This Revolutionary Eye Cream Is a Pre-Wedding Essential for Bright Under Eyes

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.
ILIA Bright Start Retinol Alternative Brightening Eye Cream

Brides / Kevin Liang

When it comes to looking and feeling your best on your wedding day, we all want to feel bright eyed and radiant. But the days leading up to the celebration can wreak havoc on your under eyes—stress, alcohol, and not enough sleep can make dark circles and puffiness worse. Not to mention that dark circles are often due to genetics and are hard to treat, according to dermatologists. So what’s a future bride to do?

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lauren Penzi recommends speaking to your dermatologist six months before your wedding to discuss any treatments, especially if dark circles are a big concern. Besides in office treatments and lifestyle changes, using a good eye cream can also help decrease puffiness and any shadows under your eyes.

Even without planning a wedding, I often wake up in dismay to dark circles, so I’m always on the lookout for a new miracle working eye cream. I recently received a sample of ILIA Bright Start Retinol Alternative Brightening Eye Cream. With its trio of powerful ingredients and special applicator, it sounded like it might finally be the product to put the bags at bay. After using it for about a month, here is my honest review.

ILIA Bright Start Activated Eye Cream


My Skin

I’ll admit it—I often get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, so I constantly rely on concealer to brighten my eyes. On top of that, the skin around my eyes is extremely sensitive, so I try to avoid any chemicals and products that can cause a bad reaction. Before trying this eye cream, I used Origins Ginzing Vitamin C Eye Cream and Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado, as both formulas are ultra gentle and hydrating.

The Product

If you were to create the perfect eye cream to treat dark circles and puffiness, it might just be the ILIA Bright Start Eye Cream. It contains caffeine, which is an ingredient that helps reduce puffiness and inflammation by constricting blood vessels, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi. It also contains a plant-based alternative to retinol, made from sea fennel extract. Retinol is a go-to in facial and body products due to its powerful anti-aging properties, but it can be a bit intimidating to use in an eye cream as the ingredient is known to be potentially drying and irritating. Still if your skin can tolerate it, it can do wonders. “Retinol is a great ingredient in eye creams, as it helps to stimulate collagen production and also helps to combat hyperpigmentation, making it perfect for dark under eyes,” says Dr. Penzi. 

As an alternative to retinol, the ingredient in Ilia’s formula is less meant to be less irritating while still providing the same benefits. Besides the ingredients, this eye cream comes in a tube with a special ceramic tip that massages and de-puffs on contact.

How to Use It

While you can use this eye cream morning or night, or both, if you want to get the most of the de-puffing power, it’s best to use it in the morning and use the special tip to massage your eye area. Bonus points if you store the tube in your fridge for extra decompressing power.

The Results

The thought of putting a retinol-type ingredient right under my eyes made me extremely nervous, but I tried it anyway, and I’m here to say I survived and then some. There is no stinging or tightness, as I’ve felt with some other eye creams. Rather, my skin immediately feels soothed and hydrated. The cream is moisturizing yet not greasy or heavy, so you can easily apply makeup after. If anything, the cream leaves a sticky texture, acting as a primer for concealer. The pearlescent shimmer instantly brightens my under eye, creating a lit-from-within effect.

Yet my favorite aspect has got to be the ceramic tip applicator. I love storing this tube in the fridge and giving my eyes a mini massage when using it. Just like caffeine, the coldness reduces inflammation and veins. While we don’t always have time to use an under eye patches in the morning, applying this cream does the trick. I also find it more hygienic than sticking my finger into a pot every time I apply eye cream. 

I will say that I noticed the skin under my eyes felt a bit drier when I first started using this product, but as Dr. Shirazi says, that usually resolves after a couple weeks as your skin adjusts. To help your skin ease into your new routine, she recommends applying a retinol eye cream every other night in the beginning. 

Because it can take weeks and even months to see a visible difference from using retinol, I can’t say I see a radical change from using this eye cream. But every morning I can rely on the depuffing tip and caffeine to wake up my eyes and go on my Zoom meetings makeup-free. Best of all, I’ve found an eye cream with powerful ingredients my skin can tolerate and use daily—and knowing that six months from now, my under eye area will look better rested and be more youthful than if I hadn’t used it. Those summer weddings better be ready for the glow I’m about to bring.

Meet the Expert

Why Trust Brides

Emily Cieslak is an Assistant Commerce editor, covering all things beauty and fashion. As a skin nerd, she loves learning about new skincare ingredients and products. She has written about beauty for other publications, including The Knot, Byrdie, InStyle, and Real Simple. 

Related Stories