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Dark circles, crow’s feet, puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles. What do these five things have in common besides being totally undesirable? They’re all early signs of aging that can show up in the eye area, because the skin here is thin and delicate. The best course of action—like all skincare—is to prevent damage before it starts. Whether you’re just beginning to experiment with eye creams or you’re an expert product tester, there are a host of miracle ingredients to try, including peptides, collagen, antioxidants, and retinol. But which are most effective for combating the Colorado’s dry climate? I joined forces with Denver-based makeup artist Liz Wegrzyn to sample more than 40 eye creams and treatments. Here’s the best of the best:
Beauty Drawer Must-Haves
These eye cream essentials can be used every day. One note: Liz and I both like a dewy under-eye look, so if you want a matte finish, choose a cream that absorbs quickly.
Alpyn Beauty’s PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm is a mid-weight option that functions like an all-in-one cream and primer. Full of natural ingredients to help brighten, lift, and hydrate the eye area, this balm also contains mica to help blur fine lines. Liz liked that it smoothed the surface of the skin temporarily, creating a primed canvas for concealer. $62, aillea.com
Birkenstock, the maker of everyone’s favorite iconic comfort sandal, created its own skincare line after discovering that cork oak extract can stimulate collagen formation and be effective against free radical damage. The brand’s Moisturizing Eye Contour Balm is a 100 percent vegan eye cream that also contains a botanical version of hyaluronic acid (snow mushroom extract), along with squalene and evening primrose oil to keep hydration levels up. It’s a good option for those seeing the first signs of fine lines. $72, birkenstock.com
For those with super sensitive eyes, try Trilogy Very Gentle Eye Cream. Formulated to soothe the eye area, this concentrated cream is rich in aloe vera and maqui—a berry native to Chile that fights free radical damage while also helping to reduce inflammation. It’s also dermatologically tested to be non-irritating. $40, trilogyproducts.com
One Love Organics Botanical E Eye Balm provides intense moisture, yet still looks smooth and dewy under concealer (just use less for daytime wear). This waterless balm is rich with organic shea butter for instant hydration, as well as pomegranate and nutrient-dense sea kelp to provide anti-inflammatory benefits, brightening, and antioxidant protection. It’s also fragrance-free and dermatologically tested, so it won’t irritate your eyes. Tip: A little of this balm goes a long way; break it down between your ring fingers before applying. $49, aillea.com
Tatcha’s Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream is a rich, velvety cream containing silk proteins to smooth the under-eye area and blur fine lines. It’s also formulated with Japanese white peony to seal in moisture, as well as antioxidants to help prevent further damage. Use it in the daytime to make your concealer look flawless, and at night as an anti-aging eye cream. $60, tatcha.com
Shiseido’s Benefiance Wrinkle Smoothing Eye Cream is a warrior against the Centennial State’s dry climate. The hydrating cream targets fine lines and wrinkles all around the orbital bone, from the inner corner to lid creases and even stress lines between the brows, and it leaves the under-eye area looking luminous (which makes it particularly beautiful to use under concealer). Powerhouse ingredients include algae to improve the appearance of wrinkles and ashitaba powder, an ancient medicinal plant native to central Japan long treasured for its healing benefits and included here to help skin self-repair. $70, shiseido.com
Vitamin C & Niacinamide
Vitamin C delivers a host of skincare benefits, from treating hyperpigmentation to lightening dark circles and reducing the appearance of fine lines by boosting collagen production. It can also improve skin firmness and texture and limits damage caused by UV rays. For those sensitive to vitamin C, try using creams that contain Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that provides similar skincare benefits minus the potential irritation.
Rodial’s Vitamin C Eye Souffle is a winner for its rich, velvety consistency that sinks into skin. I especially liked using this cream at night; my under-eye area looked both hydrated and firm in the morning. $95, bluemercury.com and Rodial.co.uk
Dr. Dennis Gross’s B3 Adaptive Superfoods Stress SOS Eye Cream is another effective option for its combination of Niacinamide with superfoods like coffee, acai, goji, and mushrooms that are high in antioxidants and help reduce inflammation. Another plus: Liz liked how this cream’s dewy finish made it a beautiful option to use under concealer. $65, drdennisgross.com
CBD is a potent anti-aging ingredient because it contains essential vitamins (A, C, E, B complex) and minerals (niacin and magnesium), along with fatty acids (omega-3 and -6) critical to healthy skin. CBD has also been found to contain anti-inflammatory properties to fight against free radical damage, assist with collagen production, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
(Read more: 7 CBD and Hemp Skincare Products Worth Trying)
Colorado-based Color Up Therapeutic’s 03 Bright Eye Cream helped me wake up with hydrated eyes and zero puffiness. And because it absorbs well, it’s also a good choice for daytime use underneath makeup. Formulated with hemp oil and licorice root extract to help repair sun damage and dehydrated skin, it’s gentle enough to be certified by Oncology Spa Solutions as safe for those fighting cancer. Plus, like all Color Up products, it’s gluten-free and animal-friendly. $50, coloruptherapeutics
Liz prefers the Soothing Eye Cream by vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand Haoma. Packed with a powerful combination of hydrating evening primrose oil, licorice and mulberry to brighten, and yarrow to reduce inflammation, this eye cream moisturizes and calms the delicate eye area. Bonus: For every product sold through Haoma, a tree is planted through their partnership with Trees.org. $95, haoma.earth
For those who like using oils, Boulder-based Moon Mother’s certified organic Hemp Eye Serum leaves the eye area hydrated, while reducing puffiness and the look of fine lines. Because it is an oil, I preferred using this at night either by itself or over a cream or treatment to lock in moisture. $60, moonmotherhemp.com
Peptides are a hot ingredient in skincare, but what exactly are they? According to Cat Tatman of Denver-based Intelligent Elixirs, peptides are “amino acid chains and building blocks of protein in our bodies—including collagen. As we age, collagen begins to break down, which is why using peptides regularly can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by supporting healthy collagen.” Bottom line: If you don’t have a peptide cream in your beauty arsenal, now is the time to incorporate one.
Vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand Onå New York blends botanicals native to Russia and Northeast Asia with non-toxic active ingredients from Korea to combat environmental stressors and nourish the skin. Their Revitalizing Eye Cream is a silky moisturizer that reduces puffiness and fine lines with vitamin E and peptides. The ball applicator makes it easy to apply the cream exactly where you want it before gently patting it into the skin. $42, onanewyork.com
Dermaquest Peptide Eye Firming Serum was a winner for giving eyes a firmer contour, especially when using at night. It absorbs quickly and erased any signs of puffiness. That said, I did find I needed some extra moisture on top. $81, dermaquestinc.com
Liz and I were both fans of Intelligent Elixirs Total Eye Repair, a hydrating shea butter eye cream that’s also packed with Coenzyme Q10, squalene and algae extracts, and peptides to repair and strengthen the eye area. I liked that I woke up looking refreshed with this moisturizer, while Liz approved of its non-irritating formula and smooth finish under concealer. $28, ieskincare.com
Retinol is a form of vitamin A that boosts the amount of collagen in the skin to give you that plump look. It also helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, while improving skin tone and discoloration. However, there are two things to remember with retinol treatments: Use retinol only at night, as it can cause sun sensitivity, and remember to apply creams along your orbital bone and not too close to your actual eye in order to avoid irritation.
Osmotics R+R Longevity Eye Complex was a top retinol performer for firming the under-eye area and decreasing the look of fine lines. Formulated with a time-release retinol delivery, this cream had my eyes looking smooth and hydrated in the morning. In addition to retinol, other powerful ingredients include antioxidants like co-enzyme Q10, vitamins A and E, moisturizing squalene and shea butter, and pea extract to fight free radical damage. $78, osmotics.com
My eyes also did well with a retinol treatment plus a regular eye cream layered on top, which is why I liked MyChelle Dermaceuticals Remarkable Retinal Eye Cream. The miracle-working ingredient here is a vegetable-derived retinal that had me waking up with my eyes de-puffed and fine lines less defined. It’s also the least irritating form of vitamin A, which is a bonus for sensitive eyes. In addition to retinol, this product has plant stem cells and Ceramide 3 to assist with cell renewal. $35, mychelle.com
If you’ve never used eye gels before, they are one of the best remedies for puffy eyes; just apply, leave on for 20 to 30 minutes and voilà!
My absolute favorite eye treat is by luxe Korean spa brand Shangpree. I’ve been using their Marine Energy Eye Mask for about eight months, and it works wonders in the morning when my eyes are puffy. Packed with antioxidant-rich algae and spirulina, as well as sodium hyaluronate for hydration, these individual masks moisturize, plump, and brighten the under-eye area. They also stay put and don’t migrate down your face, so you can get on with your morning routine. $30 for a container of 60, peachandlily.com
Onå New York’s All Eyes On Me Illuminating Eye Gels are a good vegan option for de-puffing morning eyes. Their combination of cooling cucumber, algae extract for hydrating, and natural vitamin B3 to illuminate the eye area will have your peepers looking perky in no time. $28 for a box of 5, onanewyork.com
Another pampering treat is by Earth Therapeutics Recover-E Cucumber Eye Pads, which will have tired, irritated eyes feeling cool and comforted. These pre-moistened pads are packed with cucumber extract, vitamin E, aloe vera, chamomile, and green tea to calm and hydrate the entire eye area. Keep them in the refrigerator for an extra cooling effect. $8.99 for a pack of 5, earththerapeutics.com