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what causes dark circles under the eye

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

What causes dark circles under the eye? We all get them from time to time and we all dislike them. Yes, almost everyone at 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 under the eye?

Dark circles are caused by one or a combination of 3 issues:

  1. Shadowing
  2. Excess pigment
  3. Visible hemoglobin of the red blood cells in congested 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 people with naturally dark under eye circles, are there any types of products or treatments that can reduce the appearance of dark circles?

It's important to understand that treatment depends on which of the 3 causes of dark circles is most to blame for the circles.

If excess melanin pigment is the main cause of your under eye circles, I recommend using broad spectrum sunscreen to prevent pigment production combined with the use of pigment lightening products.

The best sunscreens for around the eye area are mineral zinc oxide facial sunscreens.  These are gentle and 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. Unfortunately, all of these ingredients can be irritating to delicate eye area skin.

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, I recommend that you try to avoid situations that cause puffy eyes to reduce under eye circles.

Things such as excess salt or MSG in foods can cause you to retain water and make under eye skin puffy. This increases shadowing. 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 procedures 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 the under eye 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.

Want the top products I recommend for under eye circles?

best eye cream to get rid of dark circles under the eyeI recommend using the best eye repair cream ever bar none!  It's my Advanced Corrective Eye Cream with just the right amount of retinol for the delicate eye area combined with niacinamide to brighten skin, peptides proven to stimulate lymphatic drainage and vitamin K, arnica and caffeine to decrease the vascular congestion that leads to the purple color.

best eye area sunscreen to help under eye circlesUse the best tinted sunscreen to sun protect delicate eye area skin and cover color flaws. It's my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Tinted Matte SPF 50+ Sunscreen for ultra-sheer tinted sun protection that blends with all skin coloring. 

best mineral makeup to hide under eye circlesApply the best Mineral Makeup Powders over your sunscreen to help hide discoloration and augment the effectiveness of your sunscreen. My mineral powders are so fine it looks like nature blessed you with the perfect complexion!

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