Ask any dermatologist for the number one thing we should all be using in our routines for brighter, younger-looking skin, and they will answer unanimously with “SPF.” (Yes, it’s that important, people.) But ask them for the second thing, and they’ll most likely respond with some form of retinol. The reason? Retinol is one of the few active ingredients that’s scientifically-proven to reverse the signs of aging by increasing skin cell turnover and stimulating collagen production deep beneath the skin surface. As such, the powerhouse ingredient is routinely found in everything from luxury serums to daily moisturizers and face masks, but according to Dr. Muneeb Shah (aka TikTok’s favorite @dermdoctor), it also makes for a pretty effective eye cream.
“The skin around our eyes is very thin and generally has less collagen supporting it, which is why it’s often one of the first areas to show signs of aging,” explains Dr. Shah. “That’s why—if you can tolerate retinol—I highly recommend adding a retinol eye cream to your skincare routine. It’s going to help increase your skin’s natural collagen production, which will improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles and reduce hyperpigmentation, leaving you with a younger, more rejuvenated look.”
As is the case with any retinol-infused product, though, the big question is whether or not your skin can actually handle the potent ingredient. Whether it’s a prescription-strength retinoid or an over-the-counter cream, retinol can come with some pretty irritating side effects, including redness, dryness, and peeling—all things that the delicate eye area is already susceptible to experiencing. That said, if you want to incorporate retinol into your anti-aging routine, Dr. Shah recommends choosing a retinol product specifically made for the eye area (including the eyelids) and minimizing the risk for irritation by following his “low and slow” approach.
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“If you’ve never used retinol before or just have sensitive skin, I always suggest following my three-month rule,” he says. “To start, you’re going to apply your retinol eye cream every third day for a month. Then, for the second month, increase that to every other day. And then finally, by the third month, you can start using it every day. Most people can tolerate it pretty well at that point and use it daily without irritation, which is the ultimate goal.”
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To help save you from a potentially frustrating game of trial-and-error, we rounded up the 12 best retinol eye creams that each target a different concern. From stubborn dark circles to advanced wrinkles, discover your perfect fit below.