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Dark Circles Under Your Eyes? Here’s What to Do
By Dr. Josh Axe
January 12, 2023
If you’ve been occasionally missing out on sleep lately, you’re probably not surprised that dark circles have developed under your eyes. But what types of circumstances can lead to occasional dark circles, including occasionally not getting enough sleep?
There are many reasons why dark circles under the eyes develop, including being overly stressed, not getting enough sleep at times and even sleeping too much at times.
Wondering how to diminish the appearance of those occasional dark circles under your eyes? As you’ll find out in this article, in addition to addressing the aforementioned reasons, some of the most effective strategies include staying hydrated, eating antioxidant-rich foods, using plumping skincare ingredients, and supplementing with collagen to boost your skin’s volume.
Dark circles are a form of hyperpigmentation (discoloration) that affects the delicate skin under the eyes. They’re often related to the skin’s volume and sometimes the natural aging process, being tired and not staying as hydrated as we should. These factors can all occasionally cause the under-eye area to appear purple, blue, brown, or black and sometimes puffy.
The soft tissue under the eyes is called the suborbicularis oculi. The under-eyes are made of collagen, elastin, and even some body fat. When you’re younger, the under-eye area usually appears bright, firm, and evenly toned. But as you age or experience excess stressors, such as occasional lack of sleep and/or veering from your usual healthy diet, the under-eye area can change in appearance in several ways.
What causes dark circles under the eyes? Some of the most common causes of dark circles include:
Aging: As we naturally age, we can experience loss of volume in the facial area, including around the eyes. This occurs when our bodies make less collagen, a type of structural protein and elastin that keeps skin firm. (This is a normal part of the natural aging process, by the way.) As our skin thins and loses volume, our under eyes can sag and also appear darker. Capillaries (small blood vessels) can also become visible, contributing to a darker under-eye color.
Not getting enough quality sleep: Occasional sleep deprivation can cause water retention and puffiness near the eyes.
Not staying as fully hydrated: This causes tissues to shrink and affects blood flow. Not consuming enough water and/or drinking too much caffeine, alcohol and other diuretics can contribute to this.
Products that can irritate the sensitive eye area: Many personal care products, such as soaps and serums, contain ingredients that can irritate the sensitive eye area. You can also become irritated if you rub your eyes too much.
Excess sun exposure: Too much sun exposure negative impacts skin cells and contributes to discoloration, sometimes which appears as dark circles plus wrinkles and fine lines.
Other causes can include:
Not removing makeup
Being overly stressed
Being too sedentary
Eating a poor diet
Now let’s tackle the question you’re likely asking yourself: How can I diminish dark circles under my eyes? Below are some ways to help brighten the area around your eyes, all of which also support overall skin health.
Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen, including dietary supplementation.
As mentioned above, two major reasons that dark circles form are occasional poor or lack of sleep and loss of tissue volume, such as due to natural aging. Fortunately, supplementing with certain collagen formulations targeting these may help.
For help with getting restful sleep, try Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein Beauty + Sleep Support formula, which contains 10 types of collagen plus magnesium to help you rest soundly. Not only does collagen support healthy skin, it also provides benefits for your hair, joints, gut and more.
Supplementing with Multi Collagen Protein Beauty + Sleep can provide these benefits:
Supports healthy skin and skin elasticity
Improves the appearance of crow's feet after 4 weeks
Promotes healthy hair thickness and growth while reducing hair breakage
Promotes restful sleep
Reduces collagen degradation with noticeable results
To keep your skin plump and to help avoid dryness and sagging, make sure to drink your water. Steer clear of too many dehydrating foods or beverages, instead aim to periodically drink water, sipping bone broth, green juices and herbal teas throughout the day.
You don’t necessarily have to pay a lot of money or undergo treatments to diminish the appearance of dark circles. Instead, try over-the-counter skincare products that can help reduce discoloration when used consistently.
For your optimal daily skincare routine, include these skincare ingredients for brightening circles under the eyes:
Sunscreen, to help avoid sun damage
Vitamin C, an antioxidant that benefits the cells and skin
Retinol (as long as it doesn’t irritate your skin), which promotes cell turnover to help decrease hyperpigmentation and fine lines
Caffeine (often found in eye creams), which helps to reduce puffiness
Hyaluronic acid, an ingredient that can help plump skin
Vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide, which helps even out and brighten your skin tone
Antioxidant ingredients such as algae and green tea, which help promote healthy skin
Glycerin, a moisturizing agent that helps prevent dryness
Opt to use gentle skin care products, avoiding those with alcohol and fragrances. It’s especially important only to use hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic products — meaning those that won’t clog pores or cause allergies and irritation — if you have sensitive skin.
Be sure not to overwash or rub your eyes too much, either. And always wash off your makeup at night. However, go easy on makeup remover and cleaning cloths which can sometimes contain alcohol and other irritants. Wash these off after you apply them to your face and eyes.
By upping your fruit and veggie consumption, you’ll boost your intake of antioxidants, which help fight free radicals (oxidative stress) and support healthy inflammation levels. Foods with healthy fats, such as fish and nuts, are also great for keeping skin hydrated and smooth.
Among the best foods for healthy skin include:
Herbs and spices
Nuts and seeds
Oily fish, such as salmon
Physical activity boosts blood flow. Plus, when you exercise during the day, you’re more likely to feel tired at night and to fall asleep more easily and soundly.
In addition to taking the steps above, you can potentially help to diminish the appearance of dark circles under the eyes with these tips and techniques:
Sleep on silk pillowcases, which can prevent stiff sheets from rubbing your eyes and irritating them.
Apply cooling undereye patches to decrease puffiness. For even more benefits, store your eye creams and patches in the refrigerator so they help constrict blood vessels under your eyes when you put them on.
Visit a dermatologist to ask about potentially receiving dermal fillers to plump the skin near the eyes.
If you suspect certain products are irritating your skin, visit your doctor to discuss having a patch test done (a special type of skin test that helps reveal which ingredients you may be allergic to).
Get your eye prescription checked to avoid straining your eyes, which can cause irritation.
Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, is a doctor of chiropractic, doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food and nutrition. He operates leading natural health website DrAxe.com and is co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, a health supplement company. He’s also author of the books Eat Dirt, Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, Keto Diet, Collagen Diet and Ancient Remedies.