With so many skincare products out there, it’s normal to question whether you really need to add another one to your arsenal. When you’re already cleansing, toning, seruming, masking, and moisturizing, the thought of buying a special cream for just one small part of your face can seem a little, well, overkill. But the fact is, a well-formulated eye cream is more than just a nice-to-have. If you want to ward off fine lines and dark circles, it’s a necessity. Yes, even if you’re 22. Yes, even if you don’t have wrinkles yet.
Why? Well, the skin under your eyes is a lot thinner than other parts of the face. That makes it more sensitive and more likely to show wrinkles and other signs of aging. The best cruelty-free eye cream contains active ingredients to help moisturize, protect, and repair that delicate area— but at lower concentrations so not to irritate it.
While even the best eye cream can’t magically make you look 15 again, a high-quality one can smooth fine lines and help your skin look brighter and more youthful. If choosing vegan, cruelty-free products is important to you (and it should be!), here’s how to find the best cruelty-free eye cream for wrinkles and other concerns.
What Makes the Best Cruelty-Free Eye Cream?
First and foremost, the best cruelty-free eye cream needs to actually be cruelty-free. We say this because many brands claim their products are, when they actually use third-party labs that do animal testing or buy animal-tested ingredients from suppliers. Phrases like “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals” are not regulated, meaning companies can essentially say whatever they want.
To truly know whether you’re buying a cruelty-free eye cream—or any skincare product, for that matter—do your research. Look it up on the Leaping Bunny database, read about the company’s policy, ask questions (are their ingredients tested on animals? Do they use third parties that do animal testing? Do they test their products on animals when required by law?).
And don’t assume that just because something is cruelty-free means it’s also vegan. These terms are easy to confuse, but they have different definitions. Vegan products don’t contain any animal- or animal-derived ingredients, but the descriptor says nothing about whether the ingredients that are used were tested on animals. To find the best vegan eye cream, you’ll need to go a step deeper than the “cruelty-free” label and make sure it doesn’t contain animal-based ingredients such as beeswax or lanolin.
What to Look for in the Best Cruelty-Free Eye Cream
Of course, when you’re looking for the best cruelty-free eye cream, it’s not enough for the ingredients just to be vegan and not tested on animals. You also want them to be high quality and, most importantly, effective. Here are some of our favorite eye cream ingredients to look for:
Collagen is what keeps skin firm and smooth. Unfortunately for all of us, as we age, we produce about 1% less collagen each year—and that’s not even taking into account all the damage from UV rays and pollution. Thankfully, there are ways you can boost your collagen production—like, you guessed it, amino acids.
Collagen is a protein, which means it’s made up of amino acids, and so is elastin, which keeps skin tight and springy. By applying amino acids topically (or taking them in through food and supplements), you can actually help your body produce more collagen and more elastin, resulting in fewer wrinkles and more youthful looking skin—extremely important for that thin under-eye area. Amino acids also help maintain hydration in your skin, so it’s the perfect ingredient for a hydrating eye cream.
Mallow Flower Extract
Mallow flower extract may not be as well known as some of the others on this list, but it’s a pretty fantastic anti-aging ingredient. Derived from a purple flower called malva sylvestris (sorry, it has nothing to do with marshmallows), the gel-like substance helps your skin keep its elasticity, which, as we mentioned earlier, is a key factor in maintaining healthy, taut skin. Mallow flower extract is also incredibly soothing, so if you’re looking for an eye cream for sensitive skin, take note.
Niacinamide is a water-soluble form of vitamin B3 that, when applied topically, can tell the skin to produce more lipids—specifically ceramides and fatty acids, which lock in moisture and make skin look plumper and more supple. Similar to collagen, our body produces fewer lipids as we get older, so adding an extra boost of niacinamide can help soften those fine lines around your eyes.
Niacinamide comes with loads of other benefits as well—it calms irritation, protects against damage, and brightens dark spots, just to name a few—making it a really great ingredient to look for in an eye cream.
Bakuchiol has been getting a lot of hype for good reason: Research shows it has many of the same benefits as anti-aging star retinol, but without all the harsh side effects (redness, flaking, peeling). Extracted from the babchi plant, it’s also natural and vegan, which is why clean beauty fans love it so much—and why you’ll see it in a lot of vegan, cruelty-free eye creams. Much like retinol, bakuchiol stimulates collagen production, smoothing fine lines and firming up your skin, but it does so without any irritation, exactly what that delicate eye area needs.