You may be getting your eight hours of sleep, eating well, exercising, basically living your most virtuous life, yet dark circles can still be running rings around your eyes. Dark circles can be seriously frustrating and there are quite a few different and surprising factors that can cause them to appear. We called on two experts: Dr. Tania Elliott, board-certified allergist and spokesperson for Flonase, as well as London-based aesthetic doctor Dr. David Jack to break down all the causes for those pesky dark circles and what you can do to make them disappear or at least soften their appearance.
"Dehydration causes your eyes to appear sunken in, as you don’t have proper blood flow through your vessels," explains Dr. Elliott.
The Treatment: Hydrate! Drink at least eight cups of water per day. Try, as best as possible, to avoid diuretic drinks (the ones that increase your need to pee), like alcohol and coffee.
Who knew that your season hayfever or allergic reaction to your aunt's beloved furball could be causing your dark circles? "We call dark circles due to allergies 'allergic shiners'," says Dr. Elliott. "Just like the blood vessels in your nose dilate in the setting of allergies and cause nasal congestion, the blood vessels under your eyes also dilate, causing the appearance of dark circles."
"Allergies also cause puffiness and swelling of the eyelids and creases that could be mistaken for wrinkles," she adds.
The Treatment: Target your allergies and the dark circles should ease up. "Daily nasal corticosteroid sprays such as Flonase help to control the inflammation in your nasal passages and block allergic chemicals from being released. Oral non-sedating antihistamines can help too," notes Dr Elliott.
We're all different and a lot of what makes us unique is thanks to our family tree. We inherit all kinds of characteristics from our family. "Some people are more prone to have eye sockets that are further sunken in, and the shadow of your bone structure makes it appear as though your dark circles are worse," says Dr Elliott. "Some people also just have more pigment (melanin) genetically, which can lead to darker circles under the eye," she adds.
Dr. Jack notes that this hereditary pigmentation means you could have been dealing with dark circles for decades. "Pigmentation in the skin is common in certain skin types, and can cause dark circles in even the very young," he notes.
The Treatment: Dr. Jack suggests a "prescription-based product like hydroquinone to reduce pigmentation."
LACK OF SLEEP
Some people can survive on as little as 5 hours sleep, but then there are some of us that need 8+ hours to look and feel human. "Lack of sleep can cause the blood vessels under the eyes to dilate, leading to the appearance of dark circles," says Dr. Elliott.
Treatment: More sleep would be lovely, but some of us can't just can't factor in an optimal number of hours every night. So, maximize the shut-eye you do get. "Sleep in pitch black, which helps promote REM sleep," says Dr. Elliott. "Avoiding alcohol and eating within two hours of bedtime, particularly carbohydrates, will also help promote a good night’s sleep."
It probably goes without saying, but keep any blue light out of your bedroom, like TVs, cellphones and even digital alarms.
If you're feeling unwell it's likely your sleep will be affected and, as we know, lack of sleep can cause dark circles.
But it's worth knowing that "inflammation in the area from sinus issues can also contribute to the appearance of dark circles," according to Dr. Jack.
The Treatment: Try to treat the root cause of your illness, whether it's flu or sinus problems. And try to rest as much as you can.
"As we age, the orbital bone gradually gets thinner and the opening for the eye (orbital margin) increases in size. In turn, the fat pads that surround this area start to decrease in size and slip down the face, giving rise to deeper ‘troughs’, which are the space between these fat pads," explains Dr. Jack.
The skin around the eye are is also thinner than elsewhere, which means dilated blood vessels and pigmentation will show up more easily under the eyes.
The Treatment: Both Dr. Elliott and Dr. Jack say that dermal fillers can help to plump under-eye areas that have lost volume.
"Injectable treatments such as PRP and carboxytherapy are believed to stimulate thickening of the skin, so [they] can reduce the appearance of darkness in some people," says Dr. Jack. "This area is generally very delicate and the anatomy complex so [it] needs to be treated by a practitioner well experienced in treating this area."
When shopping for skincare to tackle dark circles, look to "ingredients such as vitamin C and resveratrol," suggests Dr. Jack.
"Topical products with caffeine can also lead to constriction of the blood vessels and a lessening of the appearance of dark circles," adds Dr. Elliott.