Dark Circles: The Causes And How To Treat

If you ask people what they’re looking to sort out with regard to their skin, 90% of people will say dark circles. How can so many people be afflicted by the exact same thing?

It’s simple: dark circles is an umbrella term for many different problems, and the “darkness” of one’s under-eye area is completely subjective. Some of us will see a slight shadow below our peepers and consider it to be a real problem, a blight on our lives.

Others live everyday with purplish rings under their eyes and it is not a bother to them at all. Some even love them… Dare I say that on certain people, they can be very sexy, à la Kim Kardashian without makeup!

Periorbital dark circles, meaning dark circles that affect the tissues surrounding the eye area, could be due to such a number of causes, with the most well-known one being a lack of sleep. How many times did your parental hooman nearly bang down the door, telling you to get to bloody sleep and threatening you with looking like a panda the next day in school?! Too many is my guess.

Beauty sleep is essential for general skin health (as well as your general health) as it gives your body time to repair itself and just relax, without being hassled by pollution-related, skin-damaging free radicals. However, the correlation between sleep and dark circles is usually greatly exaggerated.

Do you find that even when you’ve gotten upwards of 8 hours sleep every night for a solid week you are still cursed by those violet semi-circles?! Well, that’s actually not that surprising. Dark circles are usually not an effect of late-night parties, library sessions or insomnia. The majority of clients we have at The Skin Nerd do not notice any difference in their dark circles when they get more sleep… so what are the TRUE causes of dark circles?

Dark Circles: the Causes

I’ve spoken to clients who have spent hundreds on lotions and potions (and have put up with people inferring that they are party animals for years) who have never been able to kick the circles to the curb. When they tell me this, I shake my head in awe that people do not realise that dark circles can be hereditary.

That’s right, you have your parents to thank… keep that in mind if you’re shopping for their presents soon. Dark circles can appear darker on some than others due to the thickness of skin under the eye. Those with deep-set eyes and thin periorbital skin cannot do a whole lot about the appearance of dark circles, bar treatments that work deep within the skin, and these factors are in your DNA.

In the same logic, when you lose the padding around the eye area, the blueness of the veins below shines through and the orbital bone (the bone around your eye) becomes more defined. This creates the hollow and colour of what has come to be known as a dark circle.

So if you’ve lost weight, your dark circles will become more pronounced. The same goes for if you have mature skin, as your skin becomes thinner with age and your tissue begins to break down. Eeeek!

Your dark circles could also be something called periorbital hyperpigmentation. Periorbital hyperpigmentation is a darkening of the pigment in the under-eye area and more commonly occurs in those with darker skin tones.

It is infamously difficult to treat, usually needing more than one line of attack. It may be genetic, but it can be exacerbated by sun exposure… yet ANOTHER reason to apply SPF every bloody day.

How to Treat Dark Circles

Eye Creams and Gels

On a superficial front, eye creams and gels that contain caffeine can work absolute wonders, due to the fact that the caffeine, in its role as a stimulant, stimulates the blood vessels that lie just beneath the skin. Caffeine is only a quick fix - it will temporarily brighten up those feckers but it is not treating the issue in the long term.

With that in mind, I would still suggest trying an eye gel that contains caffeine, such as Skinceuticals AOX+ Eye Gel (€84.00), which pairs caffeine with ascorbic acid (AKA vitamin C) for maximum brightening effects, or Nuxe Crème Prodigieuse Eye Cream (€20.00), which contains botanical caffeine.

When it comes to trying to lighten up pigment-related dark circles, what you’re trying to use are skin-lightening ingredients, such as hydroquinone, licorice extract, kojic acid or vitamin C.

Vitamin C, kojic acid and hydroquinone are all tyrosinase inhibitors. Tyrosinase is the enzyme in your skin in charge of looking after the rates of melanin in the skin (AKA pigment levels). Hence, when you limit tyrosinase, you are in turn limiting the chances of pigment being produced, so you can wave goodbye to dark circles!

Licorice root is a known natural skin brightener and can be found in IMAGE Skincare’s ILUMA Intense Brightening Eye Crème (€52.00), alongside botanicals, peptides and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, a stabilised, oil-soluble form of vitamin C.

Professional Treatments

My go-to suggestion for people willing to spend on finally getting rid of their dark circles is PRP, AKA platelet-rich plasma treatment, AKA the vampire facial… you know its good because it has more than one name (says myself, Jennifer Rock, The Skin Nerd).

In PRP, your own blood is taken, the plasma within it separated from the rest in a special machine, and it is then injected back into your skin. This gives the skin growth factors and puts the skin in “healing mode” (due to the mild trauma of injection) so that fresh skin is created at a rapid pace.

Another option would be to try IPL, or intense pulsed light. The wavelengths target pigment directly, like an assassin with a sniper, to bring the pigment to the surface of the skin. It is not the most effective, but can be helpful alongside a full homecare regime. If your dark circles are not caused by pigment, however, the treatment will not be successful.

The therapist, doctor or nurse in the clinic you visit will be able to tell you whether these treatments would beneficial to your specific dark circles!

If All Else Fails, Conceal Dark Circles Like A Champion

As you known if you are an avid reader of my articles, I am a mineral makeup hooman through and through. The one area that it is okay to use a non-mineral concealer is the under eye area, in my opinion. My personal favourite is the Charlotte Tilbury The Retoucher concealer (€33.00), as it it packed with antioxidants and nutrients and thus gives back to the skin. I need an under eye concealer as, hereditarily, I have a hollow under my eye which really exaggerates any darkness.

The Retoucher is super lightweight and very handy for topping up during the day. I spoke to makeup guru Aimee Connolly, of Sculpted by Aimee, about how one should approach covering up severe discolouration under the eyes.

She said that if you are dealing with serious discolouration under the eye area, you need to approach it with colour correction rather than just slapping on as much concealer as possible! Aimee's specific recommendation is the Urban Decay Naked Skin Colour Correcting Fluid (€23.00) in "Peach" first, followed up with a liquid under eye concealer. The peach colour will brighten up any darkness in the area.