While there is no set age when a person starts to see the presence of dark circles under their eyes, the most common age group experiencing this change are people in their 40s to 50s, when the structural support of the face starts to weaken and stretch.
Fortunately, there are several natural home remedies that can help reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes, as well as preventive measures that may inhibit dark circles from forming in the first place or becoming worse.
This article offers input from top experts on this subject, including two Medical Doctors who are board certified plastic surgeons, a board certified dermatologist who is a laser specialist, and an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at a world-renowned academic medical center.
It’s important to keep in mind that this information is not a substitute for professional medical advice, so consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating any remedies in your beauty routine.
Let’s begin by discussing some of the causes of dark under eye circles. Then we’ll address specific natural home remedies and preventive measures that are claimed to work.
What Causes Dark Circles Under the Eyes?
Mark D. Gaon, a medical doctor who is a board certified plastic surgeon at Finesse Plastic Surgery in Southern California, said there are multiple causes for dark under eye circles. These causes include:
- Lack of sleep
- Exposure to UV radiation
- High salt diet
- Hormonal changes
There are countless reasons for someone to have dark circles under the eyes, noted Gene Rubinstein, M.D., a board certified dermatologist and laser specialist at the Dermatology and Laser Centre of Studio City in Southern California.
Depending on the source or reason for the dark circles, a person can be affected at any age, he said.
Genetics certainly play a part, especially for people with darker skin tones, Dr. Rubinstein said. However, factors such as various medications, medical conditions and unhealthy weight, either too low or too high, can also be contributing factors.
Some people have thinner skin under their eyes, which can make the appearance of dark under eye circles more prominent, said Dr. Temitayo Ogunleye, assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Penn Medicine, a world-renowned academic medical center.
“Genetics play big role – if it’s genetic, they’re more likely to see dark under eye circles when they get older,” Dr. Ogunleye said. “It’s not necessarily age-related. If you have other people in your family with dark under eye circles, there’s good likeliness you will have them, too.”
Now that we have a better understanding of what can cause dark circles under the eyes, let’s discuss some natural home remedies that may alleviate their appearance.
9 Natural Ways to Reduce the Appearance of Dark Under-Eye Circles
The following natural treatments may help off-set the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
In some cases, dark under-eye circles can appear more pronounced if your eyes are puffy, so some of these treatments help alleviate puffiness.
Honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits, according to Dr. Gaon.
“Look for raw, locally sourced honey,” Dr. Gaon advised. “Simply dab a small amount under your eyes just before bed and allow it to soak in overnight.”
Long used in spas for eye treatments, cucumbers help reduce puffiness because they have skin-lightening properties and anti-inflammatory effects, Dr. Gaon explained.
There is a science behind the use of cucumbers on the eyes for an instant calm, according to Phillip Artemi of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.
“Technically, cold temperature can cause blood vessels to constrict, so swelling is temporarily reduced,” Artemi stated. “But it won't reverse dark circles around the eyes.”
3. Buttermilk and Turmeric
Buttermilk constricts the blood vessels and turmeric contains anti-inflammatory properties, Dr. Gaon said.
“Sprinkle some turmeric in a bit of buttermilk and soak two large cotton balls in it,” he explained. “Squeeze out the fluid and place over your eyes for 15 minutes five times per week.”
4. Tea Bags
Black, white or green tea contains antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. It also contains caffeine, which can shrink the blood vessels and reduce fluid retention around the eyes.
Green tea is especially noted for containing an anti-inflammatory that removes fluid buildup under the eye.
Once you've brewed your tea, put the bags in the refrigerator and recycle them later in the day by placing the cold bags on your eyes.
“Once cooled, they help reduce end-of-day puffiness around the eyes,” Dr. Gaon said. “Apply one on each eye for 10 minutes and then discard the bags.”
5. Potatoes or Tomatoes
If dark circles under your eyes are caused by too much pigment, Dr. Gaon recommends lightening your skin with either the juice of a potato or a fresh-squeezed tomato.
Potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C; they also contain fiber, phytochemicals and potassium, which are said to help detoxify the skin and improve blood circulation around the eyes.
Tomatoes contain astringent properties, as well as high levels of lycopene, which can help protect the skin against harmful UV rays.
“Soak a cotton ball in the juice, squeeze it out, and rest the cotton ball over your dark circles for 10 minutes,” Dr. Gaon advised.
6. Lemon Juice
According to Consumer Health Digest, lemon juice contains citric acid, which has been shown to possess skin lightening properties.
You can apply lemon juice directly to the skin under the eyes, or create a mask by adding olive oil and honey, and gently apply to the affected area.
7. Mint Leaves
Mint leaves contain the same vitamins and minerals as lemons do, only in much smaller amounts.
Consumer Health Digest recommends crushing the mint leaves, then placing them underneath your eyes for about 20 minutes. The mint leaves have a natural cooling effect, which can help diminish puffy eyes and improve blood circulation around the area.
8. Cold Compress
Lower temperatures help shrink the blood vessels on any part of the body. Using a cold compress on your eyes can help diminish the appearance of dark circles, and also reduces swelling if your eyes are puffy.
Preparing a cold compress is simple. You can place a few ice cubes inside a wash cloth, or wet a cloth with cold water. Place under your eyes for about 20 minutes, or as your comfort level allows.
9. Caffeine or Albumin
Some patients have used over the counter products that contain caffeine or albumin to tighten the skin and improve swelling, according to Dr. Yuly Gorodisky, owner of the West Coast Plastic Surgery Center who is board-certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery.
“Cool compresses can also help temporarily,” Dr. Gorodisky said. “The goal is to reduce swelling and improve the shadowing effect of swollen lower lids.”
While some experts maintain that these natural methods can help diminish the appearance of dark circles under the eyes, there are no natural remedies that are going to have a lasting effect, according to Dr. Ogunleye.
“For people that get darkening from rubbing, for instance, if you have had years of chronically rubbing your eyes, that skin still won’t necessarily go back to your normal skin tone,” Dr. Ogunleye said.
Now, let’s discuss some preventive measures that can help, according to our experts.
Preventive Measures for Dark Circles Under the Eyes
Dr. Gaon gave the following advice to help prevent or diminish the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes: Rubbing your eyes may accelerate the loss of elasticity of the thin skin in this area.
Manage Your Allergies: Itchy, watery eyes can increase puffiness. Ask your doctor about medicines to ease your symptoms, such as eye drops or an antihistamine.
Switch the Way You Sleep: Try sleeping on your back to relieve the constant pressure on your face from stomach sleeping.
Be Gentle: When removing makeup from the eyes, avoid harsh or excessive rubbing.
Reduce Booze: Reduce your alcohol consumption; and if you drink, be sure to rehydrate afterwards.
Wear Eye Protection: Look for UV 400 or 99 to 100 percent UV absorption.
Reduce or Quit Smoking: Smoking speeds the loss of collagen from the skin.
Reduce Indoor Air Pollution. Air pollution is a significant eye irritant.
Use a Soothing Eye Treatment: Reduce eye puffiness with home remedies.
If the dark circles are due to pigmentation, one of the best ways to address this type of dark circles is to prevent over manipulation of the area, Dr. Rubinstein advised.
People who suffer from dark circles early in life often use numerous creams and other preparations to try to alleviate the problem, Dr. Rubinstein noted.
However, some of those preparations occasionally have a negative reaction, he said, which leads to temporary redness which the skin converts to even more pigmentation.
“Preventing inflammation is the best way to minimize the proliferation of the pigmentation,” Dr. Rubinstein said. “So it’s best to reduce over stimulating the delicate skin under the eyes.”
In the next section, Dr. Ogunleye offers her advice on what to avoid when it comes to products or methods that claim to treat dark circles under the eyes.
Remedies for Dark Under-Eye Circles That You Should Avoid
Before spending money on products that claim cure dark circles under the eyes, it’s important to be realistic, Dr. Ogunleye said.
Some of them are really expensive, but most things that say they take away your dark circles probably won’t, she said. So before spending hundreds of dollars, know that more likely than not, it’s not going to work.
There are some over-the-counter products that may offer temporary results – but the key word is “temporary.”
“There are a lot of serums out there that might give you some temporary results, maybe a couple of hours of improvement,” Dr. Ogunleye said. “So it’s a matter of whether you feel your money is worth a couple of hours.”
Some over-the-counter under eye creams contain retinol, which has properties that can help even out the skin tone.
“But with retinol, you can get some dryness and irritation, so you have to be careful to make sure you’re using a moisturizer at the same time,” Dr. Ogunleye advised.
Getting Rid of Dark Circles Under Your Eyes – The Bottom Line
Dark circles under the eyes are difficult to treat, according Dr. Ogunleye.
“There are a couple things that can help their appearance, but people who want their eyes to look like they did when they were 10 years old is not a realistic hope,” Dr. Ogunleye said.
Dr. Ogunleye suggests the use of concealer to help diminish the look of dark circles under the eyes.
If you’re going to spend money on something, makeup concealer will give you the biggest bang for your dollar, she said. Dr. Ogunleye also highly recommends the use of sunscreen – 30 SPF or above – as a preventive measure.
“I recommend sunscreen for the entire face, including under the eyes, because any type of sun exposure can make skin areas darker,” Dr. Ogunleye said.
If you are prone to allergies, it is important to keep allergies under control because swelling and redness around the eyes is a common side effect of allergies, Dr. Rubinstein advised.
“This may lead to the appearance of dark circles and inflammation that may lead to pigmentation,” he said.
It’s important to understand that dark under eye circles are super common, Dr. Ogunleye added, and this appearance is usually not as bad as the person might think.
“Nine out of 10 people who think their under eye circles are too dark – they’re not nearly as dark as they think, and other people really don’t notice,” Dr. Ogunleye said. “That’s why makeup is good. There’s great makeup out there that you can use to conceal all things.”
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