Did you know that dark circles are not caused by a lack of sleep but by blood that pools in the vessels close to the skin? Dark circles are the result of blood that pools in the vessels that lie close to the skin’s surface, which is why they can be almost impossible to hide. They can also arise when fat bulges out: light cannot be reflected properly, casting a shadow under the eye. Additionally, sun exposure can aggravate under-eye darkness by boosting melanin production, as can allergies since they cause the veins to become congested and enlarged. A lack of sleep, as well as dehydration, can emphasize dark under-eye circles, but nine times out of ten, sleep is not the culprit.
Some under-eye darkness is genetic and related to inherently thin skin. The thinner the skin is under the eye, the more pigmentation shows through. Loading up on vitamin K, both internally and with topical products, is a good option since it strengthens and clots blood vessels to stop the pooling that causes the darkness. When it comes to concealing under-eye circles and bags, reach for a creamy hydrating concealer as opposed to a blemish-fighting one, which may contain drying ingredients like salicylic acid that are usually too harsh for the under-eye area.
“Dark circles can be challenging to fix, especially if there are cultural or genetic ties,” says Richmond, VA, facial plastic surgeon Alan Burke, MD. “Hydroquinone can help to lighten the area to some degree if the problem is more about discoloration than shadowing. If the darkness is related to melasma, you’ll see more of a dramatic difference with a skin lightener.” Excessive sun exposure only intensifies dark circles, so always wear an SPF formulated for the eye area and protect your eyes from the sun at all times with sunglasses.
Another way to counteract dark circles if they are the result of excess fat is with hyaluronic acid fillers. “When injected into the shadows under the bag, they can camouflage the darkness by plumping up the area,” says Atlanta plastic surgeon Mark Codner, MD, who recommends this procedure for younger patients.
For the most dramatic difference, lower eyelid surgery should be performed. Once the protruding fat bag is tightened or removed, there is no puffy area to create a shadow, helping to diminish the dark circles.