Have you ever woken up in the morning, walked past the bathroom mirror and been a little surprised at the raccoon staring back at you? It takes a second before you realize that it’s really just you staring at yourself in the mirror but now you’ve got dark circles under your eyes.

How did this happen? And better still, what can be done about it?

Causes of dark circles under your eyes

If you look at the blood vessels on the underside of your wrist you’ll notice that they’re blue. You may have heard all kinds of reasons as to why this is. One popular myth that used to go around is that the blood in those vessels are blue because they’re deoxygenated. But if you cut yourself oxygen combines with the blood making it red again.

This is false. You don’t have any blue blood in you. Instead, what’s going on is a pretty cool trick of light filtering. Subcutaneous tissue filters out light except that in the blue/violet wave spectrum. In areas where your skin is thin – places like your wrists and under your eyes – your blood vessels are reflecting blue/violet light. Dark circles can also be the result of pigmentation or darkening of the skin. People with darker skin types are more likely to have darkening in the eye area.

Knowing this, anything that makes your blood vessels more visible under your eyes will result in dark circles.

  • Cortisol production. When we’re stressed, when we work out a lot, when we don’t get enough sleep, and when we eat poorly our body produces more cortisol. One of cortisol’s effects is to dilate your blood vessels to give you better blood flow to handle your whatever is stressing you out. This results is more visible blood vessels and thus a darkening of the area under the eye.
  • Genes. Another reason for dark areas under your eyes include genes – certain people of Mediterranean descent or those with darker pigmentation can develop dark areas under the eyes resulting in hyper pigmentation, allergies that cause inflammation around the eyes, sun damage, eczema, excessive drinking or smoking, and age.
  • Age. As we get older our skin naturally gets thinner, losing fat and collagen along the way. Skin on most of your body averages 2mm but under your eyes it’s closer to 0.5mm. As the skin under your eyes gets thinner, it becomes easier to see the blood vessels underneath.
  • Fluid retention. Puffy eyes, aka bags under your eyes are a result of fluid retention. This could be diet related: too much salt or a day with an excessive amount of carbs. It could also be a result of pregnancy, or weight gain.

Lack of sleep. Some causes can be dealt with by getting a good night’s sleep, improving your diet, and/or reducing your stress levels. Beyond that, there’s plenty that you and your dermatologist can do to make the dark circles in your eyes disappear.

How to treat dark circles under your eyes

Step 1: Diagnose the likely source of the problem.

Stress? Aging? Bone structure? Diet? Lack of sleep? Eczema? Sun damage? Hyperpigmentation? Allergies? More than one?

Step 2: Address the non-dermatologist issues if possible.

  • Stressed out? If you’re in a situation where you can’t get away from the stressor (like a stressful job), try a few minutes of deep breathing several times a day. Some people use mindful meditation to achieve this. I prefer the Wilm Hof method.
  • Diet off track? Think about what you’ve eaten over the past several days. Are there too many processed foods, fast foods, alcoholic beverages, and desserts? Have you been snacking on carbs? Potato chips, bagel chips, banana chips, pretzels, goldfish, Triscuits, Cheez-Its, etc.? We’re not telling you to eliminate all of the above from your diet. But be aware that it’s going to be hard for your skin to look fresher than your food. If you want fresh looking skin, you get that by eating fresh food.
  • Lack of sleep? Sleep is incredibly important. It’s when your body really gets into clean up and go into recovery mode. Failing to get enough sleep on a regular basis results in a host of issues including mental fuzziness, the inability to train reliably at the gym, and you’ll look tired from the puffy violet bags under your eyes. Sleep is worth making a priority. 7-8 hours a night. Split it up into 6 hours of sleep and a 2 hour nap if you have to, but work on it. It’s the best, cheapest thing you can do for your health.
  • Sun damage? We sound like a broken record because we say this in just about every article but it’s crucial that you wear sunscreen. A minimum of SPF 15. Jump to SPF 30 if you’re going to be in the sun for any real length of time. Reapply every 45 minutes. Stay covered when possible. Prevention is key.

Step 3: Consider your skin treatment options.

  • Apply a cold compress. A quick temporary fix is to put something cold over the area. A bag of crushed ice, or something small and frozen like a bag of peas for 15 minutes will reduce swelling and pigmentation by constricting your blood vessels. Great when in a pinch but not a great long-term option.
  • Use a quality concealer. There’s a little bit of an art to this. You’ll want to use a color on the color wheel that’s going to neutralize the blue/violet tones. Apply after your eyes but before your lips, cheeks, and brows.
  • Use an eye cream. Choosing an eye cream with retinol can thicken the skin and reduce dark circles in about six months. Creams that also use vitamins C and E are also great for renewing the skin.
  • Facial fillers. If you’re seeing dark areas under your eyes as a result of a hollowing out of the area due to aging, a facial filler may be right for you. This process uses injections to restore the volume of the area, reducing the amount of light that’s reflected off of your blood vessels, which in turn reduces the darkness seen under your eyes.
  • Laser resurfacing. For many cases, laser resurfacing can be a great way to go. This procedure uses light to reduce the appearance of blood vessels and to smooth out skin. Works better on fair skin as the laser works on pigmentation.

At Summit Plastic Surgery & Dermatology we see patients with dark circles under their eyes on a daily basis. Whether you’re looking for a skin care and make up regimen or need a facial filler or laser treatment, we’re here to help. Call us today at (910) 794-5355 with any questions you may have or to schedule your consultation. We’ll have you looking refreshed and revived in no time.

Have you ever woken up in the morning, walked past the bathroom mirror and been a little surprised at the raccoon staring back at you? It takes a second before you realize that it’s really just you staring at yourself in the mirror but now you’ve got dark circles under your eyes.

How did this happen? And better still, what can be done about it?

Causes of dark circles under your eyes

If you look at the blood vessels on the underside of your wrist you’ll notice that they’re blue. You may have heard all kinds of reasons as to why this is. One popular myth that used to go around is that the blood in those vessels are blue because they’re deoxygenated. But if you cut yourself oxygen combines with the blood making it red again.

This is false. You don’t have any blue blood in you. Instead, what’s going on is a pretty cool trick of light filtering. Subcutaneous tissue filters out light except that in the blue/violet wave spectrum. In areas where your skin is thin – places like your wrists and under your eyes – your blood vessels are reflecting blue/violet light. Dark circles can also be the result of pigmentation or darkening of the skin. People with darker skin types are more likely to have darkening in the eye area.

Knowing this, anything that makes your blood vessels more visible under your eyes will result in dark circles.

  • Cortisol production. When we’re stressed, when we work out a lot, when we don’t get enough sleep, and when we eat poorly our body produces more cortisol. One of cortisol’s effects is to dilate your blood vessels to give you better blood flow to handle your whatever is stressing you out. This results is more visible blood vessels and thus a darkening of the area under the eye.
  • Genes. Another reason for dark areas under your eyes include genes – certain people of Mediterranean descent or those with darker pigmentation can develop dark areas under the eyes resulting in hyper pigmentation, allergies that cause inflammation around the eyes, sun damage, eczema, excessive drinking or smoking, and age.
  • Age. As we get older our skin naturally gets thinner, losing fat and collagen along the way. Skin on most of your body averages 2mm but under your eyes it’s closer to 0.5mm. As the skin under your eyes gets thinner, it becomes easier to see the blood vessels underneath.
  • Fluid retention. Puffy eyes, aka bags under your eyes are a result of fluid retention. This could be diet related: too much salt or a day with an excessive amount of carbs. It could also be a result of pregnancy, or weight gain.

Lack of sleep. Some causes can be dealt with by getting a good night’s sleep, improving your diet, and/or reducing your stress levels. Beyond that, there’s plenty that you and your dermatologist can do to make the dark circles in your eyes disappear.

How to treat dark circles under your eyes

Step 1: Diagnose the likely source of the problem.

Stress? Aging? Bone structure? Diet? Lack of sleep? Eczema? Sun damage? Hyperpigmentation? Allergies? More than one?

Step 2: Address the non-dermatologist issues if possible.

  • Stressed out? If you’re in a situation where you can’t get away from the stressor (like a stressful job), try a few minutes of deep breathing several times a day. Some people use mindful meditation to achieve this. I prefer the Wilm Hof method.
  • Diet off track? Think about what you’ve eaten over the past several days. Are there too many processed foods, fast foods, alcoholic beverages, and desserts? Have you been snacking on carbs? Potato chips, bagel chips, banana chips, pretzels, goldfish, Triscuits, Cheez-Its, etc.? We’re not telling you to eliminate all of the above from your diet. But be aware that it’s going to be hard for your skin to look fresher than your food. If you want fresh looking skin, you get that by eating fresh food.
  • Lack of sleep? Sleep is incredibly important. It’s when your body really gets into clean up and go into recovery mode. Failing to get enough sleep on a regular basis results in a host of issues including mental fuzziness, the inability to train reliably at the gym, and you’ll look tired from the puffy violet bags under your eyes. Sleep is worth making a priority. 7-8 hours a night. Split it up into 6 hours of sleep and a 2 hour nap if you have to, but work on it. It’s the best, cheapest thing you can do for your health.
  • Sun damage? We sound like a broken record because we say this in just about every article but it’s crucial that you wear sunscreen. A minimum of SPF 15. Jump to SPF 30 if you’re going to be in the sun for any real length of time. Reapply every 45 minutes. Stay covered when possible. Prevention is key.

Step 3: Consider your skin treatment options.

  • Apply a cold compress. A quick temporary fix is to put something cold over the area. A bag of crushed ice, or something small and frozen like a bag of peas for 15 minutes will reduce swelling and pigmentation by constricting your blood vessels. Great when in a pinch but not a great long-term option.
  • Use a quality concealer. There’s a little bit of an art to this. You’ll want to use a color on the color wheel that’s going to neutralize the blue/violet tones. Apply after your eyes but before your lips, cheeks, and brows.
  • Use an eye cream. Choosing an eye cream with retinol can thicken the skin and reduce dark circles in about six months. Creams that also use vitamins C and E are also great for renewing the skin.
  • Facial fillers. If you’re seeing dark areas under your eyes as a result of a hollowing out of the area due to aging, a facial filler may be right for you. This process uses injections to restore the volume of the area, reducing the amount of light that’s reflected off of your blood vessels, which in turn reduces the darkness seen under your eyes.
  • Laser resurfacing. For many cases, laser resurfacing can be a great way to go. This procedure uses light to reduce the appearance of blood vessels and to smooth out skin. Works better on fair skin as the laser works on pigmentation.

At Summit Plastic Surgery & Dermatology we see patients with dark circles under their eyes on a daily basis. Whether you’re looking for a skin care and make up regimen or need a facial filler or laser treatment, we’re here to help. Call us today at (910) 794-5355 with any questions you may have or to schedule your consultation. We’ll have you looking refreshed and revived in no time.

Don't let dark circles get you down! Our dermatologists are here to help!

Are you experiencing dark circles under your eyes? Have other facial blemishes, dry skin, redness, or puffiness? Our licensed dermatologists are here to help. Now with an office in Hampstead to better serve you!