What ages you most? Surprisingly, it might not be wrinkles or gray hair but dark circles under your eyes. Although dark circles under eyes usually aren't a sign of exhaustion or serious illness, they can make you feel old, unhealthy and tired.
Just what constitutes dark circles under eyes is often in the eye of the beholder, but medically, they're defined as round, uniform areas of pigmentation beneath each eye. Dark circles under eyes affect both men and women, and although dark, under-eye circles often start in adulthood, children can develop them, too.
More treatments are available for dark circles under eyes than ever before and range from makeup to laser therapy and in some cases, surgery. Because results aren't always perfect, however, it helps to have realistic expectations.
If you get plenty of sleep, haven't been to a party in years and still have dark circles under your eyes, that's not unusual. Fatigue and high living aren't the main reasons for under-eye circles. What appear to be under-eye circles are sometimes just shadows cast by puffy eyelids or hollows under your eyes that develop as a normal part of aging.
Here are some of the most common causes of true under-eye circles:
Any condition that causes the eyes to itch can contribute to darker circles due to rubbing or scratching the skin around them. Some food allergies can also cause the area under the eyes to appear darker.
· Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
· Heredity — dark under-eye circles can run in families:
In most cases, the dark circles under the eyes are blood vessels that can be seen through the skin. The skin around the eyelids (periorbital skin) is the thinnest skin in the body (around 0.5mm thick compared with 2mm in other areas). Like varicose veins, dark circles under the eyes are usually an inherited trait. When blood passes through the large veins close to the surface of the skin, it can produce a bluish tint. The more transparent the skin—also an inherited trait—the darker the circles appear. In people with a deep-set bone structure, shadowing can also contribute to the dark color under the eyes.
· Lifestyle factors,
such as smoking and drinking alcohol and caffeinated sodas.
· Nasal congestion (which dilates and darkens the veins that drain from your eyes to your nose).
· Pigmentation irregularities — these are a particular concern for people of color, especially blacks and Asians.
· Sun exposure, which prompts your body to produce more melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.
· Thinning skin and loss of fat and collagen — common as you age — which make the reddish-blue blood vessels under your eyes more obvious.
The lack of nutrients in the diet, or the lack of a balanced diet, can contribute to the discoloration of the area under the eyes. It is believed that a lack of mineral iron can cause dark circles as well. Iron deficiency is the most common type of anemia and this condition is a sign that not enough oxygen is getting to the body tissues.
The skin can also become more pale during pregnancy & menstruation (due to lack of iron), allowing the underlying veins under the eyes to become more visible.
Mild to moderate dark circles often respond well to simple and inexpensive treatments, such as:
Try a cold compress, two chilled teaspoons or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a soft cloth to temporarily reduce dilated and discolored under-eye blood vessels. Or, try a cooled, used teabag.
Elevate your head with two or more pillows to prevent puffiness that develops when fluid pools in your lower eyelids.
Although short nights don't usually cause under-eye circles, a lack of sleep makes you paler and more hollow-eyed, so shadows and circles you already have are more obvious.
Dark glasses and sunscreen.
Although a tan might hide dark circles in the short term, in the long run, the extra pigment it produces can make circles worse.
Saline washes or sprays.
Rinsing your sinuses with a saltwater solution (mix 1/4 teaspoon sea salt with 2 cups warm water) or over-the-counter saline spray can help relieve nasal congestion.
Hundreds of skin creams that claim to reduce or prevent under-eye circles crowd department store and drugstore shelves.
The right concealer can do just that — hide dark circles. If the circles under your eyes are bluish, use a peach-colored concealer, not one that's white or gray. And avoid scented products and those containing salicylic or glycolic acid, which can irritate delicate eye tissue, making redness and swelling worse.