Dark eyelids occur when the skin surrounding the upper eye region darkens in color. This is related to a variety of causes, from changes to your blood vessels and surrounding skin, to hyperpigmentation. Dark eyelids may also develop from eye injuries and congenital conditions.
You can have both dark eyelids and under-eye circles at the same time. You can also have one without the other. These two aren’t necessarily related.
Learn more about the causes and risk factors for dark eyelids, as well as how you can treat them.
Dilated blood vessels in your eyelids may make the surrounding skin look darker. Injuries to the eye may cause bruising, which can make your eyelids look darker compared to the rest of your skin. However, these aren’t the only possible causes of dark eyelids.
Your skin contains a substance called melanin, which provides natural color. Sometimes your skin may be darker in some spots. This is referred to as hyperpigmentation. On the opposite end, lighter or white spots may be caused by hypopigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation may be caused by:
- Sun damage. When your skin is damaged from sun exposure, it produces more melanin. This can make the affected portions of your skin darker, and lead to freckles and age spots.
- Pregnancy. Hormones related to pregnancy can increase melanin production in your skin, leading to dark patches called melasma. These may even occur around your eye area. Sun exposure can make melasma worse over time.
- Thinning skin. Common with age, your skin becomes thinner with the natural loss of collagen and fat. In turn, your skin may look darker.
- Inflammatory diseases. These may include dermatitis, allergies, chronic sinusitis, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others. Inflammatory diseases can make your skin swell and darken in certain spots.
- Certain medications. Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are common culprits. Dark-skin patches can occur from related hormonal fluctuations. Also, a glaucoma medication called bimatoprost can cause darkening of the skin on the eyelids. This usually fades in three to six months after discontinuing the medication
Other causes of dark eyelids may be congenital. This means you’re born with them. In such cases, dark eyelids may be caused by:
- blood vessel tumors of the eye (strawberry hemangioma)
- small, dark moles (nevi)
- noncancerous tumors (dermoid cysts)
- port-wine stains
These eye conditions may not cause issues at first. But as you grow older, eyelid issues may impair your vision.
People with lighter skin are most at risk for hyperpigmentation and related dark eyelids. You may also be at an increased risk for dark eyelids if you:
- don’t wear sunglasses
- neglect to wear sunscreen around the eyes when you’re outdoors
- are experiencing hormonal changes, such as those during pregnancy or menopause
- have a family history of premature aging or inflammatory diseases
- are born with a congenital eyelid condition
Home remedies are the first step you can take to reduce the appearance of dark eyelids. These remedies are relatively free from side effects. They’re also low in cost. You may try the following:
1. Cold compresses
This remedy is especially helpful in addressing dilated blood vessels and swelling from inflammatory condition. It can also help minimize bruising from broken blood vessels.
You can use a cold compress from a drugstore, but a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a clean towel to protect your skin can also do the trick.
Use for five to ten minutes at a time.
2. Elevate your head
Instead of lying down flat when you go to sleep, sit in a recliner or use extra pillows to keep your head elevated. This can help your blood flow better and reduce inflammation.
3. Get more sleep
While this remedy doesn’t necessarily cure dark eyelids, a lack of sleep can make them look more pronounced. Not getting enough sleep can make your skin look paler, which, in turn, may make dark spots appear even darker.
4. Wear concealer
Instead of matching your skin color, try a concealer that’s designed to minimize pigmentation changes. If you have light skin, opt for a pink concealer. If you have dark skin, try a peach-tinted concealer to minimize dark eyelids.
You can purchase pigmentation minimizing concealers at most makeup stores. You may also find them in the cosmetic section at many drugstores.
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments
Home remedies may reduce the appearance of dark eyelids and stop them from worsening, but they don’t usually treat the condition entirely. This is where over-the-counter (OTC) treatments may help.
Anti-aging ingredients, such as kojic acid, retinoids, and hydroquinone can help reduce hyperpigmentation. However, many of these ingredients are too harsh for everyday use. Often, these products are designed for your face, but not your eye area. It’s important to look for related products that are intended for the eye area only. Consult with your doctor before putting any of these products near your eyes.
Dark eyelids that don’t respond to home remedies or OTC treatments may be aided with dermatologic procedures. These may include:
- chemical peels
- laser resurfacing therapy
- surgical removal of tumors or accumulating melasma on the skin
- other surgical procedures, such as eyelifts
One of the best ways you can prevent dark eyelids is to take care of your skin. This can range from sun protection by the way of eye gear and hats when you’re outside, to wearing sunscreen every day. Make sure that your sunglasses and sunscreen block both UVA and UVB light. Try a foundation or concealer with a built-in sunscreen that you can apply to your upper eyelids, but avoid getting these too close to your eyes.
For children born with eyelid issues, your pediatrician might recommend surgery or prescription medications to address the underlying causes. This will help prevent vision problems and further changes to the eyelid.
Dark eyelids are attributed to many causes, but there are solutions. If you’re not sure about the underlying cause of your darkening eyelids, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. They can help you figure out the cause and the best course of treatment.