Dark Circles

Dark undereye circles can be caused by a host of different things from heredity to allergies to poor sleep. Treatments include eye cream, intense pulsed light therapy, skin resurfacing and injectable fillers, but before you choose one it's important to determine the cause.

This is a common problem and are frequently described as "tired eyes." Although dark circles may be the result of facial aging, they can affect both men and women of all ages and have a variety of causes.

Dark eye circles and eye bags can leave you looking 10 years older.

Dark eye circle causes

According to medical experts in the RealSelf community, possible dark circles causes include issues related to facial aging, lifestyle choices, and other causes, which include the following:

Facial aging and dark circles

  • Volume loss or fat descent in the cheeks
  • Under eye volume loss
  • Lower eyelid (canthus) laxity
  • Thinning under eye skin
  • Bulging under eye fat

Lifestyle choices and under eye circles

  • Smoking
  • Hyperpigmentation caused by sun damage
  • Caffeine consumption
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Dehydration
  • Dietary deficiencies

Other causes of dark under eye circles

  • Hyperpigmentation caused by melasma
  • Allergies
  • Nasal congestion
  • Medical conditions (eczema, thyroid problems, etc.)
  • Venous congestion in under eye blood vessels
  • Environmental exposure
  • Heredity
Dark circles under eyes treatment

Before undergoing dark circles treatment, it is important to know exactly what is causing the dark circles. Treatment for dark circles caused by allergies will be different from a dark circles treatment designed to correct bulging under eye fat.

In some cases, a combination of treatments may be appropriate, especially if there are multiple factors causing your dark circles.  Common procedures doctors recommend to get rid of dark circles include the following (from least invasive):

Dark circle eye cream

Skin lightening with topical bleaching agents may be recommended by your dermatologist to reduce dark circles caused by hyperpigmentation from melasma or sun damage.

Creams like Tri-Luma, which contains hydroquinone, are often recommended, as are products that contain kojic acid, Vitamins C and K, green tea, and licorice.

IPL for eye circles

When blood vessels are visible as dark purple or blue under eye circles, intense pulsed light therapy (IPL or Photofacial) may be suggested to reduce these dark circles.

Not all doctors agree that it is safe to use IPL near the eyes, however some do recommend it for vascular pigmentation issues, such as dark circles under the eyes.

Skin resurfacing for under eye circles

Laser resurfacing and chemical peel may be used to help reduce dark circles by increasing collagen production, decreasing pigmentation problems, and improving overall skin quality. However, laser treatments and chemical peels are most effective when used as part of a combination approach in treating dark circles.

Hyaluronic acid facial fillers for dark circles

Injectable fillers containing hyaluronic acid are often used to correct dark circles created by thinning under eye skin or fat and tissue loss in the under eyes or upper cheeks. Restylane is a commonly recommended hyaluronic acid filler for restoring volume to the tear trough or upper cheek area.

Hyaluronic acid fillers are absorbed by the body within a few months to one year, so results are temporary. The only permanent filler typically recommended for the under eye area is a patient's own fat.

Fat injections to get rid of dark circles

Like hyaluronic acid fillers, fat may be grafted from another body area and injected in the tear troughs to treat dark circles. Fat injections (or fat transfer) are typically recommended for correction of dark circles caused by thinning under eye skin or fat and tissue loss in the under eyes or upper cheeks.

Unlike hyaluronic acid fillers, fat injection results may be permanent, however results are not guaranteed, as fat cells don't always survive the fat transfer process.

Surgery for eye circles

Eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, is generally the most effective way to permanently get rid of dark circles.

There are multiple approaches to lower eyelid surgery, and when it is performed to diminish dark circles, it is often combined with one or more of the following surgical procedures: arcus marginalis release, placement of tear trough implants, and the addition, removal, or repositioning of under eye fat.

Cheek lift to correct darkening under eyes

A cheek lift, or mid-facelift, can effectively and permanently correct dark circles caused by cheek descent, or drooping, a common result of facial aging.

In addition to treating dark circles, a cheek lift may be performed to reduce under eye puffiness and deep nasolabial folds.

Dark circles creams

Although over-the-counter eye creams rarely provide a long-term solution with significant results, they may help to reduce or temporarily mask dark circles. Popular products for treating dark circles include:

  • RevaleSkin Eye Replenishing cream
  • SkinCeuticals Eye Gel
  • Neutrogena Radiance Boost Eye Cream
  • Olay Definity Eye Illuminator
  • Hylexin Serious Dark Circles Eye Cream
  • Ren Skincare Active 7 Radiant Eye Maintenance Gel
  • Olay Total Effects Eye Transforming Cream
  • Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Set

Dark eye circle prevention

There are simple things you can do to alleviate dark circles under your eyes. Sometimes the problem is minor or temporary, in which case an inexpensive home treatment may be appropriate.

  • Get enough rest. Sleep deprivation only makes dark eye circles more obvious.
  • A gently applied black tea bag or cold compress can reduce blood vessel dilation.
  • To decrease pigmentation, protect against the sun by wearing (large) sunglasses.
  • Slight elevation of the head during sleep will help prevent fluids from draining toward the eyes.
  • Refrain from smoking.  If you already smoke, quit now.
  • Nasal decongestants, such as saline spray or a saltwater solution, can help prevent blood vessel dilation.
  • Don't rub the area around the eyes; it will only make the condition worse.
     

More about under eye dark circles on RealSelf

Sources: Mary Lupo, MD; Arnold Oppenheim, MD; Erik Austin, DO; Jordana Gilman MD; Don Mehrabi, MD; Otto Placik MD; D.J. Verret, MD; Raffy Karamanoukian, MD