6 Proven Causes Of Dark Circles Under Eyes

Among all the crazy trends on TikTok, the one on highlighting eyebags enticed people during the pandemic. People consider dark brown circles a stigma which makes it more relevant to know the causes of dark circles under eyes.

There is plenty of research on people’s concerns about their body image which implies that they’re not happy with their ‘looks’. A YouGov study on Britishers of different ages has clear indications of society’s predominant concern with good looks.

The study reveals that 46 percent of people have the opinion that looks matter the most. Women’s share is 52 percent and 39 percent of men think the same, in which 61 percent of women are young.

Furthermore, 87 percent of them consider that society is biased towards looks and personality, and people having these traits get the upper hand.

Social media, too, acts as a catalyst seeping negativity through the cracks of their injured self-esteem given the fact that “dark circles under the eyes usually aren’t a medical problem”, as Mayo Clinic points out. However, they can be a sign of other medical conditions.

In this article, you’re going to go over the underlying causes of the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. We will also discuss their treatment on various levels.

1. How Common Is the Appearance of Dark Circles?

A study was conducted to know whether periorbital hyperpigmentation 1(POH) is related to habits and other medical issues in Indians.

Following are the points the study presented –

  • Periorbital hyperpigmentation is common.
  • High marketing of cosmetic products confirms its prevalence in the absence of evidence-based studies.
  • 30.76 percent of people had POH of which most (47.50%) were between 16 to 25 years old.
  • 51.50 percent of them had constitutional POH, the most common in Indian participants (as opposed to emerging from other issues) in which 76.69 percent of cases were genetic.
  • Patients found that stress increased dark circles and 71 percent of patients with dark eye circles reported higher stress.
  • It’s been found in 81% of women which was more than in men.

2. Is Lack of Deep Sleep a Cause of Dark Circles Under the Eyes?

This study stated that 40 percent of participants described a lack of quality sleep as bringing about dark circles under the eyes. Less sleep gives way to stress and fatigue which ultimately lead to developing dark circles.2

However, another study on 495 Brazilian females (13-71 years old) found it to be a mere ‘misconception’. In other words, varying sleep patterns with resulting tiredness and under-eye circles aren’t interrelated.

The underlying cause that stands out was hereditary with 71.9 percent of participants claiming it. Melanin had the main influence on the appearance and aggravation of dark pigmentation among other biological factors in different studies.

When your night work schedules are unescapable or you’ve had adequate sleep of seven to eight hours to not point it out as the cause, other reasons are to blame for your dark eye circles.

3. Common Physiological and Lifestyle Causes of Dark Circles Under Eyes

3.1 Genetics

There can be different causes of dark circles under the eyes, but a study on Brazilian females found them to be hereditary, above all. 71.9 percent of them claimed it to be a genetic factor while 28.1 percent didn’t.

The shape of the face in which the eyes tend to be droopy can create the effect of shadows or bags under the eyes. Besides, people with darker skin color can have visible dark under-eye circles as the skin produces excessive melanin providing the skin with more pigment than required.

Excessive sun exposure or the natural aging process can cause the skin to lose elasticity and collagen, leaving it pale and weak. In some people, thinner skin can make the hidden blood vessels appear on the outer surface in the form of dark pigmentation.

3.2 Sun Exposure

A photo of a young woman.
Photo by Lola Russian on Pexels

Firstly, the sun’s rays tan you when you come in contact with those ultraviolet rays without any protection. Overexposure to the skin can cause UV rays to affect your cells when the melanin tries to fight them off. This process causes excessive melanin production leading to darker pigmentation.

Moreover, as per the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, your body undergoes various types of discoloration during the lifespan such as pimple spots, melasma spots, or freckles. This is due to the aging process and sunburn. The resulting darkening of the skin is called hyperpigmentation 3in which some areas of your body appear darker than others.

This results from the accumulation of melanin. When melanin-affected areas are further exposed to the sun, the hyperpigmented areas experience even more discoloration and the most thinning skin such as the under-eye area looks darker or produces a shadowy effect.

3.3 Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a serious condition affecting 16.5 million adults in the U.S. It’s like eczema but more severe which leads to inflammation and dry skin, thus discoloration of the skin happens. It’s likely to be hereditary as well.

The cycle of itchiness, inflammation, and rashes may create dark patches anywhere on the skin. Excessive rubbing due to eczema results in broken blood vessels beneath the eyes which prompts dark circles to be more evident.

3.4 Dehydration

Water is too common that you too can ignore it easily causing dehydration which can be the result of excessive loss of liquids with its low supply.

Dehydration is one of the common causes of dark circles under the eyes. Lay Press reports that 75 percent of Americans frequently experience dehydration, whereas the aged are at higher risk of developing it.

Dehydration causes sunken eyes in older people which might be misunderstood as dark circles because it leaves shadows that perfectly make the impression of dark under-eye circles.

The HuffPost article informs that it might not be that the surrounding skin of the eyes is dark, but it looks dark due to the sunken eyes.

Suggested Reading: 15 Natural Eye bag Removal Remedies

3.5 Age

A black and white photo of old woman with closed eyes.
Photo by Jessika Arraes on Pexels

Dark circles can make you look old and even become prominent as you get older. It all comes down to the periorbital area which is the most delicate skin and it weakens even more as you mature, most probably due to the lack of skin care.

The skin primarily has three layers supported by collagen and elastin fibers through each layer. The outer layer epidermis contains skin cells producing melanin. Some of these cells, called melanocytes, decrease and others increase due to aging causing the accumulation of remaining melanin which triggers dark circles under the eyes.

Besides, when the skin loses its elasticity and weakens causing the outer layer to wither away, the blood vessels beneath the inner layer become visible. Those visible veins and loose skin (due to less collagen production) give the impression of dark under-eye circles.

3.6 Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency occurs in the human body due to the loss of iron for some reasons like an unbalanced diet. The loss of iron causes less production of red blood cells leading to anemia. These blood cells do the job of oxygen supply throughout your body with the present hemoglobin.

Fewer RBCs mean low oxygen which leads to tired-looking and pale skin.

3.7 Other causes of dark circles under the eyes

Excessive alcohol consumption and caffeine can dry out your skin making it more vulnerable to dark marks. Allergies and resulting inflammation, poor blood circulation, and an improper diet with day-to-day stress are the worst enemies of your skin, especially the sensitive area around your eyes.

4. How Do I Reduce Dark Circles Under the Eyes?

Just as these deadly-looking dark eye circles have several reasons to take over the charm of your face, they’ve several treatment options too. You can’t completely erase the appearance of infraorbital dark circles4 under your eyes, but making a few lifestyle changes and undergoing medical treatments can minimize their presence.

4.1 Avoiding Alcohol

  • Smoking
  • Too much caffeine
  • Late-night schedules
  • Excessive stress

To some extent can certainly ease the baggage around your eyes.

4.2 Balanced Living

Proper hydration of the skin is irreplaceable and the best bet for the overall health of your skin including skin beneath the under-eye area.

Eating hydrating food, limiting drinks and caffeine, protecting from UV rays, and moisturizing skin with a lotion containing hyaluronic acid which has super hydrating properties and gives you a brightening look when used with Vitamin C, another vital agent in reducing hyperpigmentation can essentially soothe worries about your eye bags. Also, daily application of moisturizing eye cream can help reduce puffy eyes, as per Kiehl’s.

4.3 Quick Fix

Treating those circles is no kid’s play and takes time. But does it mean you’d miss out on proms and gatherings? Essentially not! Your best mate, make-up is just one step away from you. This instant fix can hide off your dark shadows like a dream but only when you know the trick.

That’s pretty easy as covered by the fashion magazine Vogue in just 6 easy steps –

A black woman applying concealer under the eyes.
Photo by George Milton on Pexels
  • Start by prepping your eyes by applying a cold compress method like cold tea bags or a spoon around the eye area to help them relax before you start setting the make-up.
  • Form a base by gently using an eye cream which helps in settling down the products along with providing a hydrating effect to the eyes.
  • Apply a little foundation under your eyes and blend it smoothly with your fingers or a beauty blender. When it comes to choosing the right shade of foundation, blend a dark and light shade from your jawline to the neck and see if it matches your skin tone in both areas (jawline and neck).
  • Apply a little color corrector to neutralize the pigmentation by using a blender. Use an orange corrector for darker tones and a peach shade for lighter ones.
  • Blend well with a tint of concealer (a shade lighter than your skin tone) in a push-press method to visibly lift the under-eye skin.
  • Fix the final result by applying the setting spray for dry or setting powder for shiny skin with a small powder brush.

4.4 Home Remedies

  • Massaging aloe vera under your eyes gently can reduce the puffiness, lighten dark circles, and moisturize the skin because it has antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties, said an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.
  • Coffee is known for its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Soaking coffee beans in hot water and then using the water as ice cubes for a cold compress or simply applying its powder with milk as a pack can shrink the dilated blood vessels and irradiate the skin instantly.
  • Medical treatments like bleaching creams, laser therapy, chemical peels, and topical creams can help lighten hyperpigmentation of the eye area and procedures like dermal fillers can reduce the effect of the shadows cast by the puffy eyelids.

5. FAQs

5.1 What Are the Causes of Dark Circles Under Eyes in Kids?

Dr. Cindy L. E. Gellner, a pediatrician, shared in a podcast that dark circles can appear due to genetics and sinusitis, and a blocked nose by a cold. It doesn’t always have to do with some big issue like anemia unless you see the symptoms of a visible disease in which case seeing a professional is recommended.

5.2 How to Reduce the Overproduction of Melanin in Your Skin?

Your skin gets its pigment from melanin but too much of it can result in darkened appearance which mainly happens due to extreme sun exposure. The best choice is to limit outdoor activities during the peak hours of sunlight and wear broad-spectrum sunscreen or carry an umbrella at best when you do go out.

Barely touching soft spots on your skin with your hands to prevent it from hyperpigmentation and adding Vitamin C to your skincare essentials do a great deal of work to keep the overproduction of melanin at bay.

5.3 How Can a Healthy Diet Prevent Dark Circles?

Including iron-rich foods and vitamins C, E, and K in your diet, such as fish, lentils, green veggies, olives, broccoli, and citrus fruits, is a never-failing way to embrace glowing skin with rare chances of dark circles.

  1. Sarkar, Rashmi, et al. “Periorbital hyperpigmentation: a comprehensive review.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology 9.1 (2016): 49. ↩︎
  2. Freitag, Fernanda Magagnin, and Tania Ferreira Cestari. “What causes dark circles under the eyes?.” Journal of cosmetic dermatology 6.3 (2007): 211-215. ↩︎
  3. Briganti, Stefania, Emanuela Camera, and Mauro Picardo. “Chemical and instrumental approaches to treat hyperpigmentation.” Pigment cell research 16.2 (2003): 101-110. ↩︎
  4. Vrcek, Ivan, Omar Ozgur, and Tanuj Nakra. “Infraorbital dark circles: a review of the pathogenesis, evaluation and treatment.” Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery 9.2 (2016): 65. ↩︎

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