This post was originally published in February 2020. Updated in January 2023.
Many people around the world have dark circles under their eyes, and this makes them feel anxious about their appearance. Sometimes, dark circles affect also children.
So the question is: What causes dark circles under eyes? Many factors can be responsible for causing dark circles under your eyes.
Lack of sleep is the most common factor as the area under the eyes appears to look purple, red, or even dark brown.
In this article, I will include the top factors that could cause dark circles under your eyes, how to treat them, and more FAQs.
Let’s jump straight into it…
Table of Contents
What Causes Dark Circles Under Your Eyes?
Having an allergic reaction makes your body release histamines to protect you against any harm.
Histamines make the blood vessels around your eyes dilate which results in discoloring the area around your eyes. They also cause redness and puffiness and make your eyes and nose itch.
It’s important not to rub the skin around your eyes as it can worsen the condition.
Excessive rubbing of your eyes causes swelling, inflammation, and broken blood vessels. And this can darken the area around your eyes even more.
2- Lack Of Sleep
When your body doesn’t get enough rest or sleep daily, dark circles start to appear under your eyes.
Lack of sleep makes blood vessels and dark tissues beneath your eyes more visible and your skin begins to look pale and dull.
Eye puffiness can also appear due to lack of sleep as fluid builds up underneath your eyes giving them that puffy appearance.
Plus, sleeping for long periods causes dark circles under the eyes.
Our skin becomes thinner and loses fat tissue around the eyes as we age. Blood vessels underneath the skin start also to become more visible as a result of losing collagen and fat tissue around the eye area which makes it look darker.
Plus, drinking too much alcohol can speed up the aging process which makes dark circles appear faster.
Genes could be to blame for having dark circles under your eyes. A study showed that the appearance of dark circles has a genetic basis.
So this condition runs in families and you may find one of your family members has it just like you. Visiting a dermatologist can help you get more information about your condition.
The dermatologist may also recommend specific lasers as a study showed that lasers can treat this condition in Asians.
Drinking enough water daily keeps your skin and body hydrated. Being dehydrated gives your skin a dull appearance and makes your eyes look hollow.
This happens because the area around the eyes is close to the underlying bone. So blood vessels start to look more visible due to dehydration which leaves a purple tint under your eyes.
Also, drinking too much alcohol dehydrates your body which causes blood vessels to become more evident and your face looks pale.
6- Overexposure To The Sun
When you expose your skin to the sun daily without protection, melanin production increases.
Melanin is the pigment that provides your eyes, skin, and hair with color. The more melanin your body produces, the darker your skin (especially around your eyes) becomes.
Overexposure to the sun can darken the area around your eyes and cause collagen breakdown. When collagen breaks down, eyelid skin may become thin, allowing veins to show.
Also, repeated exposure to sunlight can damage your skin causing erythema, burns, and skin cancer.
The area around your eyes is more sensitive and thinner than the rest of your body. So you should take good care of the eyelid skin area to avoid dark circles and wrinkles.
Sinus infection can dilate blood vessels which makes the area around your eyes look darker. Sinusitis is caused by viral infections, bacterial infections, or allergies.
Sinusitis symptoms include headache, fever, facial pain, sore throat, bad breath, and an overall feeling of tiredness. It’s an annoying condition that requires medical attention as it could cause serious complications.
So consult your doctor if you have sinusitis to help you feel better which will reduce dark circles.
8- Eye Strain
Watching TV or spending too much time on your phone for long periods can put a real strain on the eyes.
This makes your eyes burn and feel itchy and could give you headaches.
It makes the blood vessels around the eyes enlarge which makes the area under your eyes look darker.
Also, a study discovered that blue light from laptops and smartphones can harm our vision as it damages the eye’s retina.
In spite of the discovery, the experiments were not held on eyes themselves but in a lab setting, So scientists still don’t know for sure if the blue light from digital devices causes blindness. But you should consider decreasing your exposure to your digital devices.
9- Bone Structure
The way your eye socket is shaped could be the reason for causing the appearance of darkness around your eyes.
Deep tear troughs cause shadows and make the area under your eyes look darker.
So what should you do? Fillers are a safe nonsurgical procedure that can even out the eye area. Although fillers aren’t permanent, they help decrease the appearance of dark circles. And you can repeat the procedure every few months.
Toxins in cigarettes decrease estrogen levels and break down collagen which makes your skin thinner and less elastic.
This makes dark circles look worse due to collagen breakdown and fat tissue damage.
Also, if you don’t have dark circles, you’ll notice them start to appear under your eyes due to smoking.
Other studies showed that smoking affects the attractiveness of the female body and increases testosterone levels.
Anxiety and stress make you unable to rest or sleep well which will lead to dark circles.
Stress makes fragile capillaries around your eyes break causing blood to spread underneath your skin which forms a dark tint under the eyes.
It’s important to know how to manage stress before it affects your health and quality of life.
Prevention: How To Treat Dark Circles?
At-home remedies and medical treatment help reduce those circles under your eyes.
Some home remedies include:
- Sleep 7-9 hours a day.
- Keep your body hydrated.
- Elevate your head during sleep to reduce fluid pooling under your eyes. This helps prevent dark circles and puffiness.
- Apply a cold compress under your eyes for 10-20 minutes. A cold compress can reduce puffiness and shrink blood vessels.
- Wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen daily to protect your skin from sun damage.
- Apply cold caffeinated tea bags to your eyes to lessen dark circles and reduce swelling.
- Use concealer to cover the dark circles under your eyes, choose a concealer that suits your skin type as some products can irritate your skin and trigger an allergic reaction.
- Take your allergy medication if you always suffer from allergies. Medications improve breathing which prevents discoloration and swelling under the eyes.
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce your stress levels.
Medical treatments include:
- Eye creams and serums can lighten hyperpigmentation under the eyes. Certain eye creams contain vitamins C & E, kojic acid, hydroquinone, or azelaic acid can treat dark circles.
- A chemical peel can help lighten the skin under your eyes.
- Laser therapy can also tighten the skin and reduce pigmentation.
- Excess fat and skin removal ( blepharoplasty ) eliminate dark circles.
- Fillers and platelet-rich plasma reduce the appearance of dark circles.
For more information about home remedies and medical treatment, Check out this article: How To Get Rid Of Dark Circles Under Eyes For Good? 14 Tips
Consult a dermatologist if discoloration or puffiness forms under one eye only. Visit a doctor also if dark circles look worse.
Plus, it’s highly recommended to ask your doctor before trying out different home remedies.
What Deficiency Causes Dark Circles?
Vitamin deficiencies that could lead to dark circles include vitamins B12, C, K, E, and D.
Can Dark Circles Go Away?
Do Dark Circles Get Worse With Age?
Yes. Dark circles get worse with age due to restructuring of the bones of the cheeks, collagen breakdown, loss of skin elasticity.
Do Heart Problems Cause Dark Circles Under Eyes?
No. Usually, dark circles are an indication of lack of sleep, stress, or allergies. But in rare cases, it may be a sign of a heart or kidney problem.
The Bottom Line
Dark circles under the eyes can appear due to many reasons including heredity, aging, allergies, dehydration, stress, smoking, lack of sleep, and overexposure to the sun.
This could be embarrassing and frustrating for some people, and this makes dark circles have a negative impact on people’s life.
Usually, having dark circles is not a cause for concern. At-home remedies, lifestyle changes, and proper treatment can help you to get rid of dark circles under your eyes. Also, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the main key to combating dark circles.