Whether the issue is dark circles, fine lines or both, getting rid of them around our eyes can’t happen quickly enough. However, unfortunately for us, minimizing the appearance of dark circles isn’t as easy as it sounds. Chicago dermatologist Carolyn Jacob, MD explains that dark circles form due to a number of factors: “Thin skin, blood-vessel prominence, pigment, and hollowing are the main four,” she notes. “The eyelid skin is the thinnest skin on the face, and therefore shows aging the earliest, due to loss of collagen and elastic tissue, which leads to wrinkling, sagging and more thinning.”
“The darkness can also be caused by vein presentation around the eyes,” adds Santa Monica, CA dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD. “As we age and lose volume in the area, the vascular system is more visible and prominent. Contributing to this is skin thinning, weakness or damage to the skin barrier due to aging and losses of collagen, elastin supporting skin thickness and the spongy structural support,” says the doctor. “To treat excess pigment in the area, lasers for pigment can help to break down this melanocyte activity, redness and discoloration.”
However, if your prominent eye circles are due to hollowing or something similar—Dr. Shamban notes the sunken “cave like” condition caused in the tear trough area casts a shadow and can no longer reflect light—Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi A. Waldorf, MD contends a procedure may be required in order to see a significant result. “Hollowing can be addressed with fillers such as hyaluronic acid and we are currently conducting a trial on the treatment of infraorbital hollows,” adds Dr. Jacob.
In the meantime, we asked top dermatologists to name the one eye cream they find to be most effective at busting dark circles. Scroll on to shop their picks.
Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie D. Callender, MD calls this formula her favorite when it comes to fading the appearance of dark circles. The melanin-balancing cream also includes ingredients like caffeine and hyaluronic acid to keep the area looking smooth and plump.
Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD names this cream her go-to, noting it boasts peptide technology to help rev up collagen production and rejuvenate the skin. “If we improve the quality of our skin and rebuild collagen, this can help reduce the transparency of skin, which helps reduce some of the appearance of discoloration and promotes healthy skin turn over,” she explains. “What is great about this cream is it does not dry out the skin,” adds the expert.
Another fan of this eye cream is New York plastic surgeon Melissa Doft, MD, who agrees this formula is brimming with peptides and antioxidants to help the eye area appear firmer and brighter.
According to Dr. Shamban, the radish and licorice root, plus vitamin E “and a whole host of peptide chains chock full of lipids and fatty acids” found in this cream work to strengthen bonds in the skin matrix, “as well as plump and hydrate with a touch-free cool metal tip.”
For Baton Rouge, LA dermatologist Ann Zedlitz, MD, her solution to under-eye darkness is her very own formulation, which she says is brimming with vitamin K to help with the look of dark circles.
Dr. Shamban notes this luxe cream ranks high in the plumping, hydrating, nourishing, tightening and dark-circle brightening departments. “Hero ingredients include tripeptides, niacinamide, multi-molecular HA, caffeine and tree bark, licorice peptides and bipolymers to also help camouflage the area.”
ISDIN K-Ox Eye Cream ($93)
“This is one of my favorite eye creams I recommend to my patients,” says New York dermatologist Adebola Dele-Michael, MD. “It helps to reduce bags, puffiness, fine lines and dark circles.” New York dermatologist Sapna Palep, MD agrees, and offers up the ultimate testimonial about this particular treatment: “I’ve been using it for years and no longer have to use concealer under my eyes.” The secret? Its active ingredient lineup, which includes haloxyl, eyeliss, hyaluronic acid and vitamin K oxide.
“They all work together to improve the under-eye area’s elasticity and moisture, to reduce inflammation, and resorb pigment deposition to improve skin tone, aka dark circles. You’ll start to see results in as little as a month, but consistent usage shows the real benefit,” says Dr. Palep.
EltaMD Renew Eye Gel ($56)
Tenafly, NJ dermatologist Ana Cristina Laureano, MD says this lightweight eye gel contains niacinamide, an effective skin-lightening compound. “It works by inhibiting the pigment being produced by your melanocytes, and it does not let that pigment be transferred to your non-pigmented skin cells, called your keratinocytes. This product also contains peptides, which are the building blocks of proteins. These peptides can help build collagen to help smooth and contour the skin around the eye.”
Dr. Jacob, Dr. Waldorf and Fresno, CA dermatologist Kathleen Behr, MD all call this cream their favorite. “It has ingredients hitting the top lower eyelid complaints: pigmentation, puffiness, wrinkles and dryness,” says Dr. Waldorf. Dr. Behr adds, “Alastin’s unique Tri-Hex technology stimulates healthy elastin and collagen, which improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark circles.”
Even more, Dr. Jacob says this option includes one peptide in particular that does some heavy lifting on the dark-circle front. “Tetrapeptide 30 is an antioxidant that inhibits tyrosinase, which is needed for pigment, and melanocyte activation, which prevents the production of more pigment.”
SkinMedica TNS Eye Repair ($102)
“When a hollowness between the eye and orbital bone causes a depression, and therefore shadow, I use products that improve the way light reflects off the tissue to mask the shadowing, like this one that brightens the tissue,” says Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Janet Allenby, MD. Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie Callender, MD also names it her favorite. “It contains a combination of growth factors, TNS peptides and antioxidants that hydrates the skin around the eyes and improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In some patients, we will combine this eye treatment with a hyaluronic acid filler to correct the depression caused by the loss of supporting structures under the skin.”
“This product has SCA Biorepair technology, which is growth factors that help to firm, brighten and hydrate the skin,” says Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD. “It also contains antioxidants for protection against free radicals. I love it for patients who have sensitive skin.”
Sircuit Skin I. Cee. U. + ($120)
“This one is a favorite in my office,” says Dr. Doft. “It’s filled with antioxidants and great for tired eyes. It improves tone and lets the eyes appear more lifted.”
Rhofade (by prescription only)
Dr. Allenby says that if the reason for darkness around the eyes is due to increased small vessels underneath the skin, she uses a small amount of Rhofade (oxymetazolin hydrochloride cream1%) a prescription cream that vasoconstricts these small vessels and erases the red of the skin, off-label.
Shopping your own medicine cabinet? Dr. Shamban says these are the most effective ingredients to look for when the goal is lightening the look of dark circles:
“Vitamin C, vitamin E, niacinamide, kojic acid and licorice extract are more topical lightening or brightening agents that can help break down melanocytes and hyperpigmentation,” she says. “Caffeine is often used as it is an effective vasoconstrictor working to combat dark circles, and vitamin K, often used for wound contraction and blood clotting, is also beneficial as it supports metabolic re-epithelialization in the dermis which may also help to improve appearance of dark circles.”