I Swore Off Retinol Eye Creams Until Drunk Elephant's New Eye Serum Reduced My Fine Lines Without Causing Irritation

This mix of retinol and caffeine made my under eye area look fresh and incredibly smooth.

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Drunk Elephant A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum Review

InStyle / David Hattan

I may only be in my mid-20s, but retinol has been a mainstay in my skincare routine for about a year, although it wasn’t love at first application. My initial foray into using the ingredient didn’t go very smoothly: I was 23 and dove head first into using a potent 0.5 percent retinol eye serum day and night. To be honest, I hadn’t quite done my homework on the ingredient or its side effects. Within a week, the skin around my eyes looked red, felt itchy, and started to peel. Needless to say, I’ve avoided using retinol near my eyes ever since. 

Now I’m older, wiser, and have carefully worked my way up to using a 1.2 percent retinol on my face twice a week — but still never getting too close to my eyes. My not-so-great first experience with retinol really made me wary. But now, three years later and with more retinol knowledge under my belt, I started to wonder if there was a retinol eye cream to help prevent fine lines without triggering irritation — or scales on my skin. Ultimately, I decided that fortune favors the bold and I resolved to try Drunk Elephant’s new A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum, a smoothing and depuffing product that contains 0.1 percent vegan retinol — a fraction of the concentration I initially put on my eyes. 

Drunk Elephant A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum

Drunk Elephant A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum


I dove right into testing this new eye serum while still learning from my past mistakes. Unlike my last go-around with retinol eye cream, I diligently followed the instructions for A-Shaba. I was surprised to see that it could be applied morning and night, as retinol can make skin more sensitive to UV rays, and as a redhead, I take my sun protection very seriously. But I trusted the pros, so I did just that, lathering the lightweight, silky serum all around my eye area day and night, while making sure to layer a broad-spectrum sunscreen over top for daytime wear. 

Though labeled as a serum, the consistency feels more like a serum-cream hybrid — it’s definitely not as thick as Drunk Elephant Ceramighty AF Eye Balm, but it still felt extremely moisturizing on my skin as I patted it all around my orbital bone. Plus, I appreciated the slight cooling effect, thanks to the caffeine in the formula, that gave my eyes a mini jolt, which made me look and feel more awake in the morning. Half a pump was more than enough to cover my entire eye area, too. 

Drunk Elephant A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum Review Before and After

InStyle / Mary Honkus

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed how the product feels, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep my guard up while testing this eye serum: Each day I woke up almost expecting irritation to strike, but week after week, my eye area remained smooth, supple, and fresh. It’s been five weeks since I first introduced this product into my routine and I’ve noticed some lines under my eyes starting to disappear. To my delight, my dark circles aren’t so purple, and overall, my entire eye area looks significantly less puffy. 

Wherever you are in your retinol journey — whether you’re a complete novice or have worked your way up to a strong dose over the years — the A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum is a great low-risk way to incorporate the ingredient into your eye care routine. Frankly, I’m glad I gave retinol eye creams another try — and I know my future self will thank me, too, when eyes still look just as bright and youthful as they do today.

Why Trust InStyle

Mary Honkus is the beauty and fashion commerce editor at InStyle. For this story, she tested out the Drunk Elephant A-Shaba Eye Serum for five weeks to see if the retinol-infused eye serum really is gentle. Spoiler: It is. 

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