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Dark circles under the lower eyelids are common. Often accompanied by bags, having dark circles under your eyes may invite unwanted comments about how tired you look. In fact, there are many reasons for dark circles. It’s not always from a lack of sleep.
Though they can affect anyone, dark circles are more common in:
- older adults
- people with a genetic predisposition to this condition (periorbital hyperpigmentation)
- people with darker skin tones, who are more prone to hyperpigmentation around the eye area
Fatigue may seem like the most well-known cause, but there are actually many reasons for dark circles. In most cases, there is no need for concern, and no medical attention is needed.
There is a lot of pressure on people to look perfect all the time. In fact, having dark circles can be a normal part of being a human.
Read on to learn more about dark circles under the eyes.
There are a number of possible reasons for dark circles under your eyes. Some common causes include:
Oversleeping, extreme fatigue, or just staying up a few hours past your typical bedtime can cause dark circles to form under your eyes. Sleep deprivation can cause your skin to become dull and paler. The dark tissues and blood vessels beneath your skin can start to show.
Lack of sleep may also cause fluid to build underneath your eyes, causing them to appear puffy. The dark circles you see may actually be shadows cast by puffy eyelids.
Natural aging is another common reason for dark circles beneath your eyes.
As you get older, your skin becomes thinner. There may be a decrease in the fat and collagen that maintains your skin’s elasticity. As this occurs, the dark blood vessels beneath your skin become more visible, causing the area below your eyes to darken.
Staring at your television or computer screen may cause strain on your eyes. This strain can enlarge the blood vessels around your eyes. As a result, the skin surrounding your eyes can darken.
Allergic reactions and eye dryness can trigger dark circles. When you have an allergic reaction, your body releases histamines to fight off the invader. This causes several symptoms, including itchiness, redness, and puffy eyes. Histamines also cause your blood vessels to dilate and become more visible beneath your skin.
Allergies can increase your urge to rub and scratch the itchy skin around your eyes. These actions can worsen your symptoms, causing inflammation, swelling, and broken blood vessels. This can result in dark shadows beneath your eyes.
Dehydration is a common cause of dark circles under your eyes. When your body is not well hydrated, the skin beneath your eyes begins to look dull and your eyes look sunken. This is due to the eyes’ close proximity to the underlying bone.
Sun exposure can cause your body to produce an excess of melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color. Too much sun — particularly for your eyes — can cause pigmentation in the surrounding skin to darken.
Family history also plays a part in developing dark circles under your eyes. It can be an inherited trait seen early in childhood. Over time, the dark circles may lighten or get darker.
Predispositions to other medical conditions — such as thyroid disease — can also result in dark circles beneath your eyes.
Anemia is when your levels of red blood cells are lower than normal. This can leave you feeling:
- short of breath
If you have anemia, you may also notice that your skin is paler than usual, and you may have dark circles under your eyes. Talk with a doctor about getting blood work done to check your iron levels. Treatments for anemia include:
Treatment for dark eye circles depends on the underlying cause. However, there are some home remedies that may help.
Here are some common methods:
- Apply a cold compress. A cold compress may reduce swelling and shrink dilated blood vessels to lessen the appearance of puffiness and dark circles. Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean washcloth and apply it to your eyes. You can also dampen a washcloth with cold water and apply it to the skin under your eyes for 20 minutes for the same effect.
- Get extra sleep. Catching up on sleep may also help reduce the appearance of dark circles. Sleep deprivation may cause your skin to appear pale, making the dark circles more obvious.
- Elevate your head. While sleep deprivation might play a part in producing those dark bags under your eyes, sometimes it’s from how you sleep. Try elevating your head with a few pillows. This may prevent fluid from pooling under your eyes, which makes them look puffy and swollen.
- Stay hydrated. Do your best to drink more water. Other fluids can also help keep you hydrated, including milk, tea, and juices. Eating fruits and vegetables also adds to your overall fluid intake.
- Soak with tea bags. Tea contains caffeine and antioxidants that can help stimulate blood circulation, shrink blood vessels, and reduce liquid buildup under your skin. Soak two black or green tea bags in hot water for 5 minutes, then chill them in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Once they’re cold, apply the tea bags to your closed eyes for 10 to 20 minutes, then remove them and rinse your eyes with cool water.
- Try eye creams. There are many eye creams on the market. They may reduce the look of dark circles by hydrating and smoothing the skin around your eyes.
- Conceal with makeup. If you want to hide dark circles, concealers can cover them so they blend in with your typical skin color. As with any topical treatment or makeup, there is a chance of irritation or an allergic reaction. If you notice any side effects, stop using it and consider talking with a doctor.
For a more permanent option, some medical treatments are available to reduce the appearance of dark circles.
Remember that dark circles are not something that have to be fixed. There is nothing wrong with just leaving them be. You should not feel pressure to permanently change how you look.
Some medical treatments used for reducing dark circles include:
Before deciding on any cosmetic procedures, discuss your options with a doctor. Invasive medical treatments can be expensive, painful, and may require a long recovery time.
For many people, dark circles come and go. They can be genetic, a normal part of getting older, or from a lack of sleep.
Dark circles are typically not a cause for alarm. There are a number of at-home or medical treatments available if they bother you.
If the discoloration or swelling gets worse, schedule a visit with a doctor or dermatologist. This will help make sure you receive the correct diagnosis and the right treatment.
You can connect with a dermatologist in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.
How to get rid of dark circles under your eyes?
For some people, getting more sleep, staying hydrated, and reducing screen time may be helpful. Cold compresses or eye creams may help. There are also more permanent medical treatments for dark circles under your eyes.
Are dark under-eye circles permanent?
Dark circles can come and go. How long they last will depend on many factors. There may be times that under-eye circles are lighter or darker. Some people naturally have darker circles under their eyes because of genetics.
What vitamins are good for dark circles under the eyes?
There are a few older studies that suggested that vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin K in topical products may play a role in reducing dark circles under the eyes. Many products also contain retinoid, made from vitamin A, which may modify skin tone.
Dark circles under the eyes may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. In those cases, an iron supplement may be helpful to normalize blood levels.
There are many possible reasons for dark circles under your eyes. They can come and go, depending on many factors.
Some people naturally have darker circles under their eyes. For others, the skin under the eyes may darken due to:
- lack of sleep
- too much sun
There are things you can do to lessen the appearance of dark under-eye circles if they bother you. In most cases, they are no cause for alarm. If you are worried, consider asking a doctor about getting blood work to check your iron levels.