Whether your under eye dark circles come from your genetics or the stress of your new job, there is a solution. In fact, you have more options than you can possibly imagine. Old school ideas like sitting around with cucumbers on your eyes will only get you so far.
If you’ve got serious dark circles under your eyes, you know that there isn’t a cucumber on earth that’s big enough to tackle those bags that are staring back at you from the bathroom mirror every morning.
Did you know that the skin underneath your eyes is only 0.5 mm thick, while the skin almost everywhere else on your body is a full 2.0 mm thick? It might seem small, but it makes a massive difference. You can’t treat the incredibly fragile skin under your eyes the same way you treat the rest of your skin.
Now is the time to start babying that delicate skin! Loathe it or hate it, the problem is only going to get worse. Even the most fresh-faced gal among us will get dark circles eventually. It’s a sad but unchangeable part of the aging process.
BUT, I do have some good news for you! If you can figure out what's causing them, you can learn how to get rid of dark circles that haunt you. It’s not all about having good genes and being well rested. There are tons of simple, cheap fixes that’ll totally transform your face.
Ready? Here is everything that you’ll ever need to know (AND MORE!!) about those dreadful dark circles under your eyes.
What causes dark circles under the eyes?
Before you can deal with treating the problem, you’ve got to know its cause. While they might all look the same, they all need special treatment! Dark circles caused by smoking are very different from the bags that you inherited from your mom. So, before we talk about solutions, let’s look at the causes.
There are a lot of different reasons why we get dark circles under our eyes. More often than not, you can blame your parents for your baggage! Heredity is the number one cause of dark circles under the eyes. Some people have thinner skin there, while others have more blood vessels than the average person.
If one of your parents has dark under eye circles, there is a very good chance that you will too. While women with dark complexions are more prone to pigmentation issues, women with very fair skin also have issues with transparency. Unfortunately, since it’s not a lifestyle issue, there is nothing that you can really do about it.
It’s not a totally hopeless situation though! While you might not be able to do anything to change your genes, there’s a lot that you can do to cover up the darkness and prevent it from getting worse.
If you aren’t sure whether you inherited your dark circles, here’s a quick test to see where they might have come from. Hold your fingers beneath your eyes. Gently stretch the skin. If the dark circles underneath your eyes get darker, you’re probably dealing with a genetic issue. If your skin stays the same color, the bags under your eyes are probably caused by environmental factors.
One good thing about having such thin skin underneath your eyes is that it gives you a glimpse into what’s going on underneath the surface. That might sound a bit gross, but it’s important! The slightest alteration in pigmentation is obvious under your eyes and it can serve as an important alert to a few different conditions.
If you have dark circles under your eyes that won’t go away, you might want to get checked for anemia. Don’t freak out as soon as you spot bags under your eyes, but if they are accompanied by dizziness, fatigue and generally feeling under the weather, you might have an issue.
There are a few different forms of anemia, but the most common type is iron-deficiency anemia. A lack of iron in your blood stream is typically a result of heavy periods or an inadequate diet. If you think that you might have an iron deficiency, chat with your doctor. It’s not a big deal as long as you are proactive about it.
Your doc will just give you a quick test, and then, if you do have an iron deficiency, you will probably get some supplements. It’s also incredibly easy to add more iron to your diet. There are cereals and breads enriched with iron. Dark green leafy vegetables, peas, soybeans, chickpeas, beans and dried fruits are also great sources.
So, it’s definitely worth looking into, because sitting down with a bowl of cereal is a whole lot easier than messing around with under eye concealer every single morning.
If you’re downing spinach like Popeye, you might have perorbital hyperpigmentation. Again, it’s not a scary condition! Having periorbital hyperpigmentation just means that you’re producing a high level of melanin around your eyes. It’s pretty common among people with Mediterranean and African ancestry.
While it’s often hereditary, it’s possible to have perorbital hyperpigmentation even if your parents don’t. While there are some treatments for it (and we’ll talk about those), it is just an aesthetic issue, so it’s nothing to worry about.
Do you have a steak for breakfast every morning? If the dark circles under your eyes don’t seem to be hereditary or caused by an iron deficiency, you might have allergies. They don’t just cause watery eyes. Allergies can make the entire area around your eyes appear dark and discolored.
While most allergy meds will help to dry out your eyes and prevent watering, they won’t do anything about the dark circles under your eyes. It’s not always a year-round thing though, a lot of people deal with seasonal allergies. “They trigger the release of histamines in the body, which in turn inflame blood vessels and cause swelling,” says Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a dermatologist in Boston.
Again, it’s just about appearance, so it’s nothing to worry about, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are at the cosmetics counter.
After spending years trying to hide them, a lot of women are annoyed to learn that the bags under their eyes are caused by nothing more than dehydration. An amazing number of us are dealing with dehydration most of the time. Forget about recommended water intakes. The amount of water that you need depends on YOU.
If the weather is hot and sticky or you’ve just had a hearty workout, you’ll need to drink tons of water. You can also become dehydrated after having too much sodium and that can come from a surprisingly wide number of sources.
While you probably know that you should drink more water after you tuck away a salty pile of junk food, a lot of so-called healthy foods are also shockingly high in sodium. Pre-packaged diet foods, like low calorie soups and frozen dinners, are often jam-packed with sodium. Do a reality check every so often.
It’s not easy to guess product ingredients, so check the labels and start paying attention to your sodium intake. Ultimately, the most important thing is to always, always keep drinking water. If you don’t like the taste, add some flavoring. If you simply hate water, grab some tea or carbonated water.
Forget the myth that caffeine dehydrates you. Unless you are drinking espresso shots 24/7, it’s irrelevant. The important thing is to keep sipping on basically anything except soda (which most definitely is bad for you).
While drinking water will help to keep you alive and kicking, smoking will undo even your most diligent effort to stay healthy. Smoking causes vascular problems that will lead to constricted blood vessels and poor circulation. This will make your under eye circles look much darker.
Also, in case you missed the memo, smoking will kill you. Sure, it’s hard to quit, but smoking is an incredibly time-consuming and expensive hobby, so quitting pays off pretty much immediately.
Want a less stressful way to get rid of under eye circles? Start sleeping more! Lack of sleep is one of the most common causes of under eye bags, but it’s incredibly easy to fix. Simply start sleeping more and you’ll start seeing results. Too busy? Nobody wants to hear your excuses!
People who are well rested do everything faster and more efficiently, so you aren’t doing anyone any favors by dragging around that sleep-deprived bag of bones.
Of course, regardless of everything else, time will catch up to all of us. The process of aging will cause everybody’s under eye skin to darken regardless of genetics and lifestyle. “Another factor is age,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a Toronto-based dermatologist. “Dark circles usually become a problem around age 35. As we get older, we lose fat in the under-eye area, making dark circles look more prominent.”
Five minute fixes
Double up your pillows
By using more pillows and keeping your head elevated, you will stop the blood from building up around your eyes.
It’s a really simple way to prevent puffiness. Every little bit helps, so don’t go crazy with it if you aren’t comfortable. Throw a cheap, flat pillow underneath your normal pillow and try to get used to it. If you stick a plush, comfy pillow under your normal one, you’ll probably feel like you’re sleeping at a 90 degree angle.
Start small. Of course, the more you elevate your head, the less puffy your eyes will be, but keep it reasonable. Sleep is really the number one way to combat under eye circles, so make sure that you don’t set yourself up for tossing and turning all night on top of pillows that are too big.
Mask your dark secret
When you wake up in the morning, simply apply a cold compress for five minutes while you are getting ready to go. It literally takes a few seconds to put it on and it’ll make a major difference. Just leave it there for five minutes and you’ll see the swelling go down right before your eyes.
The full masks that cover your eyes are great, but there will probably be mornings when you wake up too late to have time for lying around with a mask on your face. For those days, grab an open eye mask. The ones with little holes for your eyes are generally easier to make time to use. They are ultra-cheap and take up almost no space in your fridge.
Grab an over-the-counter antihistamine
If you know that you have allergies, pop a pill before they get the better of you. The over-the-counter meds that you can take for your allergies, colds, and sinus infections will help to reduce puffiness. Just make sure that you talk to your doctor first. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis. It’s very possible that he’ll tell you to go for over-the-counter meds, but it’s also possible that you’ll need something a bit stronger.
Get cozy with a neti pot
If you’ve never seen a neti pot before, now is the time to check them out. They are amazing for allergies, colds and eye puffiness. Basically, they are little devices that look like a tea pot. You pour a salt water mix solution into them then pour it up your nose. This sounds gross and miserable, but the water that you pour in one nostril will come out the other.
While that might sounds like drowning, it’s actually really easy and it feels nothing like it. It’s definitely worth a shot, and you’ll get over the grossness factor within the first or second try.
Drop the salt shaker
You already know that excess sodium is linked to dehydration, so keep an eye out for it. It’s hidden in an amazingly wide array of foods, but it’s easy to reduce your intake if you start paying attention. The average woman is getting about 175% of her recommended daily intake. For reference, you should aim to cap your sodium intake at 2,300 mg a day.
A can of corn or chicken noodle soup will throw around 750 mg of sodium your way. A packet of soy sauce has 1,024 milligrams of sodium. On the other hand, a small order of fries from McDonald’s has 140 mg of sodium. So, it’s not always easy to guess your sodium intake.
Don’t just assume that junk food is high in sodium and healthy food is salt-free. Do a little research and keep track of your sodium intake. It’s good for your overall health and will make a major difference in getting rid of the bags under your eyes.
Put a cork in your wine consumption
Alcohol has more of an effect on your skin than you might realize. While a little alcohol (read: one properly measured serving per day) is actually great for your health, too much of a good thing will wreak havoc of your skin.
A lot of us make the mistake of thinking that it’s alright to throw down a few drinks at the weekend after teetotaling all week. It might be normal, but it’s hard on you. Your body can deal with one serving of alcohol per day, but it can’t deal with the seven servings that you’re tossing down after work on a Friday night.
Too much alcohol can cause your skin to look dull all over. Your rosy glow will turn into a grey pallor after a few drinks too many. Alcohol is a major cause of dehydration. Drinking too much on a regular basis will cause your skin to lose elasticity, which will ultimately cause premature wrinkles.
Of course, dehydration is also going to cause under eye puffiness. Make a real effort to moderate your drinking. Tucking away a bottle of wine every now and again isn’t going to kill you, but you definitely don’t want it to become a habit.
Mix things up in bed
On top of changing your pillows, you’ll get some serious relief by sleeping on your back. Putting your head on an elevated surface will prevent fluid from building up around one or both of your eyes. Of all the possible positions, sleeping on your back is the clear winner. It keeps your back, head, neck, and spine aligned. It can help with everything from minimizing your acid reflux symptoms to preventing facial wrinkles.
Getting used to sleeping on your back will also be incredibly helpful in your mission to get rid of under eye circles. It’s not always easy to change your sleeping position, but it’s worth a shot.
If you are a side or stomach sleeper, try getting comfortable on your back before you drift off. Most of us move around quite a few times during the night, but you might find that you can transition into back sleeping being your new norm.
Take it all off
One of the best things you can do for your face is to get into the habit of going to bed bare faced. If you tend to fall asleep with your makeup on, keep some makeup removing wipes next to the bed. If you’ve got some stashed in a drawer next to your bed, you’ll usually be able to find the energy to pull one out and give your face a quick wipe.
While makeup removing wipes are a good solution for nights when you are totally spent, you should aim to do a proper facial washing every single night. Head to the bathroom sink an hour or so before bed so you aren’t too spent by the time you are actually getting ready to sleep.
Now, you might be saying, “Hey, internet stranger, I wash my face every single night without fail and it’s not making a difference!” Not so fast. While you might be washing your face every night, you might not be washing it properly. Want to put your skincare routine to the test? Start using a white towel.
Wash your face, and then gently rub the white towel over it. If you wear foundation on a regular basis, it’s very possible that you’ll see telltale foundation spots on your white towel. That doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your facial cleanser. It just means that you aren’t using a makeup removing cleanser.
If you are wearing a full face of makeup, you’ll probably need a two-step cleansing process. There are a few different ways you can go about getting your face totally make-up free. The worst way to do that is by scrubbing. A little gentle exfoliation is fine, but getting too abrasive will actually cause breakouts and all-around miserable skin.
One of the most intriguing new skincare trends is double cleansing. For Japanese women, this is an idea that’s been around for centuries. For those of us who are less Japanese than a California roll, this is a pretty exciting idea.
Interested? Start with a cleansing water or oil to remove your makeup, then follow-up with your normal cleanser. Since this method became popular, tons of cleansing waters and oils have hit the Western market.
Cleansing water might sound like a marketing ploy to sell overpriced water, but I assure you that’s it is legit. If you’d rather, we can agree to call it gentle makeup remover, because that’s what it is. Products like the French-staple Bioderma just work differently. It’s not exactly a traditional makeup remover, but it’s definitely not just plain old water either.
According to Beautylish, “Instead of using soap, Sensibio H2O contains tiny micelles (a small cluster of cleansing molecules suspended in water,) which help dissolve the impurities in your skin (similar to how detergent breaks down oil) so you can rinse or wipe them away. Because of the micellar action, you don’t need to scrub your face in order to get rid of makeup.”
While cleansing water and dual cleansing has been around for ages, cleansing oils have a very clear starting point. Back in 1967, Japanese cosmetic company Shu Uemura introduced the first oil-based cleanser. The selling point behind the idea was a unique combination of water solubility and oil.
You’ve probably heard the idea that “like removes like” and that’s important in the world of oil-based products. Oil cleansers are able to break down the oil in your makeup so that even the toughest, stickiest products wipe right off.
While you could do the normal oil as well, cleansing oil is much easier to deal with at night. The great thing about cleansing oil is that its unique water solubility allows it to be washed away with water when you’re done.
One of the quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to look gorgeous forever is to protect your skin from the sun. Use sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen and whatever else you can put between yourself and the sun.
You probably already know that you need some SPF, but there is one major mistake that most women make. Are you curious yet? If you are ready to get serious about protecting your skin from the sun, you need to forget about makeup with SPF in it.
The number one thing to remember about SPF is that it only sticks around for two hours. This means that no matter how you apply your sunscreen, you’ve only got 120 minutes of protection. So, that foundation with added SPF that you applied at seven in the morning isn’t doing a single thing to protect you from the sun at noon.
Worse yet, you probably didn’t apply enough makeup to actually get decent sun protection to begin with. While added SPF isn’t hurting anything, it’s not doing much for you. If you are going to be outside for more than 15 minutes, you need a good, old fashioned SPF.
Applying sunscreen lotion every two hours probably sounds like a massive pain in the butt, but it doesn’t have to be. Sun protection has come a long way in the past few years. You just need to know where to look for good products. While the typical sunscreen aisle might be pretty limited, you can find some great options online or at beauty supply stores.
Look for spray-on or powdered SPF. There are versions for your face that won’t clog your pores or mess up your makeup. You can get tinted powdered SPFs that will replace your own single-duty compact.
BareMinerals has a tinted SPF 30 powdered sunscreen that does an amazing job at providing full SPF protection while also whisking away shiny spots that might pop up when you’re hanging out under the scorching sun.
Exercise will make a major difference. Not only does it reduce stress and improve sleep, it also helps to keep your blood circulating properly. You probably already knew that exercise is good for you, but it’s important to also remember that it’s not an all-or-nothing thing.
Just because you don’t have time to pack up and head to the gym doesn’t mean that you can’t squeeze in a run around the block. Every little bit helps! Get up now and run in place as fast as you can for two minutes. Bam! Calories burned! Blood flowing! If you have time to make daily bathroom trips, you can probably squeeze in at least five minutes of workouts too.
Fixes from the makeup counter
Alright, we’ve covered that part, now onto coverage. You already know that diet, exercise and all of that other good stuff is only going to get you so far. You probably clicked on this article because you want to throw some cash at the problem and have it disappear. We’ve got you covered there too!
Makeup can do an amazing job at covering up dark circles if you know what you’re doing. Want to know what you should be doing? Here are a few simple fixes:
Find your concealer
Don’t just grab the first concealer that you see. If you mean business, you’ve got to do a bit of research. Remember the color wheel that you learned about in art class? You are about to put that knowledge to use!
Since the bags under your eyes are a blue- grey color, you need to look on the opposite side of the color wheel for a solution. So, a good under eye concealer should have an orange undertone. Look for a peachy shade that is one or two shades darker than your natural skin tone.
Add a second coat
You’ll probably look a bit odd after you apply an orange concealer that is noticeably darker than your skin tone, but you can fix it! The idea of applying the orange is to counteract the darkness. If you just apply a concealer in your normal shade, you’re just adding another incredibly thin layer to mask the problem. Imagine adding a thin coat of white paint over a black wall. It won’t really get you far. You need to prime!
Once you’ve countered the darkness with an orange concealer, you have a couple of different options. You can add a concealer that matches your skin tone or go over the area with foundation. Whichever option you choose, dot it on in the shape of an upside down triangle, then slowly blend those dots with a makeup sponge.
Once you’ve got both layers of concealer on, it’s time to set with some loose powder. If you’re going to wear a full face of foundation, apply that, and then come back to this step. Once you are ready, gently dust on some translucent powder to give it extra staying power.
Keep it light so that it doesn’t look too caked on. If you get a little overzealous, get your makeup sponge damp then slowly dab it around caked on areas until you’ve created a smooth finish.
Forget the urban legend
Years ago, women discovered the secret to reducing bags under their eyes. According to so-called makeup pros, Preparation H was a cure-all. Unfortunately, dermatologists strongly disagree with that idea. Don’t get me wrong.
Preparation H does work. It contains hydrocortisone and will restrict your blood vessels and reduce puffiness temporarily. The problem is that it’s a very temporary fix that isn’t worth all of the potential risks.
First off, if you get Preparation H in your eye, you’ll be dealing with some serious irritation. As you’ll see on their label, it’s not meant for use anywhere around your eye. The irritation factor really isn’t the worst of it though. Hydrocortisone is not meant for regular use. Daily or even weekly applications of hydrocortisone will cause serious long-term issues.
It will actually make your skin thinner and more fragile while causing your blood vessels to swell. In other words, it’ll cause dark under eye circles even if you never had them before. On top of that, it can cause permanent adrenal gland damage. In order words, there is only one place that you should be sticking your hemorrhoid cream.
Miracle in a bottle
Want something that’ll do all of the work for you? While you might be able to find the answer at the bottom of a bottle, you have to be choosy. Some eye creams are much better than others. Before you grab a pricey tub of eye cream, it’s important to know what you are looking for.
Don’t just go for pretty packaging. Educate yourself on useful, potent ingredients and get into the habit of reading product labels before you throw your cash at them.
You will see a lot of eye creams and serums with smooth metal applicators. That is because they feel amazing! The cool tip will cool and shrink under eye bags for instant results.
Caffeine is another go-to ingredient for under eye creams. It works well because it’ll constrict your blood vessels to fight the dark look.
A lot of the best creams for under eye bags contain hyaluronic acid. It’s makes eye creams more effective because it works from the inside. It’ll seep into your skin and plump it up. It probably sounds pretty basic, but this is the selling feature of hyaluronic acid. Most eye creams just sit on top of your skin rather than being absorbed.
Hesperidin methyl chalcone works by reducing small blood vessels and prevents them from leaking. Since the dark circles around your eyes are a result of this leakage, you’ll see a major difference when it reduces.
Partners in crime palmitoyl oligopeptide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3 work together to stimulate collagen production, which will thicken your skin and make your under eye bags less obvious.
Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, works by promoting the growth of new skin cells. This will make your skin look fresh and reduce dull spots.
Chrysin is another anti-inflammatory antioxidant that works by preventing the capillary leakage, so you’ll see dramatic results after just a few uses.
Are you ready to take things to the next level? Get some professional help! While makeup tricks and home fixes are great for subtle under eye circles, you might want something more if the dark circles under your eyes are unusually dark.
Chemosurgery, aka chemical peels, are a common fix. While it might sound a bit scary, chemical peels are safe and non-evasive. During the process, a mix of ultra-potent cosmetic chemicals is layered on your face. The mix will remove the damaged upper layer of skin and leave you with a healthy, fresh layer of flesh.
Chemical peels are an effective solution for dark under eye circles as well as hyperpigmentation caused by acnes or scars. While there are a lot of spa sales and Groupon deals for chemosurgery, it’s important to have both a licensed dermatologist and an esthetician doing the procedure.
There are a few different types of chemical peels, and your doctor will be able to help you make a treatment plan based on your skin type and end goal. You’ll hear a ton of different names for different kinds of chemical peels, but they all fall into one of three categories. You can get a superficial peel, medium peel or deep peel. Like their names imply, it’s all about the level of strength.
Superficial peels are the mildest type of chemical peel. They are done with a mild acid and are a good solution for any skin type. Medium peels are more intense than superficial peels and cause a second-degree burn. Deep peels penetrate several layers of skin and are done with a chemical called phenol. Deep peels are only done on lighter skin types because they typically cause a bleached effect.
Intense pulse treatment is one of the latest solutions to hit the market. The treatment helps to reduce dark circles by destroying pigment cells that cause discoloration. Unlike old school laser methods, intense pulse treatment uses high energy light waves to penetrate the skin.
The light waves constrict blood vessels, which, of course, will cause a reduction in discoloration. Like chemical peels, it’s not a one-time thing. You will have to keep going back as the effects start to fade. Despite the cost and hassle, intense pulse treatment is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of dark under eye circles.
Laser treatment is another incredibly effective way to get rid of bags underneath your eyes. Laser treatment uses an ultraviolet or infrared invisible light to create wavelengths that release energy as they move across the skin. Those wavelengths target the fat deposits under your eye and leave you with smooth, even skin.
If you need a long-term solution, you could also consider plastic surgery. The eye surgery for dark circles is known as blepharoplasty. During the procedure, under eye fat deposits are removed and you are left with less puffiness and less discoloration.
What would you do?