Dark Under Eye Circles

Causes and Remedies

Dark under eye circles are a common concern among women of all ages, often causing a tired and less youthful appearance. There are many different causes of under eye circles, and treatments are chosen based on the particular cause in each individual.

Dark Under Eye Circles

Swelling and puffiness

Under eye puffiness can appear as dark bags and is usually worse in the morning. Minimizing salt and alcohol intake, which lead to water retention, may help. I recommend sleeping on your back with an extra pillow to prevent fluid from draining toward the eyes overnight. Another remedy is to use already steeped, refrigerated green tea bags first thing in morning to help reduce any fluid build up. For persistent eye bags, I recommend Obagi Medical Neotensil. This works by recontouring and smoothing out any bulges under the eyes. It is applied daily and stays in place up to 16 hours.

Excessive pigmentation

Darkening of the skin may be hereditary. Other causes of skin pigmentation include UV rays from sun or from rubbing the area due to chronic allergies. Lightening creams or lasers may be used for treatment. A daily SPF is crucial. I recommend an SPF 30-plus with zinc oxide before leaving the house. I like EltaMD Physical, SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense or PCA Skin Perfecting Protection. Large sunglasses will also protect this area from sun-induced darkening. Allergies may cause puffy skin, broken blood vessels or friction-induced darkening under the eyes from chronic rubbing. Oral antihistamines such as Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin can control the allergies and reduce darkening. Quercetin or grape seed extract are great natural compounds that can ease allergy symptoms.

Prominent vessels

If you press on the discolored area and the darkness improves, blood vessels are likely the culprit. Thin skin in combination with prominent blood vessels can cause dark under eye circles. If the skin is thin or the vessels are prominent, anything that enhances blood flow to the area, including physical or mental stress, will make the under eye circles look worse. Lasers can successfully lessen the vessels causing the darkening to the lower lids. Protecting the eyes in this procedure and going to the most experienced physician cannot be emphasized enough. Also, the thicker your skin, the less visible the blood vessels will be, so using eye creams that thicken the skin will be helpful.

Loss of volume to the area and thinning of the skin (hollowing)

Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers may be used to plump these hollow areas that cast shadows under the eyes. Also, using an eye cream with retinol, caffeine, peptides and antioxidants can help fade pigment, build collagen and constrict blood vessels to make dark circles less noticeable. I like RoC Retinol Correxion eye cream, Teamine cream, SkinCeuticals AOX+ Eye Gel and Replenix Retinol Eye Repair Cream.

I hope this helps give you an idea of where you can get started on your own in treating your under eye circles with some simple measures using the right eye cream and sun protection. If you are not satisfied with your results after about three months, I recommend a board-certified dermatologist through www.aad.org who can treat you in the office.

Jennifer Haley, MD, FAAD

Jennifer Haley, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist with a degree in Nutrition Science from Cornell University. She has been an NPC bikini competitor and a consultant to the US Capitol. She enjoys an active lifestyle in Scottsdale, AZ and Montrose, CO with her husband and three boys.