Here's what you need to know about the best treatments to get rid of dark circles, and what causes them in the first place.
Important: When you're looking for a treatment for dark circles, it's not a one- size-fits-all approach — the most effective method depends on the underlying cause. That's why it's best to consult a dermatologist to determine the best treatment for you.
1. Get enough sleep
"Lack of sleep can contribute to darker blood vessels as well as fluid buildup under the eyes resulting in a dark shadow," says Karly O'Keefe, an esthetician and owner of the facial treatment center, SkincraftLA in Los Angeles.
Not getting enough sleep can also increase stress, which can exacerbate dark circles.
Important: Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night to help reduce the appearance of dark circles.
2. Try a cold compress
A cold compress can help reduce swelling and shrink dilated blood vessels, which — if those blood vessels are the ones under your eyes — can lessen the appearance of dark circles, says Michele Green, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist who runs her own practice in New York City.
To try this at home, wrap a few ice cubes in a clean washcloth, and then apply the washcloth to your eyes for three to five minutes. You can also wet a washcloth with cold water and place it on the skin under your eyes using gentle pressure for about 20 minutes. You can also use eye gel masks which can be left in the freezer until ready for use. Apply for 10 minutes.
3. Elevate your head while sleeping
If you wake up with dark circles, try elevating your head while you sleep.
This will keep fluid from pooling under your eyes overnight and prevent swelling, inflammation, and puffiness the next morning, O'Keefe says. Puffy and inflamed eyes can create shadows beneath your lower lid, giving the appearance of dark circles.
Quick tip: Try doubling up your pillows to elevate your head while sleeping.
4. Apply tea bags
A cool tea bag can also help with inflammation, O'Keefe says. This is because tea contains caffeine and antioxidants which help shrink blood vessels, stimulate blood circulation, and reduce puffiness.
To try this method, put used tea bags in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and then apply them to your eyes for 30 minutes. O'Keefe recommends green tea because its caffeine content constricts the capillaries and blood vessels under your eyes that tighten the skin.
5. Try cucumbers
Cucumbers contain vitamin K , which can reduce dark circles under the eyes by strengthening blood vessel walls. This makes blood vessels less visible under thinner skin. While they likely won't completely get rid of dark circles, cucumbers may help lessen their appearance, Green says.
To try this at home, cut a fresh cucumber into medium to thick slices, and refrigerate them for 30 minutes. Then place them on your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day. You can do this a few times a week. The cool cucumbers also act as a cold compress.
6. Take allergy medicine
Itchy red eyes associated with allergies can contribute to dark circles. That's because when you rub them they become irritated and puffy, creating shadows.
Taking an antihistamine can help reduce allergy symptoms that may exacerbate the presence of dark circles, Green says. But this is only effective if allergies are the cause of your dark circles. It is not recommended to take an antihistamine if you are not suffering from allergies.
7. Consider laser therapy
Laser therapy can help with dark circles if the cause is excessive melanin production — darker pigmentation — from genetics or sun exposure in the skin O'Keefe says.
Laser therapy involves applying a low level of light beams to the skin to improve collagen production in skin cells and reduce pigmentation. It should be done in a medical spa after a consultation with a dermatologist. Side effects can include swelling or irritation for a few days following treatment.
8. Ask your dermatologist about fillers
Fillers add volume under the eyes to reduce the appearance of shadows or under- eye hollowing, O'Keefe says.
The process involves small injections of fluid — typically hyaluronic acid — under the eyes to lift the surface of the skin. This puts space between the skin and underlying blood vessels to reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. This is done in a medical office with local anesthesia.
9. Try skin brighteners
Over-the-counter skin brighteners which can be purchased in serum, gel, or cream formats can remove dull skin cells and increase radiancy, says Green. Opt for products that contain vitamin C or niacinamide which can improve the appearance of dark circles caused by excessive melanin production. This can be applied twice a day in the morning and in the evening.
Other skin brighteners — such as retinoids or vitamin A — aren't recommended to use directly under the eye as they can lead to irritation, O'Keefe says.
Important: If you do use a skin brightener, be sure to also use sunscreen daily with SPF 30 or higher. That's because skin brighteners increase cell turnover, leaving new skin cells that are more sensitive to UV damage.
While you may not be able to treat the underlying cause of your dark circles, some at-home remedies — like a cold compress — as well as medical treatments can help. If you are concerned about your dark circles, talk with a doctor or dermatologist about the best treatment options for you.