Dark Circles – Causes & Treatment

What ages you most? Grey hair? Crow’s feet?  You may be surprised, but it is not any of these. The answer is dark circles around the eyes. They can make person look up to 10 years older. When people develop dark circles under their eyes, they generally think a lack of sleep is the cause, but this is not always the case. There are several causes of dark circles around the eyes and until you understand the cause, you won’t be able to effectively treat them.

What causes dark circles?

Dark circle are rarely a sign of exhaustion or illness, so they are harmless, but unsightly. They make a person look tired, old and unhealthy. Both men and women get dark circles and they usually begin in adulthood, but children can get them too. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Rubbing or scratching the area
  • Heredity
  • Allergies
  • Atopic dermatitis/Eczema
  • Nasal congestion that can cause veins to dilate and darken
  • Sun exposure causes production of melanin
  • Pigmentation irregularities
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of vitamin K

Lifestyle and age play a role

It might be your lifestyle that is causing dark circles under eyes. Smoking and chronic alcohol use can cause dark circles as well as emotional or physical stress. Your age may be the underlying cause. The skin under the eyes thins with fat and collagen loss as we age. This makes the reddish-blue color under your eyes to appear much more noticeable.

Treating dark circles at home

If you have mild to moderate dark circles under your eyes, there are some remedies that you can try at home.

Use extra pillows. Sleep with an extra pillow or two under your head to prevent fluid buildup under the eyes.

Try cold. Cold compresses will help reduce the look of dark circles. You can try a cool, damp washcloth, two cool spoons, or a bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer. This will reduce the dilated blood vessels and discoloration they cause under the eyes. Cool, used tea bags can also help.

Get more sleep. Easier said than done, right? Lack of sleep doesn’t cause the dark circles, but it can make you look pale and the circles more prominent. So, if you can squeeze in a few more minutes of beauty sleep each day.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. You make think that the sun will tan the skin, making the dark under-eye circles less obvious, and it might, at first. However, the sun makes the body produce more melanin, so in the long run it will make the dark circles more prominent. So, wear sunglasses and sunscreen when outside.

Try using saline. Rinsing your sinuses with an over the counter saline spray or a solution of salt and water can help alleviate nasal congestion that can cause dark circles. The salt water solution should be one-fourth teaspoon of salt mixed with two cups of warm water.

Eye creams. There are many over-the-counter creams made to treat dark circles. Trial and error may be the best way to find the right product since many people will see different results depending on their skin type. Most eye creams are fairly cheap and are a fast and easy way to cover up or even get rid of dark under eye circles altogether.

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Try hiding them. If all else fails reach for the concealer. A few tips to keep in mind:

  • If your dark circles are bluish in color, use a peach-colored concealer. Avoid white or grey.
  • Avoid scented products
  • Avoid products that contain salicylic or glycolic acid. These can irritate delicate under eye skin.

When to call a doctor

If you have swelling or darkness under just one eye, that seems to be worsening, call a doctor to get it checked out. Rarely does dark circles only affect on eye.

If you’ve tried at-home solution and nothing is working, your dermatologists may be able to determine the cause of your dark circle and help you treat them.  Depending on the cause, the doctor can prescribe creams or a combination of treatments to help cure the dark circles. Chemical peels and laser therapy are also options as is injectable fillers and surgery. Injectable fillers work by filling in hallows under the eyes where shadows form.

If you suspect health problems

If you believe you may have a vitamin deficiency, like lack of vitamin K or anemia, you should see your doctor. He can do blood work to determine verify or rule out these conditions. If you suspect dehydration, begin drinking more water, at least eight -8oz glasses a day. If you feel your diet could use some improvement, start adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet and avoid processed foods. Eating right and exercise can also help reduce stress and allow you to get the sleep you need to look your best.


Dark circles make a person look old and tired, but they can be treated and in some cases eliminated. Trying the at-home treatments and making some changes in your diet may go a long way to helping improve the look of your eyes. Aging is something we cannot stop, but there are things you can do to help reduce the signs of aging. Treating dark circles start with small changes, but if you feel you want or need help contact a doctor or dermatologists. They can help you determine the underlying cause and the best treatment. Surgery and other cosmetic procedure should only be used as a last resort and may not be a permanent fix, so incorporate lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, eating a well balanced diet, and reducing emotional and physical stress. I know these may changes may not be easy, so take it slow. Making small subtle changes is the key to making them last long-term.

Dark circles under eyes may be unsightly, but they are rarely a sign of anything serious. So, try the at-home treatments first, then if all else fails contact a dermatologist about surgical options or laser treatments.

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