Dark circles under our eyes can mean we partied a little too long the night before, but if you find they never seem to go away, no matter how much shut eye you get, it's possible there may be something else going on.
Dark circles are a big concern because they make us look tired and older; two things that definitely undermine looking our best. Sometimes, dark circles are an indication of a health problem like allergies, but usually they're due to other, not so serious, causes. If you're tired of being asked if you're tired, read on to see if any of these common causes might apply to your situation.
The skin under our eyes is very delicate and thin. It's only 1/2mm, as opposed to the 2mm skin on the rest of our body. As a result, the reddish-blue blood vessels just under the skin are often noticeable, especially as we age, or if something unhealthy is going on. Typically, the darkness comes from what's called "hollowing" and not dark skin. As we get older, we lose body fat and collagen under the eyes, and the area literally sinks or hollows, making the orbital bone (bone that circles the eye) more prominent. This can start happening in our late 30s, and unfortunately, hollowing doesn't discriminate against men – it happens to us, as well as women.
Thinning skin caused by aging (yes, the 1/2 mm skin gets even thinner) accompanies hollowing and only adds to the darkness. The somewhat transparent skin allows the color caused by close-to-the-surface blood vessels to really show through. If extremely thin skin is a problem, under eye creams containing caffeine help constrict vessels and reduce darkness. For hollowing that causes shadowing, injectable fillers of hyaluronic acid, such as Juvederm and Restylane, fill the contours and eliminate the hollowness. These injections last about eight months and have a hefty price tag – $500 to $800 – but they do work.
Heredity often causes dark circles, so if family members have them also, chances are genetics are to blame, which makes eliminating them a bit challenging. People of color, especially Blacks and Asians, often have pigmentation issues around the eyes, making the skin darker than other areas of the face; however, anyone can have under-eye discoloration. According to Joseph Eviatar, MD, a New York ophthalmic (eye) plastic surgeon – if you pull the skin sideways and the darkness turns blotchy, that's evidence the problem is caused by excess pigment in the area. So, everyone go get a mirror and check it out! Seriously; it's a good way to help figure out if it's a pigmentation issue or not.
It's not easy fighting mother nature, but it can be done when it comes to dark circles. Skin lightening creams that contain either hydroquinone or kojic acid are effective. Lasers, such as IPL or intense pulse light, can help by destroying skin darkening pigment cells. Typically, a series of four IPL treatments is needed to get results. They aren't cheap, about $200 each, but may be the way to go if nothing else works and the cost is within your budget. Chemical peels are also effective in reducing darkness; however, make sure you have a knowledgeable practitioner do the treatment. Always use someone with good credentials to perform any procedure, but a chemical peel that puts acid close to the eyes requires the special skill of a professional. Please don't do a chemical peel to yourself... since you have a lot more to lose than nasty circles.
If heredity and age aren't causing your dark circles, see if any of these typical reasons have your name on them:
Smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol definitely take their toll around the eyes, as does stress – both emotional and physical. Eliminating dark circles caused by lifestyle habits is a no-brainer, so if guilty pleasures are responsible for making you look like you were in a fist fight, you might want to slow down on your consumption. Reducing stress isn't always so easy (not that quitting smoking or drinking is), but if stress is a major problem in your life, find ways to get it under control. The sooner the better!
Allergies of all kinds, especially seasonal allergies, can make us look like raccoons. Nasal congestion and other inflammatory responses are usually the reasons for dark circles triggered by allergies. Address any allergies you have, and, hopefully, skin will lighten up. To help the process along, use of an antihistamine can be beneficial. My favorite antidote is a neti pot or neti squeeze bottle. Twice a day, I flush my sinuses with salt water to relieve allergies. Flushing makes breathing easier and reduces sinus infections, so try it... you'll like it!
Unfortunately, some guys who have this skin condition develop dark circles. It would be best to speak with your doctor about safe dark circle treatment.
Under-eye areas can darken from congestion because vessels dilate and bring more blood and color to the area. Address congestion with appropriate medications and/or a neti pot.
The sun causes skin to make more melanin (pigment that gives skin its color), which darkens under-eye areas the same way it darkens the rest of the body. Wearing adequate sunscreen and wearing sunglasses will help avoid excessive darkening. Avoiding the sun when possible will be most effective. Be very careful when applying sunscreen around the eyes because if it gets into them, it will be very uncomfortable. To apply, only dab sunscreen on the orbital bone. It will then spread up onto the under-eye skin on its own. If it still gets into your eyes, apply it even lower the next time.
Rubbing and scratching eyes
The friction and pressure created by rubbing the delicate under-eye area can cause irritation and possible vessel breakage, often resulting in dark circles. If you're rubbing your eyes a lot, chances are you have an allergy that's making your eyes itch. Get to the root of the problem, so you won't have the need to scratch.
Here are a few more home remedies that can offer relief, and possibly be long term solutions to dark circles:
- Get Extra sleep. Whether lack of sleep causes dark circles or not, it does cause hollowing and shadows, so catch all the ZZZs you can!
- Apply cold! Cold compresses, a bag of frozen peas, ice cubes wrapped in a soft cloth, used, cold teabags, cool slices of cucumber, and even chilly metal teaspoons placed on under-eye area will constrict dilated vessels and reduce dark circles.
- Sleep with an extra pillow or two. Elevation doesn't work for everyone, but is worth a try. This is especially helpful for puffy under-eyes, where fluid tends to collect during sleep.
- Use under-eye moisturizer to keep the integrity of the delicate skin as good as possible. There are many eye creams on the market that address the different eye issues, including lightening dark circles.
Regardless of why you have dark circles, there is a way to treat them, so don't despair or lose hope. If you've exhausted all appropriate home remedies for your situation and still have dark under-eyes, see a doctor. Dermatologists (skin doctors) are a good place to start. Treating dark circles and other eye problems is a booming industry that's come very far in recent years. There is available help – it's often just a matter of finding the right remedy. So, gentlemen, if you suffer with dark circles, seek treatment and suffer no more!
by Aaron Marino