It’s something almost everyone has experienced—looking in the mirror only to realize your eyes look dark, tired, and droopy.
Bags under the eyes are a common occurrence, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. There are many at-home treatment options, as well as treatment from a local dermatologist that can address this common problem.
Dark circles are often more of a cosmetic condition than a medical one, but they can still be treated and improved to create skin that is bright, plump, and healthy.
What Are Dark Circles?
Dark circles commonly appear under the lower eyelid. For most people, they aren’t a serious medical condition or even something that lasts for a long time. Most people experience dark circles on occasion, but some people are predisposed to dark circles under their eyes and tend to have permanent or longer-lasting dark circles.
They are common in both men and women, but especially in people who are older, have a genetic history of dark circles, or are from non-white ethnic groups. Dark circles are often connected with hyperpigmentation, which tends to be passed down genetically and is more common in people with darker skin tones.
Many people associate dark circles with fatigue, and it is one of the leading causes of dark circles. Not getting enough sleep means your skin doesn’t have time to recharge and restore, leading to dull and pale skin that makes it easier to see the dark blood vessels underneath. Although this can be a contributing factor, it isn’t the only reason.
Age also contributes to dark circles because skin tends to get thinner with age. As the body loses fat and collagen and skin loses its elasticity. This leads to the dark blood vessels under the skin becoming more visible, especially in the sensitive under-eye region, which causes aging eyes. The loss of deep fat, which typically happens with age, can hollow out the area below the eyes and make them look darker. Many people also develop puffy eyelids as they age, which can make dark circles more noticeable.
Allergies or irritation can also lead to dark circles, especially if the allergies cause you to rub your eyes and break the blood vessels open. Hay fever and eczema are common allergies and skin conditions that can lead to irritation and dark circles. The skin around the eyes is some of the most sensitive on the entire body, so anything that causes rubbing or irritation can have lasting effects.
Dark circles can also be caused by sun exposure or dehydration. In both instances, the skin doesn’t have enough liquid to stay plump and elastic, which allows the blood vessels to show through. Too much sun exposure can increase the amount of melanin, or pigmentation, around your eyes, making them look darker. Another cause is vitamin deficiency. If your body doesn’t have enough Vitamin E, B12, or D, which contribute to skin health, the area under the eyes may look darker and thinner.
Symptoms Of Dark Circles
Dark circles commonly look like shadows or dark areas under the eye. In many people, it can create a sunken and hallow look that makes them appear older. The area can also look puffy and irritated, depending on the cause of the dark circles.
Many people notice dark circles in the morning, especially after a poor night’s sleep. There typically aren’t many other symptoms associated with dark eye circles aside from tired eyes. If the skin around the eyes is swollen or painful, see a doctor.
How To Treat Dark Circles
There are a variety of treatments for dark circles depending on the cause and severity. Start with at-home treatments before seeking professional help. To find the best treatment option for you, look to fix the cause of the dark circles, if possible. Treating bags under the eyes often requires a combination of at-home and professional treatments.
One of the easiest ways to alleviate dark circles is to apply a cold compress or washcloth to the eyes for 20 minutes. Many things can act as a cold compress, including a bag of ice cubes or a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a light towel or cloth. The cold moisture can reduce swelling and shrink blood vessels, which makes them less visible through the skin. This simple treatment can be repeated until the dark circles go away.
Spending a lot of time with your head below the rest of your body can cause blood to pool under your eyes and cause dark circles. If this is the cause of your dark circles, try to keep your head elevated, especially when sleeping. Add an extra pillow or two to prevent puffiness and sleep on your back.
If a lack of sleep is causing your dark circles, the best treatment is simply to get more sleep. Taking time to sleep gives your body a chance to restore the skin cells and improve elasticity. Without proper sleep, your skin can appear pale and sullen. Even if fatigue isn’t the only reason for your dark circles, getting a full night’s sleep can still help lessen the shadows.
When your body is dehydrated, the skin cells lose moisture and plumpness, which causes them to be thin, dark, and sensitive. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you have been in the sun or haven’t been drinking enough lately. It may take a few days for the increased water consumption to make a visible difference to eye circles, but getting in the habit of drinking plenty of water can create lasting change to get rid of dark circles.
Many over-the-counter creams and moisturizers claim to treat dark circles. Some of the creams for treating bags under the eyes are very effective. When looking for a moisturizer, look for a product that contains Vitamin E, retinol, hyaluronic acid, caffeine, or aloe. Retinol is an important ingredient to stimulate the production of collagen, which is what leads to plump, bright skin. Apply the moisturizer according to the package’s instructions, which typically recommends applying a small amount to the under-eye area once or twice a day. Another option is to gently rub a mixture of almond oil and Vitamin E under the eyes and let it set overnight. Wearing sunscreen can also help protect the under-eye area from damage.
Cucumber and Tea Bags
Treating dark circles can feel like a spa day when you use cucumber slices and tea bags on the eyes. Cold cucumber slices can act similarly to a cold compress when applied once or twice a day. Be sure to chill the cucumber fully before using. Similarly, caffeinated tea bags can add a boost of caffeine to the skin to plump up and rejuvenate the skin cells. Steep the tea bags in warm water and then chill for a few minutes before placing on the eyes.
If at-home treatments don’t make a lasting impact on your dark circles, it’s likely time to visit the dermatologist. A dermatologist can provide personalized recommendations based on your skin type and lifestyle. They can also perform a variety of treatments, including the following:
A chemical peel can reduce hyperpigmentation. Chemical peels typically involve using gentle forms of acid to lighten the skin tone. A dermatologist can target the chemical peel to the skin just below the eyes and reduce dark circles. Most chemical peels require multiple treatments for the full effect, but a dermatologist can prescribe the proper treatment for your dark circles.
Laser therapy and surgery can tighten the skin and resurface the skin. The process uses heat to target and lighten the darker, damaged skin cells. Loose, sagging skin can make dark circles appear worse, so tightening the skin with laser therapy can lead to a great improvement. Some forms of laser therapy can also add collagen to the skin to improve the appearance and add volume and brightness.
Dermatologists can apply fillers all over the body and face. To treat under eye circles, a dermatologist will inject an acid-based filler to the skin under the eyes. Fillers add volume to the skin and can be a good option for dark circles that appear with age or as the under-eye skin droops and loosens.
Dark circles are a common experience for many people, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be treated and improved. With a combination of at-home and dermatologist treatments, you can find the best way to treat under-eye circles.