You weren't up all night partying and you didn't pull an all-nighter to finish a big report. Unfortunately, you look like you did because you have dark circles under your eyes. These dark circles are actually hyper-pigmented areas that make that spot under your eye look darker than the skin that surrounds it. Shadows may appear in the hollows underneath your eyes due to your bone structure or develop as you age and your skin gets thinner. Your genes may also play a role -- sometimes shadows and pigmentation are hereditary and can be more common in certain races [source: Mayo Clinic].
Don't foist all the blame on your defenseless ancestors just yet. The harsh truth is that dark circles may reveal more about your lifestyle than you'd like. For instance, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can cause them; even overindulging in caffeinated sodas can lead to those raccoon-like rings. Sunbathers need to be especially careful because melanin -- the substance responsible for skin pigmentation -- can darken the delicate area under the eyes [source: Mayo Clinic].
Although they're not usually considered a serious medical condition, these dark circles can be a sign of something more severe than sleep deprivation. For example, some allergists believe that they're actually a symptom of asthma; parents may use their appearance as a sign that their child is about to have an asthma attack [source: CDC]. Sleep disorders also can cause dark circles, as can certain medications designed to dilate blood vessels. They also may indicate a vitamin K deficiency [source: DocShop].
If the circles are purely cosmetic, then you're in luck -- there are treatments available that will keep you from looking like a linebacker. Read on to discover a common kitchen item that will aid you in your quest for a well-rested look.
Natural Remedies for Dark Under-Eye Circles
Although there's no cure for dark under-eye circles if they're caused by extra pigmentation or bone structure, their appearance can be reduced [source: DocShop].
Several home remedies have been shown effective in diminishing dark circles, and many can be found in your kitchen:
- Place brewed and cooled teabags over the eyes for 15 minutes. Green tea bags may work better than black or herbal tea bags because green tea contains a natural anti-inflammatory chemical, EGCG, which can reduce puffiness [source: WebMD]. The caffeine in tea bags also works as a diuretic that pulls fluid from the eye sockets and reduces puffiness.
- Cover eyes with cucumber or potato slices. Cotton balls dipped in ice water may work just as well -- the cold reduces blood vessel expansion and puffiness.
- Position a cold compress over your eyes to reduce the inflammation of the blood vessels. Frozen peas make a great compress, as the peas will conform to your face. Wrap any type of ice pack in a towel before applying to the face to avoid ice burn.
- Extra ways to deter dark circles and prevent puffiness include sleeping on an extra pillow or two to keep fluids from forming in your lower eyelids [source: Mayo Clinic]. Applying a facial moisturizer containing sunscreen and wearing sunglasses every day helps fight unsightly under-eye circles.
- Modifying your diet can help reduce dark circles. Eliminating salty snacks like pretzels and potato chips can also work because salt makes many people retain water -- even around the eyes [source: WebMD]. Dark circles can be a sign of dehydration, so drinking more water will help hydrate skin. Eating foods rich in folic acid or taking a vitamin B and fish oil supplements is a good idea as well.
- Reducing stress and sleepiness in your life and reducing the length of time you spend on the computer or watching television will help tone down dark circles caused by fatigue [source: Safe Cosmetics]. If these simple remedies fail, then read on to learn other types of treatments that may be of use.
Cosmetic Remedies for Dark Under-Eye Circles
You've tried a veritable lunch menu on your face, but the dark circles persist. Your next step to bright and sunny eyes involves cosmetic remedies, which range from expensive and somewhat invasive surgeries to something as simple as a moisturizing skin cream containing vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E or retinol [source: Mayo Clinic].
Eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, treats the skin on the upper and lower eyelids, along with the skin around the eye, to reduce the appearance of dark circles. If the thought of a scalpel coming near your eyes terrifies you, never fear -- many laser treatments can have you in and out of the office in 45 minutes with little discomfort or recovery time [source: DermaNetwork].
Intense pulse laser (IPL) treatment is used by plastic surgeons to correct the excessive pigmentation that can cause dark circles. Doctors use an instrument that emits different wavelengths of light to destroy the melanin that makes those circles stand out. Chemical peels, can also be effective in eliminating circles because they exfoliate the damaged upper layers of skin to uncover the undamaged skin beneath.
Dermatologists and plastic surgeons may recommend injecting a dermal filler like collagen to eliminate hollow areas, or they may recommend fat grafting. Because you lose fat as you age and the skin becomes thinner, fat grafting can mask blood vessels that might otherwise show underneath the skin. During a fat graft, a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon will take some healthy fat cells from one part of your body and inject the cells into the area under your eyes [source: FacialPlasticSurgery].
If surgery isn't for you, try cosmetic products that bleach and exfoliate the skin. Most of these treatments contain ingredients that claim to make the iron in the blood soluble, so it will flush away with the product's use and thereby lighten the darkened area. Another option is to hit up the department store counter for special serums designed to eliminate dark circles [source: Wadyka].
A cheaper, easier remedy exists yet to fix those dark circles. Read on to discover what it is.
Makeup Application Tips for Dark Under-Eye Circles
If surgery is too expensive and creams just don't cut it, perhaps some good old-fashioned camouflage is in order. Try a light-reflecting concealer -- but be sure to choose one that's not white or gray because those won't work very well. Look for a yellow or gold base that will counteract the bluish color of the circles [source: Mayo Clinic]. If the concealer is too light, you'll end up with light circles instead of dark ones. Follow the concealer with a translucent face powder to seal it.
Some makeup artists recommend using a good under-eye moisturizing cream containing glycerin, sodium hyaluronate and vitamin E, which will hydrate the skin. They also suggest using one that contains vitamin K because it may constrict veins and capillaries. You can even mix the concealer with the moisturizer so it goes on more smoothly.
Try calling attention to your brow area and away from the under eye area by curling your lashes. Don't apply eyeliner or mascara to your lower lashes because it will draw too much attention to that area [source: Wadyka]. For a wide-eyed look, line the inner corners of your eyes with white eyeliner.
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- Bouchez, Colette. "Banish the Bags Under Your Eyes." WebMD. (Accessed 8/18/09) http://women.webmd.com/features/banish-the-bags-under-your-eyes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Help Your Child Gain Control over Asthma." (Accessed 8/18/09)http://www.epa.gov/asthma/pdfs/ll_asthma_brochure.pdf
- DermaNetwork. "Foto Facial™ Intense Pulse Light/IPL Treatments." (Accessed 8/18/09). http://www.dermanetwork.org/information/foto_facial_ipl.asp
- DocShop. "Undereye Circles." Einstein Industries. (Accessed 8/18/09)http://www.docshop.com/education/dermatology/skin-flaws/undereye-circles/
- FacialPlasticSurgery. "Fat Grafting Overview." 3/8/08. (Accessed 8/18/09)http://www.facialplasticsurgery.net/fat_grafting.htm
- Ghool Skool. "Halloween Makeup: Tips, Tricks and Techniques." (Accessed 8/18/09)http://www.ghoulskool.com/makeup.htm
- Mayo Clinic. "Dark Circles Under Eyes" 12/11/08. (Accessed 8/18/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dark-circles-under-eyes/MY00346
- Natural Homeremedies. "Concealer: Hiding Under Eye Dark Circles." (Accessed 8/18/09)http://www.natural-homeremedies.com/makeup-articles/concealer.htm
- Safe Cosmetics. "Under Eye Bags and Dark Circles." (Accessed 8/18/09)http://www.safecosmetics.co.uk/undereye-bags-dark-circles.html
- Wadyka, Sally. "12 Tricks for Radiant Eyes: Plagued by Dark Circles, Puffiness or the Wrong-Color Shadow? Top Experts Reveal Their Most Eye-Opening Secrets." Shape. (Accessed 8/18/09) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0846/is_6_22/ai_96277551/