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What Causes Dark Circles Under The Eyes? Here’s What You Need To Know

August 17, 2020 By

What causes dark under eyes circles? Whether it’s just genuine curiosity or out of sheer frustration (because they never seem to go away), knowing more about the sensitive skin in your under-eye area is an essential part of skincare — and a way to understand what may be going on with your dark circles.

While dark circles can be a pain when you’re trying to show off a glowing and youthful physical appearance, they generally shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. However, their presence can offer some insight into your current state of health and stress levels, making your interest in them definitely more than just skin-deep.1 It’s important to first talk with your primary care physician to rule out any medical issues. A dermatologist can also help you to identify the exact cause of your dark circles. From there you can learn how to best combat their appearance

what causes dark circles under eyes | City Beauty

Possible Causes: Why Dark Circles Appear

Dark circles may be related to genetics and skin tone. The thin skin underneath your eyes makes blood vessels much more visible, which could make this area look darker than the rest of your face. If you also happen to naturally have less fat in the eye area or you have a lighter skin tone, the skin around your eyes might appear more sunken and shadowed.2

Another way genetics may play a role? Those with darker skin tones can produce more pigmentation in the skin which is especially visible in the eye area. Facial structure also plays a part — for those with a more pronounced curve or groove from the inner corner of the eye to the cheekbone, darker circles can be a natural result. This curve or groove is often affected by aging and fat gain or loss in the face.3

Aside from the heredity element, there are other physical or lifestyle factors that may contribute to the appearance or worsening of dark under-eye circles. 

Allergies Or Atopic Contact Dermatitis

Allergies can trigger the body to release hormones as a response. This may affect the visible blood vessels underneath the eyes, causing a darker or more pigmented appearance. On a related note, eye dryness and itchiness due to allergies or another dermatological condition like allergic contact dermatitis may cause you to rub your eyes more frequently, further irritating the affected area.4

Iron Deficiency 

In some cases, an iron deficiency may contribute to a darkened eye area or more pronounced shadowing. This is because a lack of iron in the blood can cause oxygen saturation levels to drop, making blood vessels appear more visible.5

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Similarly, factors like hormonal shifts were also found to have the same effect on the eye area.6

Lifestyle Factors: Fatigue, Poor Sleep And Eating Habits, And Constant Sun Exposure

While it can seem like dark circles have deep physiological roots that are tough to control or change, there are also several lifestyle factors that may affect their presence or appearance. These include:

  • Lack of sleep or fatigue
  • Poor diet, high in salty foods
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive or prolonged sun exposure7

As you know, diet and sleep can have an effect on many areas of health. You’ll want to make sure you get plenty of fresh, whole foods, keep salt to a minimum, and drink plenty of water. When in the sun, always wear sunscreen and a hat to cover your face

Can Dark Circles Under The Eyes Be “Fixed”? 

This is a common question and concern, but one that needs further refining. Perhaps “fixing” is the wrong approach when it comes to dark circles. After all, if the circles are the potential result of genetics and the natural state of skin, what’s to “fix”? However, if their appearance is particularly bothersome, taking the aforementioned lifestyle factors into account may help manage their appearance. 

Again, a consultation with a dermatologist is needed to help you pin down a more targeted approach to dealing with dark circles, especially if yours are especially bothersome or obvious due to a potential health issue.  

But while it’s only good sense not to try or do anything harsh or invasive without the guidance of a trusted doctor, there are definitely simple and economical ways you can try to reduce the appearance of your shadowy eyes — without having to resort to invasive or pricey treatments.

Potential Ways To Reduce The Appearance Of Dark Circles Naturally

Here are some tweaks to your daily habits and beauty routine that may potentially help with the appearance of pesky dark circles.

sunscreen | City Beauty

Invest In Your Immune System

In addition to staying healthy enough to safeguard against allergies and illnesses that cause dark circles to appear, eating a diet rich in Vitamin C and iron may help improve the appearance of under-eye circles from the inside out. Vitamin C-rich foods can help the body produce more collagen — essential to keeping skin healthy and youthful-looking.8

Try Vitamin K

A study shows that a topical application of a Vitamin K-enriched moisturizing oil on the affected area can help give the appearance of lighter, younger-looking skin.9 You can also add this ingredient to your eye cream to boost its skin-brightening effects! 

Make Your Own Eye Cream With Almond Oil And Vitamin E

Make a moisturizing salve out of equal parts of almond oil and Vitamin E. Gently massage this mixture on your under-eye area at night. Carefully rinse off with cool water in the morning.10

Get Serious About SPF, Sleep, And Water Intake

Be more intentional with how you protect your under-eye area from the harsh rays of the sun since constant exposure might really amp up the pigmentation. Also, the most inexpensive, quickest ways to look more rested are to invest in sleep and water — lack of sleep and dehydration can really do a number on your eyes.11

Be Selective About Skin Care Ingredients

Be on the lookout for moisturizing and brightening skincare ingredients such as antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and radiance-boosting peptides These compounds can help improve the appearance and health of your delicate skin around the eyes.12

vitamin K oil | City Beauty

What About Puffy Eyes?

If your dark circles are accompanied by puffy bags, you can try changing your sleeping position to help ease water retention in your face. Add an extra pillow to prop your head up, and make sure you sleep on your back.13

Beyond that, talk to a dermatologist if your puffiness and dark circles seem particularly stubborn. Your doctor might want to try chemical peels (using ingredients like azelaic acid or trichloroacetic acid) to help resurface smoother, lighter skin.14,15

Eyes Offer A Peek Into Your Health

Some people believe the eyes are windows into a person’s overall health and fitness. As with all things skincare, try to take your health, sleep hygiene, and diet into account, and perhaps you’ll soon wake up to brighter eyes and a more glowing, rejuvenated appearance.


1. https://www.healthline.com/health/dark-circle-under-eyes
2. https://www.self.com/story/puffy-eyes-dark-circles-and-bags-dermatologists-explain-the-difference
3. https://www.self.com/story/puffy-eyes-dark-circles-and-bags-dermatologists-explain-the-difference
4. https://www.healthline.com/health/dark-circle-under-eyes#causes
5. https://www.duchyhospital.co.uk/news/what-your-eyes-reveal-about-your-health
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969674/
7. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/anti-aging/advice/a47990/how-to-get-rid-of-dark-circles-under-eyes/
8. https://www.allure.com/story/dermatologists-help-minimize-the-appearance-of-dark-circles
9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25625116/
10. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-dark-circles-permanently#treatment
11. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/anti-aging/advice/a47990/how-to-get-rid-of-dark-circles-under-eyes/
12. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-dark-circles-permanently#treatment
13. https://www.allure.com/story/dermatologists-help-minimize-the-appearance-of-dark-circles
14. https://www.byrdie.com/chemical-peels-should-you-get-a-glycolic-salicylic-or-tca-peel-345735
15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4756872/


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