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Under Eye Dark Circles : Causes & Natural Treatments or Remedies

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Author : Dr Deepak Garg

Under-eye dark circles are a problem not alien to both men and women! When we notice them for the first time, the immediate response is similar to that of Joey from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, ‘Why, God, why?’ Yeah, we’ve all been there, but don’t worry. Some of the most stunning Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities must have encountered the same problem at some point and had to resort to makeup and concealers to cover them up. But what exactly are these dark circles, and why are they formed? Can they harm your eyes? Is there a solution? 

Let’s dive into the details.

What are under eye dark circles?

The medical terminology for under eye dark circles is Periorbital Hyperpigmentation (POH), and it accounts for the most common dermatological problem that people visit dermatologists for. Since it is around the eyes, we, as eye care practitioners, have to be ready with the answers as well. Dark circles are essentially benign and do not cause any harm to your skin or your eyes. That being said, we cannot discount the fact that they make us look older than our age, and that has a significant impact on our quality of life. The majority of patients are females ranging from 16 to 25 years of age. The dark appearance ranges from brown to dark pink, to bluish and purple in certain patients.

Causes of under eye dark circles

POH is a multifactorial condition, meaning it has multiple causes, with an important causative factor being familial, inadequate sleep, post-inflammatory pigmentation, atopic dermatitis, certain glaucoma medicines, tear troughs, etc. As we age, the superficial blood vessels in the skin become visible through the skin, giving a darker appearance. Sometimes, the blood vessels dilate, and cold compress is recommended to constrict the blood vessels and reduce the dark appearance.

Some common causes of dark circles

  • Genetics: Certain studies have indicated that under-eye dark circles are a hereditary problem that runs in families. A 2014 study in the US found that 63% of the included participants had a family history of POH.
  • Aging: Our eye skin has fat tissue underneath it to serve as a cushion for ocular tissues. As we age, the fat tissue sinks and tends to disappear, exposing the blood vessels and causing dark eye circles. This is also one of the reasons for puffy eyes, so the shadows of these puffy eyelids may make the under-eye area appear darker.
  • Dermatitis: Eczema and contact dermatitis cause the blood vessels under the skin to dilate and cause dark colorization. Certain eye drops, especially the ones used to treat glaucoma, are known to cause dermatitis that, in turn, causes dark circles in the under-eye area.
  • Lack of sleep: Dr. Chris Winter, a sleep neurologist, published a study in which he concluded that sleep deprivation causes the skin of the under-eye area to appear dull, and the dilated blood vessels make the skin appear darker in complexion. Thus, make sure you get enough hours of sleep.
  • Dehydration: Just like any other skin area on our body, the under-eye area appears dull due to being inadequately hydrated. The effect is more prominent in lighter skin tones compared to darker skin tones.

Is it possible to remove dark circles permanently?

Your healthcare professional can help you if you hope to get rid of dark circles permanently. They can let you know about the skin treatments available to do so. Medical treatment options for treating under-eye dark circles include:

  • Topical ointments and bleaching agents: Dermatologists sometimes prescribe topical eye creams like Vitamin C ointments and skin lightening creams such as hydroquinone for under-eye dark circle treatment. Consuming vitamin C-rich fruits, such as oranges or orange juice, may help as well. Please consult your healthcare professional before self-medicating because the treatment may differ based on your skin type.
  • Chemical peels: Studies have shown that alpha-hydroxy acids can reduce under-eye dark circles.
  • Laser therapy: Non-invasive lasers, such as intense pulsed dye and diode lasers, are used to treat under-eye dark circles.
  • Eyelid surgery: If the puffiness of eyelids is giving a dark appearance, your eye doctor may refer you to an oculoplastic surgeon who operates on the eyelids, where extra or loose skin is tightened for a normal appearance, a procedure known as blepharoplasty that reduces the dark appearance.
  • Adequate Sleep: Sleep is a supernatural power that we have yet to realize the potential of. Getting 8 hours of quality sleep maintains skin health and improves overall blood flow, including the under-eye area, reducing the appearance of dark circles.
  • Platelet-rich plasma injections: Hyaluronic acid gel is sometimes injected under the affected skin area for a better cosmetic appearance, reducing the dark appearance of the under-eye skin area.

Dark circles prevention tips

  • Use Sun Protection: Excessive exposure to UV light affects the skin epidermis and causes the dilation of blood vessels, leading to dark circles. Using appropriate sun protection may help prevent under-eye dark circles.
  • Reduce stress: Reducing stress induces antioxidant properties, which can prevent dark circles. Placing cucumber slices over both eyes while relaxing is recommended by certain healthcare professionals.
  • Cut down on your drinks: Excessive alcohol consumption can speed up the oxidation process, so reducing the number and quantity of drinks can help prevent dark circles.
  • Cold Compress: Using either cold water to wet cotton balls or ice cubes for cold compresses can help constrict the blood vessels beneath the eyes, reducing the dark appearance.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can ice remove dark circles?

Using a cold compress with ice cubes will constrict the dilated blood vessels causing dark circles, reducing their appearance.

2. What deficiency causes dark circles?

Studies have shown that anemia, a condition in which the red blood cell count is reduced, can cause under-eye dark circles. Furthermore, a vitamin B12 deficiency is also known to cause dark circles.

3. Which vitamin is good to avoid dark circles?

Consuming vitamin C-rich foods and fruits helps in avoiding dark circles.

4. Can liver problems affect your eyes?

The most common liver problem causes copper accumulation in the body, which may get deposited in the endothelium layer of the cornea. It also causes cataracts to form faster than normal, resulting in decreased vision.

5. What is the best treatment for dark circles?

Medical treatment with topical eye creams containing Vitamin C ingredients and hydroquinone injections can help improve the dark appearance of the under-eye skin area.

6. When to see a doctor for under-eye dark circles?

After trying all the safe home remedies, if dark circles are not resolved, you must get your healthcare professional’s opinion for further treatment.

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