Under eye bags, which can start to show as early as our 30s, are caused by several factors, including genetics, collagen loss, dehydration, lack of sleep and nutrition.
While many experts say that surgery to remove the bags is the most effective option, for those unwilling to go under the knife, there are creams and serums that you can buy over-the-counter or online that can help offset the appearance of bags under the eyes.
This buying guide takes a look at some of the best creams and serums for under eye bags currently on the market. It’s important to keep in mind that these options are not considered permanent. In other words, these products can temporarily help offset the appearance of under eye bags, but the overall recommendation from our experts is that blepharoplasty surgery to remove the bags is the most effective option.
Let’s begin with input from a board-certified dermatologist who explains why over-the-counter creams and serums might only be a temporary option, so you can decide the best way to proceed for your desired outcome.
Do Creams or Serums Really Work to Reduce the Appearance of Under Eye Bags?
Most of the creams or serums work by bringing in more water into the top layer of the skin and causing immediate hydration and plumping, explained Dr. Ted Lain, a board-certified dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas.
He calls this the “smoke and mirrors” effect.
“Because the cream is not actually causing any long-lasting changes helping to actually reduce the bags – it is just hiding them through increased hydration,” Dr. Lain said.
As far as making a selection is concerned with so many products to choose from, Dr. Lain noted that since these products are not causing lasting changes to the skin – and they work in essentially the same manner – “I’m not sure there is much difference between them.”
“Beyond their ability to reduce bags, many will also include anti-oxidants, such as caffeine or green tea extracts, and retinol to help stimulate collagen growth,” Dr. Lain said. “In addition, and again in the ‘smoke and mirrors’ category, you will find mica as an ingredient in these products since mica works to blur the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in this area.”
When it comes to creams and serums that claim to treat this condition, “I would advise against the expectation of true, lasting changes in the skin or the bags,” Dr. Lain recommended. “Usually the lower lid bags are due to fat herniating through muscle, and this can only be truly improved with surgery or in-office procedures.”
Effective Ingredients in Creams or Serums for Under Eye Bags
Anti-oxidants like caffeine or green tea extracts, as well as retinol, are some of the ingredients that a cream or serum should contain for the best effectiveness with under eye bags.
Dr. Lain suggests looking for humectants, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin, along with moisturizers, like ceramides and petrolatum.
“Some will also include anti-inflammatory ingredients including botanicals, such as aloe,” Dr. Lain said.
The following ingredients in eye creams are recommended by Lupe Guthrie, a board-certified clinical esthetician with a practice in Southern California.
|Ingredients||Uses & Benefits|
|Tetrapeptide||Reduces puffiness in the under eye area and dark circles by inhibiting water accumulation due to poor circulation and increased capillary permeability|
|Acai Berry Oil||This antioxidant-rich oil protects against environmental aggressors and contains vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients for skin cells|
|Vitamins A & E||Antioxidant protection|
|Plant Elastin||Supports network cells to contour the eye skin|
|Vitamin C||Helps to build collagen for firmer eye tissue and provides antioxidant protection|
|Angelica Extract||Firms and tightens skin|
|Licorice and Grape Seed Extract||Naturally and gently fades darkness around the eye area|
|Retinol||A concentration of at least .075% helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles|
|Soy Proteins||Can promote cell regeneration|
|Jojoba, Macadamia & Hazelnut Oil||Protects against environmental stress|
|CoQ10||Provides a protection antioxidant around the delicate eye area|
5 Best Creams and Serums for Under Eye Bags
Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the best ingredients to look for in a cream or serum for under eye bags, below is a list of few products you can buy over-the-counter that can help with this appearance. Some of the following products were recommended by our experts, while others have either been backed by scientific studies or received positive reviews from consumers.
For each product, we’ve included the beneficial ingredients it contains, what customers have to say, the cost, and how to use each. The following section is designed to give you as much information as possible so you can decide which is the best option for your needs.
“I would advise consumers to find a trusted resource who will help them determine the best product for their skin,” Dr. Lain advised. “A dermatologist or well-informed aesthetician are both good resources.”
1. Peter Thomas Roth Instant FIRMx Eye
The use of topical instant eye tightening gels, such as Peter Thomas Roth Instant FIRMx Eye, work to tighten and smooth out eye bags as the product dries, according to Dr. Kally Papantoniou, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic, laser and surgical dermatology in New York City.
“The feeling is that of a mild pulling sensation which dissipates as the product dries,” explained Dr. Papantoniou. “This will temporarily reduce the appearance of bags and will last for most of the day, but has no anti-inflammatory component.”
Beneficial Ingredients: A trio of peptides, which work in conjunction with each other to help diminish the look of puffiness under the eyes by improving circulation. It also contains Argatensyl, which helps to smooth and tighten the look of the skin, and Gatuline Intense, which can enhance the density and firmness of skin. Additional active ingredients include Vitamins C and E and Vitamin B5, as well as Retinyl Palmitate, which is a form of Vitamin A that helps increase skin elasticity.
What Customers Have to Say: The reviews on this product are mixed, with some stating it “makes a real difference,” and others noting that it stops working when makeup is applied. But for the most part, the reviews are positive. Out of 305 reviews at Ulta, this product received 4.5 out of five stars, with 208 reviewers praising it for overall effectiveness. Out of 595 reviews on Amazon, it received 3.8 out of five stars; and out of 341 reviews on Sephora, it received 3.6 out of five stars.
Cost: Over-the-counter, Peter Thomas Roth Instant FIRMx Eye can be purchased at Macy’s for $38. It can also be bought online for $38 at Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skin Care, Ulta and Sephora; for $23.50 at Amazon; and for $24.88 at Walmart.
How to Use: Apply a thin layer to the eye area and allow it to dry for between three to seven minutes. If need be, use a damp cloth or your fingertip to blend the product and rid excess residue. This product can be used underneath makeup or alone.
2. SkinMedica® Uplifting Eye Serum
Dr. Ahmed Maki, a Board Certified Surgeon who completed a fellowship in Full Body Cosmetic Surgery, recommends the SkinMedica® line. SkinMedica® creates an Uplifting Eye Serum that can reduce the look of puffiness, as well as fine wrinkles.
Beneficial Ingredients: Algae extract derived from plants grown in seawater and fresh water, which can help hydrate skin. It also contains licorice root extract for skin brightening; Kojic acid for improved skin tone; and green tea leaf extract, which is a natural antioxidant.
What Customers Have to Say: While not too many reviews have been posted about this product, for the most part, customers are pleased. Out of 28 reviews on Dermstore, it received an overall rating of five out of five stars, with customers praising the product for the immediate effect it seems to have on dark circles and bags, and for keeping the eye area hydrated all day. Out of 32 reviews on Amazon, it received a 4.3 rating out of five stars, with customers noting they can truly see the difference. On the flipside, in an expert review by Beautypedia, it was noted that “Uplifting Eye Serum cannot diminish puffy eyes or dark circles any better than any other serum because antioxidants and plant extracts cannot address these eye-weary woes effectively.” However, the same expert review also noted that “it’s an overall impressive, fragrance-free formula that can make skin feel smoother and temporarily tighter due to the amount of film-forming agent it contains.”
Cost: SkinMedica® Uplifting Eye Serum can be purchased online at Dermstore and Amazon for $60; at SkinStore for $54; and The Beauty Place for $33.99.
How to Use: Apply both in the morning and evening to the skin adjacent and beneath the eyes, but the upper eyelids should be avoided.
3. Tensage® Stem Cell Eye Cream by Biopelle®
Tensage® Stem Cell Eye Cream by Biopelle® has been clinically proven to replenish skin cells, reinforce the skin’s integrity, and restore healthy, youthful-looking skin. With twice a day application, studies showed a 119% increase in collagen; a 50% increase in elastin; and a 26% increase in epidermal thickness within 90 days.
Beneficial Ingredients: Formulated with CellPro Technology from the eggs of the Crytomphalus aspersa snail, which contain a signaling protein that helps assist the natural activity of stem cells to form new, healthy skin cells. This helps strengthen skin, boost collagen and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. Additional ingredients include caffeine, peptides, antioxidants, soothing botanical extracts, brightening agents and sodium hyaluronate.
What Customers Have to Say: This product is relatively new, launching in 2016, and reviews so far are positive. Out of 21 reviews on the Biopelle Facebook page, it received an overall rating of five out of five stars, with customers noting visible improvements. In a handful of reviews on LovelySkin, one customer said “In a few weeks, I can REALLY tell a difference,” while another noted “I saw immediate results near my eyes.” Another customer, age 52, stated: “I would highly recommend this product.”
Cost: Biopelle® products are available through licensed skin care professionals, and you can find a retailer near you by visiting this page. It can also be purchased online at LovelySkin for $130; and on eBay for $118.95.
How to Use: Apply nightly around the fragile eye area. One pump sufficiently covers both eye areas. If applied in the morning, also apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
4. Darphin Hydraskin All-Day Eye Refresh Gel Cream
This relatively new product, which contains frozen water algae, can help diminish puffiness as well as dark circles – in addition to hydrating the eyes overall due to its moisture-holding botanicals. This gel cream has clinically-proven efficacy, and 91% of the total ingredients come from natural origin. It is also dermatologist and ophthalmologist tested.
Beneficial Ingredients: 70% water rich algae, which can revive the look of the skin while improving hydration; 96% water rich cucumber extract, which can improve the skin’s capacity to retain water; 92% Salicornia Herbacea extract, which helps enhance water diffusion across the skin; and 84% pomegranate extract, which can assist with hydration.
What Customers Have to Say: Because this product is somewhat new, there aren’t too many reviews yet. But in verified reviews, one customer stated “It reduces the puffiness under my eyes and really hydrates my eye area.” Another customer, who is an international flight attendant, stated: “I rely on products like this all day eye refresh cream to diminish the signs of fatigue and puffiness in my eyes. I apply it onboard when I feel like I'm looking tired and it works wonders!”
Cost: $40 at Darphin, Beautyhabit, and Anthropologie; and for $46.99 at Amazon.
How to Use: Gently apply in the morning and evening around the eye area.
5. Baebody Eye Gel for Dark Circles, Puffiness, Wrinkles and Bags
This eye gel has been specifically formulated to address the appearance of sagging and puffiness – as well as dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles. This product contains no fillers, harmful fragrances, dyes or parabens.
Beneficial Ingredients: Stem cell therapy with Matrixyl 3000, which helps diminish the appearance of dark spots, wrinkles and puffiness; Hyaluronic Acid, which hydrates and plumps skin; Matrixyl 3000, which firms skin; and Vitamin E, MSM, and plant stem cells, which work to strengthen the skin to protect against sun damage and aging.
What Customers Have to Say: This product was named “Amazon’s Choice” at Amazon, where, out of 9,462 customer reviews, it received 4.3 out of 5 stars. One woman in her 40s stated she was “VERY thrilled with results after 1 week.” Another woman who is 57 years old noted that “Upon immediate application, the gel soothes my puffy eyes as effectively and gently as cucumber slices but without all the mess.”
Cost: $23.95 at Baebody Beauty and Amazon.
How to Use: Dab gently around the eyes, forehead and cheek area. This product can also be used as an all over face treatment, as well as underneath makeup. It’s recommended to use this gel twice a day, in the morning and night, for best results.
Final Thoughts and Tips
As with all skincare, don’t expect too much, and check ingredients more than trusting brands, Dr. Lain advised.
“Look for hyaluronic acid or glycerin to help plump the skin and camouflage the bags,” said Dr. Lain, further noting that “making sure there are anti-oxidants to improve the health of the skin is always a good idea.”
“Anything that claims to have immediate results is probably valid,” Dr. Lain said, “but realize that these results are short-lived and certainly are not causing a structural change to the skin that is beneficial in the long-run.”
“Allergic reactions can occur with any product, Dr. Lain noted. “Therefore I advise my patients to try a new cream on a small area for 2 to 3 days to make sure there is no adverse reaction.”
Guthrie added that in her many years of experience as an esthetician, if under eye bags won’t go away after age 50, the most effective option would be undergoing an under eye bag surgery with a plastic surgeon.
Dr. Maki said that it’s important to meet with an expert, such as a dermatologist or even a plastic surgeon, to discuss the best products on the market and what would work best for your specific needs.
“It’s important to meet with someone who knows the product,” Dr. Maki advised. “I have my patients bring their product into my office so I can look at the ingredients. I would emphasize meeting with someone that is in that field, versus just meeting someone over the counter at Macy’s.”
He also noted that there are endless different product lines, as well as new products coming out, which can make it challenging for consumers to select the best cream or serum for under eye bags.
“Consumers just don’t know – some might think that if the bottle looks cool, it’s a good product,” Dr. Maki said. “I’m really huge on emphasizing that skincare doesn’t need to be expensive. Not to say that expensive products aren’t good, there’s just some that are full of things you don’t need.”
For those who decide that surgery to remove the under eye bags is a better option than creams or serums, Dr. Maki said that routine skincare maintenance with quality products is still crucial to sustaining the results for as long as possible.