Dark circles under eyes

Definition

Dark circles under the eyes happen when the skin beneath both eyes becomes darker than usual.

Causes

Dark circles under the eyes are usually more noticeable when you're tired. Other lifestyle factors that may contribute to dark circles under the eyes are smoking, drinking too much alcohol and stress.

Sometimes, what looks like dark circles may be shadows cast by puffy eyelids or hollows under the eyes that develop with aging.

Some of the most common causes of dark circles under the eyes are:

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Fatigue
  • Genetics
  • Rubbing or scratching your eyes
  • Skin changes that happen with aging
  • Changes in skin color. These changes may be from melasma or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, both of which are more common in people with brown or Black skin.
  • Sun exposure

When to see a doctor

Dark circles under the eyes usually aren't a medical problem. If you notice changes under just one eye that get worse over time, talk to a healthcare professional.

If you want to improve the look of the under-eye area, you might try makeup and home remedies. If they don't help, talk with a doctor who specializes in conditions of the skin. This type of specialist is called a dermatologist.

Your doctor may suggest prescription creams and other treatments to improve the look of your skin. Laser therapy or chemical peels can be helpful to some people. Injectable fillers can smooth the hollows that cause shadows. Other options are platelet-rich plasma injections and surgery to reduce puffy lids.

Self-care

Mild to moderate dark circles often respond well to habits and home remedies, such as:

  • Putting something cold on the undereye area. Visible blood vessels may contribute to dark circles under your eyes. Try holding a cold, wet cloth against the area to help shrink the blood vessels. Or use a cold teaspoon or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a soft cloth.
  • Using products made to treat dark circles. Many eye patches are available to buy without a prescription. While none are regulated by the FDA, they do use ingredients that have been shown in studies to reduce the appearance of dark circles to some degree. Look for the ingredients kojic acid, caffeine and vitamin K.
  • Raising your head with pillows. When you go to bed, raise your head with pillows. This helps prevent puffiness caused by fluid pooling in your lower eyelids.
  • Sleeping more. Although short nights alone don't usually cause undereye circles, a lack of sleep may make shadows and circles you already have more obvious.
  • Using sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen generously. Reapply every two hours, or more often if you're swimming or sweating. Many moisturizers contain sunscreen.
  • Avoiding drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol overuse may contribute to dark circles under the eyes.
  • Stopping smoking. If you smoke, try to quit. There are many options for stop-smoking services and products to help you quit.
  • Treating any underlying medical conditions. Some conditions can contribute to dark circles. Examples are eczema and melasma. Talk with your healthcare team to get any such condition under control. This may help lessen the appearance of the dark areas.

Last Updated Oct 11, 2023


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