Dark circles are the result of a number of factors, including genetic history, dietary habits, bone structure, allergies, sleep habits, and even a late night out. Poor circulation can also result in dark blue under-eye circles, which are the result of pooled oxygenated blood beneath skin's surface. Incorporating a light massage to help drain the area will relieve the puffiness that often accompanies these shadows, but there are also a few natural ingredients and home remedies to help diminish their appearance.
We've rounded up experts' best tips for how to relieve under-eye circles and darkness without purchasing expensive skincare products.
Use a Pillow Under Your Knees
"Many of us sleep on our stomachs, but when we do this, we give the blood in our body a chance to pool to the front side of our body," says Athena Hewett, the founder of Monastery and her skincare studio in San Francisco. "And this includes our eye sockets. This is a big culprit of dark under-eye circles. A large pillow (like Helix's Adjustable Pillow, $85) under the knees is very helpful as well as using little pillows propped on the side of your face. These will prevent you from being able to easily turn onto your stomach in the middle of the night."
Take a Shot of Fish Oil
"The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil improve blood circulation," notes Hewett. "So taking a shot of it goes straight to the blood. In pill form, it takes a little while longer to get where you want it to go. When our blood moves smoothly throughout the body, it has less chance of pooling in the under-eye area. Look for fish oil with lemon to take the edge off the fishy aftertaste."
Eat a Hard-Boiled Egg
"Iron deficiency can prevent blood from carrying sufficient oxygen to the eye tissues," says Hewett. Eating a hard-boiled egg, a food rich in iron, will help prevent that from happening. Try this before or after a night out to keep fatigued eyes at bay.
Apply Chilled Tea Bags
"Excess fluid in the connective tissue under the eyes results in under-eye circles and puffiness," explains Hewett. "Green tea (like Yogi Tea's Super Antioxidant Green Tea, $24) is most commonly used in this remedy, but you can use black or white tea bags too. The caffeine shrinks the blood vessels just under the skin and thus reduces swelling and puffiness to help eliminate the dark circles. Using a chilled tea bag adds to the constriction of the blood vessels."
Drink Cranberry Juice Daily
"And if you want to get extra fancy," Hewett suggests, "add a teaspoon of dandelion root powder. These two ingredients are natural diuretics and flush salt out of the body. Excess salt in our diet can cause fluid retention which in turn causes the blood to move more slowly. Blood that is more stagnant in the eye area shows as under-eye bags and circles."
Try a Ground Coffee and Yogurt Mask
"Caffeine is a great quick fix when applied topically, as it constricts the blood vessels," says Hewett. "Use a half-cup of whole-milk yogurt as a base to one teaspoon of ground coffee. The coffee works on constricting the vessels, while the yogurt helps smooth the under-eye area, providing a natural form of lactic acid. Apply the mixture under the eyes and lie on the couch. Relax for 10 minutes and remove."
"Getting a sound night's sleep is super important to the prevention of under-eye circles," notes Hewett. "A lack of sleep causes the blood vessels to dilate, which results in the dark tint. If you can't get yourself to meditate on your own, try using an app like Headspace, which creates mini guided meditations in just a couple of minutes. Listen to one while you lie your head on that pillow."
Boost Circulation With Cucumbers
"Perhaps the most commonly known remedy," says Rachel Winard, the founder of Brooklyn skincare range Soapwalla, "is cucumbers. But they're great. Cucumbers are naturally cooling, which helps boost circulation. Place a slice on top of closed eyes (or cut a little moon shape to put underneath your eyes) and enjoy a five-minute break."
Massage With Olive Oil
"Apply the oil around your orbital bone in a circular motion," instructs Winard, "starting from the outside corner of your eye and moving toward the inner corner, up over the brow and back again five times. The massage will stimulate circulation and in turn, get any stagnant blood moving. Plus, you can also use grape-seed oil in a similar way, as it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help."
Warm Virgin Coconut Oil Between Your Fingers
"Warm up a small drop of coconut oil between your fingertips and massage it around your eyes before bed," says Winard. "With a high concentration of fatty acids, the oil will help to nourish skin and promote a healthier barrier function. This, in turn, will reduce the transparency of thin under-eye skin."