What Causes Dark Circles And How Do You Get Rid Of Them?

Everything you need to know about dark circles under your eyes, straight from the experts.

Dark circles under our eyes are a bug bear for us all. Whether we blame too much partying, too little sleep, a stressful week at work or the jet-lag that follows a long-haul flight, they’re a universally recognised beauty woe.

Have you ever looked in the mirror, bleary-eyed, and wondered why they won’t just go away? Or blinkingly questioned what they are in the first place?

Dr Justine Kluk, a consultant dermatologist, tells HuffPost that dark circles are a result of skin thinning. This can be hereditary, but is often simply part of getting older. “Thin skin is more translucent and reveals underlying muscle and vasculature, giving a purplish appearance,” explains Dr Kluk. In case you were wondering, vasculature is a fancy word for your blood vessels.

Increased skin pigmentation can also cause dark circles, she adds. “This is more common in skin of colour and in those who rub the eyes frequently, for example due to skin conditions such as eczema.”

This is also why makeup artists – or your mum – warn you about that fragile under eye area. By all means use concealer, but apply it gently or you could be working against yourself. Remember – pat your concealer, don’t swipe.

We often associate under-eye circles with a lack of sleep, but as Daniel Isaacs, director of research at cosmeceutical skincare brand Medik8 explains, not getting enough rest doesn’t itself cause dark circles, but can exaggerate them.

“Sleep deprivation can cause your skin to become dull and pale, allowing for dark tissues and blood vessels beneath your skin to show,” he explains.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to improve both how much sleep you’re getting and the quality of it too, says Isaacs. “Between seven and nine hours of sleep a night is the recommended amount to avoid looking tired,” he says. “Putting down phones or tablets at night can also help, as it reduces blue light which is proven to disrupt our natural sleep cycle.”

It’s not just your sleep routine that’s worth tweaking. UV exposure is also an influencing factor, says Isaacs. “Overexposure to the sun can cause your body to produce an excess of melanin, the pigment that provides your skin with colour. Too much sun — particularly for your eyes — can cause pigmentation in the surrounding skin to darken.” Dr Kluk advises protecting delicate under-eye skin by using SPF, and on sunny days, wear sunglasses. Here’s our guide to suncreams worth your time (and cash).

Diet also plays an important part, says Isaacs. “While there aren’t any fast dietary fixes for dark circles, maintaining a nutritious anti-inflammatory diet of vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats can bring about visible improvements all over the body, including the eye area,” says Isaacs – something worth bearing in mind next time you’re doing your weekly supermarket shop.

Beauty and the bags

While you’ve probably mastered the art of covering up your bags with lashings of concealer and a bright lippy to distract from them – my personal favourite technique – how you remove your makeup is also worth considering, as Dr Kluk explains to HuffPost UK. “Treat the delicate eyelid skin with care. I would recommend using a gentle micellar water or dedicated eye makeup remover for taking off makeup, moisturise twice daily and avoiding vigorous rubbing.”

Simple’s Micellar Water (£4.94) is a fragrance-free, gentle formula that when soaked on a cotton pad, effectively removes all traces of stubborn mascara and feline eyeliner flicks.

Louise/HuffPost UK
Louise/HuffPost UK

As for products to adapt into your skincare routine, Dr Kluk advises to look for creams containing retinol which help lighten dark circles discoloured by pigmentation. As a derivative of vitamin A, retinol minimises the activity of the enzyme tyrosinase, which stimulates melanin production in the skin and causes under-eye skin to darken in contrast to the rest of your face. La Roche-Posay Redermic [R] Retinol Eye Cream (£27) is fragrance free and designed for sensitive skin so you can steer clear of irritation.

Peptides can also improve dark circles: they plump skin by encouraging the production of collagen, reducing how transparent the delicate under eye skin is, which in turn makes dark circles less visible. Try the Elemis Peptide⁴ Eye Recovery Cream (£38) which blends peptides, Omega 3 fatty acids and hawkweed extracts to brighten and replenish lost moisture. Dr Kluk does advise patience, however, rather than hoping for a quick fix overnight. Noted.

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