Top 10 Best Retinol Eye Creams for 2020

There are so many fantastic eye creams on the market, it can easily get overwhelming, which is why today we’re going to focus on talking about the best retinol eye creams.

This post will also include a short revision on what retinol is and why it’s such a good ingredient to have in eye creams, how to properly apply an eye cream, how to use eye creams with retinol, and short reviews on the 10 best retinol eye creams.

What Is Retinol?

best retinol eye cream

By now, you must have heard the word retinol mentioned hundreds of times.

Let’s have a quick recap on what it is and what it does. Just a short introduction on what retinol is and what are the benefits.

Retinol is first and foremost an antioxidant. A derivative of vitamin A.

It is not as powerful as other retinoids, like Retin-A which is the active form of vitamin A, but retinol is still powerful enough and it has a lot of benefits, which has made it incredibly popular.

Its popularity derives from the fact that skincare products with retinol can be sold over the counter, without a prescription from a dermatologist, like you need for Retin-A.

Because retinol is not as powerful as Retin-A, it simply means that it will take longer for the positive effects to be clearly visible, it will require a bit of patience until you can safely exclaim “this product really works!”.

It can take as long as half a year, up to a year. And once you stop using it, the effects can be reversed.

It’s an antioxidant with the powerful property of promoting the creation of new skin cells.

It’s not an exfoliant, you need a chemical exfoliator to shed off the dead skin cells and let the new ones show off.

Why Does Retinol Work for Diminishing the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles?

There’s one very big reason for that: it speeds up cell turnover. It means that it makes the body produce more new skin cells to replace the old ones.

It’s this increased cell turnover that makes our skin look plump and smooth, brightened up, rejuvenated and full of vitality.

This production of new skin cells leads to thicker skin. And it increases collagen production. It also increases the blood flow since it penetrates the skin deeply, into the dermis.

It’s what reduces the appearance of fine lines, stopping them from evolving into deeper wrinkles that are so much harder to fill up.

It’s also the reason why people start using eye creams in their 20s, usually after 25. That’s about when the first fine lines under the eyes become more noticeable. It’s also about maintaining the thickness of a skin that’s already thinner that anywhere else on the body.

It obviously depends a lot on the lifestyle (whether you’re a smoker or a frequent alcohol drinker) and what diet you have. Having a healthy diet is such a big part of preventing wrinkles.

Retinol is also a very good ingredient in the fight against breakouts, it reduces age spots, and decreases hyperpigmentation.

Even with all that,

This is not some miracle ingredient that will make everything perfect in half a year or a year.

Deep wrinkles (expression lines, like laugh lines, the grooves between our eyebrows, crow’s feet) pose a challenge for any anti-aging ingredient, not only retinol.

There’s only so much that topical creams can do, whatever they might contain. It’s still a very good ingredient to have in an eye cream.

The Role of Retinol in Eye Creams

Retinol’s primary role is to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It can work at combating puffiness and dark circles but it must have other powerful ingredients to aid it in those areas.

More expensive best retinol eye creams target all three problems (wrinkles, puffiness, dark circles) because they contain a variety of other ingredients.

Once you read some reviews, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Besides retinol, there are other forms of vitamin A (derivatives, esters) that you might encounter when it comes to eye creams, even the very expensive ones:

  • retinyl palmitate
  • retinyl acetate

Some of the best retinol eye creams that I’ve selected to review actually contain either retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate but they are actually very good though expensive, fantastically complex, with a combination of beautiful ingredients. I just had to include them, without any doubt.

How to Apply an Eye Cream

There is one thing that applies to all eye creams, whatever they might be for: apply and massage them into the skin with your ring finger since it’s the weakest and will exert only the slightest pressure on that delicate skin.

You need only a very small amount, if it’s a pump system it might dispense a bit too much, it depends.

Dispense/dip a pea-sized amount of eye cream on your ring finger and that’s enough for both eyes. Always use clean fingers, especially if it’s a dip container.

Eye creams in general are super concentrated, you don’t need much, you will only waste it, the skin won’t be able to absorb it all.

Tap small dots with your ring finger from the inner corner to the outer corner and then gently start to tap the cream into the skin, you can gently massage it in without pulling on the skin.

The order in which you should apply skincare products is:

In the morning:

  • cleansing
  • toner
  • antioxidant serum
  • eye cream
  • acne treatment
  • moisturizer
  • sunscreen

In the evening:

  • makeup remover and cleansing (double cleansing for those wearing makeup)
  • toner
  • eye cream
  • retinol serum/acne treatment/chemical exfoliator
  • moisturizer/night cream

How to Use a Best Retinol Eye Cream

I only apply an eye cream in the evening.

In the morning, I apply a toner, vitamin C serum, niacinamide serum, acne treatment, moisturizer and sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF. And all of these are massaged into my entire eye area, too (under eye and eyelids), except the acne treatment, of course.

I am just very careful to avoid actually sticking any of these products into my eyes.

The thing is all eye creams are very tiny and the large majority are very expensive, applying one only in the evening makes it last longer.

Retinol also increases skin’s sensitivity to UV rays so, only apply a best retinol eye cream in the evening.

Should you use an eye cream with retinol every evening?

If the manufacturer warns about redness, dry skin or tingling sensation, you can start off by using it every other night for a few weeks and see how your skin reacts.

In theory, you shouldn’t get irritated but everyone reacts differently. You never know what to expect when it comes to ingredients like retinol.

If everything is perfect, you can move up to using an eye cream with retinol nightly.

In the morning, you can use a hydrating eye cream if you feel them dry or perceive any skin sensitivity (one that contains peptides, hyaluronic acid or other antioxidants like vitamin C, E or other extracts that are powerful antioxidants).

My advice is:

If you can afford it, get a more expensive best retinol eye cream. Most can be used twice daily due to the complexity and synergy of their ingredients. Each comes with instructions, always make sure to read those.

Can You Use a Retinol Cream for Face on the Eyes?

This is one question that you might wonder about if you’re already using a retinol cream/serum for the face.

The short answer is: no.

Why?

Because retinol is a powerful ingredient that can easily irritate the facial skin and cause peeling if you’re not using the right cream or if it has a too high concentration of retinol or if you’re using it every single night or if you’re not applying it on completely dry skin.

Things are not so simple when it comes to retinol, there are a few things to be aware of.

If you’re not already using a retinol cream/serum for face but want to give it a try, check out my post on the best retinol creams for beginners, it includes everything you need to know about incorporating this ingredient into your beauty routine.

There’s one way that you could try using a retinol cream/serum for face on the eye area, as well, which can save you from buying a best retinol eye cream entirely:

Immediately after washing your face, after toner, apply an eye cream but a deeply hydrating one (emphasized on hydrating, an eye cream for sensitive skin) that will protect the skin barrier from getting irritated from the power that retinol has.

Then, when it comes to using your retinol cream/serum for face, apply a bit on the under eye area as well and massage it gently into the skin. If the skin doesn’t get irritated then you can continue with this beauty routine.

Or just simply get a best eye cream with retinol and don’t complicate things if you can afford to buy separate skincare products.

Now, this is just my experience:

I find it normal to apply a lot of the skincare products that I use on the face on my under eye area and on my eyelids, as well. And with each product, I give my eyes a quick delicate massage, I really like that and I take time to make sure that each product is properly and gently massaged into the skin.

Many years ago, when I wasn’t using eye creams yet, during one winter something happened and my eyelids became really dry, itchy and scaly. At that time, I wasn’t taking proper care of any area of my face, let alone my eyes. Since then, I always apply antioxidants serums, eye creams, and other hydrating products on the whole area: under-eye, eyelids, and the whole area under the eyebrows.

The only products that I keep away from that area are those for my acne, retinol creams for face, creams that clearly warn about irritation, dried out skin, potential peeling, which obviously includes my chemical exfoliators.

The rest, I have no problem with and I haven’t had any irritation: toners, face mists, vitamin C serums, moisturizers for dry sensitive skin, sunscreens, moisturizers with SPF including tinted ones (just like with any foundation as far as I remember, although it’s been a few years), and any other serums that I’m using.

I’m not saying that you should do the same because even a moisturizer for face can irritate the eye skin but it’s what I do and I’ve been lucky that none have resulted in irritation or discomfort.

Top 10 Best Retinol Eye Creams

In my post on how to get rid of under eye wrinkles, I talked about eye creams but that was only just a small portion of that huge article.

Eye creams are just a small part of what you can do to prevent and to fill in fine lines and wrinkles in this area.

But they are very important and easy to use and, some of them, even have affordable prices. No matter how busy or tired you are, you can spare a few seconds to apply an eye cream in the evening.

I’ve selected 10 best eye creams with retinol, I am pretty confident that you will find the right one for you.

I tried to find a bunch of cheap retinol eye creams but I only found one that fits my expectations, maybe you’ll be able to discover more on your own.

I must warn you that a very big majority of these best eye creams with retinol are quite expensive.

However,

Considering that a tube/jar of any eye cream usually lasts for about 6 months or longer, choosing to pay a higher price might be worth it.

If you want more affordable alternatives, check out my post on the best drugstore eye creams, you will find some marvelous best eye creams that will make your skin feel amazing and they won’t empty your wallet.

All weigh 0.5 oz, it’s the standard measure for almost all eye creams.

1. Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum – Overall Best Retinol Eye Cream for Puffiness, Dark Circles, Fine Lines & Wrinkles, and Eyelids

As it’s always the case with Dr. Dennis Gross, this best retinol eye cream is expensive.

But the list of ingredients tells us that a lot of thought was put into it, to make it as good as it gets:

  • centella asiatica extract – a famous plant in South Korea for its antioxidant properties, rich source of amino acids, and soothing hydrating abilities
  • licorice root extract – anti-inflammatory, skin-brightening, anti-aging benefits
  • ferulic acid – an antioxidant that boosts the effects of another antioxidant (in this case retinol), it also stabilizes and doubles the efficiency of vitamins C+E, which is why it’s used in some of the best vitamin C serums
  • retinol
  • bearberry extract – it contains the skin lightening agent arbutin
  • caffeine – can reduce under eye bags and the appearance of dark circles
  • hyaluronic acid
  • salicylic acid
  • glycolic acid and mandelic acid (AHAs that are very good chemical exfoliators for removing dead skin cells without irritating the skin)

Retinol is very high on the list of ingredients, that’s a very good surprise and it partly explains why this eye serum is so good. The other ingredients are just as wonderful.

It’s not that often that we encounter exfoliating ingredients in eye creams. In this case we have both BHA (salicylic acid) and two AHAs (glycolic acid and mandelic acid). Exfoliation for the eye area is definitely possible but we need high quality best eye creams like this one to achieve it. The benefits are plenty from reduction in fine lines and wrinkles to brightened skin with a more even tone.

It works best for oily, combination, and normal skin types.

With continuous use and with patience, you will notice a difference.

It can be used on the entire eye area, including the eyelids.

It’s primarily for reducing wrinkles, like crow’s feet, and smoothing the eyelids, it fights against eyelid crepiness. But not only that. It also targets puffiness and dark circles. Hence the name Triple Correction Eye Serum.

It can also be used as a makeup primer.

2. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Under Eye Cream – Cheapest Best Retinol Eye Cream for Fine Lines and Wrinkles

If you have a very limited budget, then this Neutrogena Wrinkle Repair Retinol Under Eye Cream is pretty much the only and best option.

I won’t say that it’s a miracle in a very small tube because it’s not. But it promises to leave the skin feeling smoother, to smooth wrinkles fast and diminish the look of dark spots.

It should fill in fine lines but the serious deep wrinkles are a more serious challenge. The effects on those won’t be noticed as fast as they let us believe.

Retinol is an ingredient that can take its time when it comes to showing visible results. Or you might notice visible improvements in a few weeks or a month.

The ingredients are pretty simple, this is a very affordable eye cream after all:

  • retinol for diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles – it’s created especially for crow’s feet and the under eye area
  • hyaluronic acid for hydration
  • glucose complex strengthens the skin’s barrier

Neutrogena also warns about mild redness, flaking, and a warm, tingling sensation. But if you feel that your skin burns after first application, which definitely shouldn’t happen, then don’t use it a second time.

Your skin might be too sensitive or it might mean that you need a more expensive eye cream with retinol, once that puts emphasize on hydrating and nourishing the skin. There are many like that on this list.

On your first try, just apply a bit under the eye and massage it slowly. Don’t apply on the eyelids, just wait and see how your under eye area reacts since it’s designed for the under eye area.

3. First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid – Best Retinol Eye Cream at an Affordable Price

Whenever I come across FAB skincare products I know that I should expect two things: a pretty affordable price compared to other products in the same niche and a vast array of powerful ingredients.

Both are true for this best retinol eye cream from FAB.

It’s one of my top recommendations because the combination of a good price and even better ingredients is not easily encountered in the beauty world.

It mentions triple hyaluronic acid in the name so, we already know to expect a deeply moisturizing perfect for all skin types eye cream.

They recommend it for oily, combination, normal, and dry skin. And it’s safe for sensitive skin.

It works on diminishing fine lines and wrinkles, for a smoother skin. It can also help diminish puffiness and works against dark circles.

Let’s see what we’re offered:

  • microencapsulated retinol that is released gently and slowly
  • magnesium ascorbyl phosphate – a vitamin C derivative for brighter skin, protected from UV rays and pollution
  • caffeine to reduce puffiness
  • ceramide, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid in three molecular sizes, aloe, colloidal oatmeal, and allantoin to sooth, nourish, and hydrate the skin
  • micropearls (this is unexpected) to reflect light and blur the look of imperfections

It’s free of everything that might be harmful to sensitive skin. It’s alcohol-free, artificial fragrance-free, without mineral oil, oil-free.

4. Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask – Best Retinol Eye Cream for Sensitive Skin

This eye sleeping mask sounds divine. It’s also a best retinol eye cream that packs powerful wonderful ingredients:

  • encapsulated retinol (to be released throughout all hours of the night)
  • niacinamide
  • coffeeberry (another powerful antioxidant, a natural source of caffeine that can help reduce puffiness and the appearance of dark circles)
  • avocado oil rich in vitamins C and E
  • aloe vera
  • hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate for maximum hydration and moisture retention
  • shea butter

The Glow Recipe Eye Mask targets a wide array of problems: milia, puffiness, dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles. It also brightens the whole area so you can look well-rested in the morning.

It’s a wrinkle fighting, brightening mask.

Also immensely hydrating, which makes it perfect for dry sensitive skin. It’s great for all skin types.

Since the words sleeping mask are in the name, you should only apply it nightly, massage a pea-sized amount (enough for both eyes) on the entire orbital eye area.

5. SkinMedica TNS Eye Repair – One of the Best Most Popular Eye Creams

With this best eye cream we’re stepping into very expensive territory. It’s to be expected, we’re talking about SkinMedica here. I don’t think they know the definition of a low price.

Despite the price, this is also an incredibly popular best retinol eye cream. It actually contains retinyl palmitate but it’s still a vitamin A derivative and this cream definitely deserves to be on this list.

It targets the 3 main concerns: aging skin – it’s really serious when it comes to fine lines and crow’s feet, dark circles, and puffiness.

Given the price, you don’t need to use much to notice a difference. You can use it twice daily or only in the evening if you really want it to last.

But they don’t recommend using it on the eyelids.

Unfortunately, it’s best for normal to dry skin.

Let’s see which are the ingredients that make the SkinMedica TNS Eye Repair one of the best eye creams ever not only a best eye cream with retinol:

  • human fibroblast conditioned media – to put it more simply, this is similar to EGF (epidermal growth factor) and it is actually derived from human fibroblast cells, which secret collagen proteins – if there is one ingredient that tells us that this eye cream is really serious in fighting skin aging, this is it, it doesn’t get more serious than an ingredient that’s derived from actual human cells (a bit SF, a bit intriguing)
  • tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate – a very stable form of vitamin C that is oil-soluble and works very well with retinol and other vitamin A derivatives (retinyl palmitate in this case) for enhanced anti-aging and skin brightening abilities
  • palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 and palmitoyl oligopeptide – peptides and we know how good they are at improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • N-hydroxysuccinimide and chrysin – reduce the appearance of dark circles
  • boron nitride, which basically makes dark circles be less visible in the light
  • vitamin E, allantoin, hyaluronic acid, and bisabolol for soothing and hydrating the skin

6. Filorga Optim-Eyes Triple-Action Eye Contour Cream – Good Price, Awesome Results

Let me tell you right from the start that this eye cream actually contains retinyl acetate, a vitamin A derivative, which is slightly weaker than retinol.

It will work better for dark circles than for wrinkles. It’s also very hydrating. Great for those with sensitive skin.

The ingredients that actually make this one of the best eye creams for dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles are:

  • polyphenol – it’s an antioxidant that repairs and rejuvenates the skin
  • peptdies – powerful skin-restoring ingredients: dipeptide-2, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, arginine
  • hyaluronic acid

Other ingredients include pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), vitamin E, niacinamide, and folic acid.

The price is middle-range. Not cheap but not extremely expensive, either.

It can be used twice daily.

7. EltaMD Renew Eye Gel – Affordable Best Eye Cream for All Skin Types

The EltaMD Renew Eye Gel is another best eye cream that targets a lot of problems, pretty much all the problems that can appear in the eye area: dark circles, puffiness, fine lines and wrinkles.

It’s quite impressive but also pricey.

It contains retinyl palmitate (slightly weaker than retinol) but I’m still going to consider it as a best retinol eye cream because it’s good.

The focus of this eye cream is on peptides, niacinamide, vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants.

It’s a pretty common combination when it comes to expensive best eye creams with retinol or other vitamin A derivatives but it’s a very successful combination against fine lines and wrinkles, puffiness, and dark circles.

Peptides are amino acids that are very well known for their anti-aging properties. That’s their impressive reputation.

There is no perfect peptide blend, they are far too many for that. And they’re all good. They have soothing effects on the skin, going as far as to soften the look of expression lines. They’re a serious contender for other skin-restoring ingredients like retinol.

And this EltaMD Renew Eye Gel has them both plus moisture-boosting ingredients and some other antioxidants.

When we think of it like that, the price kind of makes sense.

So:

In the peptides corner we have: acetyl hexapeptide-3 (argireline) an innovative anti-aging product that prevents the formation of lines and wrinkles in a similar way to Botox and palmitoyl tripeptide-5 for skin firmness.

Niacinamide strengthens the skin barrier, vitamin B5 (pantothenol) attracts and holds moisture, hyaluronic acid enhances the skin’s moisture content making it appear plumper and smoother.

As for the antioxidants, the EltaMD Renew Eye Gel includes the most important ones: vitamin E, vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate), and vitamin A (retinyl palmitate).

It works for all skin types and it can be applied twice daily. It’s also oil-free.

8. Dr. Brandt Skincare 24/7 Retinol Eye Cream

This is a best retinol eye cream that can be used twice daily, both in the morning and in the evening.

It doesn’t irritate the eye area and it does contain retinol, not the slightly weaker retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate.

It can be used on the entire eye area.

This is time-released retinol that is slowly released into the skin, preventing it from irritating the eye area.

After all,

It is described as a moisturizing cream for the eyes, it contains hyaluronic acid, that diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

It’s not for puffiness or dark circles exactly but it will make the eye area look brighter and refreshed. Their ruby powder is included to make sure of that.

It’s very good for all skin types, including sensitive skin. It’s very popular among women who want to smooth out the fine lines and wrinkles around the eye area.

The price is middle of the road, just a bit on the expensive side.

9. StriVectin-AR Advanced Retinol Eye Cream – It’s all about Wrinkles

StriVectin is a brand that takes anti-aging issues very seriously. They also have one of the best moisturizers with retinol that can be used every night without risking irritation.

They have developed their own NIA-114 technology, which is present in all their products, including this best eye cream with retinol.

It’s a product focused exclusively on signs of aging in the eye area.

It’s an interesting technology, a patented form of Niacin/Vitamin B3 that strengthens the moisture barrier, while also enhancing the performance of other ingredients, like the retinol that this cream contains.

It boosts retinol’s abilities while keeping it from irritating the skin.

These two are interesting enough but they’re also joined by other powerful anti-aging and hydrating ingredients: shea butter, hyaluronic acid, ceramide, a bunch of peptides (palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, palmitoyl oligopeptide, dipeptide-2), vitamin E, oat kernel extract, and lactic acid.

It does contain fragrance.

It can be used twice daily and it works for all skin types.

10. Jan Marini Age Intervention Eye Cream – Hydrating & Anti-Aging Best Eye Cream with Retinol

If we were to create a best eye cream with retinol that balances wrinkles-fighting and hydration, this would pretty much be it.

It just has so very many interesting ingredients:

  • meadowfoam seed oil, which is not only a potent emollient but it can inhibit collagen-degrading enzymes in skin
  • other hydrating ingredients, like shea butter, jojoba oil, both hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate
  • antioxidants: retinol, algae extract, green tea extract, CoQ10, vitamin E
  • and the lovely peptides: myristoyl pentapeptide-8 and myristoyl tetrapeptide-12

It’s recommended for normal/combo, oily, and dry skin. It can be used twice daily.

It’s just an absolute delight and a perfect ending to my quest for the best retinol eye cream.