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What are the causes and treatment of under eye dark circles?

Dr. Dhananjay Chavan

Jan 6, 2019

Dark Circles: Why They Occur And How To Treat Them

Do you look into the mirror and find a person staring back at you, who looks older than you actually feel in mind or body otherwise? Has the “I’m tired” look become the norm for you? Do the bags beneath your eyes render you with low self-esteem and insecurities?

Well, it’s not you, but the dark circles that stand guilty.

While fatigue is the more common cause, there are many others. Let’s take a look.

  • Hereditary: Yes, of all the things that could possibly be inherited, dark circles are one of them. They appear in childhood, and while some children outgrow them, some don’t.
  • Age: Growing old is as inevitable as time, as is reflecting the skin signs of this dogmatism. The skin beneath the eyes is thinnest, and it grows even thinner with age; plus, we also lose the fat and collagen from around the eyes, making the skin seem translucent and the dark circles more prominent and permanent.
  • Sleep deprivation: While it’s the most common cause for the bags underneath your eyes, and also the easiest to prevent or rectify, the catch is, that oversleeping too can lead to developing dark circles. Sleeping on your stomach especially gives your face a puffy look and makes the bags appear bigger since they cause more blood and fluid to pool to the face during the night.
  • Allergies, Asthma and Eczema: Nasal congestion can dilate the blood vessels that drain from the area around eyes, darkening them. Also, anything that causes the eye or the area around it to itch, become red or painful, points towards an allergic reaction. And when your eye feels itchy, the scratching and rubbing of skin around them can contribute to darker circles.
  • Anemia: Iron deficiency is the most common cause, and more than half the female population suffers from it in a country like India. Insufficient oxygen gets delivered to the eye tissues, discoloring the surrounding area, and also making the veins more visible.
  • Living on the edge. Excessive indulgence in smoking, alcohol, caffeine, amphetamines, etc and suffering from stress, physical, psychological, or emotional, could all manifest in the form of dark circles under the eyes.
  • Fluid retention: As seen in pregnancy, weight gain, increased salt intake, and other conditions can increase the puffiness around the eyes, casting shadows and making the dark circles more conspicuous.
  • Medications: Any medicine that causes blood vessels to dilate, will cause the dark circles to darken.
  • Periorbital hyperpigmentation: Here, more melanin is produced around the eyes, darkening the area. This is seen on excessive exposure to the sun and in skin pigmentation abnormalities.

Although genetics and aging remain indisputable, resolving the remaining causes, making lifestyle changes, and caring for your skin is your best bet in fighting off dark circles.

Here’s how to battle them:

Home Remedies: These address a variety of causes, including genetics and aging; and while they may not completely eliminate the enemy, they certainly improve its appearance.

  • Cold compress: Using either a cold washcloth, bag of frozen peas, cold tea bags, or cooled cucumbers can be soothing and improve circulation beneath the eyes. Massaging the eye area with ice cubes also works.
  • Applying topically natural ingredients rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K would also help to lighten the dark circles and maintain the skin integrity. Lemons, papayas, tomatoes, cucumbers, kiwis, berries, almond oil, olive oil, eggplant, and banana peel are some examples.

Lifestyle changes: May initially be difficult to incorporate but would be worth the effort by not only gifting you with flawless, glowing skin, but also a healthier outlook overall, and renewed vitality for life.

  • Sleep: Quality sleep is important for eradicating dark circles, and also for your immune system, memory, heart health, and other functions. Sleep for at least 8 hours a day, in a position that best affords you restful sleep. Prefer sleeping on your back, with head elevated with an extra pillow to avoid pooling of fluid beneath your eyes.
  • Vices: Quit smoking. Limit alcohol. Follow each drink with a glass of water.
  • Caffeine: I know most people can’t function without a few glasses of caffeine in the morning, but this severely dehydrates your skin and makes dark circles more prominent. Instead, applying it topically has a mild constricting effect on the blood vessels, making them less prominent.
  • Combat stress: With yoga, meditation, counseling, hobbies, etc.
  • Itch: Get your allergies treated with antihistamines and other medications.
  • Avoid sun exposure, use sunscreen (SPF 30) daily.
  • Moisturise! The skin under the eyes is delicate, and often less oily than on rest of the face. To prevent it from drying, which would make the dark circles worse, moisturize frequently. Apply at night so that the skin can absorb it and repair itself.


 Make-up can be used to conceal, if not cure dark circles. Start with a moisturizer, build-up with foundation make-up and then use a blush or concealer with a brush. Apply with a light hand to avoid the cakey appearance, which makes dark circles seem worse, and avoid powder makeup for dry skin.

Medical and surgical correction:

 Topicals: Topical creams containing alpha hydroxy acids can help thicken the skin around the eyes, reducing dark circles.

  • Chemical peelsThey remove the outer layer of skin, leaving behind a smoother, fairer look. The peels are available in three strengths, depending on the depth of penetration: superficial, medium, deep. Because the periorbital skin is so delicate, we use the weakest variant, superficial, containing chemical compounds like glycolic acids or alpha hydroxy acids to treat dark circles.
  • Fat transfer: This also helps plump up the area, by restoring volume and reducing the hollowed eye appearance; and the effects last longer than seen with fillers.
  • Microdermabrasion: Exfoliates the outer layer of skin, encouraging new cells to grow. Both chemical peels and microdermabrasion are particularly effective when the cause for dark circles is hyperpigmentation.
  • Laser skin resurfacing: It destroys the melanin that darkens skin, tightens loose skin, removes excess skin responsible for the ‘baggy’ appearance, and stimulates collagen to thicken skin, thereby reducing dark circles. However, it is expensive, painful, takes a few weeks to heal, and with possible risks of scarring. So resort to it only if none of the above measures have worked, and if you’re really willing and determined to be rid of them.
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): This treatment uses light, too, like lasers to rejuvenate skin and remove dark circles; but rather than damaging the outer layer of skin, it closes off any capillaries or vessels beneath the skin surface, causing them to fade. Several treatments will be required to achieve noticeable results.
  •  Eyelid surgery: This involves removing excess skin around the eyes and reshaping skin.
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