Dark circles under the eyes are a common cosmetic concern that affects many people. It is usually not a serious problem that requires medical intervention. Most people dislike dark circles because it makes them look tired and aged. Many times, it is not a permanent issue and can be fixed by implementing a healthy lifestyle, using at-home treatment methods, or getting help from a medical professional.
Dark circles do not usually indicate a serious medical condition.
See your doctor to determine if there is a treatable cause for your dark circles.
There are at-home treatments and lifestyle modifications that can help lessen the dark circles.
Your dermatologist can recommend medical-grade skin care products or prescription creams to fade the dark skin.
If at-home treatments fail, your dermatologist can guide you on which professional treatments, such as chemical peels, lasers, fillers, or surgery, would be best for you.
Dark circles are present on the delicate skin directly below the eyes. The discolored skin in the area may appear blue, purple, brown, or black. It can also be accompanied by puffiness and wrinkled skin.
Causes of dark circles under the eyes
Dark circles under the eyes are caused by genetics, aging, medical problems, and poor lifestyle choices. You cannot change your genetics, so if it runs in your family, you will likely develop it. You may be prone to developing thin skin in the area or excess pigmentation of the skin. There is nothing you can do to prevent dark circles caused by genetics, but there are treatments that can help.
The impact of aging
Aging is a normal function of our bodies. It is pre-programmed and cannot be altered. As we age, our collagen production decreases, which causes the skin under the eyes to become thinner. Thinner skin makes it easier to see the blood vessels underneath, which gives the skin a darker color. The skin also wrinkles with age and bunches up, which makes the area look darker. Often, it is compounded by fat pushing through and giving the area a puffy appearance. This puffiness casts shadows under the eyes, giving the area a darker appearance.
Can medical conditions cause dark circles?
Yes, some medical conditions cause dark circles under the eyes. If these are treated promptly and appropriately, the dark circles can lessen or disappear. These include seasonal allergies, thyroid conditions, anemia, and dermatitis such as eczema:
- Allergies. Allergies are caused by the release of histamines. These histamines cause blood vessels to dilate, become more apparent under the skin, and lead to the darkening of the skin under the eyes. This is worsened by itching, which causes rubbing. The friction from the constant rubbing of the skin will darken the skin as well.
- Iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia results in a lack of red blood cells, which makes the skin paler. Paler skin will make the vessels underneath the skin more apparent and make the skin in the area appear darker.
- Skin conditions. Certain skin conditions, such as eczema or contact dermatitis, can cause darkening of the skin due to inflammation in the area from the rash and chronic rubbing of the itchy skin.
- Medication side effects. Some medications, such as glaucoma drops, can darken the skin under the eyes.
Impact of lifestyle on dark eye circles
Poor lifestyle choices that cause dark circles under the eyes can be corrected easily to reverse these skin changes. They include lack of sleep, dehydration, sun exposure, smoking, and excessive alcohol use:
- Sleep. Lack of the proper amount of sleep upsets blood circulation. This leads to blood pooling in the area, which dilates the blood vessels, makes them more visible, and darkens the skin in the area. It can also make the area look puffy and swollen.
- Dehydration. Lack of appropriate daily water intake will make the area under the eyes appear sunken and the vessels more visible. This gives the skin a dark appearance.
- Sun exposure. The sun causes the production of melanin, which will darken the skin under the eyes.
- Smoking. Smoking destroys your collagen, which will make the skin under your eyes thinner and the vessels more apparent.
- Alcohol. Excess alcohol intake will dehydrate the skin, which makes the blood vessels more visible.
Who is at risk for dark eye circles?
Certain people are more susceptible to developing dark circles under their eyes, such as those with a family history of dark circles, people who are older, or those who have more natural pigment in their skin. Unfortunately, there is no way to stop dark circles from forming. You can delay the appearance by properly taking care of yourself and your skin.
Ways to prevent dark circles
If you are genetically prone to developing dark circles under the eyes, are getting older, or have certain medical conditions, you may not be able to prevent dark circles from forming. If they appear due to lifestyle choices, you can prevent them.
Here are general tips to help you prevent dark circles under the eyes:
- Make sure you get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours a night).
- Stay well hydrated with water.
- Avoid smoking and excess alcohol consumption.
- Apply a broad spectrum, SPF 50+ sunscreen daily.
- Wear UV-protecting sunglasses.
Additionally, there are other methods to treat dark circles under the eyes that you can try. They include at-home and professional treatments.
At-home treatment for dark circles
While there is no cure for dark circles under the eyes, there are some at-home treatments and lifestyle changes that can help lessen their appearance.
|Cool compresses||Can shrink dilated blood vessels|
|Getting plenty of sleep||Allows your body time to restore proper blood flow and repair tissue damage.|
|Proper hydration||Restores volume to the tissue in the area.|
|Use multiple pillows||Elevating your head with pillows will help eliminate excess fluid in the area.|
|Sunscreen and sunglasses||Wearing sunscreen and sunglasses daily protects the area from UV damage and skin darkening.|
Alternatively, adding the following products/activities to your daily routine can help alleviate the dark circles:
- Tea bags. You can place tea bags over your eyes. The caffeine in the tea will constrict the blood vessels.
- Eye creams. Daily application of eye creams that contain caffeine, skin lighteners, retinol, and antioxidants can help.
- Moisturize. Moisturizers are a must for everyone. If you have dark circles, select one with soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe, or cucumber.
- Facial massage. Messing your face daily facial will increase blood flow and improve circulation.
- Makeup. While makeup won't fix the root cause, concealer can cover the dark circles.
Professional treatments for dark circles
If at-home treatments are not working, it is best to see your dermatologist for professional treatments, which include:
- Prescription creams. Creams containing hydroquinone, azelaic acid, or retinoids can remove pigment. Retinoids can also increase collagen production to thicken the skin.
- Medical-grade skin care products. Products with skin lighteners, such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, licorice, retinoids, glycolic acid, and vitamin C can help remove the pigment.
- Chemical peels. Chemical peels can help remove the dark skin in the area. Injectable fillers can plump the thin skin in the area, which makes the underlying blood vessels less apparent.
- Lasers. Laser therapy can rebuild collagen and remove blood vessels and pigment, which will help improve the appearance of the skin in this area.
- Microneedling. Microneedling with PRP (platelet-rich plasma) or PRF (platelet-rich fibrin) can help rebuild the collagen in the area, making the skin thicker and the blood vessels less apparent. It can even remove pigment.
- Surgery. If you have extra wrinkled skin that is dark, surgical blepharoplasty will remove the excess dark skin instantly.
Dark circles under the eyes, while not life-threatening, can ruin your self-confidence and impact your quality of life. If you develop them, see your doctor to determine the cause. Many causes are treatable and will lessen their appearance. If there are no treatable causes, your doctor can help you determine which treatment is best for you.