Best eye serums for anti-ageing, brightening and reducing dark circles

·9-min read
 (Sunday Riley)
(Sunday Riley)

You will have likely nailed down the key elements of your skincare routine – from cleanser to moisturiser – but have you considered your peepers? Supporting the delicate skin around your eyes can often be overlooked.

Whether you follow a 12-step protocol or keep it minimal with just the basics, you might consider it overkill to opt for an additional product for the specific under-eye region. But that’s not the case.

According to dermatologist Dr Derrick Phillips, “The skin around our eyes is the most sensitive, thinnest layer that is delicate to external environmental factors and so a product is needed that cater to the sensitivity.”

In order to support the periorbital area with potent active ingredients to actually make a difference - and yet are still gentle enough not to overload, it requires different ingredients to penetrate the skin at the right level (i.e. not too deep). Dr Phillips explains, “The skin around the eyes is more prone to dryness, and quicker to show age and fatigue. Squinting and constant movement of the eyes also hasten the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and fluids collect under the eyes and cause puffiness and dark circles.

“Eye creams can address some of these issues in a delicate way. Using products for the face can be too heavy for the area and cause further damage.”

What is the difference between a cream and serum?

For this, a serum may feel like a better option than traditional cream. These are characterised by thinner textures, often gel-like with satisfying soothing effects as soon as the product is applied. They also offer more targeted treatments.

Dr Phillips adds, “Serums are one of the most effective anti-aging products due to their concentration of active ingredient that penetrates the skin faster and easier than creams because they are not diluted with moisturiser.

“Serums that contain ingredients such as vitamin C or retinol work to remove a layer of the skin revealing a smoother more rejuvenated layer after just a few weeks. However, using the same ingredients within a cream/moisturiser will take longer as the molecules and concentration levels are a lot higher and take longer to penetrate the skin.

“Creams are designed to deliver the same effects as a serum. However, with anti-aging creams in particular, a serum could potentially dry out or over-exfoliate your skin. Creams can be gentler on the skin and be applied morning and night. This is due to the lack of high potent ingredients. Creams also have the benefit of adding SPF protection that is often included as part of the formula. More than any other anti-aging hack that we try, ensuring our skin is protected from harmful rays helps the skin in the long run.”

What are the benefits of a serum?

Dr Phillips reveals that serums can beneficial our skin in many ways:

  • Quick absorption: Serums provide lighter skincare formulations than moisturisers. The thinner viscosity allows the serum to be absorbed more easily, working well with other products applied on top.

  • Helps soothe sensitive skin: Due to the light textures, they are often better for those who suffer with acne-prone skin or excessive oil build up, as the area is not being drowned in product and can penetrate to the layer of infection/bacterial build up.

  • Protects the skin from free radicals: Serums which contain ingredients such as Vitamin C & E, Green tea, ferulic acid and astaxanthin help prevent oxidative damage from UV light and pollution, which can lead to premature aging and fine lines and wrinkles.

  • Improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles: Some serums include ingredients that aid in helping improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. And due to its penetrative benefits, results can appear faster.

  • Feels light: A serum should not make the skin feel heavy or overloaded. By using a serum, you are allowing your skin to breathe whilst being treated.

What should you look out for in an eye serum?

Whether you are looking to depuff, minimise the appearance of dark circles, firm, lift or smooth, you will want to maximise the effects of your eye serum by opting for well-formulated, nourishing and antioxidant-rich formulas. Steer clear of essential oils, alcohol or anything that will irritate the eyes.

Shop the best eye serums below

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

This is not only one of the most lauded eye serums on the market but also one of the Holy Grail skincare products of all time. It is an efficacious lightweight formulation that is packed with potent ingredients to minimise the appearance of dark circles and puffiness.

The solution contains a combination of a green tea leaf derivative as well as the named ingredient caffeine to give a refreshed appearance. It may appear slightly sticky but absorbs quickly without leaving a residue. Follow this with a hydrating moisturising formula.

Buy now £6.40, Space NK

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum

Dr. Dennis Gross founded his namesake label on the basis of his many years of expertise as a dermatologist. The Advanced range takes the level of potency that he uses in clinic and makes it possible for everyday use without sacrificing on the benefits.

This serum is designed specifically for the eye area to offer three-in-one benefits. First and foremost, visible sign of ageing. The trademarked Phyto-Retinol Blend firms the likes of crow’s feet. It has also been created to reduce the look of wrinkles and last but not least, offers a good level of hydrating properties in order to balance out the often drying vitamin A powerhouse retinol and antioxidant-rich ferulic.

Buy now £70.00, Cult Beauty

Charlotte Tilbury Cryo-Recovery Eye Serum

Sleep-deprivation shows first and foremost around the eye area so Charlotte Tilbury created this serum as a quick-fix style product. A backstage favourite, the makeup artist-founded label knows a thing or two about prepping tired models’ skin ahead of fashion shows.

This formula gives a hit of a trademarked iceawake complex (Swiss glacial soil and Swiss ice wine essence) and caffeine to mimic the effects of cryotherapy, while also tightening and blurring. The applicator is made from a cooling metal that doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge to make the most of its soothing properties.

Buy now £45.00, John Lewis

La Mer The Lifting Eye Serum 15ml

Smoothed, brighter and lifted - what more do you want to achieve from your eye serum? This expertly crafted silky smooth formula from La Mer is applied to the contour of the eye to support the skin’s natural structure. The Stretch Matrix Complex - that the luxury label is known for - comes into play with the added bonus of sea botanicals for a cocktail of firming goodness.

Buy now £210.00, Selfridges

Clarins Double Serum Eye

Clarins has tweaked its bestselling serum into a dedicated formula for your peepers where you should start to see the effects in just one week. The cream-gel texture is ultra-lightweight and absorbs quickly to nourish the lids and under-eye area in order to firm, smooth and depuff. Organic Wild Chervil Extract adds a glowy effect, while turmeric - known for its anti-ageing effects - preserves the cellular structure.

Buy now £56.00, Clarins

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum Synchronized Complex II

Turn back the clock with the legendary Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair range and more specifically its rich eye serum formulation. To give a resilience boost to the optical area, it hydrates, minimises the appearances of fine lines and leaves skin feeling soft.

Buy now £46.00, FeelUnique

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum 15ml

This is one of the best eye products for illuminating dark circles on the market and with the inclusion of retinol in the formula, it also has a smoothing, firming effect too. Murad’s signature Tri-Active Technology ensures that the results are immediate and long-lasting, while swertia flower and red algae tackle crow’s feet.

Buy now £73.00, lookfantastic

Wishful Eye Lift and Contour 1% Bakuchiol and Peptide Serum

This is one of the best kept secrets in Huda Beauty’s skincare line Wishful. The product has the ability to lift around the eye vicinity, enhancing the skin’s elasticity with brightening effects. The formula includes bakuchiol, known as a more gentle alternative to retinol and so can still be used by those with sensitive skin. Matcha for moisture, caffeine for dark circles and Arabian jasmine for puffiness rounds off the ingredient line-up for a super serum that does it all. It even has cooling properties thanks to the zamak applicator.

Buy now £36.00, Selfridges

Sunday Riley 5 Stars Retinoid and Niacinamide Eye Serum

This supercharged serum has two of the most buzzed about beauty ingredients contained within its formulation - retinol and niacinamide - to tackle common concerns like wrinkles, stress and dark circles. Created using botanicals and science-backed methods, it balances out these actives with poppy seed extract, ceramides, olive oil and shea butter that is kind on the delicate eye area. The effects are instant. Sayonara laugh lines.

Buy now £60.00, Cult Beauty

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing & Dark Circle-Diminishing Vitamin C Eye Serum

While the texture may feel featherlight on application, it packs a serious punch. The clue is in the name. Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength eye formula contains the winning combination of a vitamin C, Tri-Peptide and hyaluronic acid that in tandem work to improve lines, dark circles and give a radiance boost. Hey there bright eyes.

Buy now £42.00, Kiehl’s

Clinique All About Eyes Serum De-Puffing Eye Massage

To instantly cool, depuff and awaken tired eyes, this serum from Clinique comes complete with a rollerball applicator. Not only does it offer a stress release as you massage the product into the fragile skin, but it brings the powerhouse of caffeine, antioxidants and botanicals.

Buy now £25.20, FeelUnique

Dermalogica Eye BioLumin-C Eye Serum 15ml

Rejuvenating the periorbital area, Dermalogica’s formula will help you fake that elusive eight hours with the brightening effect that it provides. The brand’s fine line-fighting BioLumin-C Eye Serum helps to combat the effect of environmental stresses to counteract premature skin ageing.

Buy now £65.00, FeelUnique

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