Dark eye circles may look cute on a raccoon, but they don’t belong anywhere near a woman’s eyes. The irony about dark eye circles is that, contrary to popular belief, dark circles are usually not a sign of exhaustion, age or illness, but they are responsible for making women and men look old, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What They Are
Dark eye circles are areas of dark pigmentation under each eye. Lack of sleep is usually not the culprit. The reason people associate the two is that not getting enough sleep can make people appear paler and more hollow-eyed, which emphasizes any circles they may have, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your skin is very thin under your eye, and any veins and fluids can easily show through and can give this area a dark, shadowy appearance.
Thanks, Mom and Dad
You may have your parents to thank for your dark circles because they are hereditary and run in families, according to the Mayo Clinic. Allergies and eczema can cause dark circles, too. If you smoke or drink alcohol or caffeinated sodas, you could be bringing on the problem yourself. Too much sun exposure will prompt your body to produce more melanin, which makes the pigment in your skin darker, including under your eyes. Although an overall tan camouflages the problem in the short term, the darker pigmentation will stay after the tan fades. Although aging alone is not the reason for dark circles under your eyes, skin gets thinner as we age, and this thinning makes any blood vessels under your eyes more noticeable.
Causes and Cures
If you have dark circles under your eyes, try using a cold compress on them. Hold chilled teabags, chilled cucumber slices, a refrigerated gel mask or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel over your eyes. This will temporarily reduce discolored or dilated under-eye blood vessels, according to the Mayo Clinic. You will also want to avoid lying down completely horizontally because this leads to fluid buildup, which causes puffy eyes. To avoid fluid retention, try elevating your head with at least two pillows when you sleep. Nasal congestion is another cause of under-eye circles, so a nasal spray or rinse can help.
Good Cosmetics and Bad
Cosmetics can help or hurt people with dark eye circles. Creams that contain retinol, vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin E can help the appearance of under-eye circles, according to the Mayo Clinic. Vitamin K can shrink blood vessels, and retinol helps build collagen, according to Go Ask Alice, Columbia University’s Health Internet Service. Concealers can be your friend if you choose the right ones. If your circles are bluish, use a peach-colored concealer and avoid white or gray ones. Also, products that contain salicylic or glycolic acid can irritate your eye tissue, making the swelling worse. Scented products can also have a bad effect on your under-eye area, if you are allergic to them.
When to See a Doctor
You might want to see a doctor to get a more long-lasting solution to the problem. A dermatologist has more tools for you that can help get rid of dark circles such as laser therapy, chemical peels or surgery for puffy lids and injectable fillers for hollows that cause shadows. Kidney and thyroid problems can also cause bags under the eyes, according to Go Ask Alice. If you do have a kidney problem, you will probably have other symptoms besides bags under your eyes such as urinary changes or joint pain. If you have dark circles and swelling under only one eye that seems to be getting worse, you should see your primary care physician, according to the Mayo Clinic.