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I love a good eye cream. There's a strange sense of peace that comes over me when I tap a hydrating formula into my often-irritated orbital bone. And that feeling is intensified when I know I'm nourishing my skin with powerful ingredients.
Because this is the way life goes, retinol is both absolutely essential for an effective anti-aging routine and often too harsh for the quick-to-wrinkle eye area. Luckily, there are a number of eye creams that have retinol in them that also use hydrating and soothing ingredients to mitigate the potential for irritation.
When shopping for a retinol eye cream, I recommend scanning the ingredients' list for mega-moisturizers like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. In addition to the fine line-minimizing effects of retinol, hydration may make your skin look younger and glowier.
I've used the Kate Somerville +Retinol Firming Eye Cream for more than a year and I could not be happier with the results. I'm still in my mid-to-late '20s, so I don't have much by way of wrinkles, but I am starting to get some minor fine lines around the orbital bone.
This eye cream combines retinol and bio-retinol — a natural complex that mimics the effects of retinol — to create a powerhouse anti-aging formula. Hyaluronic acid, lime pearl, and various plant extracts and oils round out the ingredients' list. The result is an effective eye cream that won't dry the heck out of your eye area. A cooling tip depuffs and soothes as you apply.
An eye cream with retinol might take some getting used to, but after a few weeks, you shouldn't feel any burning or irritation. I apply it every other night, alternating with a purely moisturizing cream, to make sure I'm not overdoing it.
Pros: Fragrance free, moisturizing, brightening, soothing applicator
Cons: Very expensive
Even the gentlest retinol eye creams can be a bit much for someone with very sensitive skin. RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Eye Cream is formulated to be extra gentle, so even people with highly reactive skin and eyes can use it.
Made with a more mild form of retinol combined with hyaluronic acid, this cream still gives you the anti-aging benefits you'd expect from similar products, without the potential irritation. Plus it's relatively affordable, with a price tag of less than $25 for 0.5 ounces.
The RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Eye Cream is an Allure Best of Beauty winner and has been featured by Real Simple. Shoppers rate it 4.0 stars based on 480 reviews on the review website Influenster.
One online reviewer writes, "This works amazingly well and leaves beautiful results. You never have to worry about the drying of the skin or rashes other creams cause. When you try it you will be hooked after your first use. I highly recommend it to everyone with sensitive skin."
Pros: Suitable for sensitive skin, oil-free, non comedogenic
Cons: Not as affordable as other drugstore picks
Louder for the people in the back — great skin-care products exist at the drugstore, and the L'Oreal Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle + Firming Eye Treatment is proof. It's a creamy eye treatment that minimizes fine lines and firms skin thanks to the inclusion of retinol.
This eye cream promises improvements in as little as four weeks of regular use. It's fragrance-free, dye-free, and made without parabens and phthalates. As for what it does contain, the formula includes pro retinol and centella asiatica, or tiger grass, which calms irritation.
"I always overlooked this eye cream because of its low price, I thought it was just going to be a waste of money. The expensive one that I was using wasn't working so I thought I would give it a try, it was cheap so why not? I'm so glad that I did! It's amazing! It's a very thick, rich, emollient cream that really does improve the look of lines and firmness!" writes one reviewer on Target.
Pros: Affordable, contains gentle tiger grass, fragrance- and dye-free
Cons: Jar packaging is not airtight
Retinol tends to be a bit of a slow-burn, as far as results go. You can use it for weeks, months, or even years without necessarily seeing the effects, especially if you start before you have many wrinkles a preventative measure. If you want a quick boost, try Kiehl's Youth Dose Eye Treatment.
This product has a slight, universal tint to it that brightens the under eye and smooths the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark circles. It doesn't have coverage like a concealer, just a natural luminosity that may make you look youthful and awake. For this reason, it's a great option to use underneath makeup — but make sure you follow up with SPF if it's daytime.
But the Kiehl's eye cream will also give you powerful results over time, thanks to pro retinol, red grape seed extract, and vitamin C. For a relatively new launch — it came out in August 2018 — this product has already garnered plenty of great reviews from the likes of Health, Allure, and Refinery29.
One Nordstrom shopper writes, "[This eye cream] has not been irritating as some anti aging products are. I can absolutely tell a difference in the overall hydration under my eyes. I also appreciate the slight tint so I can wear just this on days where I want to have more minimal makeup."
Pros: Instantly minimizes dark circles and fine lines, tint, works under makeup
Cons: Only one shade
Encapsulated retinol, like that included in Dermalogica Age Reversal Age Complex, is designed to wring the maximum anti-aging impact out of the ingredient. Per the product description, "microencapsulation technology optimizes retinol potency and absorption." Sounds ideal, right?
This particular eye cream also includes niacinamide and ash tree bark to hydrate and minimize dark circles, as well as Dermalogica's Age Reversal Firming Complex with vitamin C and peptides to smooth and strengthen the under eye skin.
"I absolutely love this eye cream [...] I noticed within a week or two a difference in the smoothness of the skin around my eyes. I will not use any other eye cream. Does not irritate or cause any redness for me," writes one Ulta shopper.
Pros: Encapsulated retinol, air-tight packaging, contains additional anti-aging ingredients
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