We all get them, and we all can’t stand how they look: dark circles under eyes!! While common knowledge (and loads of articles!) says they are caused by lifestyle factors, like lack of sleep and poor diet, research actually supports the idea that sleep may not be the whole reason we get them. So, we’ve looked into what, exactly, researchers agree causes dark circles, the best ingredients they’ve studied to fix them, and the best make up tips to cover them up. With this Guide, your days of raccoon eyes are numbered!
For more, check out How to Get Rid of Under Eye Bags and Dark Circles and find some great Vegan Eye Creams for Dark Circles and Under Eye Bags.
What Causes Dark Circle Under Eyes
The top 3 reasons researchers say we get dark circles, or infraorbital dark circles, are:
- Being genetically prone to more dilated, thicker or an increased number of capillaries under eyes
- Thinner skin under eyes, especially true for African and Far East Asian skin
Hyperpigmentation is when there is an overproduction of melanin. This can happen under eyes for a couple reasons:
- Dermal melanin deposition
- Darkened skin caused by UV exposure or hormone changes like in menopause, pregnancy, or when taking birth control
- Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation which can happen with an allergic skin allergy called atopic or contact dermatitis
- Overexposure to UV rays causes a protective mechanism in the skin to activate creating hyperpigmentation
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about our genetics. Some of us are born with more capillaries under eyes which look like dark circles, or thinner skin which shows the capillaries under eyes more than thicker skin. Studies have shown that darker skinned people, especially Africans and Asians, are more prone to dark circles because of an excess of melanin deposits under eyes, which is largely genetic.
Other Common Causes of Dark Circle Under Eyes
While the 3 main reasons we get dark circles are mostly genetic, minus UV exposure, we found enough evidence to support some other, more talked about reasons for dark circles. These can be broken down into medical causes and lifestyle choices.
Medical Causes of Dark Circle Under Eyes
- Hay fever, or environmental allergies, can cause superficial venous congestion which is when the veins under eyes get congested and appear more pronounced
- Contact dermatitis or atopic dermatitis is a reaction to a topical products which causes inflammation and may appear as dark circles
- A deficiency of iron or B12 can cause the bone marrow to produce less hemoglobin which makes red blood cells, this can happen when the body has low iron or vitamin levels
- Certain prescribed medications, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and chemotherapy drugs
- Depending on the medication, these classes of drugs can make dark circles appear more pronounced than normal
Lifestyle Choices for Dark Circle Under Eyes
- UV Exposure
- Smoking can cause fluid to collect under eyes causing dark circles while breaking down the collagen and elastin under eyes which helps hide the capillaries that live there
- Dehydration makes our skin less plump and makes eyes appear more sunken, causing dark circles to appear
- Lack of sleep makes the body create more cortisol which acts as a vasodilator, making capillaries under eyes larger which makes dark circles crop up
- For the same reason as fatigue, cortisol is released when we’re stressed out and this makes our vessels dilate, especially under eyes, making dark circles appear
- Loss of Fat
- If we are super, super unhealthy skinny, the fat pads under eyes shrink and deeper tear troughs crop up casting a shadow that looks like dark circles
- Puffy Eyes
How to Fix Dark Circle Under Eyes
Fixing dark circles depends entirely on the cause. In general, Plastic Surgeons and Dermatologists recommend cosmetic surgery, dermal fillers, energy-based devices, needle-based therapy, chemical peels and topical agents. Here, we’re going to look into topical agents, like eye creams and serums, as these are the most natural remedies listed.
The Best Ingredients for Dark Circle Under Eyes
With so many eye creams and eye gels touting a cure for dark circles, it’s hard to know what to believe. We looked up the more relevant research and found what researchers have shown to really work.
Vitamin K and Retinol
Vitamin K is a potent fat-soluable vitamin that helps control blood clotting. Retinol, or Vitamin A, is a powerful collagen-stimulating vitamin that fades wrinkles and improves skin elasticity and firmness. In one study, Vitamin K combined with Retinol 0.15% was effective in reducing dark circles in 93% of patients. In another study, an eye gel with Vitamin K, Retinol 0.1%, and Vitamins C and E proved to be moderately effective in reducing dark circles when applied twice a day over a period of 8 weeks.
Vitamins C and E
Antioxidant eye creams with Vitamin C and E may interfere with pigment production which causes the hyperpigmentation we see in dark circles. Vitamin C may have the additional benefit of thickening the dermal layer and increasing collagen production which makes the capillaries under eyes less obvious.
Caffeine is a potent vasoconstrictor that when applied topically as an eye cream constricts the capillaries under eyes. This makes them appear less prominent reducing dark circles. Studies have shown that caffeine eye creams work fast to reduce dark circles.
Bisabolol is a natural oil found mostly in Chamomile. Studies have shown that it helps brighten under eyes reducing dark circles.
Sodium hyaluronate is a derivative of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid helps skin cells retain water which plumps them up reducing sunken eyes and dark circles.
Glycyrrhinic acid is a component of licorice root. It helps brighten under eyes and combats dark circles.
While it was hard to find quality studies on taking dietary supplements, one of the few followed a group of post-menopausal women with skin conditions including dark circles who were asked to take soy extract, fish oil, and extracts of white tea, grapeseed, tomato, and vitamins C and E along with topical chamomile and zinc. After both the 3 and 6 month evaluation, the participants were found to have significantly improved skin overall, including dark circles.
Best Ways to Cover Dark Circles
Now that we understand what causes dark circles and some of the best ingredients to look for to treat them, we can find the best ways to cover them up while we’re waiting for them to go away. Out of all the tips and tricks and home remedies and everything else out there, we decided that the best way for everyone is simply to learn how to apply under eye makeup.
4 Steps for Under Eye Makeup for Dark Circles
- Moisturize Starting with an eye cream geared for dark circles (see above ingredients) is key. Start with inner eyelids and work your way over the lids and under eyes. Always pat, don’t rub, because skin around eyes is so thin and delicate.
- Foundation Pat dark circles with a light layer of your normal foundation. Using this first helps the concealer not settle into fine lines and wrinkles, creating more problems!
- Concealer Use a brush to softly dab concealer under eyes, using one that is a cool shade, 2 shades lighter than your usual tone, and has a reflective material like mica
- Finishing Powder Brush on a light translucent finishing powder to absorb any excess oil and set the products
To Sum It Up
The first step to fixing dark circles under eyes is to find out what’s causing them and reverse the cause. For some of us, the cause can’t be reversed and we have to learn how to live with dark circles. Using the right eye cream for dark circles can help make them less obvious by vasoconstriction, brightening, or building up collagen. To cover them up like a pro, wearing under eye make up in 4 easy steps will hide dark circles and make you look your best!