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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • The 5 Main Culprits Behind Your Dark Circles (And How to Get Rid of Them)

The 5 Main Culprits Behind Your Dark Circles (And How to Get Rid of Them)

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Main Image – Liliyarodnikova/Stocksy

As a beauty editor with a makeup and skincare consultation business, the question ‘how do I get rid of my dark circles’ is up there in my clients’ top five most asked. In fact, most of the time it’s the first thing they ask me.  

Of course, I recommend a plethora of magic concealers that help to cover them up. But I know my clients also want to know how to banish them completely.

Whilst miracles in skincare are few and far between, there are ways to improve the look of dark circles. But, despite what TikTok would have you believe, most of them aren’t quick fixes or simply a matter of choosing the right eye cream.

Here, skincare experts Dr Jodi LoGerfo, Dr Michele Green, Akis Ntonos and makeup artist Ashley Nicole Gibson explain what actually causes those dark shadows under your eyes and, crucially, what can be done about them.


What could be causing your dark circles

Where do I start? From stress to age to hyperpigmentation, you name it, dark circles are (probably) caused by it. “They can appear in the early twenties and generally intensify with time,” explains Dr LoGerfo. 


wedding skincare makeup

Image – Lightfieldstudios/Adobe


  • Genetics:

“For some, dark circles are an inherited trait passed down through genetics,” says Dr Green. One study also found that periorbital hyperpigmentation, the medical name for dark circles, is more prevalent in women than in men. 

  • Age:

However, she says the main culprit is age. “Collagen and elastin are two proteins that maintain skin elasticity,” Dr Green explains. “During the natural ageing process, the production of these proteins decreases and the skin begins to sag and thin. 

As this occurs, dark blood vessels beneath the skin become more visible leading to a darkening of the area under the eyes.”

Sagging caused by ageing can also lead to a, “hollowing in the under-eye area that can cast a shadow underneath the eye, resulting in a darker appearance,” says Dr Green. This hollow area is commonly known as a ‘tear trough’.

  • Stress:

Next up, it’s stress. “Chronic stress is another cause of dark circles, as elevated cortisol levels can lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibres and results in premature ageing,” she adds.

  • Lack of sleep:

Sleep deprivation has a part to play too. “When we sleep, our bodies go through cellular repair to replace dead cells with healthy new cells,” Dr Green explains. 

“Inadequate sleep prevents the body’s regenerative cycle from functioning properly, leaving skin looking pale and resulting in blood vessels and darker tissues becoming more visible underneath the skin.”

She also says the weakening of the tissue structures that support the eyelids – again due to age or genetics – can be a cause too. 

  • Skin conditions:

Those with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis are prone too, “as these inflammatory conditions can deposit dark pigmentation around the eyes, especially when rubbed,” Dr Green explains.

Dr LoGerfo says your oil glands can also be to blame. “They are often visible as tiny pale-yellow dots,” she explains. “When oil from these glands is allowed to remain on the skin surface, it turns dark from exposure to air via a process known as oxidation (think about a sliced apple).”

Too much sun exposure has also been found to cause dark circles.


How to treat your dark circles from home

Now that we’ve got those – slightly overwhelming – causes of dark circles out of the way, let’s focus on the positives. How to improve the look of them from the comfort of home.

As a temporary measure, Dr Green advises reaching for something to place directly on the affected area. “A cold compress can be applied to the undereye area to reduce the appearance of undereye darkness and puffiness temporarily,” she says. Well, that’s a start.

“Black or green tea bags [boiled then completely cooled] can additionally be applied as these teas contain antioxidants and caffeine that reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the area.”

Reducing stress levels and getting more sleep (quite a lot easier said than done) can help too, say the experts.


Image – Irina/Adobe


You can also try dedicated eye creams. “Brightening and lightening eye creams can help, as well as skin firming creams,” says Dr LoGerfo

But will an eye cream ever be able to get rid of dark circles? “Eye creams can help to reduce the appearance of dark circles over time, but they are not a permanent fix,” Dr Green says. So, what should we be looking out for in an eye cream?

“The best eye creams for dark circles will contain ingredients such as retinol [only used at night], vitamin C or tranexamic acid, which interferes with the interaction of skin cells and melanin-producing cells, decreasing pigmentation on the skin,” she explains. 


The in-office ways to treat dark circles

The experts agree that for serious results though, it’s in-office treatments that will make the most difference to your circles.

“In-office and prescription treatments for dark circles address the underlying causes, such as hyperpigmentation, thinning skin and loss of fat or collagen,” confirms Ntonos


Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy


Whilst some aren’t for the faint hearted, these are his preferred six professional treatments for under eye circles:

  • Topical Treatments:

“Your provider may prescribe creams with active ingredients like hydroquinone, kojic acid, vitamin C, and retinoids to lighten dark circles caused by hyperpigmentation,” says Ntonos.

  • Chemical Peels:

“Utilising substances like glycolic acid or lactic acid can remove the top layers of skin, potentially reducing pigmentation and improving overall skin texture. These must be chosen considering the individual’s skin tone to minimise risks and optimise outcomes,” he adds.

Dr Green says mesopeels can be particularly effective, “to gently exfoliate the undereye area to reduce melanocyte activity and eliminate under eye hyperpigmentation.” 

  • Laser Therapy:

Ntonos explains, “By targeting melanin and blood vessels beneath the skin, laser treatments can diminish pigmentation and enhance skin firmness. The choice of laser and its parameters are crucial for safety and efficacy, particularly for different skin tones.

“Darker skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation and may require a treatment like this to avoid exacerbating the condition.”

  • Fillers:

This one will also help to tackle your tear troughs too, according to Ntonos. “Injectable hyaluronic acid fillers help reduce shadows and hollows under the eyes by adding volume, making dark circles less noticeable.”

However, he explains, “This is my least favourite of all options. Like with chemical peels, these must be chosen with the individual’s skin tone in mind.”

  • PRP Injections:

This can stimulate the natural collagen of the area and help with the hyperpigmentation. “It’s one of my favourite treatments for dark circles. The patient’s blood is being used to extract growth factors that can enhance the tissue. This is a great natural way to treat this concern. These are also an excellent choice for darker skin tones,” Ntonos explains.

  • Microneedling:

This technique involves tiny punctures to stimulate collagen production, improving skin texture and potentially diminishing the appearance of dark circles, says the expert.


Can you get rid of dark circles quickly?

Oh, how I love a quick fix and here’s where the magic of makeup enters stage left. 

The first step is to hydrate the under-eye area. “Apply a lightweight, hydrating eye cream,” Gibson says. “This helps moisturise the delicate skin under the eyes and reduce puffiness. Allow the cream to absorb fully before applying makeup.”

Then it’s colour correcting time. “To neutralise dark circles, use a colour corrector before applying concealer,” she adds. “Apply sparingly and dab the corrector gently onto the dark circles. Avoid applying too much product to prevent caking. The shade of the corrector depends on the colour of your dark circles.”

Gibson says if you have blue or purple undertones, use a peach or orange corrector. For brown or red undertones, choose a yellow corrector.

Next up is your concealer. “Select a concealer that is one to two shades lighter than your natural skin tone but has a natural finish,” she recommends.

“Use a concealer with good coverage but a lightweight formula for the best results.” My favourite is Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer (£23.40 from Look Fantastic UK /$32 from Ulta Beauty US) as it’s super smooth to apply and doesn’t gather in fine lines.


Image – Nars


To blend your concealer, “use a damp beauty sponge, concealer brush or ring finger to gently blend into the skin,” says Gibson. 

To seal the deal, Gibson recommends a setting powder. “To prevent the concealer from creasing throughout the day, lightly set it with a fine, translucent setting powder,” she says. 

Finally, she says that using a highlighter will help lighten the area up a little more. “Dabbing a little highlighter on the inner corners of your eyes can brighten the entire eye area, making you look more awake.”


Can you ever get rid of dark circles permanently?

Ntonos says to remember that nothing is guaranteed. “While in-office treatments and prescription medications can significantly improve their appearance, these solutions often temporarily reduce the problem, and maintenance is key to manage dark circles,” he says.

“Individuals need to have realistic expectations and understand that while dark circles can be significantly reduced, they may not be permanently eliminated for everyone.” We live in hope.


And how to help stop dark circles appearing in the first place

Ntonos says there are things you can do to prevent dark under eye circles and the first one is to get enough sleep if you can. Another is to use sun protection. “Wearing sunscreen and sunglasses helps protect the skin under your eyes from sun damage,” he says. “Most people forget to apply sunscreen in the undereye area, worsening the issue.”

Your diet can play a part in preventing them too. “Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin healthy. Hydration is essential.” He also says to take care of your skin.  Use gentle skincare products around your eyes and avoid harsh treatments,” he says. 

And finally, avoid smoking and drinking excessive alcohol. “These can make dark circles worse,” he warns.


The takeaway

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that there is no magical cure for under eye circles. But you can do things to reduce and hide their appearance.

Whether that’s at home with an eye cream, instant de-puffing methods and makeup, or in-office using treatments like chemical peels, laser therapy and micro-needling. There are countless options.

You can also help to prevent them early on by switching up your lifestyle choices. Things like avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated can be beneficial to keeping your skin healthy and youthful. 

Look for ingredients like vitamin C and retinol when shopping for your eye cream and invest in a smooth, hydrating concealer and colour corrector. Armed with these tools, no one need ever know you ever had dark circles. 


Meet the experts


Dr Jodi LoGerfo is a skin and haircare expert, Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Family Nurse Practitioner certified in Family Medicine and Dermatology.


Dr Michele Green is a board-certified NYC Cosmetic Dermatologist.


Akis Ntonos is a dermatology nurse practitioner, injectable specialist, and co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, a premier New York aesthetic and injectable clinic. 


Ashley Nichole Gibson is a licensed aesthetician and makeup artist who owns Paraposh, which provides on-site makeup services. Specialising in bridal makeup, her experience also extends to training and education for cosmetic brands, conducting master classes at Ulta, and working as a makeup artist at QVC for beauty brands.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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