Dark circles around the eyes: Causes and treatment options
Dark circles are due to a multitude of issues, including pigmentation, vascular, structural or a mix. You’re more likely to notice the first signs of dark eye circles when you’re tired or unwell, which may make the darker hue under the eyes become more obvious.
A first step to reducing the appearance of dark eye circles is changing your lifestyle habits: Get enough quality sleep and do not smoke, which can age skin around the eyes. Alcohol and salty food can also worsen congestion around the eyes, especially if consumed before bedtime.
Dr Young says: “Elevate the head when you sleep to reduce congestion of the eyelids, especially if you find it’s worse in the morning. Applying cold compresses may be useful for people with more prominent blood vessels as it can minimise the blood vessels and any swelling.”
Here are some other factors causing the condition, and their treatments.
Pigmentation: This can appear as a brown hue under the eyes and is usually genetic. It is worsened by exposure to ultraviolet rays, inflammation from eyelid disorders such as dermatitis (eczema) and lifestyle factors such as inadequate sleep, a poor diet and smoking.
Treatment: The first step is to rule out any underlying conditions such as eczema and allergies. After that, eye creams with brightening and antioxidant components and retinoids; sunscreens; and even peels and lasers performed in the clinic can help.
Vascular dark eye circles: This is discolouration due to the prominence of blood vessels in the lower eyelids, which is attributed to thinner eyelid skin due to genetics, ageing or other factors. Unlike pigmentation, these have a blue to pink-purple hue. In addition, congestion or an infection in the sinus can result in congestion in the small veins under the eyes. The blood pools under the eyes and these swollen veins dilate and darken, contributing to the appearance of undereye dark circles and puffiness.
Treatment: Start with eye creams that support collagen production and help to reduce congestion in the blood vessels. If suitable, fillers can help to even out hollowness in the face. For eligible patients, laser or light therapy such as Eagle Eye Aesthetics’ Sciton BBL Hero helps reduce pigmentation and constrict vessels while also tightening and lifting the skin. This is a non-invasive option that requires little to no downtime.
Facial contours: They give the illusion of shadows, which might give the appearance of dark eye circles. This is often genetic, but could worsen with age due to volume loss in the face, as well as changes in facial fat and bone structure.
Treatment: Injectable fillers can help those experiencing volume loss in the face, which is a structural issue. However, not everyone qualifies, says Dr Young, adding: “There may be some patients who would benefit more from a surgical eyebag removal rather than filler injection.”
Other treatments that might also help improve the appearance of dark eye circles include injecting anti-inflammatory and tissue repair-stimulating agents to support skin healing and collagen stimulation for the delicate skin around the eyes.