Brightening your under-eye area is a sure-fire way to make you look healthier and happier. Here are the skincare hits the pros rate
If you buy something we recommend we may earn an affiliate commission.
We all want to look bright and wide awake, but if you’ve got dark circles under your eyes it can be difficult to portray peppiness. “Dark circles in the eye area is the most common concern in my clinic,” Dr Emily MacGregor of the Story Clinic in London tells us. “They can make you look tired, sad, unwell and unhealthy.” Yikes.
What causes dark circles?
The key to banishing dark under-eye circles is identifying the cause – and there are three main culprits that become more apparent as we age, according to Dr Emily. Firstly, as we get older the skin under our eyes starts to get thinner, which allows blood vessels underneath to show through, creating a dark blue/purple hue. Next up, pigmentation in the under-eye area as a result of too much sun can cause brownish dark circles, especially in darker skin tones. Lastly the area under your eyes can become hollow-looking, because we lose the plump padding in the area, which makes it look darker and shadowy.
What can we do about dark circles?
When it comes to skincare as a fix for dark circles, it's a long game says Dr Emily. “Skincare takes a long time to penetrate, so expect to wait eight to 12 weeks of using something daily to see a difference,” she says.
If your dark circles are caused by pigmentation , Dr Emily says to look for eye creams with vitamin C. “This brightens the eye area, helping regulate uneven pigment,” she says.
If thinning skin is the root of your dark circles, skincare that thickens the skin is key. Look for ingredients that support collagen production such as peptides, retinol and its gentler plant-based cousin bakuchiol, as well hydrating ingredients to add plumpness.
If your dark circles are caused by hollowing, no eye cream can make a difference sadly. An option for immediate results is tear trough filler, which gives a result that no skincare can match. Dr Emily recommends once a year. Injecting hyaluronic acid into the hollows will lift the area, getting rid of darkness. At Story Clinic this costs from £425 per session.
What to look for in your eye cream to tackle dark circles
Peptides : “Peptides can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, helping to keep the skin thicker and decreasing how much the vessels show through the skin,” Dr Sophie says.
Vitamin C : “Vitamin C gets rid of free radicals and brightens the skin and boosts collagen,” says specialist ophthalmic and oculoplastic consultant Daniel Ezra.
Caffeine : “Caffeine temporarily constricts blood vessels and therefore helps to decrease dark circles caused by them showing through thin skin,” says Dr Sophie Shotter.
Retinol : Many eye products swerve retinol as it can irritate the eye area, but it’s the ingredient that Chelsee Lewis, a facialist Chelsee Lewis who has tended to the complexions of Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney recommends. “Retinol is excellent in tackling dark circles as it stimulates collagen production and cell turnover to reduce dark, under-eye circles," she says. Check out our review of the best retinol eye creams.
Bakuchiol: Bakuchiol is such a powerful ingredient for retinol-like results without sensitivity. In studies, it's been shown to be equally effective at boosting new cell growth when used twice a day, as the same strength of retinol used once a day. It is perfect if your eyes area feels dry or irritated with retinol and you still want the skin thickening results.
Niacinamide : This is known for its skin brightening properties as it helps to tackle hyperpigmentation by lightening dark spots.
Vitamin E: This has powerful antioxidant properties that soften the appearance of hyperpigmentation and wrinkles around the under-eye area.
Vitamin K: “Vitamin K can help reduce discoloration and bruising that cause dark circles underneath your eyes,” aesthetician Joanna Czech tell us. It can also strengthen blood capillaries in that area.
Hyaluronic acid : “This helps to plump the skin and to keep the skin thick and hydrated, which helps to minimise how much the blood vessels can show through the skin, therefore decreasing dark circles,” says Dr Sophie.
Dark circle eye creams doctors and skin experts recommend
Omorovicza IlluminEye C Eye Cream, £71.25
Powered by vitamins C, A and E, this is Joanna Czech's eye cream of choice. "It brightens, smooths and hydrates the eye contour," she says. It has hyaluronic acid in, as well as retinal, a non-irritating form of vitamin A. It has a rich, velvety texture and is slight peach tinted for an instant blurring effect.
SkinCeuticals AOX+ Eye Gel, £77
This is Sophie Shotter's dark circle eye cream pick, with both caffeine and antioxidants in the mix to nix your dark circles. It has an ultralight gel texture that sinks in immediately, plus it takes down puffiness too.
Neostrata Skin Active Intensive Eye Therapy Antiaging Treatment, £43.20
Aesthetic practitioner Dr Uma Jeyanathan of online aesthetic clinic GetHarley speaks highly of this balmy textured dark circle skincare. It has peptides, caffeine and hyaluronic acid for a three-pronged attack on dark circles. It also has neoglucosamine in which mildly exfoliates to get rid of discoloration.
Yonka Phyto Contour Eye Cream, £23.10
Chelsee Lewis shouts this out as her favoured eye cream for dark circles. "It works wonders to erase dark circles quickly and easily and makes the eyes look brighter and firmer." She also shouts out Natura Bissé's Inhibit Retinol Eye Lift , £128. "It's great for under the eye as it contains retinol which gives a tightening effect that rejuvenates the skin after each use," she tells us.
Revision D·E·J Eye Cream, £104.50
This is Dr Emily's eye cream pick for dark circles. It works on the dermal-epidermal junction (the layer between the upper and lower layer of the skin, hence the name D-E-J), resulting in a smoother, brighter under-eye area thanks to a cocktail of ingredients including vitamin C, peptides and squalane .
The budget option: The Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream, £8.99
This lineup of recommendations from the experts is undeniably pricey. For a more pocket-friendly option that still comes recommended by dermatologist Anjali Mahto, try this from The Inkey List. Anjali cites this as one of her favourite eye creams. It has Matrixyl 3000 in the ingredients, one of the key elements that gives Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Repair its cult status. It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and caffeine is obviously key in this budget-friendly buy too, for lessening dark circles.
Editor's pick: Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Creme, £42
Get The Gloss Editorial Director Victoria Woodhall loves the dual action of this bakuchiol and peptide eye cream. "It's rather mesmerising," she says. "The purple swirls of bakuchiol mix with the white peptide and stem cell blend when you pump a tiny dot onto your fingertip. I find this gel suits my mature skin better than Ole Henriksen's cult Banana Bright Eye Crème , £33 as it's more firming. It also has a blurring primer-like quality which always makes my concealer sit well."