When you’re struggling with dark eye circles, navigating through shelves upon shelves of under-eye products at the drugstore can be incredibly overwhelming. With a plethora of options to choose from and each advertising their own unique effects, it can be hard to know where to begin.
We spoke with Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified NYC dermatologist and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to determine the four most important ingredients in popular skincare products that combat undesired darkness under your eyes.
If you need that caramel macchiato with an extra shot of espresso every morning, you might be interested to know that your skin can also benefit from caffeine too. Caffeine serves as a stimulant when consumed, and has a similar wake-up effect for our skin with brightening benefits as well. “Caffeine constricts the blood vessels under the eyes so it minimizes the effect of the discoloration from the blood vessels,” says Jaliman.
This doesn’t mean, however, that caffeinated products are better for your skin than a good night’s sleep. They should not replace a healthy sleep schedule, (a crucial factor in healthy skin) but rather, be added to your morning routine for the best results.
Often found in serums, toners, and moisturizers, niacinamide is one of two major forms of vitamin B3 (niacin). It can also be obtained in supplements, and the other form you may have heard of is nicontic acid. Niacinamide helps hydrate skin, and is not a vitamin we produce entirely on our own. So how can it help dark eye circles?
“Niacinamide decreases hyperpigmentation under the eyes,” says Jaliman. “It works by preventing the transfer of the melanosomes from the melanocytes to the keratinocytes in the skin.” Over time, niacinamide can help strengthen your skin’s most protective barrier, regulate oil production and lighten the skin under your eyes.
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You’ve probably heard of the many wonders vitamin C products can do for your skin. This is for good reason as this essential vitamin has an array of facial beauty benefits— from brightening dark spots to fading wrinkles, reducing redness and even smoothing your skin tone. But how does it work to treat dark eye circles?
“Vitamin C blocks the conversion of tyrosine into melanin so it decreases melanin formation and lightens skin,” says Jaliman. “It also stimulates collagen production so it thickens the thin, lower eyelid skin.” She adds that L-ascorbic acid is the most active form and the most abundant naturally occurring antioxidant in our skin. Using a serum in the morning is a great step in anti-aging skincare as well as dark circle treatment.
Often dubbed an essential ingredient in countless anti-aging products, retinol is a type of commonly used retinoid that increases production of collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body as collagen is attributed to healthy joints and elastic skin. Retinoids can reduce discoloration under the eyes or anywhere else on your face.
Retinol, Jaliman says, is derived from vitamin A and inhibits tyrosinase, the group of enzymes that contribute to your skin’s pigmentation process. “Retinol also causes the epidermal cells to be shed more quickly,” adds Jaliman. “This peels off the dead darker skin layers.”
For another pro-tip when facing dark eye circles, Jaliman recommends products containing licorice root (disperses melanin), kojic acid (decreases hyperpigmentation), arbutin (reduces pigmentation) and vitamin E (vitamin C can enhance the effects while E also inhibits tyrosinase).
Of course, it’s important to consult your dermatologist to see which product will work best for your under-eyes. Another vital step in fading those dark spots is wearing daily sunscreen— a critical part of your morning skincare routine.
“Physical sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are also very important so the under-eye area doesn’t repigment,” says Jaliman. “Don’t skip the sunscreen. Many wouldn’t think that to be considered crucial but it is.”
Jaliman continues, “People shouldn’t be fooled because sun exposure adds up over time. Just a few too many minutes a day in the sun can cause changes to the skin.”
If you’re working towards improving your dark circles, don’t forget the necessary steps in any great skincare routine. That includes hydration, a balanced diet, a consistent sleep schedule, dermatologist visits and necessary products like sunscreen.