Perk up tired peepers with our under-eye buys for all skin types & budgets

Some of us suffer from oily skin, while for others dry patches are more of a concern. But whatever your skin type, one skincare gripe is more common than most: dark circles

So, what causes ‘panda eyes’? "The skin around our eyes is extremely delicate with no subcutaneous fat (the kind you can see and normally found in arms and legs) and so is more susceptible to dehydration, pigment deposition and more visible blood vessels, especially as we age," says Dr Kristina Semkova, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic.

"Some people are more prone to dark circles with causes including genetics, allergies, dehydration, ageing and lifestyle habits, including smoking, excessive sugar or salt, tiredness, or rubbing your eyes."

If you’re keen to address dark circles, help is at hand "The first thing to look at is lifestyle: don’t smoke, ensure you stay hydrated and reduce your salt intake, as this can contribute to puffiness," says Dr Semkova. "Wear SPF50 every day with sunglasses and a hat through warmer months. And always remove eye make-up in the evening and ensure you’re getting between six to eight hours of sleep a night."

When should you start using eye cream? 

Adding an eye cream into your routine can be a good idea from your twenties onwards. While not an essential (a good cleanser, moisturiser and SPF make for a great skincare foundation to build on), the lightweight texture of an eye cream can be ideal for thin under-eye skin. What’s more, eye creams with actives such as retinol are more likely to be formulated with the area’s more delicate make-up in mind, for an overall gentler experience. 

How to apply eye cream

"Always be gentle when applying or removing any products to the eye area," says Dr Semkova. "Use your ring finger and start from the inner corner of the eye, gently sweeping outwards."

What should you look for in an eye cream?

If brightening is your goal, there are certain ingredients worth keeping an eye out for on product labels. "Ingredients to look for include vitamin C to help balance uneven skin tone, support collagen production and increase hydration; kojic acid can help brighten; niacinamide tones and firms and helps reduce dark circles and pigmentation, while azelaic acid evens skin tone and calms redness," says Dr Usman Qureshi, an aesthetic doctor..

Other ingredients Dr Qureshi advises looking out for are hyaluronic acid, to help hydrate, caffeine to boost circulation and minimise the appearance of dark circles and pigmentation and reduce puffiness, and retinol, which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and dark circles and evens skin tone. "Retinol should be introduced gradually to avoid irritation in the delicate eye area," she adds.

Puffiness can emphasise dark circles, so look for deflating formulas and tools when it comes to your skincare routine. "Cooling formulations can be very soothing – you may wish to refrigerate eye masks or serums," recommends Dr Semkova. "Alternatively, metal rollers or ice rollers can help temporarily reduce puffiness and may help bring down redness." 

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Texture-wise, "eye brightening products should be hydrating and lightweight," says Dr Semkova, as this will leave peepers feeling and looking refreshed.

Do eye creams work? 

It’s important to keep expectations realistic. "While no eye cream can completely eliminate dark circles, brightening products can help reduce the appearance of shadows, pigmentation and darkness," says Dr Semkova. 

Brightening doesn’t have to stop at the under-eye, get radiant-looking skin with our pick of the best facial skin-brightening products.

9 of the best eye-brightening creams & products available at Boots

From the ground-breaking and innovative formulations creating a buzz to the iconic beauty buys you know and love, we’ve rounded up eight of the best eye-brightening products, for whatever your budget. Whether you’re looking for a mask to give the area a boost or a serum and cream to use every day, we’ve got all skincare bases covered. 

Shop more top-rated brightening eye creams in our full range. 

Best moisturising eye mask

Try: Elemis Pro-Collagen Eye Revive Mask

• Size: 15ml

Indulge in some well-deserved self-care with this deeply hydrating eye mask. Infused with watermelon snow algae and antioxidant-rich bush clover, the cooling gel gives the skin a youthful glow. Use as an overnight mask, undereye primer or rescue balm – the choice is yours.

Best brightening eye cream for sensitive skin

: CeraVe Reparative Eye Cream

• Size: 14ml

• Fragrance-free 

• Non-comedogenic

"This dermatologist-approved formula contains hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to help hydrate and reduce the look of dark circles and puffiness for brighter, healthier-looking eyes," says Dr Qureshi. What’s more, it contains three essential ceramides and won’t clog pores.

Best value brightening eye product

Try: Boots Vitamin C Brightening Eye Gel

• Size: 15ml

"Gentle on the skin and your purse, this fruit-forward gel contains vitamin C to help brighten," says Dr Semkova. Use in the morning for best results – think of it as a pep talk for tired eyes. 

Best brightening eye cream for older skin

: Olay Regenerist Eye Cream Advanced Anti-Ageing Eye Lifting Serum

• Size: 15ml

• Fragrance-free

"This effective eye cream is specifically designed to help treat the delicate skin around the eye area," says Dr Qureshi. "It also smoothes signs of ageing including fine lines and wrinkles around the eye contour for a lifted appearance." The trifecta of eye-loving ingredients includes allantoin to help the skin shed dead skin cells, amino-peptide-complex to help firm and target expression lines, and niacinamide to help brighten. 

Best brightening eye cream for instant radiance

Try: Liz Earle Instant Brightening Eye Cream

• Size: 15ml
• Ophthalmologically tested 

• Fragrance-free

• Cruelty-free

Described by Dr Semkova as "light-reflecting, brightening and hydrating," this pick features a whole harvest of natural ingredients including British borage oil, moisture-replenishing gamma linolenic acid and soothing echinacea extract, as well as a naturally derived light-reflecting pigment that’s suitable for all skin tones to help reduce the appearance of dark circles as soon as it’s applied.

Best brightening eye cream for all skin types

: Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream

• Size: 15ml

"The product’s rich formula helps diminish the look of fine lines as it depuffs," says Dr Qureshi. "With black tea, yeast and green algae, it works to visibly smooth the entire eye area."

Best planet-friendly brightening eye cream

Try: REN Clean Skincare Brightening Dark Circle Eye Cream

• Size: 15ml

• Made from 87% Infinity Recycled Plastic and designed for recycling

Made from 95% natural-origin ingredients, this eye cream is enriched with a blend of antioxidant-rich elderberry flower extract (an upcycled by-product of the French perfume industry) to help neutralise dark circles and puffiness, plus moisture-boosting glycogen (sustainably sourced via non-GMO corn from Canadian farms) to help hydrate and energise. "It brightens the skin, reduces puffiness, hydrates and improves firmness," says Dr Semkova.

Best brightening eye cream for refreshed eyes

Try: Bliss Eye Do All Things Brightening Eye Gel

• Size: 15ml

• Safe for sensitive eyes

"With cooling, massaging and circulation-boosting rollerball application, this multiaction, cooling eye gel helps hydrate and brighten," says Dr Semkova. Plus, the caffeine in the formula works like an espresso for the eyes, helping to reduce puffiness and minimise the appearance of dark circles.

Best brightening eye cream for a quick boost

Try:  Patchology Serve Chilled Bubbly Eye Gels Single

• All skin types 

Keep this refreshing eye gel in the fridge, then apply for just 10 minutes for a rejuvenating treat. Niacinamide helps brighten and even excess skin pigment, while vitamin-C-rich orange extract gives under-eyes a radiant-looking glow.