What are dark circles?
Dark circles are puffiness and darkening of the skin under the eye, and they create cosmetic concerns. It is usually not a serious condition and doesn’t have any serious complications. They are seen bilaterally. If these features are only seen on one side, it requires immediate medical attention as it might be due to trauma or serious underlying condition related to the eye and/or structures around the eye.
Dark circles appear in men and women. They are more common in adults and rarely seen in children.
What are the causes of dark circles under the eye?
The skin under the eye is normally thinner and sensitive than the rest of the face. So, it is prone to hyperpigmentation and swelling. Dark circles are usually caused because of a combination of multiple factors. Some common causes of dark circles are:
- Lack of sleep, disturbed sleep or oversleeping and fatigue.
- Skin rashes and inflammation of the skin.
- Frequent allergies and sinus infections.
- The natural aging process leading to increased thinning of under-eye skin.
- Poor diet, nutrition and dehydration.
- Excessive sun exposure.
- Eye strain especially due to prolonged usage of the computer or phone screen, or TV.
- Smoking, drug abuse and excessive alcohol.
- Genetic predisposition.
- Ethnicity: Darker skin tones are more prone to develop hyperpigmentation. Dark circles may appear more pronounced in these skin tones.
- Dark circles in children: This usually occurs due to poor quality sleep which is a result of chronic conditions like adenoiditis and tonsillitis which causes obstruction of the airway.
How are dark circles treated?
Treatment of dark circles involves a combination of medical treatment and natural remedies, and may take a long time. Using natural remedies may not provide satisfactory aesthetic results. Ideally, a combination of a medical and natural treatment plan would be necessary to completely get rid of dark circles. The results are usually not permanent. Appropriate home care and follow-ups with the physician and lifestyle modifications would be required to maintain results.
Many aesthetic medical treatments require multiple sessions to achieve satisfactory results and few sessions later to maintain the results. The doctor would advise an appropriate treatment plan based on the severity of the condition. It is also important to have realistic goals.
Some effective treatment options are:
- Topical agent: Creams containing skin lightening agents like kojic acid, glycolic acid, and hydroquinone, may be used. Low strength creams are available over-the-counter as well. Higher-strength creams would require a doctor’s prescription. These creams need to be applied every day for several months.
- Chemical peel: Light chemical peels are used because the under-eye area is thin and sensitive. Common peels include glycolic peel, salicylic acid peel, and a lactic acid peel. Chemical peels should be performed by a licensed physician or aesthetician. Doing chemical peels at home without an expert’s supervision could lead to serious complications like chemical skin burns, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, allergic reaction, and a chemical injury to the eyes.
- Lasers: Several lasers are available to lighten dark circles. Some have additional benefits of reducing wrinkles and inducing collagen growth.
- Injectable fillers: Volume loss and increased thinning of the skin in the under-eye area causes the affected area to appear dull, sunken, dark, wrinkled, and aged. Fillers injected by a physician correct the volume loss, reduces wrinkles, reduces shadows, and brightens up the under-eye area.
- Blepharoplasty: This is a surgical procedure that may be done for patients with fat accumulation under the eyes, causing an appearance of dark circles due to the shadows cast.
- Treatment of underlying medical conditions like allergies and sinus infections.
- Treatment of skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.
- Adequate sleep: Adults require an average of seven to eight hours of sleep a day.
- Healthy diet, nutritional supplements and adequate hydration.
- Applying a cold compress or tea bags soaked in cold water or cold cucumber slices.
- Applying sunscreen, using sunglasses or carrying an umbrella or wearing a hat can prevent sun damage.
- Hydrating the skin under the eyes using a good moisturizer and under-eye creams.
- Applying natural oils like almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, or pure vitamin E oil.
- Reducing eye strain by taking breaks from the computer, phone or TV, and avoid reading in dim lighting.
- Avoid smoking, drug abuse and excessive alcohol consumption.
Medically Reviewed on 6/25/2020
Medscape Medical Reference