Dark circles under the eyes can affect people of all ages and skin types. Apart from genetics, there are a number of reasons why someone might have dark circles under the eyes, including:
- Nasal congestion
- Constant rubbing
- Irregular pigmentation (usually an inherited condition in darker skinned individuals)
- Sun exposure
How Dark Circles Form
The skin tissue under and around the eyes is very delicate and thin – in fact, the skin around the eyes is ten times thinner than other skin. It has no oil glands, very little fatty tissue, and is more sensitive than other skin. Because the skin is so thin around the eyes, the tiny reddish-blue blood vessels below the surface of the skin become more obvious.
Generally speaking, plenty of sleep, a healthy diet and increasing your water intake should diminish the signs of dark circles under the eyes if your symptoms are caused by fatigue or illness. But what about other causes – how do you treat those symptoms and help prevent or improve the appearance of dark circles under the eyes?
Allergies and Nasal congestion – allergies are histamine reactions in our body that can affect the sinuses, causing swelling and stuffiness – and yes, puffy eyes and dark circles. An antihistamine will relieve the condition and a gentle facial sinus massage will help drain the sinuses, relieve the pressure and increase circulation to the under eye area – dark circles should begin to fade, as well as the congestion associated with the allergies.
Irregular Pigmentation – people with darker skin tones often have dark pigment under the eye area. Treating the pigmentation around the eyes with lightening creams is an effective strategy, but it can take several months to achieve results, and treatment must be approached with caution because of the delicate area we are dealing with. Consider using a daily cream or serum with a natural skin brightener, like soy or citrus, which can lighten circles over a period of four to six weeks. Avoid hydroquinone, a commonly used skin lightener for dark spots and conditions like Melasma – most dermatologists agree that it’s too strong for the eye area. Professional treatment can include a series of TCA (Trichloracetic acid) peels to exfoliate the dark skin over time. Fraxel laser can destroy pigmented cells and even out skin tone, but this professional treatment may require two to three sessions to achieve desired results.
Sun Exposure – sun exposure not only causes a thinning of the skin, it prompts the body to produce more melanin – the pigment that causes the skin to turn darker, leaving dark circles under the eyes. Lightening creams work over time, but a broad spectrum sunscreen and protecting the eyes with a pair with quality sunglasses goes a long way to avoiding dark circles from sun exposure. As with those dealing with irregular pigmentation, consider using a daily cream or serum with a natural skin brightener, like soy or citrus, which can lighten circles over a period of four to six weeks. Avoid hydroquinone, a commonly used skin lightener for dark spots and conditions like Melasma – most dermatologists agree that it’s too strong for the eye area.
Aging – as we age, we lose fat, collagen and elastin, causing the blood vessels under the eye area to become more prominent. The loss of collagen also contributes to the bluish discoloration under the eyes. Topical creams with stimulating ingredients, like caffeine, can constrict blood vessels and temporarily boost circulation, improving the condition. Retinoic acid creams and prescription-strength retinoids will thicken the outer layer of the skin to conceal dark circles, and professional treatments like Thermage® can increase the production of collagen, which builds up and tightens the skin. Finally, injecting a hyaluronic acid fillers, such as Juvéderm or Restylane, will plump the skin and hide dark circles for up to a year.
Eczema – skin conditions like Eczema can cause the eyes to itch, which can contribute to darker circles due to rubbing or scratching the skin around them. Severe cases of itching around the eye lids can lead to eye complications that include eye watering and inflammation of the eyelid and lining of the eyelid (conjunctivitis). If you suspect complications with your eyes, see a doctor promptly. Treatments for Eczema are designed to reduce inflammation, relieve itching and prevent future flare-ups. Over-the-counter anti-itch creams and other self-care measures may help control mild atopic dermatitis.