Dark Circles: What Actually Causes Them?

Curious about dark circles? We can help. Here is what actually causes them

Learn the root cause of those dark circles

It’s probably not a surprise to wake up with dark circles under your eyes if you’ve had a late night at a party, or if you’ve been up most of the night with a crying baby. But why does being tired cause dark circles to appear under our eyes, causing us to run to the store to find the best eye cream we can find? And why do some of us have dark under-eye circles despite having had a good night’s sleep? What are some common causes and solutions for dark circles beneath the eyes?


The skin beneath our eyes is especially thin and delicate. Because of this, the blood vessels beneath the surface are more easily visible there than other places in our body. According to dermatologists, not being well-rested results in blood vessels dilating in an effort to allow increased oxygen flow. This phenomenon is especially visible through the fragile flesh below our eyes.

One way to counteract the dark under eye circles that result from lack of sleep is to chill tea bags in the refrigerator and then place them in the area beneath your eyes. The tannic acid in the tea will help the fluid to retract to relieve puffiness and aid in shrinking the expanded blood vessels.


Dehydration is another common cause of dark under-eye circles. When your body isn’t receiving the proper amount of water, the skin on your face will become sunken. This is more noticeable beneath the eyes because the very thin skin sinks closer against the underlying bone, causing shadows to be more visible.

Adults need eight to 12 cups of water each day in order to stay properly hydrated.

Allergy Eye-Shiners

Allergies trigger a histamine reaction in the body which sometimes causes bruise-like dark circles beneath the eyes. Congestion in the sinuses results in blood pooling in the veins under your eyes which then dilate and darken. Antihistamine medications may help to lessen the symptoms of allergies, including allergic shiners; however, allergic shiners may persist during seasonal allergies, in which case it may be a good time to add a high quality concealer to your makeup bag.

Genetic Connection

Like many things, a tendency toward dark under-eye circles can be genetic. If the people in your family commonly have thin under-eye skin, it may be the norm in your family photos for many of your aunts, uncles, and cousins to look as though they’ve pulled some all-nighters. In these cases you can speak to a dermatologist about medications that lighten the skin beneath your eyes, or else test out some concealers until you find the one that works best to brighten your under=eye area.

Aging Angst

Just as aging causes us to lose collagen and skin elasticity elsewhere, it will also happen in our faces. Losing volume in our faces causes the flesh to settle against the bone, accentuating the shadows under our eyes. This can only be remedied completely by fillers, but can be minimized by getting adequate sleep and staying well-hydrated.

Shun the sun

It’s important to protect your skin from the sun for many reasons, and darkening under eye circles is another one of them. Sun exposure causes the body to produce melanin, the skin darkening pigment. This can be especially noticeable beneath the eyes. Because darker-skinned people naturally have more melanin, this can be an even more pronounced reaction for them.

Don’t Stress

Stress is another common factor in darkening the skin beneath the eyes. Stress causes the blood to be drawn defensively around the interior organs of the body, often leaving the skin on the face looking pale or pasty. This can cause the blood vessels under the eyes to look more pronounced.

While dark under eye circles aren’t usually anything to be concerned about, according to doctors, it can be a sign of iron deficiencies and anemia. If your dark circles persist and are accompanied by fatigue and other symptoms, see your doctor. Otherwise, there are plenty of ways you can minimize dark circles or even camouflage them with a good concealer.

Resources — Healthy Women, Healthline, Everyday Health, Cosmopolitan

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