The New ‘Bright Start’ Eye Cream Uses a Gentler Plant-Based Retinol To De-Puff, Brighten, and Smooth Grumpy Under Eye Skin

Photo: Getty Images/Nattakorn Maneerat
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We're going into week three of the New Year and I have already failed at one of my biggest resolutions: getting enough sleep. I like to tell myself that I’m still getting accustomed to the new year, and these changes can naturally take some time. However, this setback has had some unsavory consequences, one being that I've looked like a straight-up zombie. It’s pretty obvious when I don’t get enough sleep. I’m clumsy, grumpy, and worst of all, my eyes are puffy, dry, and tired-looking.

While the most sensible solution would be to go to bed before real goblin hours start setting in, I can thankfully turn to a worthy remedy in the meantime: Ilia Bright Start Activated Eye Cream ($46). As eye creams are one of my favorite skin-care products, this one caught my eye (no pun intended), due to its pearlescent tint and unique ingredients, including a plant-based retinol alternative. Would it help me look less sleep-deprived until I got my schedule in order? Keep reading to find out.

How it works

Bright Start Activated Eye Cream is Ilia’s first eye cream and newest skin-care offering following the success of the C Beyond Triple Serum. The ingredient-conscious cosmetics brand, which launched in 2011, has been expanding its focus on skin care in recent years, though it has infused skin-loving ingredients into its products since the beginning. Bright Start is no different. One highlight of its formula is sea fennel extract, which is thought of as a retinol alternative and contains vitamin C, fatty acids, organic acids, and minerals. The sea fennel helps with brightening, smoothing, and firming skin.

Other heavy hitters in Bright Start’s formula are upcycled avocado extract, a zero-waste active that helps reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness alongside caffeine and peptides. Clinical research (according to the brand) has shown Bright Start to hydrate and brighten the under eye skin and reduce dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles. It all sounded promising!

My honest thoughts

The first thing that stood out for me with Bright Start was its tube. Most of my eye creams come in tub form, so I appreciate that I could apply the product directly onto my skin. You don’t have to dip your fingers into a tub or fiddle with an applicator wand (which I always tend to annoyingly misplace). It also has a contoured ceramic tip, so you can easily massage the cream underneath your eyes.

ilia eye cream
Photo: Author

Gently squeeze out the eye cream, which is unscented and has a slightly tinted and pearlescent appearance. While other eye creams I’ve tried can be oily and take time to completely absorb, Bright Start does not. The formula itself is silky, lightweight, and absorbs immediately into the skin. It immediately brightens, leaving a super subtle shimmer, thanks to the presence of light-reflecting pearls. Using it twice a day for nearly two weeks, my eyes looked brighter and more awake, with the skin under and around my eyes feeling soft and hydrated.

Another thing that I really loved about Bright Start is that I didn’t have to worry about it messing with my makeup. In fact, it acts as a primer for concealer. This was one of the biggest selling points for me. (If you’ve ever applied concealer on your under eyes hoping it will help hide your lack of sleep and instead finding it difficult to blend, then you’ll appreciate this too.)

I’m making a true promise to myself to get my sleep schedule down as soon as possible, but I’m extremely happy to have Bright Start on hand in the meantime. It might be one of my favorite eye creams of all time. I’m taking it as a sign that I’m already off to a good start for the new year.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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