When someone tells you you look tired, it typically means you have dark circles on show. It’s one of the biggest beauty bugbears and it can be a real struggle to find an effective solution. Whilst we often associate dark circles with sleepless nights, stress and not being in optimal health, there are a number of alternative explanations as to why we get dark circles.

What Causes Dark Circles Under The Eyes?

Firstly, the skin around the area is the thinnest on the body, which only gets thinner as we age. This means the structures underneath the skin - such as blood vessels and muscles, which are shades of red, purple and blue in colour - become much more visible. The best comparison is like wearing a black bra underneath a white t-shirt - as the skin gets thinner, the “darkness” worsens!

Similarly, we get changes in the tear trough, which is the groove that runs on the inside of the eye socket. It becomes more prominent allowing for more shadowing to appear. We also get a weakening of the structures that hold in the fat and muscle situated in the orbit; as those start to protrude through, it changes the optics of the eye area and that again allows for bulges and shadows to appear.

Hyperpigmentation is also a common cause of dark circles, particularly with people of colour who are more genetically predisposed to have increased melanin and therefore dark circles around the eye. It can also be a consequence of disease, for example, eczema around the eyes, excessive sun damage, or even chronic rubbing.

How To Treat Dark Circles

When we think about the best solution to treat dark circles, we can think about them strategically. If skin thinning is the cause, the first approach is to increase collagen in the eye area. If you can make the skin thicker, then the blue structures underneath become less visible. The best plan of action is to use a dedicated retinol eye treatment which will boost fibroblast activity and result in thicker, stronger skin. If the issue is the blood vessels themselves - they can become weaker and more fragile - seek out foods rich in vitamin K which can help stabilise fragile blood vessels and improve the appearance of dark circles over time. Tomatoes, cauliflower and leafy greens are excellent sources. It's always beneficial to adopt an inside-out approach to a beauty problem.

If your dark circles are caused by excess melanin due to an inflammatory process such as eczema, for example, the solution is to tackle the inflammation first by getting the disease process under control. Much like with acne, the pigmentation can last for a significantly longer period than the inflammatory dermatosis itself. Keeping it controlled long-term will allow that pigmentation to improve and resolve over time.

On the other hand, hyperpigmentation triggered by excess UVA exposure can be tackled by our powerhouse ingredient toolkit of vitamins A, B, and C in combination with daily broad-spectrum sunscreen.

What treatments tackle dark circles?

As problems become more structural, due to fat loss, ageing, smoking, or changes in the muscles, we then move into the realm of a procedural approach. Popular options include a blepharoplasty to repair the eye contours and tear trough filler with hyaluronic acid to help reduce this groove as it deepens with age. I'm a big fan of seeing an oculoplastic surgeon for an opinion - this is delicate work and they're best placed to determine which procedures are going to make the biggest difference, given that many of these changes will occur at once. . There may be more than one factor at play, and a combination of treatments might work best.

What lifestyle changes can improve dark circles?

Let's not forget beauty sleep - it isn’t a myth! Sleep plays an important role and all of us tend to look better when we're well-rested. Lack of sleep leads to dilatation of the blood vessels and all those bluey vessels underneath the skin become more visible. For the same reason, moderating your alcohol consumption is also advised. A trusted concealer is an excellent immediate antidote for dark circles. Opt for a hydrating concealer with peach or orange undertones which will help to neutralise the blue in your shadows effectively.

Ultimately if dark circles are causing concern, it's worth getting to the root cause to find your optimal solution. If it’s genetic, making peace with your dark circles is often for the best as it’s hard to fight the way we're built. But if there is a reversible cause in the mix, then I hope I've given you a structure for how to approach making your peepers look perky!