WHAT CAUSES DARK UNDER EYE CIRCLES?
The under-eye skin is one of the thinnest and most delicate areas of skin in the human body. The finely textured dermis/epidermis has no oil glands, and is ultra susceptible to dark circles, rings or shadows. The dark circles are formed due to assorted causes such as heredity, aging, mental or physical stress, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies and lack of sleep. Too much sun exposure, which prompts your body to produce more melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, is also a cause of dark circles. As we age, thinning skin and loss of fat and collagen can make the reddish-blue blood vessels under your eyes more obvious. Dermatologists agree that dehydration and anemia can negatively influence the under eye skin and produce dark circles. Along with external treatment, it is wise to take various other aspects into consideration in order to establish the cause and bring about the necessary changes.
Dark under eye circles become very noticeable because the lower eyelid skin is one of the thinnest ares of skin in the body and allows subdermal features to be accentuated. With little to no subcutaneous tissue, the skin is not supported and full as the rest of the facial skin. This results in aging changes that are more exaggerated compared with the rest of the facial skin. Another issue is that aging and environmental-related changes throughout the face include a loss of elasticity and tone as a result of collagen and/or elastin loss.
While dark under eye circles are not dangerous in and of themselves they can indicate health problems in the rest of the body, or can create an appearance of fatigue or advanced age. Psychological and emotional reasons are predominantly why dark under eye circles are so distasteful to people. Having the appearance of vitality facilitates relationships between friends and partners because people are naturally attracted to individuals who appear strong and healthy. These drives correspond to basic and primitive survival instincts and persist in our modern world through our standards of beauty.
While some of the causes of dark under eye circles may be outside of your control there are many ways you can take action to reduce dark circles under the eyes. Many of the changes you can make will also reduce wrinkles around the eyes, so it's a double benefit. Taking control of your lifestyle and skin habits will help you appear as the most energized, healthy, attractive version of yourself.
Root Causes of Dark Eye Circles
Dark circles under the eyes can serve as a good indicator of an impending condition and even foretell a serious health problem. These appearances can suggest issues from deficiencies in your kidneys to unhealthful sugar levels in your bloodstream. Cosmetic eye creams and eye serums will only be able to change so much, and a better plan is to address the root causes as well as treat the skin topically.
Lack of sleep can be one of the most basic causes of dark under-eye circles. Your body is able to repair the skin, along with all the other tissues, only when you are in a state of deep sleep. Only in this sleep phase can blood circulation focus on the tissues and cells of your skin to give your face a more rejuvenated appearance.
Not getting enough sleep increases stress to body systems. When stress is increased the steroidal compounds produced by the body reduce circulation to the skin, rerouting it to the muscles and major organs. This sluggish circulation and the buildup of deoxygenated blood can make eye circles more noticeable.
Poor circulation is also a major cause of dark under eye circles. The skin that wraps around your eyes is very thin and weak, and the darkness you see under your eyes may actually be blood that is low in oxygen circulating in that area. Fully oxygenated blood is red, but arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood are generally located further into the body. Capillaries carrying spent, oxygen-depleted blood are often closer to the surface of the skin. When the oxygen has been delivered to cells and the blood is depleted it turns bluish in color.
Because the veins and capillaries carrying blue-hued, deoxygenated blood are so close to the surface in an area with thin skin this is a major reason the under eye area will often have a darkened appearance.
Capillaries in the under eye area can also become leaky, allowing red blood cells out into the surrounding tissues. Enzymes in the body break down these blood cells and their hemoglobin. When hemoglobin is decomposed it has a dark blue-black color, discoloring the thin skin in that area.
Genetics are one of the biggest causes of dark circles. If your parents had dark eye circles then you are much more predisposed to have them as well no matter what treatments you employ or how much sleep you get. People belonging to more melanin-rich genetic groups also have a much stronger chance of having darkness in the eye area. Latin, African, Indian, and many indigenous people may experience more darkness in the periorbital eye area due to the skin containing more pigment.
Iron Deficiency can factor in as a cause of dark circles. Even if you are not a firm believer in the power of healthy diet, there is a good chance that you will have dark circles and even puffiness in your eyes if you are not consuming nutrient-rich foods. The discoloration that you experience can be brought about by deficiencies in minerals such as iron. The veins located around your eye area become more noticeable whenever you lack iron in your system. One study found that anemia was an underlying health cause of around 50% of dark under eye circles in the study participants. (source) Vegetarians will be particularly at risk for anemia due as animal food sources are the primary dietary sources of iron.
Medications and Medical Conditions that you are taking can also cause dark circles to appear under your eyes. There are certain drugs that can make the blood vessels under your eyes dilated or will encourage fluid retention. When this happens, the capillaries may enlarge or lymphatic fluid may build up. Diseases like kidney disease and heart problems can also cause fluid retention. Hormonal changes such as those in PMS or menopause can also cause increased fluid retention and changes to pigmentation in the skin. Hyperpigmentation can develop during pregnancy and can linger past delivery. Hormonal replacement therapy and hormonal contraceptives can also overstimulate melanin production in the skin. (source)
Low Thyroid Condition may cause some people to exhibit darkened circles under the eyes. The thyroid is a master gland in the body. Without it none of the other hormones function well. The production of blood can be affected and anemia can occur in hypothyroidism. The gastrointestinal system, liver, and energy production in the body can all be affected, which determine nutrient delivery and toxin removal from the body. These stressful body conditions can show up in the darkened under eye skin.
Allergies and Eczema cause swelling and inflammation that can contribute to eye circles. Histamine reactions cause swelling of tissues and circulation changes. Other immune system related conditions like eczema can cause inflammation and darkening of tissues around the eyes. Excessive rubbing due to skin itching and irritation can cause damage to the delicate circulatory system of the eye area, which can darken skin temporarily or permanently as it heals. Sinus problems can also cause fluid buildup in the nose and eye area.
Smoking Tobacco restricts blood flow, causing an overly pale appearance to skin and emphasizing dark under eye circles. Cigarettes also contain dozens of additional chemical toxins that burden the body with additional chemicals to filter. This labor load detracts from the appearance of vitality.
Cigarette smokers have also been found to be four times as likely as nonsmokers to report feeling unrested after a night's sleep. Smokers spend less time in deep sleep and more time in light sleep than nonsmokers. Researchers have postulated that this may be because of the effects of nicotine withdrawal during sleep. ( source)
Alcohol Consumption worsens dark under eye circles in several ways. Alcohol consumption increases the workload on the liver and decreases blood oxygenation because alcohol literally replaces oxygen in the blood, causing the intoxicating effect. Alcohol is a vaso-dialator as well, meaning that it causes blood vessels to open further which can cause a swollen, puffy appearance and increase visibility of bluish color in the under eye skin.
Another way alcohol can contribute to dark under eye circles is that with more significant consumption it disrupts normal sleep patterns in the body. This causes fatigue the following day which will often show as sallow tone and darker eye circles. Participants in studies spent less time in REM sleep total throughout the course of the night, and spent much more time in light sleep in the second half of the night, making sleep much less restful. ( source)
Alcohol also digests in the body as a sugar compound, which can cause reactions such as glycation which brings about damage to skin such as wrinkling and sagging long term. Through sugar consumption damage occurs to collagen and elastin structures that support plump, resilient skin. Loss of this underlying structure can cause the darker capillaries underneath to become more visible.
Knowing the causes of your problems should prompt you to deal with them appropriately. In the end, eliminating the dark circles under your eyes will help you avoid health complications and, of course, allow you to look more attractive. It is always a good idea to investigate further and consult with your doctor to find out the precise cause of those under-eye dark circles if you suspect you may have a medical condition. Taking control of how you care for your body will make a big difference for you.
Natural Ways to Reduce Dark Circles Under Eyes
1. Reduce or eliminate consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
2. Create optimal conditions for quality sleep and make sure to get 7-8 hours per night.
3. Treat medical conditions that can contribute to dark under eye circles.
4. Consume a healthy diet including antioxidant-rich, plant based foods.
5. Take quality supplements if your body is low on certain nutrients like iron, or to provide compounds that are beneficial for circulation such as grape seed proanthocyanidins.
6. Give your eye area a massage. Lubricate skin with a light oil or facial cleanser and gently stroke the periorbital area from the nose outward to the cheek to stimulate circulation and move congested body fluids out of the tissues.
7. Reduce dark circles under eyes using skincare containing good quality antioxidants from plants. Studies indicate that herbal extracts with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions can improve the appearance of dark circles. (source)
8. Reduce pigmentation of darkened skin by using skincare containing natural skin lightening ingredients like licorice and Vitamin C to gently lighten color and stimulate collagen production. Stabilized Vitamin C such as time release Vitamin C complexes or a Vitamin C serum with Ascorbyl Palmitate, an ester form of the vitamin, will be the least irritating for the eye area because they are not acidic like the pure form, Ascorbic Acid.
9. Use a caffeine cream in the eye area to reduce dark eye circles. Caffeine is an antioxidant and can also help reduce fluid retention in puffy eyes by temporarily constricting blood vessels.
10. Soak eyes with a compress or use a DIY facial mask to deeply hydrate and nourish the skin in the eye area. See our list of home remedies for dark circles under eyes.
11. If all else fails use natural makeup for sensitive skin to camouflage darkness under the eyes. Many mineral based makeup products are available that contain soothing botanical oils and extracts to condition the skin. Products that bounce light or have a little bit of luminizing shimmer can help to add brightness to skin.
Should you consider lasers, peels, and fillers for dark under eye circles?
Natural, noninvasive methods are the best place to start with dark circles treatments. The steps we have outlined are low risk, low cost, and will not harm the skin. Invasive methods always come with a risk of damage to the skin and often come with an extremely high price tag. As well even if you get visual improvement at first your dark under eye circles will just return over time if you have not addressed their primary, underlying causes.
Melanin rich skin types may be tempted to try skin peels which claim to lighten pigmentation. Peels are generally performed with acids or other aggressive chemicals that remove a layer of skin cells. The philosophy is that the skin will then repair itself with fresh, unpigmented cells. Unfortunately the trauma of the peel itself can cause a risk of even worsening hyperpigmentation as skin heals. Lasers can cause similar damage to skin, and we have seen individuals who had laser processes and now regret that choice because pigmentation worsened. Using gentle depigmenting herbs and vitamins is a far less risky and expensive way to address dark pigmentation in the eye area.
There is simply no substitute for encouraging the body to exist in a state of actual vitality, which is what a bright eye area communicates anyway. By addressing your root causes of dark eye circles you will reap far more benefits than just healthy-looking eyes. You will actually be more healthy throughout your body, and that is a value that no peel, filler, or laser process can offer.
Ready to take steps to help your eyes look fresh and bright? Our Ultimate Guide to Holistic Home Beauty Remedies for Eyes will help you lighten the appearance of dark circles and reduce the appearance of wrinkles all with homemade beauty treatments you can use on your own.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is general in nature and for informational purposes. It is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program. Cosmetic products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.