Dark Circles: Take off that heavy look!

Blame it on late nights or long days at work. Waking up to dark circles waving back at you in the mirror is never fun!

The undereye area can really change your appearance and ‘perceived’ mood. A bright undereye gives you a fresh, youthful look, while dark circles (technically termed ‘ periorbital melanosis’) can make you look tired and older than your age.

Getting rid of dark circles can be tricky; it’s not really possible to get rid of them completely. Fortunately it is possible to improve and prevent them!

The ‘depth’ of the problem

Why, of all places on the face, does the under eye skin tend to appear darker?

There are 3 main factors at play:

  1. The skin below the eyes is the thinnest and the bluish veins underneath become visible for the slightest reasons.
  2. Pigmentation
  3. Under eye ‘hollowness’

Causes: Identify the Problem First, Then Find the Right Solution

Dark under-eye circles can be caused by a number of factors, some of which are modifiable. Click each factor to learn more!

Lifestyle factors (these are modifiable!) >
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Excessive screen exposure time: looking at the mobile/laptop screen for too long can strain the eyes
  • Stress
  • Not drinking enough water or dehydration
  • Too much tea or coffee; (intake of too much caffeine is not good, while applying creams containing caffeine is!)
  • Smoking: nicotine is a vasoconstrictor and makes the blood flow in the region sluggish & leads to production of oxygen radicals that damage collagen & elastin, thus weakening the support of that area
  • Alcohol causes dehydration, which will make your vessels more visible
  • Weight loss if excessive can also cause loss of fat in the under eye region
  • Not wearing glasses if you’ve been prescribed to: This also strains the eyes, fatigue of eye muscles and leading to increased blood flow and engorgement of the veins in the under eye area.
  • Rubbing of eyes frequently: This isn’t good for the undereye skin which is very thin and delicate. Besides dark circles it also leads to early appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
Hyperpigmentation >
  • Sun exposure can cause tanning
  • Seasonal allergies or underlying hormonal problems may also be contributory.
Genetic factors >
  • Dark circles can run in the family!
  • Some people just have deep-set eyes. This leads to a ‘shadow effect’ of the overhanging orbit margin, giving the eyes a ‘sunken’ appearance.
Medical considerations >

Ordinarily, one need not consider these since they would present with other symptoms as well and would be best assessed by your treating physician:

  • Nutritional deficiencies, such as that of Iron or B12
  • Nasal or skin allergies (atopy) can lead to darkness around the eyes. Moreover, one may rub the surrounding area exacerbating the darkness.
  • Irritant reaction or Allergy to certain substances that come in contact with that region (such as eye drops, cosmetics or even nail polish in someone repeatedly rubbing their eyes). Such cases are often associated itching, irritation, redness or flakiness in that area.
  • Hormonal imbalances (thyroid disorder, acanthosis nigricans).
Aging >

With age, gradual changes in fat distribution accentuate the depression between lower eye lid and cheeks. Also, the skin becomes more lax. These changes can worsen the appearance of dark circles.


It is extremely difficult to remove dark circles completely, and there isn’t a one-stop or permanent solution. However their appearance can be reduced in several ways.

Different solutions target different underlying causes:

Lifestyle factors >
  • The obvious thing is to make sure you get enough sleep (7 to 8 hours) and drink lots of water. Easier said than done, right? It needs to be made a priority.
  • Take screen breaks every half an hour; look away from the screen and blink a few times every now and then. Ensure a digital detox at least an hour before going to sleep.
  • Blue light, especially just before sleeping, is proven to disrupt the natural sleep cycle. In order to limit blue light exposure use a blue light filter or set your device to nighttime mode. This will also reduce eye strain and improve sleep quality.
  • Cut down on caffeine intake (tea, coffee).
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol.
  • If you have a refractive error, wear glasses.
  • Avoid rubbing eyes frequently.
  • Eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy diet would ensure adequate nutrients and anti-oxidants in your system!
  • Destress!
Hyperpigmentation >
  • Make sure you use a sunscreen even when indoors and in front of a screen.
  • Invest in a pair of oversized sunglasses to completely cover the eye for further protection
  • Do not apply anything that would irritate your skin in that region.
  • Under eye creams or serums containing the following ingredients are useful (though not curative and may need to applied on a long-term basis for consistent results):
    • Arbutin, Azelaic acid, Kojic acid, Niacinaminde are all mild lightening agents
    • Caffeine can help by constricting the diameter of blood vessels, thus reducing the violaceous discoloration of the area. Vitamin K also reduces this.
    • Retinol and Vitamin C not only reduce pigmentation but also reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
  • You could undergo certain procedures at your dermatologistā€™s office to reduce the hyperpigmentation aspect of dark circles:
Chemical peels

The procedure uses mild-strength, alpha hydroxy acids, such as 10 to 20% glycolic acid, 30% lactic acid, mandelic acid, kojic acid etc. Multiple (8 to 10) sessions may be required. This lightens hyperpigmentation under the eyes by shedding pigmented skin gradually so that brighter skin can replace it.

PRP or ‘platelet rich plasma’

The dermatologist takes your blood sample, centrifuges it to make a platelet concentrate and injects it in carefully the under eye area.

Laser & Energy based devices

This is done with low power settings and under careful eye protection by an experienced dermatologist.

Genetic factors & Aging >
  • Creams containing retinol not only brighten the under-eye area but also tighten it to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
  • There are also dermatological procedure to ‘fill’ the under-eye area hollowness

Hyaluronic acid fillers injected into the tear troughs can re-plump the area for about a year after which the effect wanes off. This should be performed only by a qualified dermatologist.

Medical considerations >

These are best assessed and handled by your treating physician.

Tips for concealing >

Cover up/camouflage your dark your circles!

  • Moisturise and hydrate under eye area well by using bland/fragrance free moisturizer
  • When it comes to concealing dark circles, you can balance them out by using opposite shades that will ā€˜cancelā€™ the color. Itā€™s all about finding the right tone to color correct the particular shade of your dark circles. If your under eyes have a bluish undertone, you should neutralize the area with a concealer with a orange/peachy undertone.
  • Donā€™t forget to remove your eye-makeup before sleeping!
Home remedies >
  • Green tea: Green tea is packed with caffeine, which can help to shrink the blood vessels in your under eyes, reducing inflammation in the veins and skin. Applying frozen tea bags for 5 to 10 minutes reduces puffiness and instantly brightens the under eye area.
  • Sweet almond oil: Itā€™s rich in Vitamin E and K, both of which will brighten the undereye, while it will also help improve circulation, and it has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce any morning swelling. If you do this every night, you should be able to notice a difference in a few weeks.

Treat your under-eye skin and gain a healthy brighter look!

Glow & Grow! šŸ™‚

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Published by Dr. Kanya Rani Vashisht

Dermatologist by day. Dreamer by dusk.

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