June 14, 2024

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19 best treatments for dark circles under eyes, according to derms

13 min read

The skin under your eyes can say a lot about how you feel: a long night working late or stressful situations can sometimes show up on your face in the form of dark under-eye circles. Genetics, allergies and age are just a few reasons why people develop dark circles, experts say. These different causes can make them particularly tricky to treat.

“Dark circles result from under-eye puffiness, volume loss, hyperpigmentation and visibility of the blood vessels in the under-eye area,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City. Though cosmetic procedures like injectable fillers can offer a more effective long-term treatment, plenty of over-the-counter skin care products can help remedy discoloration over time.

To help you determine the best way to treat your dark under-eye circles, I spoke to dermatologists about common potential causes, effective ingredients, and cosmetic treatments worth investing in. I also compiled staff—and expert-recommended products that can help reduce the appearance of under-eye circles.

SKIP AHEAD Best products for treating dark under-eye circles | What causes dark under-eye circles? | How to treat dark under-eye circles

How we picked the best dark circles treatments

When shopping for treatments for dark under-eye circles, the dermatologists we spoke to recommend considering the following factors:

  • Ingredients: Consider products that contain key ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinol, caffeine, peptides and vitamin C to help treat and reduce the appearance of dark under-eye circles. We go more in-depth about these ingredients below.
  • Type of product: In addition to eye creams and face moisturizers, silk pillowcases and cooling under-eye patches can also help reduce the appearance of dark circles over time. Applying sunscreen around the eyes and eyelids can also protect the skin from sun damage that may worsen the appearance of dark circles.

Best products for treating dark under-eye circles

Each of the following products is dermatologist-recommended, an NBC Select staff favorite and/or include ingredients that align with our experts’ guidance.

Best eye creams for dark circles

RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream

One of our favorite eye creams, this RoC option has retinol to help stimulate collagen production (which experts say keeps the structure of your skin firm and provides underlying support), but is also gentle enough that it doesn’t irritate the delicate under-eye skin, says Dr. Nkem Ugonabo, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Derm. It also has glycerin, which pulls moisture into the skin, says Dr. Heidi Waldorf, a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics.

L’Oreal Revitalift Triple Power Eye Treatment

L’Oreal’s Revitalift eye cream includes a combination of retinol, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to reduce puffiness and brighten the skin under the eyes. It also gets top marks from Waldorf for having skin-plumping glycerin and dimethicone, as well as caffeine for reducing redness and discoloration.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Eye Cream

Made with retinol, hyaluronic acid and dimethicone, Neutrogena’s eye cream is an excellent drugstore option, according to Waldorf. It not only works to decrease the appearance of fine lines and dark circles, but also keeps the delicate skin under your eyes hydrated, she says.

Garnier Skin Active Clearly Brighter Anti-Puff Eye Roller

This Garnier eye roller can serve as a quick fix for under-eye puffiness and dark circles because it has caffeine, vitamin C and mint to help reduce the appearance of the under-eye bags, says Garshick. It comes with a convenient roll-on applicator that has a cooling effect and can help you easily apply the gel cream to the under-eye area, according to the brand.

Alastin Restorative Eye Treatment

This Alastin eye treatment has brightening and hydrating ingredients like niacinamide and green tea, says Ugonabo. It also has a blend of active peptides that helps firm up the skin and even out skin tone under the eyes, according to the brand. It’s noncomedogenic and hypoallergenic, which also makes it a good option for those with sensitive skin.

Supergoop Bright-Eyed 100% Mineral Eye Cream

Waldorf recommends Supergoop’s mineral eye cream because it contains 100% zinc oxide and has SPF 40 to protect the skin from harmful UV rays. (Keep in mind, you should look for a sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30 to provide an adequate amount of protection, experts told us in our guide to face sunscreens.) This SPF eye cream also has a blend of probiotics and caffeine to brighten the skin and alleviate any redness, according to the brand.

Charlotte Tilbury Cryo-Recovery Eye Serum

Cooling products are helpful for reducing swelling and puffiness since the cold causes the blood vessels to constrict, says Garshick. “This is why I often recommend putting eye cream in the refrigerator to get the added cooling benefit or using eye creams that contain a cold metal applicator for the added de-puffing benefit,” she says.

This Charlotte Tilbury eye serum comes with a metal applicator that has an instant cooling effect to de-puff the eyes, according to the brand. It also has a blend of caffeine and peptides, which our experts say can keep the under-eye area looking smoother, brighter and more refreshed.

Isdin K-Ox Eyes Dark Circles Minimizer Eye Contour Cream

I love using Isdin’s K-Ox eye cream daily to combat my dark circles. It brightens my under eyes, leaves the area feeling hydrated and the ceramic applicator is cooling on my skin. The eye cream also has haloxyl, an ingredient that helps even out skin tone and keeps the under eyes firm, according to the brand.

Summer Fridays Light Aura Vitamin C + Peptide Eye Cream

This eye cream has a lightweight, whipped texture and is a favorite of NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin. Like others on our list, this eye cream has vitamin C and caffeine to help brighten, depuff and support the production of collagen, according to the brand. Malin, who dabs less than ¼ of a teaspoon onto the skin, stores the cream in her fridge to provide an instant cooling effect.

Neostrata Repair Intensive Eye Therapy

Packed with alpha hydroxy acids, hyaluronic acid and peptides, this eye cream has protective antioxidant benefits, says Waldorf. “Fruit stem extract contains antioxidants and other ingredients that may be protective to aging cells. It also has caffeine to reduce puffiness,” she says.

Neocutis Lumiere Firm Riche Eye Cream

This Neocutis eye cream targets dark circles with ingredients like vitamin C, caffeine and peptides. It also has growth hormones, which are proteins that help regulate good collagen processes (which restores the skin) and reduce bad collagen processes to avoid volume loss around the under-eye area, according to our experts. Suitable for all skin types, the brand recommends using this cream in the morning and evening.

Best eye masks and patches for dark circles

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Hydra-Gel Eye Patches

One of our favorite under-eye patches, this expert-recommended option has hyaluronic acid and caffeine to help improve the look of fine lines and under-eye hyperpigmentation, according to the brand. The patches are fragrance-free, and you can apply them in the morning and at night, according to Peter Thomas Roth.

Skyn Iceland HydroCool Firming Eye Gel Pads

“Puffiness can be reduced temporarily by using topicals with ingredients like green tea polyphenols and caffeine, which helps the fluid shift,” says Waldorf. She likes using these Skyn Iceland topical cooling pads before a special occasion, presentation or photo shoot to help de-puff and brighten up her under eyes. You can pop them into the fridge for a cooling effect that also helps reduce swelling and puffiness, says Waldorf. Free of parabens and silicones, these pads can help seal moisture and plump the skin in just 10 minutes, according to the brand.

Pacifica Eye Bright Vitamin C Spot Serum Mask

These Pacifica patches have a 4.3-star average rating from over 870 reviews at Ulta and include ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin C to brighten and hydrate the under-eye area. They’re also infused with aloe to moisturize and soothe the delicate skin around the eyes, according to the brand. You can purchase these individually or purchase them in a pack of four. 

More treatments to help reduce dark circles

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

“I often recommend patients apply a tiny amount of Aquaphor healing ointment under the eye at night to help seal in moisture,” says Ugonabo. Designed for dry, cracked skin, the Aquaphor Healing Ointment can go beyond under-eye care: You can use it as a lip moisturizer, facial moisturizer, hydrating mask and more, according to the brand.

EltaMD UV Clear Tinted Sunscreen

Sunscreen helps protect the skin from UV rays that cause sun damage, which can ultimately help diminish the appearance of dark circles in the process, says Dr. David Rayhan, a board-certified dermatologist at Rayhan Dermatology. He recommends this tinted sunscreen from EltaMD — which makes some of our favorite SPF lip balms and tinted moisturizers — because “it contains zinc oxide and iron oxide, which help prevent damage from ultraviolet light,” he says.

Slip Silk Pillowcase

Silk sheets and pillowcases can help prevent tugging at the skin, which can ultimately reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, experts explained in our guide to silk bedding. Though they’re not going to fully treat dark circles, chronic friction can cause pigment production: “If your pillowcase is irritating your eyelids, this could be contributing to the problem,” says Rayhan. Waldorf recommends investing in this Slip silk pillowcase because it’s machine-washable and designed to reduce friction on your face. The pillowcase is available in both Queen and King sizes and comes in multiple colorways, including pink, silver and pistachio.

Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm

Some harsh makeup-removing wipes, especially those that require rubbing the under-eye area, may cause redness and irritation and even worsen hyperpigmentation, according to our experts. Farmacy makes some of our favorite acne scar treatments and editor-favorite lip masks, and this balm from the brand is one I use daily to double cleanse. It has a smooth, silky consistency and melts easily into my skin, so I don’t have to rub my eyes with a coarse wipe to remove my eye makeup. The cleansing balm has sunflower and ginger root oils to remove eye makeup without stripping or drying out the skin, and it has papaya extract to gently exfoliate, according to the brand.

What causes dark under-eye circles?

Dark circles are a very common skin concern that affects people of all ages. Since the skin under the eyes is very thin and delicate, the underlying blood vessels may become more visible over time, which can contribute to the appearance of dark circles. Recognizing the cause can be a great start to figuring out how to treat them and reduce their appearance, our experts say.

A few common causes of under-eye circles include genetics, aging and environmental factors. Some people may also naturally have darkness or hyperpigmentation under the eyes, and those may look more severe for people with fairer skin tones, according to our experts.

One of the most common causes associated with dark under-eye circles are lifestyle factors, including drinking a lot of alcohol, not eating a well-balanced diet and lack of sleep, which can significantly contribute to puffiness under the eyes, says Ugonabo. Not properly caring for the under-eye area can also play a role, especially since it can be very easy for people to skip that step when doing their full skin care routine, she says.

Allergies are also a major cause of dark circles, and you may have even heard the term “allergic shiners,” which refers to darkness under the eyes that appear due to blood pooling from allergies. “Those with allergies or those who frequently rub their eyes may notice discoloration as a result of chronic rubbing of the skin,” says Garshick.

Aging is also one of the leading causes of dark under-eye circles. Over time, the tissue around the eyes weakens, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “As we get older, we lose collagen and volume. This volume loss can lead to changes that appear as dark circles as a result of the increased shadow effect,” says Garshick, adding that the eyelid skin is so thin and delicate that the underlying blood vessels may become more visible over time and can make dark circles appear worse. 

Hyperpigmentation or a brown discoloration can be either a result of sun damage or genetics and also cause dark circles, says Garshick.

What is the best treatment to get rid of dark circles?

There are very few instances where you can fully treat under-eye circles. But even though some causes are tougher to treat than others, most of the time there are products that can provide some improvement, says Rayhan. Since there are many factors that cause dark circles, you usually need to treat them using a few different methods, he says.

Cosmetic procedures are the most effective way to treat dark circles, according to our experts. If the discoloration is caused by volume loss creating shadows, injectable fillers (typically hyaluronic acid-based) or a lower eyelift (called lower blepharoplasty) are most effective, while laser skin resurfacing with a CO2 laser can help with thinning of the skin and blood pooling, says Rayhan. Chemical peels performed in-office by a dermatologist or skin care professional can also help treat hyperpigmentation or discoloration, says Garshick.

If cosmetic procedures aren’t for you, using over-the-counter eye creams and skin care products can still help reduce the appearance of dark circles. (Keep in mind that you won’t get the same results as you would get from in-house cosmetic procedures.) One of the best ways to reduce the appearance of darkness under the eyes is by hydrating and moisturizing the area using eye creams with ingredients that induce collagen, like retinol and vitamin C.

You should always wear sunscreen during the day — even around the eyelids — to protect the skin, especially since hyperpigmentation from sun damage can worsen dark circles over time, according to Rayhan. While some factors may be out of your control, “using sunscreen helps prevent UV damage that can contribute to volume loss and hyperpigmentation which can otherwise lead to dark circles,” says Garshick.

What ingredients do dermatologists recommend to treat dark circles?

To help you choose the best skin care products to treat dark circles, we’ve compiled a checklist of important ingredients to look for.

  • Hyaluronic acid hydrates, plumps and brightens the skin, which can help mask darkness under the eyes, says Garshick. Since hyaluronic acid has a plumping effect, it can also be a good option if your dark circles are due to volume loss, she says.
  • Caffeine works to constrict the blood vessels under the eyes, reducing redness. “Those with dark circles that result from thin skin around the eyes making underlying blood vessels more visible should look for a caffeine-containing eye cream, which may also help with under-eye puffiness,” says Garshick.
  • Dimethicone and cyclomethicone are emollients that lock in moisture and act as a spackle between cells to make skin look smoother and silkier, according to Waldorf.
  • Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and the over-the-counter version of prescription retinoids. Retinol helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles from forming by promoting cell turnover in the skin. “Retinol eye creams can help with fine lines and wrinkles and may help with discoloration,” says Garshick. However, you should use these eye creams with care since they can often be drying and irritating, she says.
  • Vitamin C and polyphenols help reduce oxidative stress from environmental pollutants, according to Waldorf. “Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can also have a brightening effect on the skin,” says Ugonabo.
  • Peptides are the building blocks of collagen, which helps keep your skin firm and smooth. As you age, the rate of collagen your skin produces slows down, so using eye creams with peptides helps stimulate their growth. “Because the skin around the eye is thin, eye creams containing peptides can help strengthen and thicken the skin around the eye,” says Garshick.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Marisa Garshick is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
  • Dr. Nkem Ugonabo is a board-certified dermatologist with advanced fellowship training in cosmetic dermatology and lasers at Union Derm in New York City.
  • Dr. Heidi Waldorf is a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics
  • Dr. David Rayhan is a board-certified dermatologist at Rayhan Dermatology in Huntington Beach, California.

Why trust NBC Select?

Mili Godio is an editor at Select who has covered a variety of skin care topics, including products for rosacea, keratosis pilaris and cystic acne. For this article, Godio spoke to four dermatologists to narrow down the best treatments for dark under-eye circles, and highlighted their recommendations for the best products to consider.

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