And how to remedy each, according to dermatologists.
The way a set of dark undereye circles can betray the vibe you’re trying to put out there is not to be underrated. Even if you’re feeling well-rested and peppy, dark undereye circles can make it look like you haven’t slept in days, or make it seem like you’re far older than your actual years. So what’s the cause of dark undereye circles, and is there anything you can do to get rid of them? We’re outlining the most common culprits below.
What Causes Dark Circles Under Eyes?
We asked board-certified dermatologists to get real with us about the most common causes of undereye circles.
Aging is one of the major contributing factors to dark undereye circles, which is why you might have noticed yours getting worse as time goes by.
“As we age, the skin around our eyes becomes thinner, causing the blood vessels underneath the eyes to be more visible and darker circles and shadows [to appear] underneath the eyes,” explains board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Ala.
He adds that aging skin also isn’t quite as elastic and voluminous as it once was, which can lead to some sagginess. This casts shadows, making the undereye area appear darker.
The Fix: While the clock ticks on, Dr. Hartman says you can address these issues with well-placed filler, retinoids, plumping eye creams, and concealer.
You’re not imagining things. When you wake up after a terrible night’s sleep—or completely miss the boat on your Zzz’s—dark undereye circles are more pronounced.
“As a dermatologist who has been through med school and residency, I can personally attest to dark circles due to lack of sleep,” says Anar Mikailov, MD, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Skintensive. “It’s due to blood vessels dilating around the eye area, making the dark circles look more prominent.”
The Fix: Your best bet in this scenario is to catch up on sleep as best as you can. Be intentional about getting to bed a little earlier and avoiding activities that’ll keep you up well into the night. And in the event you can’t avoid it, a little concealer can help you fake a full eight hours.
Dryness & Dehydration
Dehydration is another common cause of dark undereye circles. Dr. Mikailov explains that when our bodies are dehydrated or our skin is dry, it can create the appearance of sunken eyes and emphasize blood vessels.
“In addition, if you are dehydrated due to alcohol intake, the alcohol can cause those same vessels to dilate, also increasing the appearance of dark circles,” Dr. Mikailov adds.
The Fix: Make sure you’re hydrating every day with plenty of water intake, and pull back a bit on the alcohol consumption. For skin, switch to a hydrating cleanser, then layer your skincare for extra hydration. For example, you can apply a hydrating toner followed by a serum, followed by a cream that locks it all into place.
Genetics absolutely impact whether or not you’re more prone to having dark undereye circles. That’s because a big part of dark circles is due to the orientation of your orbital (eye) and facial bones, Dr. Mikailov explains.
He adds that “things like seasonal allergies (hay fever), eczema, and asthma—all of which have genetic components” can also make you more prone to dark eye circles, fluid buildup, and pronounced blood vessels.
The Fix: Stay on top of any skin and allergy-related issues that lead to dark undereye circles. And again, makeup can help disguise their appearance. Dr. Hartman adds, “For patients with more severe dark circles, I recommend cosmetic fillers administered in-office by a board-certified dermatologist who is experienced in fillers that can help mitigate some of these issues.”
Sometimes, terrible lighting is to blame for dark undereye circles. In this case, the lighting casts some pretty gnarly shadows under your eyes, which can make it look like you’ve got eye circles. In better lighting, though, they’re not there.
“For example, if you are lit from above with your orbital bone casting a shadow downwards, your under eye area will absolutely look darker,” says Dr. Mikailov.
The Fix: There’s not much you can do if you walk into a room with terrible lighting. However, if you’re taking pictures in this kind of setting you can gentle tilt your head upward to mitigate the shadowing effect.
Poorly Placed Filler
Social media has made tear trough filler a trendy solution to smooth out the undereye and reduce dark circles. However, Dr. Mikailov warns that poorly placed filler can actually make the problem worse, not better. “It can make dark shadows even more pronounced,” he explains. “Fillers can also migrate and last for more than two to three years”
The Fix: Administering tear trough filler requires a high level of expertise both for safety reasons and final results. Always vet your injector. If you have a case of bad filler, make an appointment with someone reputable to dissolve the old filler and potentially re-inject.
It’s uncommon, but certain medical conditions can exacerbate the appearance of dark undereye circles. “Very rarely, dark circles can be a symptom of larger medical issues with your kidney or liver,” notes Dr. Hartman.
The Fix: If you are getting good sleep, drinking a lot of water, using eye creams, and you still aren’t seeing improvement, a medical cause could be the issue. In this case, Dr. Hartman says it’s time to talk to your doctor.
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