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Why Do I Have Dark Circles Under My Eyes?

Dec 5 2020
5 min read
Woman looking in rear view mirror.

Q: I have dark circles under my eyes that I can’t seem to get rid of. Why?

A: Genetics are often to blame, as is aging. Of course, hearing that may not be too inspiring, since you don’t have the power to change your DNA or stop the clock. But that doesn’t mean your dark circles have to stick around. Several potential causes are within your control. Take back your look so you can appear as energetic and fresh on the outside, as you feel on the inside. Explore these solutions:

Cause: Sleep Deprivation

A lack of snooze time can make skin look paler and under-eye blood vessels to dilate, resulting in puffiness and those dreaded shadows. Aim to get seven to nine hours a night on a consistent basis.

Solution: Get Quality Rest

Pay attention not only to how many hours you’re in bed, but how good the sleep you’re getting is; you could be more sleep deprived than you realize. If needed, take steps to bank a better night’s rest. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, gentle stretches, a hot bath, as well as limiting screen time and diming lights in the house a few hours before bedtime. You can also try a fluffier pillow; the added height can help keep fluid from collecting under your eyes.

Cause: Allergies

Puffiness around the eyes is one of the most common reactions to allergies, but the nasal congestion that comes with being exposed to pollen, dust, or other allergens can also cause the veins around your eyes and nose to dilate and darken. Eczema may also make the puffiness and discoloration worse. Any underlying food allergies or food sensitivities can contribute to dark circles as well.

Solution: Find True Relief

If you’re suffering, your symptoms are probably more top-of-mind than your dark circles. Work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that helps you feel more than “just OK,” but can help tackle both issues. Be open about how well your current treatment plan is working, and discuss some alternative solutions you might try, if necessary. And don’t underestimate the impact simple modifications like avoiding perfumes, closing windows, and washing sheets in hot water can have. Plus, consider talking to your physician or a nutritionist about possible foods that may be playing a role.

Cause: Iron Deficiency

Under-eye shadows are a common side effect of anemia — when your blood has a lower amount of red blood cells than normal.

Solution: Get Evaluated

Blood work can confirm if this is an issue for you, so see your doctor. Be mindful of consuming iron-rich foods like eggs, spinach, broccoli, and beef; a nutritionist can help you devise a diet that’s rich in this nutrient, too.

Cause: Fluid Retention

Excess salt in your diet — or other conditions that cause fluid retention, like diseases affecting the heart, liver, kidney, or thyroid — can dilate the blood vessels under the skin around your eyes, resulting in the appearance of dark circles and puffiness.

Solution: Tame Your Salt Cravings

Be aware of your sodium intake and talk with your doctor about other health issues that could be causing your fluid retention.

Cause: Smoking

Lighting up causes you to lose collagen at a faster rate than you would naturally, which thins the already-delicate skin under your eyes, making blood vessels more visible.

Solution: Commit to Quitting

We know this is a big step, but committing to this positive lifestyle change will not only help your skin’s appearance, but improve your overall health and wellbeing in a myriad of ways. (Note: Excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to dark circles; drinking in moderation can help improve the appearance of that delicate area of skin.)

Expert Beauty Techniques

If you’re not seeing the results you desire, you might consider seeking a little extra help:

  • Eye Creams and Serums: A product with root extracts, Brazilian suma or hydroquinone can reduce the appearance of dark circles, while one with caffeine can help tighten and tone the skin under your eyes. Store yours in the refrigerator for an extra cooling boost.

  • Cover Up: Thicker concealers offer the best coverage. A highlighter pen option makes for easy application and works wonders by reflecting the light and instantly brightening the area under your eyes.