Dark Circles under the Eyes
Dark circles under the eyes are cute on raccoons, but they aren’t cute on anyone. But we’ve all been there. Looking at the mirror and see tired eyes looking back at you can instantly put a damper on your morning. Suddenly, you had to rummage through your makeup kit, hoping to give it a quick remedy. Well, if it’s any consolation, even the most stunning celebrities had to wear makeup to conceal dark under-eye circles at some point – so yeah, it’s normal.
Why They Appear
Okay, so what’s truly to blame for under-eye darkness? A lot. It’s not just a lack of shut-eye. In a nutshell, dark circles under the eyes happen when light reflects off of the dark-colored blood vessels underneath the skin’s surface and shows through the thin layer of skin around the eyes, otherwise called the periorbital area. Here are some of the common reasons why they appear:
1. Lack of Sleep – It is probably the most recognized cause of dark circles. Not getting enough sleep triggers your body to produce the stress hormone cortisol as a defense mechanism to give you the energy you need to stay awake. You’ll feel this energizing signal of elevated stress levels when a big event is coming or when you have lots to do. As your body releases cortisol, your blood vessels, including the ones in your eyes, dilate, which makes the dark-colored vessels more noticeable in your under-eye area.
2. Genetics – Having dark circles under the eyes is hereditary. In fact, it is the biggest culprit why the darkness seems too difficult to go away even after sleeping for eight hours straight. Accumulation of blood pools under the eyes, which causes fragile capillaries to stretch and leak, and becomes more obvious if you inherit fair skin. Also, having superficial blood vessels under the eyes can result in a reddish-purple hue showing through thin and pale skin.
People with darker skin tones are not spared from periorbital hyperpigmentation, a condition in which the body produces more melanin in the skin around the eyes, resulting in dark, raccoon-like shadows. In fact, dark-skinned people are more susceptible to this condition that people with fair skin.
3. Age – Ah yes, the age factor. “Aging can cause volume depletion under the eyes, resulting in hollowed-out shadows,” says Dermatologist Heidi Waldorf. Your skin also loses collagen over time, making veins more prominent. If you are a sun-worshipper, remember that sunbathing speeds up breaking down of your skin’s collagen production, so know how to protect your skin under the eyes before you soak up some sun. Bulging under eye fat and lower eyelid laxity are other facial aging symptoms that can cause dark circles.
4. Allergies – Seasonal allergies are to blame for some people. According to Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, the body releases histamine as a reaction to seasonal allergies. Blood vessels become inflamed and swell. Frequent eye rubbing can also cause thickening and dark discoloration in the under eye area.
5. Poor Diet – You’ll find it hard for dark circles to pack their bags if you keep on munching on sweet and salty foods. Foods high in sugar and sodium can cause poor elimination of waste, resulting in a buildup of toxins in the kidneys, which in turn makes the eye area look dark and puffy.
6. Caffeine and Alcohol – Too much consumption of these two can lead to dehydration, making under-eye circles more prominent.
Determining the Culprit
How would you know if those pesky under-eye circles are caused by allergies or something else? Try to stretch the skin under your eyes gently so it is pulled tight. If the color doesn’t change, allergies or UV rays are probably the cause, but if the color changes to a darker tone, then it’s likely due to aging or genetics.
Identifying the Shadows
Dark circles aren’t really just “dark” – there is something more to the color of the shadows around your eyes.
- Blue shadows – Often a result of enlarged blood vessels
- Brown shadows – Indicates overproduction of melanin
- Red shadows – Caused by enlarged blood vessels, where in accumulation of blood and fluid in the body is higher than normal
Other factors may also affect the color of the shadows, such as your skin tone. People with pale or fair skin usually show bluish or purplish shadows. On the other hand, for people with darker skin or warm-toned, typically their veins can have a green or brown tinge.
How to Treat Under-eye Circles
One thing is for sure – no one likes dark under-eye circles. The good news? Banishing dark circles is possible. Treatments can range from topical solutions to advance treatments, depending on the cause, severity of it – and of course, your budget. In some cases, especially if it’s genetics, you may not be able to totally prevent or diminish dark circles, but you can minimize them.
Under-eye Darkness Caused by Lack of Sleep
When you had to pull an all-nighter, sometimes you just can’t avoid last night’s fatigue to make an appearance on your face. If tiredness is to blame for your dark circles, a good night’s sleep can help clear them up. Remember, it’s not only just about the number of sleeping hours, but BOTH quantity and quality of sleep should be adequate, which means getting six to eight hours of uninterruptedsleep. S goo on, take your beauty rest so you won’t have to wear your lack of sleep like a badge of honor.
Circles Caused by Vascular Issues
Your sleep position plays a big role here. Stop blood from pooling under your eyes while you sleep by sleeping on your back and doubling up on pillows. “By lifting your head, blood and fluid accumulation is minimized in the head region, in particular around the eyes, and flows more south towards the hips and feet,” says dermatologist Dr. Fayne L. Frey.
Associate clinical professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York Jeannette Graf suggests applying a cold compress for about five minutes when you wake up in the morning can constrict the blood vessels.
The quickest way to get rid of allergy-induced circles is to take an over-the-counter antihistamine before your allergies go full blast. It can help shrink swollen blood vessels under your eyes and keep the circulation moving. Once allergy symptoms are eliminated, the dark circles should go away too.
Nasal congestion often causes the delicate veins between the eyes and the nose to dilate, making the skin above them look darker. Dark circles won’t go away until your nasal congestion has cleared up. So if blocked nose is to blame, nasal sprays can often give you temporary relief.
Facial Aging and Genetics
If your dark circles are a result of a natural aging process or genetics, you are most likely battling two issues here: thin skin and superficial veins . Fragile capillaries tend to burst more easily so red, purple or bluish tinge becomes more obvious due to your pale or fair skin. Well, collagen to the rescue!
That’s right. To help get rid of those pesky dark circles, a collagen- building cream or serum with below ingredients often work wonders in combating dark circles. Collagen is protein-derived substance that is responsible for giving skin strength and elasticity, along with replacing dead skin cells. Rebuilding collagen on the skin around your eyes is important because it “knits” your skin together to prevent sagging.
Ingredients To Look For
- Retinoids – helps stimulate natural collagen production, making skin less thin and improving the dark circles. “Retinoids help rebuild dermal collagen and thereby contribute to vascular support in the area and the recovery of skin volume and firmness,” says New York-based dermatologist, Dr. Patricia Ceballos.
- Vitamin C – encourages production of collagen (take note that collagen requires Vitamin C for it to be produced in the body. This process is called collagen synthesis) and brightens skin tone.
- Hyaluronic acid – has powerful anti-aging properties and great hydrating ingredients for all skin types. It has the stunning ability to attract and hold vast amounts of moisture, which can make skin appear plump, supple and radiant. To give you an idea, one ounce of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six liters of water!
- Coenzyme Q 10 or ubiquinone – keeps skin looking vibrant, smooth, firm and youthful. It blocks free radicals that cause skin cell damage, helps stimulate new skin cell regrowth and promotes production of collagen and elastin.
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) – has a unique ability to stimulate production of nitric oxide, which can help banish dark circles by minimizing blood flow to the skin.
Dark Circles Caused By Sun Damage
Skin lightening creams or serums that contain bleaching agents and innovative circulation increasing ingredients may be recommended by your dermatologist to help lighten dark circles caused by sun damage. “Sometimes dark circles are caused by increased pigment, either from rubbing your eyes frequently or from sun damage,” says New York dermatologist Rachel Nazarian.
Ingredients To Look For
- Rice peptides – help preserve collagen and elastin
- White tea – fixes pigmentation irregularities
- Licorice root – famous for its inflammation-soothing properties on puffiness and helps lighten skin
- Vitamin C – evens out skin tone and boosts luminosity
- Vitamin K – as one of the most sought-after ingredients used for a number of circulatory issues, Vitamin K is widely used in eye creams and skin lightening creams and serums. It helps restore capillaries so they function normally.
Other Under-eye Circle Remedies
Regardless of the cause of dark circles, you can do these remedies along with cause-specific treatments, and see if there’s any improvement.
- Eye Mask – Applying an eye mask is a perfect option if you are looking to give yourself some “me-time.” It provides a much-needed TLC for tired eyes. Eye masks with a cooling effect works best for banishing dark circles by causing blood vessels to constrict and reducing swelling temporarily. You may also opt for gel masks that can be chilled in the fridge. It is also a lot more convenient as you can re-use every time you need an under-eye dark circle therapy.
- Eye Creams – Specifically formulated to lift sagging skin, plump skin and reduce dark circles, an eye cream such as Eyevage is one of the smart alternatives to perk up the lack of glow around your peepers.
Ingredients To Look For
- Caffeine – helps shrink blood vessels under your eyes, thereby reducing puffiness and lightening dark circles.
- Vitamin K – plumps the eye area, making your peepers look more rested and healthier. It also has a skin lightening effect and helps diminish dark circles.
- Arnica montana extract – has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce puffiness
- Jojoba seed oil – soothes irritation while adding hydration to your skin
- Soybean protein and hydrolyzed rice bran protein – enhance micro-circulation and constrain blood capillaries that cause under-eye darkness.
- Green tea or grapeseed oil – strengthens capillary walls
- Vitamin E – moisturizes the eye area, making it look fresh and rejuvenated.
It keeps dark circles at bay by protecting skin from the sun’s UV rays, thereby preventing pigmentation over time. Wearing sunscreen can help treat dark circles in two ways: prevent sun damage around your incredibly thin and delicate eye area, and minimizing sun exposure that can dilate the blood vessels around your eyes. Invest in broad-spectrum physical sunscreen that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and then look for one with SPF 30 or higher.
Tweak Your Diet
Registered New York-based dietitian Lisa Drayer recommends consuming foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, almonds and walnuts to help improve blood flow to the skin. Adding an ounce of flavanol-rich foods to your daily caloric consumption also work the same way. Examples of foods high in flavanol are higher percentage dark chocolates or cocoa, tea and red wine.
When you had tried it all and your efforts did not pay off, a quick fix to dark circles is camouflaging it with a trusty old friend – your concealer. As a bonus, it can also act as a physical barrier against the sun’s harmful UV rays to ward off sun damage. The trick is to use a creamy concealer in a shade lighter than your natural skin tone to mask blue shadows. On the other hand, a porcelain-toned concealer works best for people with fair skin.
Not Rubbing Your Eyes
Go easy on your peepers. Constantly rubbing your eyes can damage the blood vessels around your eyes, making dark circles even worse. It can cause sensitive blood vessels in your eyes to break and leak blood in the eye area. Moreover, rubbing your eyes also creates friction on the skin, leading to hyperpigmentation of the skin under your eyes. So always be cautious and gentle when touching your eyes, when washing your face or when removing your makeup.
More Advanced Treatments to Fix Dark Circles Under the Eyes
1. IPL (Intense Pulse Light Therapy or Photofacial)
It is often used to close off blue or dark purple blood vessels that are visible on the skin’s surface. IPL treatment is usually recommended for people who have small blood vessels near to the surface of the skin. Unlike laser therapy, and IPL treatment does not cause damage to the outer layer of the skin. But the downside is you need several treatments of IPL to get visible results.
Not all doctors agree that IPL is safe to use near the eyes though. The treatment itself can be uncomfortable as it has to be performed near the sensitive eye area. In most cases, a stinging or burning sensation is felt during treatment. Discoloration and swelling may also occur within a few weeks after treatment.
2. Laser Therapy
This procedure involves sending a burst of light into the skin under the eyes, which is then absorbed by pigmented skin areas or blood vessels. Laser therapy is generally done to resurface the skin and minimize or get rid of wrinkles. As it improves the overall appearance of the eye area, it also gives an added benefit of diminishing dark circles. The common side effects of laser therapy include localized swelling and redness. Recovery time is approximately one week.
3. Hyaluronic Acid Facial Fillers
Hyaluronic acid supports facial structures and tissues that may have lost elasticity or volume due to aging. It keeps skin looking supple, plump and smooth by bringing water to the surface of the skin. The side effects may include numbness, swelling and temporary bruising.
Tear-trough fillers is an advance treatment, where hyaluronic acid is injected to soften dark circles in 10 minutes, making eyes appear better rested. The side effects may include puffy eyes and bruising that should subside within a week. Tear-trough fillers is quite expensive, costs range from $600 to $1,000.
4. Fat Injections or Fat Transfer
This procedure to plump up the area to be treated is said to be painless and takes just minutes. Fat injections or fat transfer used natural fat cells so it is safer than procedures using artificial fillers. It aims to add back the fat you lost, as well as regaining volume under your eyes.
This procedure focuses on the outer layer of the skin. Microdermabrasion exfoliates the skin and encourages new skin cells to grow. It is recommended for dark circles caused by pigmentation due to sun exposure.
6. Cheek Lift
Fat migrates to cheeks downward as we age, so it leaves the eye hollows in its place. The skin under the eyes becomes thinner, making blood vessels more visible that causes dark circles to appear. As the name suggests, cheek lift brings back volume loss to sunken cheeks.
7. Eyelid Surgery or Blepharoplasty
Considering the surgical route? Blepharoplasty’s primary goal is to rectify prominent eye bags that cast dark shadows. It can help you give a more youthful appearance that is under-eye darkness-free. How it works? Two procedures are available:
- To surgically remove fat from the inside of the eyelid
- Remove excess fat and skin, and tighten muscles
Blepharoplasty can make you look younger as you regain smoother, plumper and even-toned skin on your face. However, surgical complications may occur, as well as potential scarring. It is also a bit pricey, which ranges from $6,000 to $8,000 (lower eyelids only) including hospital fees and doctor’s fees.
Top Tips to Prevent Dark Circles
Dark circle treatments can be overwhelming, so you might be wondering what are the best ways to prevent them from happening.
1. Identify Allergens – to avoid getting your under eyes appear darker and puffier than normal, have a list of allergens to avoid. Seasonal allergens usually include changes in temperature, pet dander, mold, house dust mites and pollen. Avoid these triggers and make it a habit to wash your hands often with soap and water.
2. A Good Night’s Sleep Every Night – this is probably the most obvious cause of dark circles. Don’t take catching enough Zzzs for granted to help keep your circulation in optimal condition.
3. De-Stress Yourself – A lot of activities can help you relax. Try swimming, yoga or a little pampering by getting a massage.
4. Invest In a Good Eye Cream – using an eye cream is preventative and not only a treatment. The delicate skin under your eyes requires extra care and a skin care product that is specifically formulated to keep dark circles, puffiness and even wrinkles at bay.
5. Eat a Balanced Diet And Drink Lots Of Water – Lack of Vitamin K and B12 can wreak havoc on your skin, so don’t forget to include these foods in your diet, sticking to freshest you can find:
Vitamin B 12 Food Sources: beef, fish, cheese, eggs, milk, yogurt, fish, mussels, crabs, clams and oysters.
Vitamin K food sources: green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, prunes, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers and dried basil.
In addition, one of the tell-tale signs of dehydration is dark circles. It’s your body’s way of telling you to drink up!
6. Cut Your Salt Intake – a high sodium diet can cause fluid retention. Don’t wait for nasty dark circles to invade your pretty face before you decide to go back to eating healthy.
7. Give Up Smoking – among other health risks, premature skin aging and making blood vessels appear bluer underneath your skin are results of smoking and second-hand smoke.
8. Avoid The Sun – when going outdoors, always slather on broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, and wear sunglasses to protect your eye area.
Debunking Dark Circle Myths
While there are hard facts about dark under-eye circles that can help you make an informed decision on prevention and treatments, there are also speculations going around that cause confusion to a lot of people. Let’s bust the myths once and for all.
1. Dark circles get better by exposing it to the sun
An absolute no-no! Keep a simple rule in mind: the higher you expose your skin to the sun, the greater the changes of UV damage and melanin production. More melanin means darker pigment in your skin, leading to a darker skin tone.
2. Home remedies for dark under-eye circles do not work
Let’s iron out this statement. A lot of home remedies may work to treat dark circles under your eyes, but the problem here is the results are only temporary. You have a higher chance of banishing dark circles for good through specifically formulated eye creams or more advanced treatments.
3. All dark under-eye woes are treated the same
This can’t be right because the proper treatment for dark under-eye circles will depend on the actual cause. For instance, if the skin under your eyes becomes thinner, causing dark-colored blood vessels to look more prominent, you can’t fix it by simply sleeping for eight hours.
The big downside of dark circles under the eyes is how it can make you look tired, sleep-deprived and old. It is absolutely a threat to a gorgeous face! Of course, you want to clear up and brighten your under eye area as quickly possible. However, in reality, you won’t find a one-size-fits-all treatment for under-eye circles. First things first, know what is causing the discoloration, and then from that, pick the treatment that works best for you.