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  • Writer's pictureAli Rislan

Dark Circles: Top 6 Causes

Updated: May 19, 2023

Picture this:

You've woken up feeling groggy and tired, a little more than usual. You think to yourself, "I should have gone to bed earlier", but that's in the past now. You pick yourself up and head to the bathroom to brush your teeth. You glance at yourself in the mirror and can't help but notice the dark circles under your eyes.

That's not in the past. That's right now. So, how can you deal with them?

The answer often lies with the cause, so let's have a look at the most common causes.

Causes of Dark Circles, and Remedies!

As you've probably already figured out, the most common cause of dark circles is...

1. Lack of Sleep

The common culprit causes dark circles in two ways;

Dark Circles | A close-up picture of a female eye with dark circles.
  • Puffy eyes after a night of poor sleep cast shadows on the under-eyes below.

  • Dulled & pale skin also caused by poor sleep increases the visibility of the blood vessels under your eyes.

The quickest remedy for this is to reduce the puffiness of your eyes. Holding a cold compress (green tea bags are great) for a few minutes over your eyes will have a dramatic effect on reducing this puffiness, and might even help you wake up for the day!

2. Poor Blood Circulation

Poor circulation is a cause of dark circles because the skin under our eyes is so thin. Insufficient blood flow leads to visibly darker blood vessels that you only really notice under your eyes.

Identifying the reason for poor circulation is key:

Iron and Vitamin deficiency can worsen blood circulation and thus cause dark circles. It's worth having blood tests to determine if you have a deficiency such as these, as treatment will help you feel much better as well as reduce dark circles.

If you don't have either of these deficiencies, then you could simply have poor under-eye blood circulation. Gentle massage or treatments such as Carboxytherapy can help to improve blood flow and reduce dark circles.

3. Loss of Volume

Loss of volume can cause and worsen dark circles, most commonly as an indirect result of aging.

Collagen and elastin production declines as you age, which leads to a loss of elasticity and firmness in the skin. Combined with a loss of tissue and fat volume with aging, you may develop a "sunken" appearance under the eyes. This commonly also comes with a groove-like appearance in the tear trough, a sign of loss of volume.

This "sunken" appearance can result in shadows under your eyes. This gives the appearance of dark circles and worsens the appearance of existing dark circles caused by other factors on this list.

4. Fat Pads & Fluid Retention

Fat pads and fluid retention under the eyes can present very similarly to puffy eyes, as a result of excess volume. The excess volume causes shadows to be cast under the eyes, giving the appearance of dark circles.

Excess fat pads can be caused by either genetics or aging:

  • When genetics are the cause there is simply an excess deposit of fat under the eyes.

  • With aging the tissue structures around the eyelids weaken, which allows fat to move from around the eye area to underneath the eyes. Read how to treat it here.

Fluid retention can be caused by:

  • Poor sleep, as mentioned above, slows lymphatic drainage.

  • Diets high in sodium which will increase fluid retention throughout the body, not just your under-eyes.

  • Excess alcohol consumption, similar to high sodium intake.

  • Some genetic factors and allergies.

5. Genetics

Genetics can play a part in dark circles for many people, and unfortunately, it isn't reliably treatable. Most commonly this is due to an overproduction of melanin under the eyes.

Dark circles | A close-up of man's eyes with dark eye bags.

People from backgrounds with melanin-rich skin are predisposed to dark circles. They will compound with the causes mentioned above, so make sure to avoid what you can! Treatment options for pigmentation consist of Laser Resurfacing, Carboxytherapy, and anti-pigmentation creams.

6. Stress

Another worth noting is stress, directly as it worsens blood flow to the under-eyes and indirectly as it can interfere with quality sleep.

Do your best to relieve stress where possible with guided breathing or meditation, for which there are plenty of apps or YouTube videos available.

Now you're armed with a few potential solutions to your dark circles, but keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list. There are more causes of dark circles, but these are the most common and may be of the most help to you. Just remember that everyone battles with dark circles, and quite routinely in fact. Nobody is stress-free and it's impossible to have great sleep every night as we lead such busy lives, so keep these remedies in your back pocket for when you need them!

Click here to read about treatments for dark circles and how much they cost, if you'd like to find out more. Feeling ready to have a consultation? Click the link below and fill out the form to secure your consultation with Dr Hala.

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