One of the most common questions I’m asked — and one of the trickier ones to answer — is “how do I treat dark circles?”. First, let’s define what “dark circles” actually refers to, because it’s normally used as an umbrella terms for a few under-eye issues:

  • Blood vessels: thinning of skin under the eyes, which allows blood vessels to appear more visible
  • Fluid: puffiness under the eyes resulting in the appearance of “bags”
  • Pigment: true pigment under the eyes (a.k.a periorbital hyperpigmentation)
  • Thickness: age-related volume loss under the eyes, increasing the look of hollowness around the orbital bone

What Causes Dark Circles?

Genetics and family history play a major role in the appearance of dark circles as do allergies (“allergic shiners”). Other causes of dark circles include lack of sleep or poor sleeping habits, natural aging, excessive alcohol consumption, and medical conditions (i.e. anemia, iron-deficiency, severe dehydration, malnutrition). 

Getting Rid of Dark Circles

I’m here to tell you there are ways to help get rid of dark circles other than concealer! Overall, it depends on which eye issue we are referring to, but here are some general recommendations outside of your trusted concealer…

#1: Lifestyle Changes

Get more sleep! We know that most of you aren’t sleeping enough — we’re talking 7-8 hours nightly to help decrease the under eye shadows. If you’re dealing with puffy eyes, try adding in a second pillow under your head. Sleeping elevated allows for less swelling and fluid accumulation around the eyes, decreasing the puff. Reducing your salt intake will also help with swelling. If the issue is allergy related, try take an antihistamine. And if your dark circles are due to iron-deficiency or anemia, iron supplements can help (but best to discuss this one with your physician).

#2: Topical Creams

When searching for your next eye cream, look for specific active ingredients to target dark circles, like: 

  • Caffeine: decreases swelling and redness by narrowing the blood vessels around the eye
  • Vitamin C: protective antioxidant that also helps decrease melanin production (melanin is the what contributes to darker pigmentation)
  • Retinoid: a Vitamin A derivative that decreases pigment by allowing dispersion of pigment granules and aids texture by increasing skin cell turnover. Retinoids can be irritating for your skin, see our future blog post on how to best apply them!
  •  Hyaluronic Acid: plumps skin by increasing hydration to the area
  • Peptides: helps to stimulate growth of collagen to keep skin firm and smooth
  • Vitamin K: antioxidant and wound healing properties which are helpful for bruising

#3: Medications and Cosmetic Procedures

There are various prescription fading creams available, as well as different cosmetic procedures that can help get rid of dark circles. These include cosmetic peels, platelet rich plasma injections, microneedling, soft tissue fillers, and laser treatments.

Long story short, the cause of dark circles is partly based on things out of our control (genetics, aging, allergies), as well as those in our control (sleep, alcohol consumption, etc). Since there is no miracle treatment that can actually modify your genetics or give you that extra hour of sleep you missed last night, your best bet is to treat your under eyes with a combination of lifestyle changes, high-quality eye creams and, (if you like), cosmetic procedures.