Whether you were up late because you were spending time with friends or because you got sucked into the latest grand slam Netflix hit, waking up with dark circles under your eyes is the literal worst. Just looking at them in the mirror makes you feel even more tired.
So what can we do about it? Covering them with layers of concealer is one way to dodge the Monday morning questions at the office, but it’s not a real solution. Let’s look at some of the things we can do to reduce dark circles under your eyes once they’re there and how to prevent them from showing up again in the future.
What causes dark circles under eyes?
Dark circles can show up under your eyes for many reasons, including environmental, dietary, and genetic triggers. Some of these we have more control over than others. Here are a few of the things that might be causing your dark undereye circles in the morning.
Lack of sleep
I’m sure it will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that not getting enough sleep at night wreaks havoc with your complexion. Fatigue causes your skin to look dull and sallow, which makes the blood vessels underneath more immediately visible. Plus, a lack of sleep can also cause fluid buildup behind your eyes, making them appear swollen. This means that your eyelids and eyelashes are casting more shadows, giving the appearance of darker areas around your eyes.
Whether you’re drinking a glass of merlot (or two, or three) with your dinner, or you’re throwing back half a frat hall with your friends while you watch TV, your alcohol intake before bed isn’t doing your skin any favors. The alcohol dehydrates you, which makes your eyes and skin look sallow. It also wears down your internal systems and makes it harder to get a healthy, peaceful night’s sleep.
If you have seasonal sensitivities to things like pollen and cut grass, you may find that your dark undereye circles begin to look more apparent. This is because the histamines released by allergies irritate the eyes and make the puffiness around the eye area even more prominent. Another problem is that these irritations tend to make you scratch and rub at your eye area, exacerbating the irritation and leading to damaged blood vessels. This makes the dark shadows under your eyes even worse. If you experience dark circles alongside other allergy symptoms, try taking an anti-allergy medication and make an effort not to further irritate the eye area.
Stress really does have an awful effect on just about every area of our life, and our skin is no exception. Stress can cause you problems in your sleep routine, it can cause you to push your limits beyond what your body is comfortable with (such as cramming in front of a computer screen the night before a looming deadline), and it can cause inflammation in the body. All of these things lead to issues with our complexion, including dark circles under our eyes.
It’s no secret that what we put into our bodies affects every part of us, both inside and out. When you’re not eating well, it’s unfortunately going to show up under your eyes. Dark circles are often an indication that you’re not getting enough iron in your diet, which means that not enough oxygen is reaching your body’s tissues. If you’re big on salty foods, this is another potential culprit: snacks with a high salt content contribute to dehydrating the body, which, as we’ve seen, gives your skin a more sunken look and makes your undereye circles more prominent.
You’ve heard it time and time again: put on sunscreen when you leave the house. Sun exposure causes permanent damage to the skin, including hyperpigmentation, which shows up as dark spots and undereye circles. Prolonged exposure to the sun also lowers the elasticity of your skin (which is what causes wrinkles!), which makes your eyes look saggier and the dark circles more pronounced.
Unfortunately, the best precautions in the world can’t alter your unique physical makeup. The appearance of dark circles is influenced largely by the thickness of the skin underneath your eyes and its susceptibility to hyperpigmentation from environmental factors like the sun. What this means is that dark circles will show up more readily on some people than others. Darker-skinned people are generally more naturally predisposed to having dark shadows show up around their eye area, but dark circles can affect anybody.
The final and most consistent cause of dark circles under the eye is growing older. As we age, our skin becomes thinner, loses its elasticity, and retains less fat under our eyes. This causes the dark blood vessels underneath our eyes to appear darker and more visible. While we can’t stop the biological clock, we can take certain steps to improve our lifestyle and live the healthiest life we can. We’ll look at lifestyle changes to help combat dark circles below.
Are dark circles dangerous for your health?
Most of the time, the dark circles that you see under your eyes when you wake up aren’t inherently dangerous. Instead, they’re a visual manifestation of other things that actually are hazardous to your health, such as poor sleep habits, an unbalanced diet, or excessive exposure to the sun. All of these things can deteriorate your physical well-being over time and lead to more severe illnesses. For this reason, when you see dark circles under your eyes it’s a good idea to step back and take a look at what sort of broader effect your lifestyle is having on you.
Occasionally, however, dark circles under the eyes might be a sign of chronic inflammation or leaking blood vessels. If your dark undereye circles get continually worse over a few days, if they’re discolored, or if they don’t match on both sides, it’s a good idea to get a checkup with your doctor just to be safe.
I’ve woken up with dark circles — what do I do?
If you’ve looked in the mirror and seen those annoying dark patches hanging out under your eyes, you’ll want to address them quickly before you begin your day. Here are a few quick and easy steps you can take to reduce dark circles once they’ve reared their heads.
Beauticians have been championing the effects of natural rose water for a while (since the fifteenth century or so) as a treatment for beautiful skin, lustrous hair, and spiritual well-being. Rosewater is soothing, brightening, and treats irritation. Plus, spraying it will have a pleasant cooling effect on the skin as well. Try spraying it all over your face, or soaking a cotton ball in rose water and gently pressing it into the skin under your eyes.
One of the biggest movie makeover tropes of cinematic history actually has some truth to it. Cucumbers on the eyes have a lovely cooling and relaxing effect, they’re mildly astringent and contain a lot of moisture. Try chilling your cucumber before slicing, then place the slices directly on your eyes for ten to twenty minutes. (Don’t slice them before chilling, as some guides will tell you because you’ll lose more moisture that way.) Voila! Brighter eyes and an instagrammable beauty sesh.
Make a quick and easy eye compress out of something you probably already have in your kitchen. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, and black tea contains caffeine that helps with blood circulation and shrinks blood vessels. Soak the teabags in clean water and leave them in the fridge for about ten minutes. Then apply them to your eyes for twenty minutes or so to soothe your eyes and reduce puffiness around the eye area.
We know that potatoes are a non-negotiable pantry staple, but skincare? Potatoes actually contain a slew of beneficial compounds, including vitamin C, which is well known for its brightening properties, and vitamin K, which treats stagnant blood coagulation under the eyes. To use potatoes for dark circles, grate your potatoes into a bowl and then strain out all the pulpy bits so what you’re left with is a liquid. Refrigerate that for half an hour or so, then soak a cotton ball with the potato juice and apply it gently to your undereye area.
You’ll notice that most of the remedies on this list include chilling for best use. That’s because the cold helps to tighten your skin and rejuvenate the area under your eyes. If you don’t have anything else available, you can help reduce dark circles and puffiness with a cold compress. You can use a washcloth soaked in icy water and applied to the eyes, or you can chill a teaspoon in the refrigerator and gently press the cool metal to your undereye area. Try keeping two in rotation when you do this — chill a second one while you’re using the first, and then when it warms up switch over to the cold one while your first teaspoon cools back down. Easy!
How can I keep dark circles from coming back?
The steps above are helpful when you wake up with dark circles under your eyes, but you’ll want to try developing a long game plan to keep them from showing up too often. Making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle will keep your skin and your body healthier, so you don’t need to worry about keeping dark circles down every time you wake up.
Get more sleep
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s so important to just about every aspect of your life. To keep dark circles away for the long run, try to find a way to get into a healthier, more stable sleep routine. You should be sleeping seven to eight hours each night at a minimum. Stay off your phone before bed, get into bed a little bit earlier, and take some self-care downtime before you sleep in order to sleep deeper and more peacefully throughout the night. When you wake up well-rested, your undereye area will be a lot happier (and you’ll be a lot happier, too).
Stay out of the sun
We all love to soak up those glorious summer rays, but the UVA and UVB rays aren’t doing your skin any favors. To fight dark circles, you should be wearing sunscreen every day, even on cloudy days. Stick to at least SPF30 and keep a small bottle in your bag for touch-ups through the day. Be especially mindful if you work indoors near an open window; it’s so easy to forget once you’re inside that the sun’s rays are reaching you just as easily. And when you’re outdoors in the sun, remember your sunglasses! Protect those baby blues (or browns, or greens), and the delicate skin under your eyes will thank you.
Keeping your body hydrated from both inside and out is super important when it comes to fighting off dark circles. Use a gentle moisturizer or a designated eye cream under your eyes at least once a day to keep your undereye skin soft, relaxed, and bright. Use moisturizer right after showering for best results, when your skin is at its most absorbent.
Likewise, you need to keep your body moisturized from the inside, too. Remind yourself to drink lots of water throughout the day as well as juices or high-moisture foods, such as fresh fruit. Try to keep alcohol and food with a lot of salt in it to a minimum, especially before bed, as these can both be very dehydrating.
Eat a vitamin-rich diet
Like most things in life, you get out of your body what you put into it. When you’re sustaining yourself on college dorm food and day-old pizzas, is it any wonder that your complexion begins to suffer? To keep dark circles from coming back, incorporate more vitamin-rich and anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and antioxidant-rich foods such as tomatoes, berries, and green leaves will all support a healthier system and reduce the appearance of dark circles over time.
Getting dark circles under our eyes is, unfortunately, one of the less appealing facts of being alive, and we can’t avoid them completely. As we get older, we can celebrate darker circles, laugh lines, and white hairs as marks left behind by the wonderful life that we’ve had. However, sometimes these dark circles might be an indication of unhealthy aspects of your lifestyle. With these tips, we can approach our health and our skin in a more positive way and keep the appearance of dark circles down.