Dark circles under the eyes are common in women and men. Sometimes accompanied by puffy eyes or ‘bags’, dark circles are difficult to get rid of.
Many of us wish our dark circles would go away as they make us appear older and more tired than we are.
Dark circles can happen to anyone, however, they are more common if you:
- Have relatives with dark circles. There is a strong genetic component called periorbital hyperpigmentation.
- Are elderly.
- Have a darker skin tone.
- Are exposed to lifestyle factors like chronic stress.
Read on to learn where dark circles come from and how to manage them.
What Causes Dark Circles?
Family history plays a large role in dark circles under your eyes. If you have relatives with this condition, then you likely inherited it from then. Sometimes dark circles get better or worse as you age.
Genetic predispositions to certain medical conditions can also increase your likelihood of developing dark circles under your eyes. These include thyroid disease, which promotes fluid retention around your eyes (1).
Too much sun can cause dark circles. How? Overexposure to the sun makes your body produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin its color. Too much sun around your face will cause the colour in the surrounding skin to darken.
Sun also increases the effects of crows feet. A solution is to get a great pair of 100% UV blocking sunglasses... Big ones that take up your whole face.
It is not just how much you sleep but how you sleep that affects dark circles under your eyes. Staying up past your normal bed time and extreme fatigue can both cause dark circles.
Sleep deprivation can cause fluid to build up in your face. Making your face and eyes appear more puffy. Sleep deprivation also causes your skin to appear more pale, causing the natural pigment under your eyes to show more.
The way you sleep might be more of a culprit than how much you sleep, according to dermatologist Harold Lancer, MD.
He says: "Do you tend to lie on your side or on your stomach? Either of these positions can cause your face to fold into the pillow and put strain on the skin around your eyes.”
Sleeping on your back can solve this problem. It naturally elevates your head to ensure fluid is moving away from your eyes.
Allergies can trigger dark circles. This includes allergies to skincare and makeup products. An acute allergic reaction causes your body to release histamines.
Histamines are inflammatory bacteria that cause your blood vessels to dilate. This includes the blood vessels under your eyes, making the area more visible (2).
Allergies also cause eye dryness and an urge to rub your itchy skin. Don’t do it!
Itching causes more swelling and inflammation around your eyes, causing dark circles.
Lack of proper hydration means that your skin is not getting enough electrolytes and water. Your skin under your eyes can appear dull and your eyes become sunken. This is because there is not enough fluid in the skin under your eyes.
As we age, our skin becomes more thin. Our body's natural collagen production decreases, meaning that our skin loses some of it’s elasticity and hydration.
This can increase the visibility of dark blood vessels beneath our skin under our eyes (3).
Too much time staring at screens causes strain on the blood vessels around your eyes. This is because the vessels need to work harder without adequate rest. These overworked blood vessels get bigger, causing the skin around your eyes to darken.
Adding a high stress work environment to the eye strain of computer screens is a doubly whammy. Stress and eye strain both cause cortisol release, adding more size to the blood vessels around your eyes (4).
Home Remedies to Treat Dark Circles Under Your Eyes
In most cases, dark circles do not require medical attention. They are no cause for concern for your health. However, they certainly are a nuisance!
Effective treatment depends on the cause of your dark circles.
Here’s some effective home remedies for dark circles you can try.
Boring I know, but getting extra sleep can help reduce dark circles. We know that sleep deprivation causes dark circles to show more prominently. Catching up on sleep can prevent them from appearing.
Sleep also helps your body recover from stress and cortisol, two big drivers of dark circles.
Take Care of Mental and Physical Health
Through exercise, diet and lifestyle, make sure you are taking care of yourself. Invest in your self care through stress reducing activities like meditation, breathwork, mindfulness or taking a warm bath (5).
Soak with Tea Bags
The antioxidants and caffeine within tea can increase blood circulation which helps to shrink your blood vessels. Your face and eye area will retain less fluid beneath your skin, causing dark circles to decrease. Here’s how you can easily do it at home.
- Soak two green tea bags (or black) in hot water for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove from hot water and allow to cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Once cold, place teabags on your closed eyes for 10 minutes.
- Wash face and eyes with cold water after.
Use Cold Compression
Compression and cold are both known to reduce swelling by shrinking blood vessels (6). Reducing swelling will improve the appearance of your dark circles and excess puffiness.
Here’s two options:
- Wet a washcloth or towel with cold water and apply it to the skin under your eyes. 15 minutes is sufficient for one set. Repeat 2-3 times per day.
- Wrap an ice pack or ice cubes in a towel. Apply this towel to your eyes for 15 minutes. Repeat the same process 2-3 times daily until symptoms improve.
Try a Facial Massage
Facial massage can help mobilize and move the fluids away from your eyes. It also works out your facial muscles and increases circulation.
You can perform pressure point massages under your cheekbones or gentle massages on your chin and forehead area.
Read our guide on facial passage here.
Elevate Your Head
As I mentioned above, you need to prioritize your sleep, but also focus on how you sleep. Elevate your head with an extra pillow while you sleep. This prevents fluid from collecting under your eyes while you sleep.
The Bottom Line
For many of us, dark circles are temporary because of lifestyle factors like sleep or stress. For others, dark circles may be due to genetics or aging.
There are many at-home remedies you can try to improve dark circles under your eyes. These remedies have almost no downside, with the possibility of improving the appearance of your eyes.
Regardless, dark circles are usually no cause for concern. They are a natural part of life for many of us.
What do you think about this? Do you have any strategies to share that work for you? Tell us about it below.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, and is for information purposes only. Please consult a doctor, dermatologist or primary care provider before trying any of the strategies outlined above or for a proper diagnoses and treatment plan.
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