If you have dark under-eye circles, you know just how big an impact they can have. Sure, they annoy us from a vanity perspective, we're only human, but they can also wear on us in other ways too. Eyes are the facial feature we all look at directly when we communicate with one another; as the focal point of our faces, they’re impossible to ignore unless a person is wearing sunglasses. Under-eye circles can make you appear tired when you feel perfectly energized, and unhealthy when you’re well.
But what causes under-eye circles, and why do some of us have them but others don’t? Let’s review the factors that are innate to some people, then the causes that are due to lifestyle or circumstance.
- Genetics: If you have family members with this problem, you’re more likely to as well.
- Skin Tone: Under-eye circles due to pigmentation affect POC more than white people.
- Age: As we age, the skin around our eyes gets thinner and loses fatty tissue.
- Lack of sleep: Healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night; too little sleep dulls and pales your skin, leading to more prominent circles.
- Anemia: This condition occurs from deficiency of red blood cells and can lead to feeling tired and weak; iron deficiency can cause under eye circles even pre-anemia.
- Smoking: Nicotine is a sleep disruptor, and can lead to sleep apnea; it’s all dehydrating, which leads to dark under eye circles.
- Low thyroid function: Insufficient thyroid hormone production promotes fluid retention and circles around the eyes.
- Allergies: Swollen nasal cavities may cause “allergic shiners."
- Sun exposure: Sun promotes melanin production, meaning dark under-eye circles can darken further.
- Eczema: Due to the inflammatory nature of this condition, under-eye circles may be more apparent during flare-ups.
Of the above, there are of course some obvious solutions: quit smoking, wear sunscreen, and treat medical issues like thyroid function and eczema with Western medicine or natural/alternative healthcare. It’s also important to drink enough water daily. However, under eye circles may persist even if you address their lifestyle causes. There are countless topical products that claim to eliminate under eye circles, and some work well for short term results.
The Cosmetic Solution:
If you’re looking for a more permanent cosmetic solution, fillers are an option. Says Dr. Anil Sharma, MD, of Sharma Skin and Hair Surgery, “My number one suggestion for clients who want to address their under-eye region is to come in for a dermal filler consultation. At Sharma Skin & Hair Surgery we have helped hundreds of patients with tired-looking eyes with filler placed under the skin. This treatment lasts anywhere between six and 14 months and works by replenishing hyaluronic acid under your eyes with a high molecular density hyaluronic gel. This density of molecules makes the gel more effective at creating and sustaining new levels of moisture in the papillary dermis. The procedure helps to restore your natural, less tired, look. When performed by an experienced injector the under-eye filler treatment takes under an hour to complete and will dramatically reduce the appearance of dark and tired under-eye circles.”
Six to 14 months is certainly better than the short term impact of topical creams, but are there any foods or supplements that might help fix your under eye circles for good? Fortunately, there are indeed some foods and supplements that may help reduce their appearance long term.
Foods That May Help:
Tomatoes: While they contain multiple antioxidants, tomatoes are best known for their lycopene, which is what gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene helps protect blood vessels and aids in blood circulation. Their ability to protect the vessels under your eyes and improve circulation there is further aided by the quercetin they contain.
Cucumbers: Your first thought on seeing cucumbers in this list may be that we mean you should put a slice of cucumber on your eyes. This is a popular way to reduce eye puffiness, but cucumbers are also beneficial for your eyes when ingested. Their high water content helps hydrate your under-eye area, which fights against dark circles, but more importantly they also have silica, which can boost collagen production. Dr. Sharma says about the importance of hydration: “The best thing one can ingest to assist with under-eye circles is of course—water. Keeping hydrated is the number one strategy to combat aging skin in any area of the face.”
Sesame Seeds: The antioxidants in sesame seeds can improve symptoms of fatigue, which may be causing your under-eye circles. They contain vitamin E for overall eye health, including vision (more on that below).
Berries: Dark berries like blueberries, black currants, and blackberries have anthocyanin—that’s the antioxidant that colors food varying shades of purple, blue, and black. It improves blood flow to the eye, and also supplies oxygen to the tissues around it.
Watermelon: For the purpose of this situation, consider watermelons a combination of cucumbers and tomatoes: They have a similar high water content to cucumbers, and are colored with the same blood vessel protecting lycopene as tomatoes. Bonus—they taste more delicious than either vegetable!
Supplements That May Help:
Eating healthy is a good goal, but sometimes it isn’t the most achievable task. If you’re more able to stick to a regime of taking vitamins and supplements, there are options for you here, too. Vitamins and supplements that can alleviate under-eye circles include the below.
Iron: If your under-eye circles are caused by anemia, supplementing with iron will help get rid of them. Think that couldn’t be a problem for you? A full half of the patients in an under eye circle study were anemic, and many reported that the darkness lessened after dealing with the anemia.
B12: Found in animal foods, vegans especially need to ensure they’re getting sufficient B12 via supplementation. But even for meat eaters, an extra boost might help. In one study, 12 percent of under-eye circle patients were B12 deficient, and treating this deficiency improved their condition.
Vitamin K: This vitamin increases blood coagulation and improves circulation. When combined with caffeine in a base of emu oil, vitamin K was shown to reduce the appearance of dark under-eye circles. As a supplement, in addition to aiding the circulation around your eyes vitamin K is also important for bone health and your cardiovascular system.
Vitamin C: It’s hard to believe that the vitamin we know and love from oranges and bell peppers is actually more powerful at improving under circles than a chemical peel, but it’s true. It’s used topically in addition to ingesting it, but the function is similar: Vitamin C is responsible for promoting your body’s ability to produce collagen. It also decreases photo-damage, which is important if your circles are caused by sun exposure.
With the above tools, you can be on your way to a brighter tomorrow—and to brighter eyes.