What Causes Dark Circles under the Eye? Explanation & Cure Here

Cynthia Bailey, MD|December 14, 2015

Dark Circles_MainAlmost everyone at a some point in their life will have dark circles under the eye. Some people have the problem at an early age because they are genetically predisposed. For others, it takes the aging process to cause under eye circles due to thinning of the delicate under eye skin and a change in the orbital fat pads (protective fat in the eye sockets that cushion the precious eyeballs).   Fortunately, there are really effective ways to reduce the appearance of under eye circles, but first, you have to know why you have them. Here is my "Roundup" of info on under eye circles, including the very tricks and tips that I use in my dermatology practice.  What are the causes of dark circles? Dark circles are caused by one or a combination of 3 issues:

  1. Shadowing
  2. Excess pigment
  3. Visible hemoglobin in the blood cells of the capillaries of the under eye skin

Why do some people naturally have darker eye circles than others? Some people are genetically predisposed to have hyperpigmented skin under their eyes. Also, the shape of their under eye area may result in more shadowing, and/or their skin may be thinner or their under eye capillaries may be more robust than other people's. For those with naturally dark circles, are there any types of products or treatments that can reduce the appearance of dark circles (both permanently and temporarily)? It's important to understand that treatment depends on which of the 3 causes of dark circles is most to blame for the circles. glycolicantiagingface Glycolic Acid Anti-Aging Face Cream 15% If pigment causes your under eye circles, then: Using broad spectrum sunscreen such as any of my mineral zinc oxide facial sunscreens will help to prevent pigment production. Use sunscreen every day even when you are indoors because the light coming through windows is capable of darkening pigment. Add at least one product to your under eye skin care routine that specifically targets the pigment production of skin.  Product options include "bleaching" creams (hydroquinone-based or some of the less potent botanical skin lighteners), vitamin C, Retinol or tretinoin (prescription).  Glycolic acid products can help too. Pick your product based on your skin type and preferences. Be patient, it may take at least 2 to 4 months to see results. Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream If thin skin and visible capillary hemoglobin is the cause of your under eye circles, then: I recommend using products that promote collagen-building. These include some of the same product that help to reduce pigment production including vitamin C, retinol/tretinoin and Glycolic acid. The same daily use of broad spectrum sunscreen is important to prevent collagen breakdown and further skin thinning. If shadowing is the cause of your under eye circles, then: Avoiding situations that cause puffy eyes such as excess salt or MSG in foods can help. When I eat Chinese food with MSG, I can count on puffy eyes and under eye circles the next day. The problem is - I love Chinese food - drats! When your eyes are puffy, you can put cool compresses with chilled cucumbers, tea bags or a wash cloth to help reduce edema.  This can also help with capillary congestion too.  What procedures can your dermatologist or plastic surgeon offer to help under eye circles? There are some great procedures that target each of the causes I mentioned for under eye circles. Combining the skin care recommendations with procedures will get you even more results than using just skin care or relying on only procedures for improvement. Laser and light (both of which we offer!) can be used to target pigment and hemoglobin. Fillers and plastic surgery can be used to change the shadowing contour of the lower eyelid. Is there any way to prevent the darkening of that area? Yes, daily sunscreen use helps to control pigment production in the skin. It also helps prevent excessive skin thinning, a hallmark of sun damage. Combine daily sunscreen use with any of the pigment lighteners and collagen stimulators that I mentioned above. Because under eye circles are such a common problem, my readers have a lot of interest in the subject.  My team and I have written some of our most popular articles with detailed advice on using concealer to hide the problem.   Want to learn more about our tips and tricks for dark circles under your eyes? Check them out here: How to Care for Your Under Eye Skin How To Cover Up Under Eye Circles, Puffiness and Bags With Concealer What Causes Under Eye Circles, Bags and Puffiness? Using Concealer Like A Pro Want the products we use in the office to help our patients and facial clients with their under eye skin problems? Dark Circles CollageThe best eye repair cream bar none!  The best BB Cream to sun protect delicate eye area skin and cover color flaws: Suntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream for Dry to Normal Complexions MDSolar Sciences Mattifying Mineral Sunscreen for Oily and Acne Prone Complexions Sheer Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen for ultra-sheer tinted sun protection that blends with all skin coloring.  Mineral Makeup Powders that are so fine it looks like nature blessed you with the perfect complexion!  

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