Dark circles under the lower eyelids are common in men and women. Often accompanied by bags, dark circles can make you appear older than you are. To make matters worse, they can be difficult to get rid of.
Though they can affect anyone, dark circles are most common in people who:
- are elderly
- have a genetic predisposition to this condition (periorbital hyperpigmentation)
- are from non-white ethnic groups (darker skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation around the eye area)
While fatigue may seem like the most logical explanation for this condition, there are a number of factors that can contribute to dark circles under the eyes. In most cases, they are no cause for concern and do not require medical attention. Read on to learn more.
There are a number of contributing factors for dark circles. Some common causes of include:
Oversleeping, extreme fatigue, or just staying up a few hours past your normal bedtime can cause dark circles to form under your eyes. Sleep deprivation can cause your skin to become dull and pale, allowing for dark tissues and blood vessels beneath your skin to show.
Lack of sleep can also cause fluid to build underneath your eyes, causing them to appear puffy. As a result, the dark circles you see may actually be shadows cast by your puffy eyelids.
Natural aging is another common cause of those dark circles beneath your eyes. As you get older, your skin becomes thinner. You also lose the fat and collagen needed to maintain your skin’s elasticity. As this occurs, the dark blood vessels beneath your skin become more visible causing the area below your eyes to darken.
Staring at your television or computer screen can cause significant strain on your eyes. This strain can cause blood vessels around your eyes to enlarge. As a result, the skin surrounding your eyes can darken.
Allergic reactions and eye dryness can trigger dark circles. When you have an allergic reaction, your body release histamines as a response to harmful bacteria. Other than causing uncomfortable symptoms — including itchiness, redness, and puffy eyes — histamines also cause your blood vessels to dilate and become more visible beneath your skin.
Allergies can also increase your urge to rub and scratch the itchy skin around your eyes. These actions can worsen your symptoms, causing inflammation, swelling, and broken blood vessels. This can result in dark shadows beneath your eyes.
Dehydration is a common cause of dark circles under your eyes. When your body is not receiving the proper amount of water, the skin beneath your eyes begins to look dull and your eyes look sunken. This is due to their close proximity to the underlying bone.
Overexposure to the sun can cause your body to produce an excess of melanin, the pigment that provides your skin with color. Too much sun — particularly for your eyes — can cause pigmentation in the surrounding skin to darken.
Family history also plays a part in developing dark circles under your eyes. It can be an inherited trait seen early in childhood, and may worsen as you age or slowly disappear. Predispositions to other medical conditions — such as thyroid disease — can also result in dark circles beneath your eyes.
Treatment for dark eye circles depends on the underlying cause. However, there are some home remedies that can help manage this condition. Some of the more common methods include:
- Apply a cold compress. A cold compress can help reduce swelling and shrink dilated blood vessels. This can reduce the appearance of puffiness and help eliminate dark circles. Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean washcloth and apply to your eyes. You can also dampen a washcloth with cold water and apply it to the skin under your eyes for 20 minutes for the same effect. Repeat this process if the cloth becomes warm or if the ice melts.
- Get extra sleep. Catching up on sleep can also help reduce the appearance of dark circles. Sleep deprivation can cause your skin to appear pale, making the dark circles more obvious. Allow yourself seven to eight hours of rest to prevent dark circles from appearing.
- Elevate your head. While sleep deprivation can play a part in producing those dark bags under your eyes, sometimes it’s how you sleep. Elevate your head with a few pillows to prevent fluid from pooling under your eyes which can make them look puffy and swollen.
- Soak with tea bags. Applying cold tea bags to your eyes can improve their appearance. Tea contains caffeine and antioxidants that can help stimulate blood circulation, shrink your blood vessels, and reduce liquid retention beneath your skin. Soak two black or green tea bags in hot water for five minutes. Let them chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Once they’re cold, apply the teabags to your closed eyes for 10 to 20 minutes. After removing, rinse your eyes with cool water.
- Conceal with makeup. While makeup and cosmetics do not cure dark eye circles, they can help to camouflage them. Concealers can cover dark marks so they blend in with your normal skin color. However, as with any topical treatment or makeup product, use proper care. Some products can cause your symptoms to worsen and may trigger an allergic reaction. If you begin to experience irregular symptoms from any topical treatment, stop use immediately and schedule a visit with your doctor.
For a more effective and permanent solution, some medical treatments are available to reduce the appearance of dark circles. Some of the more common methods include:
- chemical peels to reduce pigmentation
- laser surgery to resurface the skin and enhance skin tightening
- medical tattoos to inject pigment into thinning skin areas
- tissue fillers to conceal blood vessels and melanin that are causing skin discoloration beneath your eyes.
- fat removal to remove excess fat and skin, revealing a smoother and more even surface
- surgical implants of fat or synthetic products
Before deciding on any cosmetic procedure, discuss your options with a doctor. Invasive medical treatments can be expensive, painful, and often require a long recovery time.
For many people, dark circles are temporary and are often an indication of aging or lack of sleep. Though there are a number of at-home and medical treatments available to improve the appearance of your eyes, dark circles are typically no cause for alarm. However, if the discoloration or swelling worsens over time, schedule a visit with your doctor or dermatologist to ensure you have correctly diagnosed the issue and are receiving the best treatment.