If dark circles are the bane of your beauty life and/or you’ve started noticing a few extra signs of ageing creeping in around your eyes (harsh truth: Collagen production starts to slow after we hit our mid-20s), then listen up. There’s a new breed of eye creams that hold more power than your average, all thanks to one reformulated antiageing ingredient that we’re pretty sure you’ll already be familiar with: retinol.
For all its incredible antiageing properties (read: increased collagen production, smoother skin and less pigmentation), traditional forms of retinol have been known to be a tad harsh on sensitive skin. However, the beauty industry is always pushing forward, and thanks to some pretty clever cosmetic science, a whole new era has dawned for a gentler kind of retinol for sensitive skin that’s now safe to use even around the delicate eye area.
A new wave of beauty scientists has finally managed to harness the huge benefits that retinol can have on discolouration (aka dark circles), lines and wrinkles while delivering its potency in a gentler form. Brands like Olay, Beauty Pie and Eve Lom are at the forefront of all this, and it means that effective retinol treatments for the eye area are now a very real thing.
Encapsulated retinol is one groundbreaking way of doing this, where tiny retinol molecules are inserted into a “carrier” bubble, which staggers the release of retinol into the skin’s deeper layers. This way your cells have a chance to gradually adjust, reducing the risk of any backlash.
Other innovations include marrying low doses of retinol with natural ingredients that mimic the same effects, such as bio-retinols, which are found in plants, or peptides. This way the ingredients can play tag team on stimulating collagen production to plump up the skin and smooth away lines while also breaking down pigmentation and discolouration. Though these forms may take a little longer to kick in, they’re far less likely to cause the irritation often associated with retinol.
An additional benefit of these gentler, more stable retinol eye creams is that you’re not necessarily limited to only using them at night, either, since they’re far less likely to react badly in the sunlight. That said, you should still always use a high-quality SPF (at least factor 30 with both UVA and UVB filters) on your face after using a retinol product to avoid damage, especially to new skin cells (retinol speeds up cell turnover, which is great for smoother skin, but does make you more prone to burning), and if you’re a newbie, start slow—night is actually best here, as it’s when your skin is in repair mode, rather than protect mode—then gradually build up to daily use.
Digging it? Below you’ll find our pick of the best retinol eye creams out there.
Containing Pro-Retinol, Olay’s new breakthrough ingredient, this treatment cream works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and deep wrinkles by plumping up the skin gently, Frauke Neuser, MD, Olay principle scientist, tells us. It also speeds up surface skin cell turnover, and in doing so, smooths out the complexion.
Though not often billed as a retinol product, the ingredient joins shea butter, red algae, coconut oil, saccharide isomerate (a super-hydrating emollient), plus vitamins C and E, as the “magic” in Charlotte Tilbury’s cult eye cream.
Dermalogica is always at the cutting edge of beauty science, so it’s little surprise that its retinol eye cream comes with a technologically advanced formulation. As well including regular retinol, this creamy treatment also contains “encapsulated retinol”—where the ingredient is fused into much smaller molecules that can penetrate deeper into the skin.
While the retinol in this tech-savvy eye cream gets to work on tackling lines on a deeper level, ferulic acid, an antioxidant found in plants or rice, works to fight free radicals and pollution, protecting skin from further damage.
The antiageing effects of retinol normally take around eight weeks to really show in your skin, so to balance the need for instant gratification, this Eve Lom eye treatment also includes brightening and tightening ingredients such as oat kernel extract to smooth the skin ASAP. Use it long-term to reap all the benefits and reduce visible lines.
This one might be pricey, but it comes with a serious cult following. First launched in the U.S, Kate Somerville’s formula contains your standard vitamin A–derived retinol to stimulate collagen production, as well as bio-retinols—plant-derived ingredients that act in a similar way but aren’t part of the vitamin A family. These bio-retinols add extra antiageing power to the cream without bringing the side effects that upset sensitive skin.
For big results on a much smaller budget, this antiageing eye cream from L’Oreal combines pro-retinol A with patented firming ingredient fibre-elastyl to plump up the skin, hydrate and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines.
A brand loved by dermatologists, Strivectin’s hydrating formula is special in that it’s gentle enough to be used both morning and evening (though start slow if this is your first dabble with retinol creams), while still yielding impressive results on lines, wrinkles and dark circles.