Believe it or not, beauty sleep is a very real thing. While you can sip down a triple-shot latte the morning after a late night to perk up, it’s much harder to disguise the exhaustion that’s written all over your face – especially under your eyes. While genetics can be to blame for some of the darkness, there are also other contributing factors — including the fact that the skin under the eyes is thinner and more delicate than it is on the rest of the face (go figure, right?). Luckily, there are specific brightening eye creams that help to diminish the look of dark circles.
To find the most effective brightening eye creams, we put in the work — researching top-rated options and reaching out to dermatologists for their expert recommendations. The Replenix Tinted Brightening Eye Cream secured the best overall spot on our list due to its medical-grade hyaluronic acid-infused formula that brightens, hydrates, and firms the under-eye area.
Complete with drugstore favorites, dermatologist picks, and top-rated options, these brightening eye creams provide both short-term and long-lasting benefits for skin. Keep reading for the 13 best brightening eye creams of 2022.
What We Love: This eye cream is made with potent, medical-grade actives that work to provide long-lasting anti-aging benefits to skin around the eyes.
What We Don’t Love: This eye cream is not suited for dry skin.
Made with a powerful combination of medical-grade ingredients, this tinted eye cream works overtime to combat dark circles and puffiness on the spot, while also providing long-term benefits to the skin. Edelweiss flower is infused into the formula, which is clinically proven to help tighten aging skin around the eye. Additionally, fractionated hyaluronic acid protects the skin’s barrier, while a dynamic blend of peptides aid in healthy collagen production.
Aside from the product’s extended advantages, this cream also instantly brightens dark circles due to its blendable pigment that addresses hyperpigmentation. Its illuminating tint works well with all skin tones, giving under-eye areas an immediate pick-me-up. If you have dry skin under your eyes, we recommend priming the area with a hyaluronic acid serum before putting on this eye cream just because this product is not extremely hydrating.
Price at time of publish: $58
Benefits: Brightens, tightens, and depuffs | Active Ingredients: Edelweiss flower, Fractionated hyaluronic acid, Collagen-boosting peptides | Size: 0.29 fl oz.
What We Love: This lightweight, cruelty-free formula is safe for all skin types.
What We Don’t Love: This cream can pill if too many products are applied on top of it.
If you’re looking for a hydrating eye cream that combats dark circles, The Inkey List Brighten-i Eye Cream is just the thing you need. For starters, this lightweight formula works well with all skin types including dry, aging, and oily. Plus, it performs well as a primer under makeup. (Just be sure to only layer makeup on top of this, as additional moisturizers or serums can cause this product to pill.) These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg, though, because the brightening capabilities are also extremely impressive.
“This very affordable formula includes an ingredient called Brightenyl — also known as diglucosyl gallic acid — which helps prevent skin discoloration while fading existing hyperpigmentation,” explains Geeta Yadav, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology. . “This makes it an ideal formula for someone who has genetic discoloration rather than temporary dark circles caused by blood pooling under the eye. This cream also contains brightening pigments that cosmetically brighten the appearance of dark circles.”
Price at time of publish: $12
Benefits: Brightens, hydrates, and primes | Active Ingredients: Brightenyl, Mica mineral | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This two-in-one product comes with a roll-on serum and hydrating under-eye patches.
What We Don’t Love: Only 10 sets of under-eye patches are included, and they can’t be purchased separately.
Treat your eyes to some serious TLC with this luxe Chanel product. It comes with a hydrating, intensive roll-on serum that restores elasticity and radiance to aging skin, as well as 10 hydrating under-eye patches that smooth fine lines. Per the instructions, you can either use this product once a week for 10 weeks or once a day for 10 days in a row — sort of like an eye care boot camp. When used in the boot camp model, you’ll notice that after the entire course the skin under your eyes will be smooth, supple, and lifted. Alternatively, if you choose to use this for 10 weeks in a row, you will still notice the same results, they just won’t be as immediate. Pro tip: If you run out of under-eye masks, continue using the serum and top it off with a thick moisturizer.
Price at time of publish: $130
Benefits: Brightens, firms, hydrates, and depuffs | Active Ingredients: Ginseng root extract, Morning glory extract | Size: 0.17 fl oz.
What We Love: The formula is non-greasy, so it quickly absorbs into skin.
What We Don’t Love: Since this product contains pro-retinol, it might be too strong for those with sensitive skin.
L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Eye Cream is an awakening eye product that incorporates the cooling powers of the metal tip applicator to instantly decrease puffiness. The formula is packed with hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate under-eye wrinkles, as well as vitamin C, which is an anti-aging skincare stalwart known for its ability to brighten skin. The non-greasy, paraben-free formula also quickly absorbs into skin, creating a smooth base for makeup application. Additionally, it contains pro-retinol, which reduces wrinkles over time.
After just one week of using this eye cream, you’ll notice the skin under your eyes is more supple and soft. For the best results, we suggest using it two to three times a week to start, so your skin can adequately build up a tolerance to the retinol. Once your skin is comfortable with it, you can use it up to five or six times a week.
Price at time of publish: $16
Benefits: Brightens, tightens, and depuffs | Active Ingredients: Pro-retinol, Vitamin C, Hyaluronic acid | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This hydrating eye cream is made with silk tree extract, which visibly fades dark circles.
What We Don’t Love: Some customers complain that the product’s pump can be faulty.
This effective eye cream – which was created by Shani Darden, one of Hollywood’s most notable estheticians – took two years to perfect. The vegan formula is infused with nine age-defying actives, including potent peptides, silk tree extract, squalene, and niacinamide. These powerhouse ingredients work together to firm, brighten, and hydrate skin at every level. The thick cream can be applied both in the morning and at night, and keeps skin moisturized under makeup.
What we especially love about this product is that it works well with all skin types. Even though the formula itself is rich, it doesn’t make the under-eye area feel greasy or oily. It’s also ideal for aging skin, since it can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and crow’s feet. We do wish it came in a different container, or a better pump as it tends to get jammed with continued use.
Price at time of publish: $68
Benefits: Brightens and firms | Active Ingredients: Silk tree extract, Squalane, Niacinamide, Ceramides | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This eye cream penetrates the deepest layer of the skin’s surface to provide maximum brightening benefits.
What We Don’t Love: This product has a mild, almost smoky scent that some people don’t like.
“This formula is not a cream, but a serum, giving it a very lightweight and fast-absorbing texture that is ideal for those with oily skin,” says Dr. Yadav. “It features three forms of vitamin C and ferulic acid — all potent antioxidants — to fight and fade multiple forms of discoloration under the eye caused by hyperpigmentation.” (These forms of discoloration can include black, blue, and red under-eye circles.) Additionally, this product is made with peptides, which work to combat the appearance of puffiness and bags. Not to mention, the addition of vitamin E minimizes discoloration and dark spots over time, meaning this product provides long-lasting results.
Price at time of publish: $40
Benefits: Brightens and smooths | Active Ingredients: Vitamin C ester, Vitamin E, Ferulic acid | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This eye cream is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and suitable for all skin types.
What We Don’t Love: If too much is applied, it can pill under makeup.
When looking for an eye cream that is suitable for sensitive skin, board-certified dermatologist Jenny Liu, M.D., recommends finding a product that is fragrance-free and made with nourishing ingredients like ceramides and niacinamide. This drugstore favorite is ideal for all skin types, including sensitive, aging, and dry skin. Formulated with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide, it hydrates and plumps the under-eye area, as well as helps maintain the skin’s protective barrier. The rich formula delivers long-lasting moisture to skin, smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles over time.
Price at time of publish: $13
Benefits: Brightens, plumps, and hydrates | Active Ingredients: Ceramides, Hyaluronic acid, Niacinamide | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This lightweight serum instantly absorbs into skin and smooths out fine lines.
What We Don’t Love: This product is made with retinol, which might be irritating for some skin types.
“This product is formulated with a fantastic blend of ingredients, including retinol, peptides, caffeine, and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Yadav. “Together, they help strengthen the delicate skin under the eye while helping to reduce fine lines and improve blood flow — combined, these benefits improve the appearance of dark circles for a more youthful and brighter eye.” It also helps to depuff bags and reduce the appearance of fine lines, making the skin under the eyes appear smoother and plumper. Just one dollop of this lightweight serum goes a long way, meaning you won’t have to worry about restocking it for months.
Price at time of publish: $200
Benefits: Brightens and tightens | Active Ingredients: Retinol, Caffeine, Aloe | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This vegan eye cream is gentle on skin and made with 99% natural ingredients.
What We Don’t Love: This rich formula does not pair well with heavy concealer.
UpCircle’s entire ethos revolves around using leftover ingredients to create sustainably-sourced skincare products. Coffee grounds are one of the most common ingredients you’ll notice across the brand’s formulas – and it’s one of the main ingredients in this brightening eye cream. Here, caffeine is used to brighten skin, maple bark extract helps to provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and hyaluronic acid gives skin a boost of moisture. This product’s vegan and 99 percent natural formula is safe for all skin types, even as it works overtime targeting dark circles, fine lines, puffiness, and wrinkles.
Price at time of publish: $23
Benefits: Brightens, depuffs, and tightens | Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid and Coffee oil | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This hypoallergenic formula simultaneously targets puffiness, dark circles, and fine lines.
What We Don’t Love: Since this product is made with retinol, it might make skin flake.
To find a good eye cream that will target wrinkles, Dr. Liu recommends looking for products that have ingredients like peptides and retinol. This RoC favorite is made with pure retinol, which addresses signs of aging like fine lines, dark circles, and puffiness. Despite containing retinol, which can cause sensitivity, the hypoallergenic formula is safe enough for all skin types — just be aware to only use the product three times a week when starting out, as this will help skin adjust to the retinol. After about a month, you’ll notice that eyes look and feel refreshed and revitalized.
Price at time of publish: $13
Benefits: Brightens, tightens, depuffs, and smooths | Active Ingredient: Retinol | Size: 0.25 fl oz.
What We Love: This lightweight eye cream is made with shea butter, which helps to hydrate skin for hours.
What We Don’t Love: Since this product leaves a satiny finish, it’s not best suited for oily skin.
Made with a blend of good-for-your-skin ingredients like peptides (which visibly brighten dark circles), caffeine (which combats under-eye bags), apricot kernel oil (which softens and smooths skin), and shea butter (which adds a boost of hydration), this Florence by Mills eye cream will give your skin the pick me up it needs. It’s formulated with extremely smooth silver-white pigments that illuminate skin, giving it a natural glow and satiny finish. Since this eye cream is so light and nourishing, it works well under concealer and foundation because it provides a hydrating base for skin. For best results, let this eye cream absorb into the skin before applying makeup.
Price at time of publish: $18
Benefits: Brightens, depuffs, and hydrates | Active Ingredients: Caffeine, Green coffee oil, Apricot kernel oil | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This eye cream smooths out wrinkles, making eyes look awake and refreshed.
What We Don’t Love: One pump of this product goes a long way, so be sure not to use too much.
According to Kristy Bailey, M.D. a double-board certified dermatologist, medical director, and founder of FCP Dermatology MD, Alastin Restorative Eye Treatment can increase your elastin content by 250 percent. “Dark under-eyes are generally due to thin under-eye skin, allowing you to see the structures under the eye,” she explains. “If there is a valley or hollow under the eye, then the best way to brighten the under-eye is to fill in that hollow. If the hollow is removed, then light shines off the under eye differently making it appear brighter. Picking an eye cream with caffeine and peptides can help give you a morning refresh.” Luckily, this dermatologist-approved product is made with both ingredients. The peptides in this eye cream help to reduce the appearance of puffiness and smooth out fine lines, while the caffeine works to minimize dark circles. To really make eyes look awake, use this cream on your upper eyelids, too.
Price at time of publish: $90
Benefits: Brightens, firms, and depuffs | Active Ingredients: Caffeine, Niacinamide, Shea butter | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What We Love: This eye cream is infused with boron nitride, which helps to diffuse the look of skin discoloration.
What We Don’t Love: This rich formula takes time to fully sink into skin.
This thick eye cream has the ability to deeply hydrate and nourish skin, which helps to reduce the look of fine lines and dark circles. Made with a blend of powerhouse ingredients including hyaluronic acid to moisturize skin, peptides to smooth out wrinkles, and boron nitride to combat discoloration, this high-end product makes eyes look youthful and revived after just one week of use. Plus, it contains retinyl palmitate, a natural lipid-soluble form of retinol that works to keep wrinkles at bay. “Try to find an eye cream that contains a bit of very low-dose retinol,” says Dr. Bailey. “It will help produce collagen under the eye and adress fine lines.”
Price at time of publish: $95
Benefits: Brightens, firms, and hydrates | Active Ingredients: Boron nitride, Hyaluronic acid, Retinyl palmitate | Size: 0.5 fl oz.
What to Keep in Mind
When it comes to picking out a brightening eye cream (or any skincare product for that matter), be sure to choose the right formula for your skin type. For example, if the skin under your eyes is dry and dehydrated, choose a product with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter or hyaluronic acid (like Replenix Tinted Brightening Eye Cream or L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Triple Power Eye Cream). If you have an oily complexion, opt for a lightweight eye cream or gel that won’t weigh skin down (like The Inkey List Brighten-i Eye Cream or Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester CCC + Ferulic Brightening Under-Eye Cream). By choosing a product that best caters to your skin type, you will notice more effective results.
Since eye cream is usually the first or second step in a skincare routine (after a light serum or toner, and followed by sunscreen or makeup), it’s important to be wary of what products do and do not mix well together. In terms of serums, lightweight serums (like hyaluronic acid) can be applied underneath eye cream if the skin needs an extra boost of hydration. If you are using an eye cream with retinol in it, it’s OK to use a hyaluronic acid serum before applying your eye cream. Although, if you like to use a vitamin C serum in your skincare routine, do not mix it with an eye cream that has retinol in it because layering these potent ingredients can cause irritation. (The same goes for vitamin C and niacinamide.)
Be sure to also always wear sunscreen on top of eye cream, as the under-eye skin is delicate and prone to wrinkles. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’re using an eye cream with retinol.
Your Questions, Answered
What do brightening eye creams do?
Brightening eye creams reduce the appearance of dark circles and uneven pigmentation. They do this in a few different ways, depending on which ingredients are used in certain products. Some brightening eye creams utilize hyaluronic acid to moisturize and plump the under-eye area. This can make dark, hollow eyes look more refreshed and awake. Ingredients like vitamin C work to stop hyperpigmentation and dark circles in their tracks by prohibiting skin from creating too much pigment. Some brightening eye creams also use light-deflecting particles (which is what Florence by Mills Look Alive Brightening Eye Cream does) to provide instant results.
How do brightening eye creams work?
Brightening eye creams work by incorporating ingredients that target dark circles, discoloration, and hyperpigmentation under the eyes. “All skincare formulas work differently depending on the ingredients used,” explains Dr. Yadav. “Many brightening eye creams contain caffeine [like UpCircle Eye Cream with Hyaluronic Acid and Coffee Extract], an ingredient that helps fight dark circles and puffiness under the eye by facilitating blood flow. For those who’ve had a long night or have seasonal allergies, formulas with caffeine can make an instantly visible difference in the appearance of darkness around the eye.” Additionally, vitamin C can address skin discoloration, as it works to fade hyperpigmentation and prohibit skin from producing excessive melanin.
Other ingredients work by building up collagen in the skin. “Peptides and retinol help to increase collagen and strengthen skin, which is a common contributor to dark circles,” says Dr. Liu. “Vitamin C, niacinamide, and illuminating ingredients can help reduce pigment and temporarily improve the appearance of dark circles.” These effective ingredients sink deep into skin to hydrate and nourish it, as well as reverse the signs of aging that wrinkles and dark circles cause.
How do I choose the best brightening eye cream for me?
“It would be best to consult a dermatologist first to see if under-eye cream is your answer,” says Dr. Bailey. “In many cases, people spend a lot of money on eye creams and they do nothing. That money might be better spent on fixing the root of the problem if you have hollows or bags. A little hyaluronic acid (filler) injected under the eye can last a year or more and make you look rested even if you aren’t.” If you don’t want to filler, look for an eye cream that can address the main problems you are trying to solve (i.e. do you need to combat dark circles? Dry, discolored skin? Aging skin?). Or, use a brightening eye cream that targets a slew of different skin concerns like our best overall pick Replenix Tinted Brightening Eye Cream.
Additionally, Dr. Yadav suggests trying other tactics. “Always determine what you want your eye cream to accomplish before you purchase,” she says. “I‘d also recommend considering purchasing two: One for the morning that contains brightening or color-correcting pigments that will help cosmetically blur the look of dark circles, and a second one for evening that contains an ingredient like retinol or features a more nourishing formula to help repair skin while you sleep.”
Why Trust InStyle
Lauren Harano has been contributing to InStyle since August 2022, covering a wide range of beauty topics. She is knowledgeable on skin, body, and hair care, and has tested hundreds of products during her career. For this article, Lauren interviewed three beauty experts: Jenny Liu, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, Kristy Bailey, M.D. a double-board certified dermatologist, medical director, and founder of FCP Dermatology MD, and Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology. All three experts lent their expertise and shared their favorite products. Lauren also took into account the many eye creams she has tested over the years in addition to pouring over product specifications. Each brightening eye cream on this list is effective, safe for delicate skin, and provides long-lasting results.