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Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

What Is Causing the Dark Circles under My Eyes?

By Nuala Woulfe

Periorbital dark circles have a great variety of different causes, and despite what most people seem to think, fatigue isn’t the only one. While alcohol and lack of sleep can both contribute to dark circles under eyes, there are also a number of illnesses that can have this effect, and some people are just genetically predisposed to look that way from childhood. The combination of a fair complexion and thin skin is often the culprit.

Some of the more common causes of dark circles under the eyes include:

  1. Dark circles under the eyes can appear in childhood, and are often an inherited trait. Some children will outgrow them, but others will not.
  2. Nasal congestion can dilate the blood vessels that drain from the area around your eyes, causing them to darken.
  3. Sleep deprivation is the most common cause, and the easiest to prevent, but …
  4. Oversleeping can also cause dark eye circles.
  5. Eczema
  6. Stress
  7. As we get older, our skin becomes thinner.
  8. Iron deficiency can prevent the blood from carrying sufficient oxygen to eye tissues.
  9. Minor trauma that causes the appearance of a black eye
  10. Crying
  11. Excessive smoking or drinking can contribute to under-eye circles. Also, people who drink too much coffee or who use cocaine or amphetamines may have difficulty getting enough sleep.
  12. Fluid retention, as may occur with pregnancy or weight gain.
  13. Skin pigmentation abnormalities. The skin around the eyes is thinner, which is why your blood vessels are more readily visible through it. For this reason, irregular distribution of the melanin that gives the skin its color can cause dark circles to appear beneath the eyes. This is frequently a problem for people of Asian or African descent.
  14. Excessive exposure to the sun. Sun exposure encourages your body to produce more melanin.
  15. As we get older, we lose some of the fat and collagen surrounding our eyes. This loss, combined with the thinning of our skin, magnifies the appearance of dark eye circles.
  16. Excess salt in the diet causes fluid retention throughout your body —including underneath your eyes.

Remedies for Dark Circles under Eyes

The correct remedy for the dark circles under your eyes will of course depend on the cause of those dark circles, which may be difficult to pin down. While the causes of dark eye circles vary, many simple home remedies can be helpful for addressing a variety of causes:

Cold compress: a cold facecloth or a bag of frozen peas wrapped with the facecloth can sometimes work wonders. Cucumber slices often work too, of course, but only because they are cool, not because of any component of the cucumber; cutting cucumber slices may therefore be more trouble than it is worth if simpler options are available (and they always are).

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