So you’re suffering from dark circles under your eyes. Well, you’re far from alone. In fact, most of us at some point have glanced in the mirror and seen those dark rings staring back at us.1 And most of us have wondered how to get rid of dark circles.
But what causes them? And is there any way to reduce their appearance?
While the causes for dark circles vary from not getting enough rest, to allergies, to simple aging it’s the thinness of the skin under your eyes that make them so visible in the first place. Typically your skin is between 2 and 3 millimeters thick, but underneath your eyes that thickness shrinks to around 0.5 millimeters.
Since the skin under your eyes is so thin that means that the blood vessels that run underneath them are much more visible. And because skin only allows blue or violet wavelengths of light through your blood vessels reflect back a blue color.2
Your skin tone also plays a role in what hues get reflected. If you’re darker skinned your dark circles may have a brown or green tone to them. Lighter skin tones lean towards dark purple or dark red hues.
As you age your skin loses collagen and elasticity and that means your skin gets thinner, including the skin around your eyes. This can make dark circles even more noticeable.
Some people are more prone to dark circles
While thin skin is why dark circles are so visible there are a number of causes that could be behind your specific case, starting with genetics. Some folks are simply genetically more prone to thinner skin under the eyes, for example.
A condition known as hyperpigmentation can occur for some people. Just as the name implies, when you have this condition you have more pigment in the area that’s affected, which is caused by an excess of melanin. In the case of hyperpigmentation the dark circles are usually a brown hue.3
Hyperpigmentation is typically more obvious on people who have a darker skin tone. In an Indian study researchers found dark circles under the eyes was the most common condition found in a routine dermatology practice.4
Hyperpigmentation can be genetic. In that case they typically show up under both eyes. Or the condition can be triggered by an outside irritant of some sort.5
Some common triggers of hyperpigmentation include.6
- Sun exposure
- Allergic dermatitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Edema (swelling)
- Dermal melanocytosis (a benign, flat, inherited birthmark)
- Genetic pigmentation
Dark circles under your eyes can also be caused by the oxidation of blood leaking from the blood vessels around the eyes. This can lead to swelling and bags under your eyes as well.7
It can occur when your body tries to clear blood leakage from any thin-skinned area that’s easily affected by gravity.
The condition is relatively harmless, but it can be unsightly and a challenge to deal with. There are surgical and medical treatments available to stop the blood leaking, but it is best to start with lifestyle changes and nutrition to treat the condition and avoid other more invasive options.
When your dark circles come with eye bags
Swelling under the eyes, often called bags, can make your dark circles even more noticeable. When you’re young, this swelling is often the result of an allergic reactions, illness or an excessive buildup of fluid in your body.8
But as you age there are other reasons that may cause for under eye puffiness. For example, the effect of simple gravity on thin tissues that are slowly losing collagen and elasticity can lead to sagging. This can include the fat under the skin around your eyes.9
Bags when you’re entering middle age or older can be caused by fat deposits. It’s normal to have some fat around the eyes which help to protect them. But as we get older this fat can escape from the membrane that holds it and settle under the eye.
In a study which was published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology, researchers uncovered another potential cause of under-eye fat deposits. It turns out that existing fat deposits settling under your eyes isn’t the only cause of bags. The body may also simply be producing more fat in the area around the eye.10
How to get rid of dark circles or help them fade
Although dark circles are typically harmless most of us would rather not have them. The good news is that there are some things you can do to help reduce the appearance of dark circles and eye bags. Why not try these safe and natural approaches before committing to a risky surgery?
Keep in mind that while all of these can be effective not everything works for everyone. Give several a try and be patient and chances are one will work for you.
Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes:
The skin under your eyes is thin and loses elasticity and collagen as you age making it more prone to sagging and blood leakage. All of these factors contribute to under eye circles which are made worse when you rub the skin. Do your best to stop rubbing your eyes.
Manage Your Allergies:
Allergies can cause itchy, watery eyes. This may contribute to rubbing a sensitive area and can increase the puffiness around the eyes.
Switch the Way You Sleep:
Are you a stomach sleeper? Gravity causes fluid to collect under your eyes and consistent pressure on your facial skin can lead to deepening wrinkles. Try sleeping on your back. Avoid sleeping on more than one pillow since it significantly alters your neck and back alignment.11,12
Remove Makeup (Gently!):
Leaving makeup on during the night can increase irritation to your sensitive eye tissue.13 But rubbing your eyes each night to remove your eye makeup can cause capillary damage and inflammation to the eye area, making your dark circles even worse.14
Instead, use a gentle eye makeup remover you can swipe on your eyes and leave for a minute and then wash off. A good moisturizer or virgin coconut oil are also good options.
Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption:
Alcohol is dehydrating, pulling the water out of your skin. This increases the risk of further damage to the area if you accidently start rubbing your eyes.15 If you drink alcohol, drink approximately 56 to 64 ounces of water before you go to bed. It might seem like a lot of fluid, but it will help to rehydrate your skin.
Wear Eye Protection:
Wear quality sunglasses when you’re outside. They help protect both your eyes and the delicate skin around the eyes from the sun. Look for UV 400 or 99 to 100 percent UV absorption.
Choose larger lenses that wrap around and protect the skin on the side of your eyes. The color of the lens does not indicate the strength of the UV protection.
Reduce or Quit Smoking:
Smoking speeds the loss of collagen from your skin, increasing the bags around your eyes. Smoking is a strong addiction. You may find the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can help reduce the cravings and increase your success rate. The process is easy to learn and use at home.
Reduce Indoor Air Pollution:
Air pollution is a significant eye irritant and common both outdoors and indoors.16,17 Because most people who work and live in the U.S. spend approximately 98 percent of their time indoors, it’s important to reduce your indoor air pollution.18
Use a Soothing Eye Treatment:
The area around your eye responds well to soothing treatments to help reduce puffiness. Experiment with different options to find the one you enjoy and works for your eyes.19,20
Below are several to try…
Soothing Eye Treatments
Honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits. Look for raw, locally sourced honey.
Simply dab a small amount under your eyes just before bed and allow it to soak in overnight.
Long used in spas and for eye treatments, these little slices of heaven help reduce puffiness because they have skin-lightening properties and anti-inflammatory effects.
Thick slices of cold cucumber over your eyes for 10 minutes at the end of a long day are rejuvenating.
Dab some under your eyes before bed and allow it to work overnight. Wash off in the morning with a quick splash of water.
Rich in fat and emollients, avocados are wonderful to eat, but also make a great eye mask.
Place a slice of ripe avocado under each eye, or make a mask with a teaspoon of avocado and a couple drops of almond oil. Leave on for 15 minutes.
Buttermilk and Turmeric:
Sprinkle some turmeric in a bit of buttermilk and soak two large cotton balls in it. Squeeze out the fluid and place over your eyes for 15 minutes five times per week.
Buttermilk constricts the blood vessels and turmeric is an anti-inflammatory.
Mint is cool, tingling and just feels great. It’s a great pick-me-up at the end of a long day. Crush raw leaves and apply over the dark circles for 5 to 10 minutes. Wash off.
Black Tea Bags:
Once you’ve brewed your tea, put the bags in the refrigerator and recycle them later in the day. Once cooled, they help reduce end-of-day puffiness around the eyes.
Apply one on each eye for 10 minutes and then discard the bags.
Potatoes or Tomatoes:
If your dark circles are from too much pigment, then you’ll want to try lightening the skin with either the juice of a potato (grate to extract the juice) or a tomato (fresh).
Soak a cotton ball in the juice, squeeze out and rest them over your dark circles for 10 minutes; rinse your face.
1 Zebrowitz, L. & Montepare, J. (2008). Social Psychological Face Perception: Why Appearance Matters. Social Pers Psych Compass, 2(3), 1497-1517.
2, 7, 8 Smallwood, K. (2014). What Causes Dark Circles Under Your Eyes?. Today I Found Out. Retrieved 8 June 2016
3, 14 Weingus, L. & Weingus, L. (2015). 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Those Dark Circles Under Your Eyes. Elite Daily
4 Indian Journal Of Dermatology, 59(2), 151
5, 6 Journal Of Cutaneous And Aesthetic Surgery, 5(3), 183.
9 Peretsman, N. (2016). Why do we get bags under our eyes? » Scienceline. Scienceline.org. Retrieved 8 June 2016
10 Explaining the effect of gaze elevation on the ocular vestibular evoked myogenic potential. Clinical Neurophysiology, 124(4), 785-791.
11 Pillows: The Inside Story. (2016). Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 8 June 2016
12, 13, 15 Slideshow: Banish the Bags Under Your Eyes. (2016). WebMD. Retrieved 8 June 2016
16 Environments Air Contaminants – CDC Tracking Network. (2016). Ephtracking.cdc.gov. Retrieved 8 June 2016
17 CDC – Air Quality – Particle Pollution. (2016). Cdc.gov. Retrieved 8 June 2016
18 National Exposure Research Laboratory U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 8 June 2016
19 How to get rid of under-eye bags and dark circles. (2016). MNN – Mother Nature Network. Retrieved 8 June 2016
20 6 Foods To Feed Your Dark Circles Away [SLIDESHOW]. (2015). Medical Daily. Retrieved 8 June 2016
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mercola graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1982. And while osteopaths or D.O.s are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery just like medical doctors (M.D.s), they bring something extra to the practice of medicine.
Osteopathic physicians practice a "whole person" approach to medicine, treating the entire person — rather than just the symptoms. Focusing on preventive health care, D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it too.
Dr. Mercola is passionate about natural medicine and strongly believes that the current medical system is largely manipulated and controlled by large corporations whose primary focus is profit. His website, Mercola.com, which started as a small hobby interest in 1997, has now grown to today’s number one natural health website educating and empowering millions to take back the control over their own health.
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