The Lowdown on Under-Eye Circles

There are several causes for dark under-eye circles—many of them preventable—and no matter what the cause, there are things you can do to minimize their appearance.

Dark circles are caused by hyper-pigmentation under the eye. Dilated blood vessels lie just beneath the thin under-eye skin and show through, creating a bruised look. Several factors and cause this hyper-pigmentation, including:

  • Heredity
  • Allergies
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Vitamin Deficiencies
  • Eczema
  • Over-exposure to sun
  • Smoking
  • Too much caffeine
  • Aging, causing skin thinness and loss of fat & collagen

While they don't pose a medical problem, under eye circles can be unsightly. Here are some treatment options that can improve their appearance.

Everyday Solutions

Ease severity with something cold. Teabags, cold compresses, or even cold spoons against your eye area can help temporarily reduce over-dilated blood vessels.

Elevate your head when you sleep. The extra pillow can reduce fluid from pooling into your lower lids.

Reduce sun exposure. Sunglasses and sunscreen can protect against the over-production of melanin in the area.

Simple Treatments

Rinse your sinuses. If you have congestion or allergies, cleansing your sinuses with a saltwater bath (1/4 tsp. of sea salt in 2 cups of warm water) or a saline spray can help restore proper sinus flow and keep fluid from puddling under your eyes.

Apply topical ointments. Creams containing vitamins C, E, and/or K, plus retinol can lessen the appearance of under-eye circles and stimulate collagen production to thicken delicate skin.

Talk to your dermatologist about a lightening agent. A bleaching cream like hydroquinone can help lighten the pigment in the under-eye area

Camouflaging Agents

Conceal the problem. Due to the increasing number of people suffering from this problem, the quality of cosmetic concealers (especially options for darker skin) has grown. A good one will reduce discoloration without drying out the skin. Avoid products that contain salicylic or glycolic acid because they can irritate your skin. Also, choose a flesh-colored concealer rather than one that's too white or grey.

In-Depth Procedures

Try laser therapy. A variety of laser treatments have been somewhat successful on reducing under-eye circles, but they tend to work better on fairer skin, since dark skin can become even more hyper-pigmented. These work by stimulating collagen production, thickening the skin and making the darker blood vessels less apparent.

Plump up the area with injectible filler. If your circles are a result of aging, then a filler like Restylane might help with the problem (Please note that Restylane is not FDA approved for under-eye treatments, though dermatologists do use it for this purpose.) Other fillers include Juviderm or even unwanted fat taken from another part of your body.

Try a chemical peel. In some cases, a doctor-administered chemical peel can improve the problem by sloughing off an uneven, outer layer of skin. But because of the side-effects which include hyper-pigmentation, particularly people with darker skin should discuss the pros and cons of this procedure with their doctor.

The Mayo Clinic

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