Undereye Circles 101: What Causes Them, Ways To Prevent Them & How To Get Rid Of Them

September 14, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

There are some truly great concealers on the market–and if you suffer from dark undereye circles you can probably wax poetic about all of them. But women (and men!) who, no matter how much sleep they get, can’t seem to shake what looks like a perpetual bluish-black smudge beneath their eyes, also probably know that no amount of makeup is a match for serious undereye circles. Since understanding your enemy is key to defeating it, here is everything you need to know about dreaded undereye circles, including how you can take steps to make them less noticeable.

What Are Undereye Circles?

“Undereye circles, also known as periorbital dark circles, are a result of blood vessels showing through the thin skin under the eye area. This area shows the vessels more clearly than any other part of the body,” says Dr. Gillian Palette, medical director and co-founder of SKYNgenuity Medical Spa and Apothecary in New York City. “We often notice this area most significantly in photographs and in the mirror. Looking at your reflection is worse due to shadows.”

What Causes Undereye Circles?

“Dark circles under the eyes are actually a combination of sun damage and blood flow from the capillaries in this area,” says Dr. David E. Bank, founder and director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery. “They are also hereditary. Because your eyelid skin is the thinnest skin in the body, sun damage shows up quickly here in the form of dilating and increased blood flow to the area. Unfortunately, the answer to improve dark circles isn’t just to get more sleep. Getting enough sleep will not make them disappear.”

Another culprit, according to Skin by Lovely’s RN Tereasa North-Sweeny, is one few of us can avoid as we age. “Volume loss can also create a hollowness under the eyes and make dark circles even more obvious.”

Palette adds, “If your undereye circles are blue, that is usually due to something dilating the blood vessels under the eye (you may notice after sleeping this is worse secondary to lying flat). If they are more brown in pigment, this can be related to genetics and ethnicity, as certain ethnic groups are more prone to these types of dark circles.”

How Can You Prevent Undereye Circles?

Palette lists four ways: getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, avoiding salty foods and avoiding rubbing your eyes. If you’ve never tried meditation, now might be a good time to start (for quite a few great reasons). Bank says some patients have remarked that they’ve noticed a reduction and/or improvement in dark circles that they attribute to practicing meditation.

How Can You Get Rid Of Undereye Circles?

Palette offers three solutions:

1. Cosmetics.”A  good hydrating undereye concealer and powder to set concealer.”

2. Eye Cream. “A good eye cream helps to keep the thin skin under the eye hydrated. Nia 24 Eye Repair Complex is my pick.

3.  In-office procedures. “A licensed dermatologist can perform laser treatments or chemical peels that specifically target the under eye area. My pick is the Glytone eye and lip peel.  People also use dermal fillers in the tear trough area, the area where the under eye seems most hollow.”

Bank provides additional insight about at-home treatments that are also worth trying. “You can try a lightening agent, such as hydroquinone, in conjunction with an alpha-hydroxy agent, something from the Vitamin A family and a sunscreen,” he says. “You do need to be patient, because, depending on the severity of the pigmentation or circles, it can easily take up to six months to see any kind of improvement.”

As for cosmetics, Banks recommends dotting the under-eye area with a yellow based concealer (yellow neutralizes violet) that is creamy and offers a lot of coverage and opacity. “Apply the concealer only on the dark circle and follow with foundation, then powder. For extra coverage, apply concealer before and after foundation. Also, try to center a dot of eyeshadow slightly lighter than the shade you’ve already use on your upper lid to subtly ‘open’ the eye and distract attention from the dark circles. If you have circles that are hard to cover, you first need to neutralize the area and brighten up the blue cast to the skin. Use the neutralizing color first which will cancel out the the dark circles and lighten them. Then you can use concealer right over that,” Banks says.

When all else fails, Palette says it can’t hurt to try a DIY remedy–think old-fashioned cool compresses, cooled black tea bags (caffeine constricts blood vessels) and even cucumbers. Whatever works!

For more beauty tips, check out 6 fall beauty myths debunked and How to make your pores look invisible.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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