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Not to throw shade at creams, but if you want visible results from your topicals, serums are where it's at. "With an eye serum, the focus is more on the active ingredients than on the moisturizing properties," explains New York dermatologist Hadley King, MD. "The formulation should still be hydrating, but it won't be as rich as a cream."
For a serum that can do it all, we recommend Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum. It beat out the competition with its ability to combat fine lines and crows feet with retinol. Eye serums can be some of the priciest per-ounce products on the market, which is why we also singled out The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + ECGC Depuffing Eye Serum as our top budget option.
Dennis Gross MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, notes that serums have a thinner consistency than creams with more of a gel-like finish. "While it depends on the make and model, eye serums tend to be more targeted treatments," he adds.
There are eye serums for just about every skin type and concern, from dark circles and under-eye bags to crepiness and crow's feet. "Top ingredients may include anti-aging peptides, growth factors, antioxidants, retinol, and humectants," Dr. King tells Byrdie.
So, which formulas stand out from the rest? We checked our own medicine cabinets, scoured our skincare fridges, and chatted with a few derms to see which products have their stamp of approval.
Scroll down for the best eye serums currently on the market.
Best Overall: Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum
Can be used morning and night
When it comes to over-the-counter skincare products that actually yield noticeable results, Dr. Dennis Gross is one brand you can count on, and the Triple Correction Eye Serum is no exception. "It's FDA-approved to be applied both under the lid and on top for a lifting effect and incorporates retinol for treating crow's feet, fine lines, and 11s," says Dr. Gross. Thanks to the gel-like consistency, he adds, it boasts a cooling, depuffing effect.
In addition to retinol, this eye serum contains anti-aging newcomer bakuchiol, plus antioxidant all-star ferulic acid and rambutan to tackle the signs of photoaging. We also like that it comes in an airtight container and can be used morning or night.
Active Ingredients: Retinol, bakuchiol, ferulic acid, rambutan | Benefits: Smoothing, hydrating, toning, cooling, depuffing | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: The Ordinary Caffeine 5% + ECGC Depuffing Eye Serum
You don't have to shell out tons of money to make a difference in your eye area. Case in point: this brilliant tincture from The Ordinary. It calls on caffeine to depuff, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, and unsung hero EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) to minimize the look of dark circles.
Active Ingredients: Epigallocatechin gallate, caffeine, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Depuffing, toning, hydrating | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Drugstore: Olay Eye Lifting Serum
Good for sensitive skin
Results aren't drastic
From the drugstore aisle, we're loving Olay's Eye Lifting Serum. The fragrance-free formula is chock full of skincare standbys like glycerin, niacinamide, panthenol (vitamin B5), and green tea extract, plus it's gentle enough for sensitive skin.
Active Ingredients: Niacinamide, glycerin, panthenol, green tea | Benefits: Firming, lifting, smoothing, tightening | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Splurge: SkinCeuticals AOX+ Eye Gel
Minimizes dark circles
Neutralizes free radicals
According to Dr. King, products containing vitamin C, ferulic acid, and other antioxidants can address various eye-area concerns. Her favorite is SkinCeuticals AOX+ Eye Gel. "The antioxidant interferes with the production of pigment and will therefore brighten dark circles, improve pigmentation, and also prevent free-radical damage from UV light exposure," she explains.
Active Ingredients: Vitamin C, ferulic acid, phloretin | Benefits: Reduces discoloration, protective, depuffing | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
"Serums combine higher concentrations of active ingredients like antioxidants and anti-aging peptides. They are generally light and quickly absorbed." — NYC-based dermatologist Hadley King, MD
Best Depuffing: Organys Spark Rejuvenating Eye Formula
Can be used morning and night
Puffy eyes got you down? Your best bet is Organys Spark. It banishes under-eye bloat with caffeine, reduces discoloration with vitamin C, then moisturizes and plumps with peptides and hyaluronic acid.
Active Ingredients: Peptides, vitamin C, caffeine, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Depuffing, smoothing, reducing discoloration, hydrating | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"Overall, I found the Organys Spark Eye Cream to be quite effective in hydrating and soothing the skin surrounding my eyes." — Jenna Igneri, Product Tester
Best Firming: Stacked Skincare Firming Eye Complex
Minimizes fine lines
Neutralizes free radicals
This firming eye serum is a go-to for Byrdie senior editor Lindsey Metrus. The star ingredient is astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that tightens the skin and minimizes the appearance of fine lines while simultaneously repairing and preventing free-radical damage.
Active Ingredients: Astaxanthin, blue passion flower | Benefits: Firming, smoothing, toning | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Smoothing: Marla Rene Beauty & Co. IlluminEyez Eye Serum
Minimizes fine lines
If it's smoother skin you're after, we recommend IlluminEyez. This gentle yet effective eye serum tackles fine lines and crepiness with retinol while calling on caffeine and vitamin E to depuff and soothe.
Active Ingredients: Retinol, caffeine, vitamin E | Benefits: Smoothing, hydrating, soothing, depuffing | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Crow's Feet: Murad Youth Retinol Eye Serum
Murad is another tried-and-true skincare brand that delivers on its promises. It contains multiple retinoids to target crepiness, crow's feet, fine lines, and deeper wrinkles—and you can count on noticeable results in as little as four weeks.
Active Ingredients: Retinol, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Smoothing, hydrating, retexturizing | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Brightening: Skinergy Beauty Eye Rewind Brightening Eye Serum
Gentle enough for AM/PM use
Instantly wakes up the eye area
Brightens under-eye skin over time
Dark and puffy under-eyes got you down? This serum is here to save the day. The formula—which is brimming with skin-loving ingredients like kojic acid, retinyl palmitate (a retinoid derivative), bisabolol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and almond oil—helps combat dark circles and eye bags while simultaneously lightening, brightening, and hydrating the delicate under-eye zone. The result? A fresh and rejuvenated appearance, as if you actually got enough sleep the night before.
Active Ingredients: Kojic acid, retinyl palmitate, bisabolol, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, almond Oil | Benefits: Brightening, depuffing, firming | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Tightening: Peter Thomas Roth Instant FIRMx Eye Temporary Eye Tightener
Works well under makeup
Results are temporary
"My favorite for tightening is Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx," says Diane Madfes, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and attending physician at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. As if by magic, this quick-fix potion instantly lifts, firms, and depuffs your entire eye area.
Active Ingredients: Silicates, seaweed extract, alfalfa, peptides | Benefits: Tightening, depuffing, smoothing | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Under Makeup: Fenty Skin Flash Nap Instant Revival Priming Eye Gel-Cream
Need something to apply before swiping on your concealer? Fenty Flash Nap has your name on it. This lightweight gel quickly hydrates and smoothes to prep the eye area for makeup and make you look more awake.
Active Ingredients: Green tea, hyaluronic acid, horse chestnut | Benefits: Smoothing, hydrating | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Instant Results: Meaningful Beauty Youth Activating Smoothing and Refreshing Eye Serum
Minimizes fine lines
"This formula instantly awakens eyes," says board-certified dermatologist Marie V. Hayag, MD of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics. She appreciates that it immediately hydrates the skin and smooths fine lines while firming the under-eye area with continued use. "The unique ergonomic applicator also helps to reduce puffiness," she adds.
Active Ingredients: Melon leaf stem cells | Benefits: Smoothing, cooling, depuffing | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Long-Term Results: Hylamide SubQ Eyes Advanced Serum
Minimizes fine lines
If you're in it for the long game, your best bet is Hylamide SubQ. With retinol, peptides, and darutoside, this intensive eye serum contains a medley of researched-backed ingredients to smooth and tighten the skin over time.
Active Ingredients: Darutoside, peptides, retinol | Benefits: Smoothing, depuffing, hydrating, tightening | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best With Retinol: Sunday Riley 5 Stars Retinoid + Niacinamide Eye Serum
Minimizes fine lines
Evens skin tone
We're also big fans of Sunday Riley 5 Stars. Don't let the cute container fool you—this eye serum blends skin-smoothing superstars retinol and niacinamide to reduce fine lines and deliver a more even skin tone.
Active Ingredients: Retinol, niacinamide | Benefits: Smoothing, retexturizing, hydrating, cooling | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best With Caffeine: Charlotte Tilbury Cryo-Recovery Depuffing Eye Serum
Dr. King likes caffeine-infused eye products like Charlotte Tilbury's Cryo-Recovery for puffy, droopy skin. "Caffeine constricts blood vessels and can therefore reduce the amount of fluid accumulating," she tells Byrdie.
Active Ingredients: Caffeine, ice wine essence | Benefits: Depuffing, tightening, cooling, reducing discoloration | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best K-Beauty: Dr. Althea To Be Eyeconic Eye Serum
Results aren't dramatic
Korean skincare brand Dr. Althea's take on eye serum is this ultra-gentle, silky-smooth formula that works to enhance the entire area. Standout ingredients include natural anti-inflammatory panthenol, wrinkle-reducing adenosine, and K-beauty favorite cica (centella asiatica).
Active Ingredients: Panthenol, adenosine, centella asiatica | Benefits: Softening, smoothing | Size: 0.84 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Triple Correction Eye Serum is hands down the best eye serum out there today. The intensive yet gentle blend of retinol, bakuchiol, ferulic acid, and rambutan provides noticeable results, and you can use it both morning and night. On the other hand, The Ordinary Depuffing Eye Serum will only run you a few bucks and makes a visible difference in dark circles and under-eye bags.
Meet the Expert
- Diane Madfes, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and attending physician at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
- Marie V. Hayag, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in New York City.
- Ife J. Rodney, MD, is a dermatologist and founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, Maryland.
- Hadley King, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology.
- Dennis Gross, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.
What to Look For in an Eye Serum
“The skin under the eyes is the thinnest on the face and is prone to damage,” explains board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, MD. “An eye serum should both heal and maintain the overall health of your skin.” Her recs? Common ingredients like vitamin C and retinol, which can help target puffiness, lines, and wrinkles and improve the appearance of dark circles.
Because the skin surrounding the eye area is so delicate, Dr. Rodney recommends reaching for formulas packed with hydrating ingredients. “These will plump the skin, making it more vibrant and youthful,” she says. “Some helpful ingredients include glycerin, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.”
Clean, Vegan, and Cruelty-Free
Finally, Dr. Rodney recommends clean, vegan, and cruelty-free formulas, noting she's seen an increase in demand from her patients. "I look for as few ingredients as possible, which reduces the chance of skin irritation or clogged pores," she says. "These are also free of fragrance, parabens, and sulfates"—all of which are known to potentially cause irritation and reactions, especially in those with sensitive skin.
What are the benefits of eye serums?
Like regular face serums, eye serums contain concentrated doses of various actives, like retinoids, antioxidants, and peptides. This allows them to target various concerns, like crepiness, fine lines, crow's feet, dark circles, and under-eye bags.
"If you want to address a specific issue with active ingredients, then look for a serum that features a high concentration of that active ingredient," says Dr. King. On the other hand, if you're simply looking to moisturize the eye area, an eye cream might be the way to go.
How do you apply eye serums?
Deposit a small amount of product onto a clean finger (roughly the size of a grain of rice or two grains if you're doing both eyes at once). Next, tap the serum all-around your under-eyes, eyelids, and up to the brow bone. Then gently pat it in circular motions until it's absorbed.
Eye serums should always be applied to clean skin, typically right after washing your face. Additionally, Dr. Gross notes, "Eye serums and creams can be layered for added treatment, but ultimately your selection should be based on what you're looking to treat the most."
How often should you use an eye serum?
You can apply an eye serum up to two times per day. In fact, daily use is often recommended to achieve the desired results. However, you may want to work your way up to everyday use with products containing retinol to avoid irritation.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a regular Byrdie contributor and commerce writer specializing in cosmetics and wellness. For this story, she interviewed five dermatologists and compiled their insight and recommendations before researching various products, active ingredients, and formulations. As a skincare enthusiast, Theresa has personally tried several products from the above list, including Dr. Dennis Gross, Charlotte Tilbury, Peter Thomas Roth, Sunday Riley, and Meaningful Beauty. You can find more of her articles on The Spruce and MyDomaine.