eye cream test for lessening lines and firming skin. The cream reduced eye-area wrinkle size and severity by an impressive 13% in digital imaging with the Lab’s Visia Complexion Analyzer device and firmed skin by 28% in Cutometer calculations after four weeks. “It noticeably decreased my fine lines,” our consumer tester commented. Another marveled: "I got lots of comments on how well-rested I look and I'm not!"

• Key ingredients:
Peptides, retinol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E
• Primary benefits: Reduces lines, firms, moisturizes
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Retinol Eye Cream for Undereye Bags
Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Eye Cream
La Roche-Posay
La Roche-Posay

  • Softens and depuffs skin
  • Quick absorbing

  • Some users noted the formula was watery

Help deflate bags with this La Roche-Posay retinol eye cream. In GH Beauty Lab testing, it scored well for reducing puffiness and wrinkles while softening skin. Our Lab testers didn’t report any issues with skin or eye irritation and found it absorbed quickly. "It offers an instant pick-me-up: The cream made my eyes appear well-rested and younger-looking," a consumer tester commented. Another noted that she saw diminishing puffiness under her eyes.

• Key ingredients:
Retinol, caffeine, hyaluronic acid
• Primary benefits: Depuffing, line reduction
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Moisturizing Retinol Eye Cream
Retinol 24 MAX Night Eye Cream

  • Visibly smooths fine lines
  • Hydrates skin
  • Fragrance free

Retinol can be drying on skin, but this GH Seal Star works overtime to keep it hydrated, like others in the Olay Retinol 24 line. Our GH Beauty Lab data evaluation confirmed that the fragrance-free formula produced visible benefits in those with moderate to severe eye area wrinkles and even kept skin hydrated for up to 24 hours. "[It] has done wonders for the fine lines around my eyes," a Walmart reviewer said. "They're all unnoticeable or gone."

• Key ingredients: Retinol, niacinamide, vitamin E
• Primary benefits: Reduces lines, moisturizes
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Smoothing Retinol Eye Cream
Retrinal Eyes
Eau Thermale Avène

  • Visibly smooths fine lines
  • Hydrates skin
  • Quick absorbing

A past GH Beauty Award winner, this Eau Thermale Avène cream is made with a stabilized version of retinol (retinaldehyde) and hyaluronic acid for softening. In our Lab testing, it scored well for smoothing wrinkles and increasing moisturization, plus GH testers found the formula fast-absorbing. "I have very pronounced crow's feet and felt as though the lines were softened and the skin under my eyes was more hydrated," a consumer tester said.

• Key ingredients: Retinol, hyaluronic acid
• Primary benefits: Smooths lines, hydrates skin
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Retinol Eye Cream for Sensitive Skin
Age Perfect Eye Renewal
L'Oreal Paris
L’Oréal Paris
Now 10% off

  • Great value
  • Moisturizes, firms and smooths skin
  • Minimizes dark circles and bags
  • Not irritating

Made with retinol, softening botanical oils and depuffing caffeine, the lightweight yet mighty L’Oréal Paris cream tackled multiple eye area issues in GH Beauty Lab testing without inflaming even sensitive skin. We found that it measurably hydrated, firmed and smoothed crepey skin and crow's feet, plus reduced the look of dark shadows and bags yet didn't bring on redness or irritation. "I have very sensitive skin and most products irritate, but this didn't at all," a consumer tester said. "I've tried product after product and have never had an eye cream work as effectively as this one."

• Key ingredients: Retinol, caffeine, vitamin E
• Primary benefits: Hydrating, firming, reducing lines
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Luxury Retinol Eye Cream
Do Not Age Triple Peptide Eye Cream
Dr. Brandt
Dr. Brandt Skincare

  • Plumps, smooths and softens skin
  • Rich texture
  • Absorbs well

This dense, luxurious balm-like Dr. Brandt eye cream is packed with smoothing retinol and skin-nourishing shea butter, amino acids and peptides. "One of the best formulas I've tried, it soaks into crepey eye-area skin like butter, making it feel plumped and fortified," GH's beauty director says. "It feels like such a treat to use."

• Key ingredients: Retinol, peptides, shea butter
• Primary benefits: Smoothing, softening
• Size: 0.5 oz.

Best Retinol Eye Cream for Crow's Feet
Pro-Retinol Eye Treatment
Now 44% off

  • Improves crow's feet wrinkles
  • Reduces fine lines

  • May be too strong for sensitive skin

Target crow's feet with this GH Seal Star Olay retinol eye treatment. After four weeks of applying the product twice per day, participants in a study noticed an improvement in fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, as confirmed by GH Beauty Lab data evaluation. "I’ve been using for two weeks [it], and my crow's feet and lines under my eyes are less," an Amazon reviewer marveled. "I’m surprised; most stuff doesn’t work. This does."

• Key ingredients: Retinol, peptides, niacinamide
• Primary benefits: Line reduction
• Size: 0.5 oz.

How we test retinol eye creams
our beauty lab chemist uses the visia complexion analyzer on a tester
Mike Garten

Our GH Beauty Lab scientists evaluated eye creams, including retinol eye creams, by both using technical devices in Lab and sending samples to consumer testers to try in their daily routines over at least four weeks of use. In the Beauty Lab's most recent test, scientists analyzed over 5,900 data points to find the winning products.

We used a Corneometer machine to measure skin moisturization levels over six hours and a Cutometer machine to gauge changes in skin firmness over four weeks. Beauty Lab experts used the Visia Complexion Analyzer to track visible changes in skin over four weeks, including wrinkle size and severity. Consumer testers also reported their feedback on each product after the set time period, including ease of use and application, texture and scent, irritation and the look and feel of their skin after use. All of these data points were then tallied to determine the most effective eye creams and treatments on the market.

Is retinol good for undereye circles?

Yes, and there's research to prove it! Retinol creams can help get rid of dark circles, crow's feet wrinkles and undereye bags. "A study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology showed that a stabilized 0.1% retinol facial cream applied once daily can significantly improve the look of fine lines, pigmentation, elasticity, firmness and overall photodamage in eight weeks," says Beauty Lab Chemist Danusia Wnek.

What to look for when shopping for the best retinol eye cream

Not all retinol eye cream formulas are created equal. Here's what to know before buying, according to Dr. Yeh:

✔️Different types: "Retinols come in various forms such as retinyl acetate, retinaldehyde, retinoic acid and many others," she says. These names may be listed as such on the product's packaging and are generally equal in terms of performance, depending on the formulation.

✔️Percentages: "Eye creams often do not specify the percentage of retinol, but the higher the percentage, the greater the potency and the greater potential for irritation," Dr. Yeh explains. "Beginning with lower potency and working your way up is a good way to start." (A lower potency of retinol is generally 0.01% to 0.03%; 2% is on the higher end.)

✔️Hydrating formulas: "A retinol cream in a moisturizing base is important to help with irritation and additional active ingredients such as antioxidants are always a plus," says Dr. Yeh. Seek out proven hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin.

    When and how should you start using retinol eye cream?

    Though primarily for anti-aging purposes, you can start using a retinol eye cream as early as your 20s and 30s. Follow these application guidelines from GH Beauty Lab and dermatologist experts:

    ✔️Read the instructions. "For best results, follow the manufacturer directions of the individual product you are using," Wnek recommends. "It's also imperative to read any warnings on the label."

    ✔️Only apply at night. "Retinols are not meant for daytime use, as they break down when exposed to UV light," Dr. Yeh explains.

    ✔️Build up a tolerance. If you're not used to using retinol around your eyes, "go slowly," advises Anthony Rossi, M.D., the founder of Dr. Rossi DERM MD and a dermatologist in New York City. "Apply a pea-sized amount or less and start by using it one to two times per week, increasing the frequency over a month until it can be tolerated nightly."

    ✔️Be gentle. "Place a small pump or dab of eye cream on the pad of the fourth finger and gently tap the cream onto the lower eyelid then the upper eyelid [if indicated on the product's packaging]," Dr. Yeh says. "The ring finger is the weakest finger, and you will be less likely to apply creams with too much force on the delicate skin around the eye."

    ✔️Hydrate and protect skin. "When using a product with retinol, you will also need a heavier moisturizer to combat any irritation," Dr. Rossi says. "And since retinol can cause sun sensitivity, it is especially important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher daily."

      Why trust Good Housekeeping?

      Danusia Wnek is a chemist in the Good Housekeeping Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab. Since joining the team in 2014, she has been developing and overseeing the testing of anti-aging eye creams, serums, moisturizers and more, utilizing both lab instrumentation and consumer feedback to recommend the best products on the market. She enjoys researching and translating scientific data for consumers so they feel empowered in their purchasing decisions.

      April Franzino is the Beauty Director at Good Housekeeping and has over 15 years of experience researching, writing and editing skincare-related content, utilizing the expertise of the Institute's Beauty Lab scientists and top industry professionals such as dermatologists and aestheticians. She is an expert in all face and body skincare product categories, including eye creams, cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, sunscreens, exfoliators, masks, professional treatments and more. April works closely with the GH Beauty Lab to coordinate skincare product testing and translate test results into best-in-class, compelling, factually accurate science-backed content.

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