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What causes dark circles under the eyes – and what you can do about them

Kelly Vasileiadou
23. June 2023
Lack of sleep, skin aging or genetics: quite a few life circumstances can trigger dark circles under the eyes. I explain the various causes of dark circles under the eyes and show you ways to prevent or minimize them, with laser treatment for example.

They make us appear tired and sleepy: Dark circles under the eyes, however, do not always indicate a serious health problem. Nevertheless, those affected often feel less attractive and see the dark circles under their eyes as a cosmetic problem.

Therefore, it is important to first look at the causes that can promote dark circles under the eyes. According to the individual cause, based on a clinical examination, I can suggest you appropriate treatment options.

Possible causes of dark circles under the eyes

Factors that can cause or exacerbate dark circles under the eyes include, for example:

  • Genetic predisposition: Dark circles under the eyes can be inherited. This is even more likely if your parents or other relatives also have dark circles.
  • Lack of sleep: People who frequently sleep too little often get dark circles under their eyes. The reason: the blood vessels around the eyes constrict. This leads to a bluish or purple coloration of the skin under the eyes.
  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough fluids, may let the skin under the eyes appear thin and wrinkled. This can increase dark circles under the eyes.
  • Aging skin: as we age, our skin becomes thinner, and the blood vessels underneath become more visible. This can also cause dark circles under the eyes.
  • Skin pigmentation: Increased production of melanin, the pigment that causes the coloring of our skin, can also cause dark circles under the eyes. This is especially the case in people with darker skin.
  • Excessive sun exposure also contributes to the accumulation of more melanin in the skin and the formation of dark circles under the eyes.
  • Allergic reactions such as hay fever sometimes may cause inflammation and swelling around the eyes, which promotes dark circles, as does frequent rubbing or scratching of the eyes.

Once you know the exact causes of your dark eye circles, we can discuss possible therapy options together.

Who usually has dark circles under their eyes?

But why do some people have dark circles under their eyes in the first place and others do not? It has been proven that dark circles under the eyes can occur in people of different ages, genders and ethnicities. However, they are particularly common in some groups. These include people with genetic predisposition, thin skin, older age, darker skin colour, when skin pigmentation is more pronounced, and people with sleep deprivation and allergies.

Prevention: How to avoid or reduce dark circles under the eyes

To prevent dark circles under the eyes or reduce existing ones, there are a few tips and measures you can take:

  • Getting enough sleep: about 7 to 9 hours a night, will help reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
  • Stress management: stress can increase dark circles under the eyes. Therefore, it is advisable to reduce stress through relaxation exercises, meditation or yoga, or to avoid it in the first place.
  • A healthy diet: Sufficient vitamins and minerals improve the overall health of the skin. As preventive measure, we recommend to ensure regular intake of vitamins C, E and K as well as antioxidants.
  • Hydration: Drinking enough water ensures well-hydrated skin. Not only is this healthier, but it also reduces dark circles under the eyes.
  • Sun protection: Wearing sunglasses and sunscreen with sufficient SPF will better protect your skin from the harmful effects of sun rays and prevent excessive pigmentation.

Of course, not all causes of dark circles under the eyes can be eliminated. If dark circles under the eyes are mainly genetic, they are difficult to prevent. Nevertheless, there are possible treatment options in these cases as well.

What can be done against dark circles under the eyes? 

One way to reduce dark circles is to use cooling eye compresses or eye pads: these minimize puffiness and improve circulation around the eyes. Use cold spoons, towels filled with ice cubes or specially designed products. The absolute rescue and prevention product are our Dr. Kelly Hydrogel Eyepads. Golden shimmering Eyepads with a special formula of Gold, Hyaluronic Acid and Aloe Vera support the reduction of swelling and dark circles.

Of course, you can also cover dark circles under your eyes with the help of makeup on a daily basis: to do this, camouflage dark circles under your eyes with concealers or special makeup products – preferably with a colour that matches your skin tone.

On the other hand, those who have persistent, dark circles under the eyes will be less satisfied with these procedures. In that case, it makes sense to see a doctor or dermatologist who will discuss further treatment options with you.

Medical lightening of dark circles under eyes

There are several treatments for medical lightening of dark circles under the eyes. Some possible approaches are:

  • Topical lightening creams
    Eye creams or serums can lighten dark circles: they contain ingredients such as vitamin C, caffeine, hyaluronic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide or retinol, which can improve the appearance of the eye area. A wonderful product is our brightening Serum to support a healthier skin.
  • Bakuchiol treatment
    Bakuchiol also helps brighten the skin and reduce dark circles under the eyes. As form of vitamin A, Bakuchiol oil promotes cell renewal and improves skin texture. This was the reason why we decided to develop the Dr. Kelly Bakuchiol Oil. A Retinol alternative without the side effects and irritations of Retinol. 
  • Chemical peels
    A chemical peel provides gentle exfoliation of the skin around the eyes. Dead skin cells are removed and skin renewal is stimulated. We can help to select the appropriate peeling procedure for the specific situation.
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy
    IPL treatments are also effective for lightening dark circles under the eyes. They aim to break down excessive pigmentation and lighten the skin. This is performed by our beauty therapists who determine the number of required sessions in coordination with the medical team.
  • Hyaluronic acid fillers
    In some cases, a loss of volume in the eye area causes the dark circles under your eyes. Since the area is extremely delicate I recommend to have hyaluronic acid filler injections only performed by an expert injector. This method helps to bolster up your skin.
  • Laser treatments
    Laser therapy can also help with persistent dark eye circles. Laser treatment aims to reduce melanin in skin cells and decrease pigmentation. However, laser treatments for dark circles usually require several sessions. We at Dr. Kelly assess your individual need and based on the evaluation recommend the bespoke treatment plan for you.

About Dr. Kelly

Dr. Kelly Vasileiadou

Specialist FMH for Surgery
Beauty is not perfection. Refining your face or body image to enhance or restore your natural beauty – that is my mission. Your trust commits me to providing you with excellent medicine and exceptional care. My team and I work tirelessly to satisfy you. That’s what I stand for with my name.

Schedule your appointment with Dr. Kelly® today.

Before you decide on a treatment, you have the great opportunity for a personal consultation. Our goal is to care for you not only medically, but also from person to person.

Dr. Kelly® | Aesthetic Surgery and Medicine
by Dr. Kelly Vasileiadou

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