How To Combat Under-Eye Dark Circles
The common dark circle can be a right pain, but we're right there with you with the frustration.
Feb 15, 2023
- What causes dark circles?
- Common causes of dark circle
- Using skincare to banish dark circles
- Key things to avoid when treating dark circles
- Other solutions and quick fixes
- More permanent fixes
You wouldn’t be the first to go full Macaulay Culkin in the mirror at the sight of dark circles under your eyes. Dark circles can make us look tired, old, stressed, and to be honest they’re just really frustrating. Fear not though, there are effective ways to tackle them!
What Causes Dark Circles?
Dark under-eye circles tend to be associated with lack of sleep - they are normally most obvious just after you wake up as your blood vessels dilate whilst you sleep. But there are also other causes such as severe skin conditions, hyperpigmentation, ageing, poor diet and lifestyle, and dehydration.
Why does this only occur around the eyes?
It’s important to note that the skin under our eyes is extremely fragile and one of the areas on our bodies that we tend to neglect. Eye cream is something we often leave out of our grooming routines, and whilst using a daily moisturiser certainly helps, we need an eye cream or serum to target this specific area. Eye creams tend to be a thinner consistency than your daily moisturiser, which is ideal for the thinner skin under your eyes and will prevent subdermal deposits. When finding the right product for you, make sure it also caters to your skin type.
With such a thin layer of skin under our eyes, it can expose the blood vessels underneath which give off a dark brown-ish hue.
Dark circles (periorbital hyperpigmentation) are completely normal. Some people are more prone to them due to genetics, but most of us have them and they are really an aesthetic issue. If you’re not fussed about them, we say good for you, but if they are a daily struggle we’ve got some easy solutions for you. So, let’s dive in and have a look at the main causes of dark circles and what we can do to sort them out!
Common Causes of Dark Circles
Skin conditions / Allergies
Eczema and psoriasis can be extremely irritating on the skin which can cause people to itch and rub the skin. Trauma to the skin can cause it to become red, inflamed and damaged and can attribute to the appearance of dark/red circles under the eyes.
This can occur naturally from the overproduction of melanin in the skin around our eyes. Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by sun exposure and genetics (source). Yes, you can blame your parents if you inherit them.
This is a classic cause of dark circles and eye bags. Unfortunately, as we age we lose elasticity in the skin due to the lack of collagen, and the connective tissues alter too. The skin under our eyes is extremely thin, but it can become even more paper-like in the ageing process when collagen disappears. Skin can sag and fold (due to wrinkling) which can cause shadows which appear as dark circles.
The skin under our eyes has the weakest moisture barrier in the body. When our body is dehydrated, our blood vessels dilate. With such thin skin under our eyes, the blood vessels are more visible (when they dilate) and give a purplish/brownish hue to the skin.
Extreme sun exposure
Intense heat, and over-exposure to the sun, will cause a loss of moisture from the skin, which can cause skin to wrinkle and shadow under the eyes. UVB rays, which can burn the skin, damage surface-level cells in the skin and cause the thickening of the epidermis. This creates pigmentation, dark spots, and deep wrinkles.
Lack of sleep
Whilst dark circles are associated with fatigue, it’s actually the lack of sleep and not the case of being tired that can cause them. This is due to the skin becoming inflamed/swollen with a build-up of fluid (fluid retention) under the eyes.
Diet and exercise
Having a poor diet can have adverse effects on your skin, including revealing dark circles. Too much alcohol and salt act as natural diuretics and cause the skin to become severely dehydrated. Blood vessels will dilate and become more visible under the lower eyelid. A lack of vitamins will also increase the appearance of dark circles. For example, an iron deficiency can cause paleness in the skin, making dark circles more pronounced.
We already know smoking isn’t a healthy habit (far from it!), but did you know it can also lead to dark circles? (source) For one, nicotine can actually disrupt your natural sleep cycle so it can leave you feeling and looking tired by fluid collecting under the eye (known as eye bags). It also contributes to the breakdown of collagen in the skin, causing the skin under the eyes to sag.
Using Skincare to Banish Dark Circles
Can skincare remove dark circles?
We can use men’s skincare to help improve the appearance of dark circles, especially if we using targeting products on a regular basis. Unfortunately though, skincare will not completely erase dark circles.
Eye cream vs eye serum
One of the most effective ways to get rid of dark circles is by using a dedicated eye cream or eye serum. The daily use of an eye cream, or serum, will help to hydrate the skin under our eyes, but they both work in different ways. There are plenty of eye products on the market that are actually designed and formulated to tackle dark circles. So, is it better to use an eye cream or an eye serum?
It really depends on what you are trying to tackle when it comes to deciding whether to use an eye cream or an eye serum, and it also depends on the ingredients within the product.
An eye cream is similar to your daily moisturiser in terms of consistency, and it should be used morning and night to provide protection and hydration for the skin. An increase in hydration can improve the signs of ageing, and a reduction in wrinkles/folds in the skin can reduce the shadowing effect on the lower eye lid.
An eye serum is likely to consist of more ‘active ingredients’ which will target specific concerns and offer a deeper treatment. Due to the smaller molecules within a serum, it can be more easily absorbed deep into the layers of the skin. When it comes to tackling dark circles, ingredients such as caffeine and vitamin C will prove advantageous in a serum.
To put it simply, eye creams are formulated to primarily offer hydration to the fragile skin under the eye, whereas a concentrated serum will act more as a treatment. Everyone’s skin is different though, so one might suit your skin type over the other.
Ingredients to look out for
Vitamin C - Vitamin C has multiple benefits for the skin, including brightening of the skin by reducing the amount of melanin production. We recommend trying Aesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Eye Cream which protects and moisturises the skin.
Caffeine - Caffeine will literally wake up the skin and minimise the blood flow to the vessels by constricting them.
Hyaluronic Acid - Hyaluronic acid helps to hydrate and plump the skin. Under the eyes it will help to ‘elevate’ the skin away from the blood vessels, and hence reduce the appearance of dark circles. Award-winning Eko Botanicals Nertiti Radiance Hydrating Botanical Serum contains a potent formula, including hyaluronic acid, which not only helps to improve dark circles but it also boosts collagen production and reduces the appearance of fine lines.
SPF - Sun protection is also extremely important when it comes to dark circles. We know you’re probably fed up of hearing us go on about it, but wearing an SPF is important all year round, even under your eyes. We need to protect our skin from UV rays because once skin is damaged by the sun, it is hard to reverse that damage. Use an SPF with a factor of at least 30, and try and apply it on a daily occurrence.
Key Things to Avoid when Treating Dark Circles
Under eye retinols
There are conflicting reports that retinol is good for under the eye as it removes dead skin cells, however, it is also believed it can be too harsh (especially if used in regular occurrence). Retinol is a strong form of exfoliation and can cause redness of the skin. It’s really important not to use retinol under the eyes if you have sensitive skin. By all means, use it on your face but just be very careful with the eye area. As we’ve stated, the skin is very fragile under the eyes and it can be too sensitive for a strong retinol (source)
Are you just badly lit?
It might sound strange, but try and avoid working in unnatural lighting. More of us are working from home these days and, without realising it, we might be working in an ‘unhealthy’ light. By that, we mean working all day long by staring at our screens, and not in natural light. Blue light can disrupt our nervous system and sleep, as can dim and unnatural light. To prevent our blood vessels from dilating during the day, try using blue light glasses (if you use a screen for a long period of time), make sure you’re working in natural light, and don’t strain your eyes with the light on your screens.
Also, if you struggle with dark circles, try and avoid highly salty foods in your diet as they can cause dehydration and water retention. A healthy diet leads to healthy skin!
Other Solutions and Quick Fixes for Dark Circles
Good news, there are some quick fixes for dark circles. Using men’s makeup is a good start and we recommend trying a concealer or a corrective pen - just make sure you find the right tone for your skin. Dabbing it under the eye will cover them up, fast! When you find the right colour, you (and everyone else) won’t even notice you’re wearing it. Our top tip is that less is more; apply a small amount to the area and pat in using your ring finger.
Cooling eye masks
A soothing and cooling eye mask can also do wonders for your under-eyes. Not only will it instantly feel amazing (especially if you’ve missed your morning coffee!) but it will restrict the blood vessels by basically shocking the system. This means less blood will be flowing under the skin and therefore reduce the appearance of shadows. We recommend doing this first thing in the morning - it will wake you up!
Hydration of your body, internally, is also key. Your skin constantly needs hydration, and not just from products! Dehydration inside the body can have obvious effects on your skin, including dark circles, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to keep your skin plump and healthy.
Improve your sleep patterns
Whilst it might not be quick (time-wise), getting more sleep is a relatively easy solution. An increase in sleep will do your body, mind, and skin a world of good. Aim to get an average of 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night so your body can fully restore itself, and the cells within the skin. This will help to reduce the swelling of the skin, signs of wrinkles, and sagging skin.
DIY and at-home hacks
You may also have heard of using cucumber slices or cold (used) teabags. Whilst there is no scientific evidence that cucumber works to solve dark circles, if you’ve been burning the midnight oil it can certainly feel nice on the skin and reduce any swelling. If you want to give it a go, cut yourself a few slices and place them over your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. Caffeine (as a product ingredient, not in a drink) has been proven to help reduce dark circles, but using a product containing a higher concentration of caffeine (rather than using Tetley pyramids eye patches) will likely be more successful. (source)
Manual lymphatic drainage
It might sound like something you do to your car, but this is actually an extremely useful way to decrease swelling in the face, particularly under the eyes. By using your index fingers, or a guasha/facial tool, you need to massage the skin (starting at the top of your nose, near the tear trough and work down) which will push fluid collecting under your eyes and drain it away. When our lymph nodes become blocked it causes fluid retention (i.e eye bags) and this can cause the appearance of dark circles. Lymphatic drainage has multiple benefits such as improving circulation (and skin tone), facial muscle and sinuses, as well as decreasing stress levels. (source)
Keeping fit by working out regularly will not only help maintain the health of your internal organs, but it also improves the health of your skin. Raising your heart rate increases blood flow around the body, which in turn transports oxygen quickly around the body along with essential nutrients for your cells. Exercise also stimulates our lymphatic system to remove toxins from the body. This prevents the build up of fluid under the eye and the appearance of dark circles.
Permanent Fixes for Dark Circles
Medical and aesthetic under eye treatments
Permanent solutions for dark circles can be quite drastic, as they will call for a medical professional and most likely surgery. As we aren’t writing from a medical point of view, we can’t encourage or discourage anyone from having surgery for an aesthetic issue, but if this is something you struggle with on a daily basis, it’s definitely worth talking to someone about it. There are solutions such as micro-needling, tear trough fillers, fat transplants, laser treatments, and chemical peels which have been proven to help (source).
Dark circles aren’t typically a medical issue but if you do suffer from severe skin conditions (eczema or psoriasis), we advise seeking a medical or dermatological professional to find a more permanent solution (source). The skin under your eyes can become very irritated with some skin conditions, and it’s possible you will need something to calm the skin and reduce the overproduction of melanin.
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