Dark under eye circles are the bane of many people’s existence. No matter how much sleep you get, they’re still there!
I remember as a pre-teen my first foray into make-up was an effort to conceal the dark under eye area that made me look constantly tired or ill. Concealing didn’t seem to work, so for many years I accepted my fate of tired-looking eyes as just the way things would be.
Recently, I decided to look deeper into the issue of under eye circles and figure out just what they really mean–and if there’s anything else to do about them. It turns out there is!
Contrary to popular belief, dark circles are not just the result of being tired.
The thin skin below your eyes shows blood vessels more easily than the thicker skin on the rest of your body. Some people are genetically predisposed to thinner skin below the eyes. Dark circles also tend to worsen as we age and our skin loses elasticity.
Dark circles and under eye puffiness can be caused or exacerbated by allergies, sinus problems or smoking, all of which affect circulation. (Because most conventional personal care products contain known allergens, sensitivity to these products may be a cause of under eye darkness as well.)
Proper nutrition and hydration
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies (particularly iron and vitamins K and B12) can worsen your dark circle situation by reducing the supply of oxygen to body tissue and making bluish veins more pronounced. (**Iron and B12 in particular can be common concerns for vegetarians and vegans.) Gluten and sugar also contribute to the problem as they’re both inflammatory and inflamed blood vessels are more visible.
Step 1 to combating dark circles: Eat a balanced whole foods diet including plenty of leafy greens (at least a couple servings per day) and stay hydrated (see this article for more details on how much water you should be drinking daily).
As we all know, lack of sleep can increase the appearance of dark circles–but that can mean either not enough sleep or not the right kind of sleep. See this article for more information on healthy sleep patterns and this one on tips for waking up well.
Also, if you sleep on your back (rather than on your stomach or side), your head will be slightly elevated and less fluid will pool in your face, decreasing the appearance of dark circles.
Stress hormones (caused by lifestyle factors or overconsumption of caffeine/sugar/alcohol) increase swelling in the body, including under the eyes. Learn to manage your stress and keep your body in a relaxed state. Check out these seven tips for keeping your body relaxed and healthy.
Sweet almond oil contains vitamin A, an antioxidant effective in treating under eye circles. It’s also anti-inflammatory and helps moisturize and soften skin.
Before bed each night, gently massage a few drops of almond oil into the skin beneath your eyes. To see results you’ll need to apply daily. Several precautions: 1) use sweet almond oil, 2) be careful not to get it in your eyes, and 3) avoid almond oil if you’re pregnant or allergic to nuts.
Caffeine constricts blood vessels. When applied to the skin under your eyes, it causes dark circles to appear less vivid. Tea also contains antioxidants and tannins that soothe and tighten the skin around your eyes.
Steep full-caf black tea bags in boiling water for a couple minutes, then cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Lay down and place the damp (not dripping) tea bags over your eyes for 15-20 minutes.
Some days, despite the natural remedies above, you may still have noticeable under eye circles you’d like to conceal. If you’re not into the flawless multi-layer process that uses like 8 brushes and assumes you’re wearing foundation all over your face, there are a couple products that work effectively on just the under eye area.
The general recommendation is to use a gentle moisturizer or eye cream, apply concealer and set with powder. (Truthfully, I don’t have an eye cream but figure the daily moisturizing with almond oil is sufficient, and I also don’t use powder and feel fine about it.) Gently pat, don’t rub, the concealer into your skin using your ring finger, which is the weakest.
These are the products I’ve used and like best:
Bare Minerals Stroke of Light
I like this one–it’s got acceptably safe ingredients and is easy to apply. It doesn’t completely conceal my dark circles, but is natural-looking and gives the appearance that there’s less to conceal. It doesn’t wash off very well without eye make-up remover, which is good or bad, depending how you look at it. For reference, I’m shade Luminous 2.
Mineral Fusion Concealer
Like all Mineral Fusion products, this is made from safe ingredients you can feel okay about putting near your eyes. It comes in a duo so you can blend to get the shade you need. I find it works best applied to well-moisturized skin with a beauty blender. For reference, I go for shade Neutral.
Depending how dark your circles are, tinted moisturizer can help mute them a bit. I like the Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream (I’m shade Natural 05).