Here are 7 of the most common causes of dark under-eye circles and how to deal with them

Here are 7 of the most common causes of dark under-eye circles and how to deal with them

03.06.2022 Off By manager_1

blue eyes with blue eyes

Imagine this: After you’ve snoozed your alarm numerous times, you finally get up and moved to the bathroom. You notice extra circles under your eyes when you finally open your peepers. *Gasp. *Gasp.

Although it may seem that one eye cream or skin-care tip might solve the problem, Joshua Zeichner MD, a New York City dermatologist, says “there are many factors that determine under-eye circles. These include your genetics as well as environmental factors.” This means that no two dark circles are alike and there is no single solution.

Here are the top dermatologists’ recommendations for what to do about dark under-eye circles.

7 main causes of dark undereye circles

UV light exposure

Exposure to UV light can often cause true pigment, rather than shadows or pools of blood under the eyes. Dr Zeichner says that the sun’s rays can cause melanin to increase, which is the dark brown or dark pigment naturally found in skin, hair, and eyes. This can lead to dark spots under the skin.

How to tell if it is? Dark under-eye circles due to hyperpigmentation tend to have a darker tone. Dr Zeichner says that UV light exposure can also make your skin look blotchy. This is similar to sunspots. Sunspots, also known as ICYDK, are usually flat, dark brown spots that appear on sun-exposed areas. According to the Cleveland Clinic, they can be spotty or a wash of color.

This is another way to determine if this is what’s causing your dark under-eye circles. Try looking in a mirror. Then tilt your head toward the sun. Dr Zeichner says that dark circles may still be present if there are dark pigments underneath the eyes. This could mean hyperpigmentation due to UV exposure.

Treatment: A brightening ingredient such as vitamin C can help dark circles due to hyperpigmentation. Dr Zeichner says that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects skin from free radical damage and prevents abnormal pigmentation. Sun exposure can lead to or worsen hyperpigmentation. Therefore, sunscreen should be applied daily around the eyes.


A few people may have darker areas under their eyes that can make it appear as a dark circle. This pigmentation can be predisposed by genetics. “There is also a condition where melanocytes (melanin producing cells) are located in the dermal layer [middle of the skin] and cause pigmentation,” says Naana Boakye MD, dermatologist, founder of Bergen Dermatology, Englewood Cliffs. Although there is no known cause, genetic factors may be partially to blame.

Dr Zeichner adds that “another major issue we see in genetic under-eye circles” is a lack of volume, causing a shadow.

How to tell if it is it: Dark circles can be caused by genetics. Some people experience persistent darkness even though they don’t have any allergies or have had good sleep. It could have been a problem since childhood, or even as a teenager. Dark under-eye circles can be caused by genes, but they may also become more noticeable after a long weekend at the beach, or natural skin ageing. The bottom line? Genetics are most likely to be responsible for dark skin that persists regardless of any lifestyle changes or skin-care regimens.

What you can do to fix it: There isn’t much you can do about your DNA. While there is no way to stop dark circles from genetics, applying sunscreen diligently can prevent them from getting worse. “Sun protection should be a priority for all people, but especially for those with genetic darkening, as too much sunlight can make the condition worse,” Roberta Del Campo MD, a dermatologist at Del Campo Dermatology and Laser Institute and medical adviser for Babor, a skin care brand.

Dr Zeichner says that this is where plumping eye creams with ingredients like hyaluronic acids can help, especially if there’s a lack in volume, which can lead to a shadow.

Rubbery can cause irritation

Dr Boakye says that the skin around your eyes can be delicate and thin because there is so little fat beneath. This thin skin can be the first to show signs such as wrinkles, dryness, and dark circles. It can also be transparent enough that you can see the blood vessels or veins underneath. Excessive rubbing can cause broken blood vessels and pigment changes, which can further lead to discolouration underneath the eyes. This can be especially noticeable in patients suffering from eczema and other eyelid irritations.

Dr Zeichner adds that excessive rubbing can cause inflammation and pigment formation. This is why it’s so important to take care when removing your makeup.

This type of hyperpigmentation, which is not visible below your lower lashline, can form a ring around the upper and lower eyelids and extend up to your cheeks. It’s almost like a bruise.

It’s easy to fix: Stop rubbing your eyes. That’s it.

Loss of volume or thin skin

The skin beneath your eyes begins to lose its structure as you age. This causes the eyes appear sunkenter. Dr Zeichner explains that dark under-eye shadows can be caused by skin changes and a lack of fullness due to normal skin ageing. Dr. Del Campo says that because your skin around your eyes is delicate at all ages, blood vessels can become more prominent over time, which can lead to a darker appearance.

You can determine if the shadows are to blame by standing in front of a mirror. If so, lift your head towards the light source. The shadow is caused by lack of fullness and filled in by light. Translation: Your dark under-eye circles are likely due to loss of volume.

You can treat it with retinol. This is a powerful skin-care ingredient that helps to restore the skin’s structure and elasticity. The office can also be used to treat hollowness under the eyes with injectable fillers such as Restylane. Dr Zeichner explains that the goal of treatment is fill in the voids and create a smooth transition from the undereye to the cheek.

Sleep deprivation

Insufficient sleep is one of the leading causes of dark circles around the eyes. According to the American Psychological Association, poor sleep can cause your body to produce more stress hormone cortisol. This can increase your heart rate and cause blood vessels dilation (a process called vasodilation). Dr. Del Campo explains that tiredness can cause dark circles under your eyes.

How to tell if it is? Dark circles that are caused by blood pooling under the eyes (and therefore lack of sleep) can have a blue-to-purple tint. Dr Zeichner says puffiness is also more common.

The solution? Get more sleep. This can be difficult to do. If you are having trouble getting enough sleep, here are some expert-backed tips to help you get better rest.


Due to the ability of pollen season to take (what can appear like) a look at your face, dark under-eye circles are often called allergy shiners. Nasal congestion is the most common cause of discolouration, regardless of the name.

According to the Mayo Clinic, nasal congestion is often caused by seasonal allergies. This happens when tissues and blood vessels around the nose are swollen with excessive fluid. Dr Del Campo says that blood can pool under the eyes, and these swollen vessels dilate and darken, leading eventually to puffiness and darkness. Dr Boakye says that discolouration can sometimes be caused by the location of the vessels or the muscle near the surface.

How to tell if it is? Allergy-related dark circles are not trauma-related black eye. They appear under both eyes. The excess fluid might cause puffiness and other symptoms. Dr Boakye says that you may notice a darker appearance due to the excess fluid.

How to treat it. If you have seasonal allergies, consult your doctor about the best treatment options. This could include allergy shots or an OTC decongestant such as Zyrtec or Benadryl. Dr Zeichner suggests that you use an eye cream with caffeine to reduce puffiness. “Caffeine constricts blood vessels to eliminate excess fluid, improve puffiness, and reduce the appearance of dark circles.”


The skin around your eyes can look dull and sunken if your body doesn’t get enough water. This is similar to the appearance of a hollow face due to volume loss. Dr Boakye says that it can dry out, which can make any existing discolorations worse. She also said that alcohol can “potentially worsen hyperpigmentation around your eyes” — which is understandable considering it’s dehydrating.

How to tell if it is? This is how you can find out. Drink plenty of water and get some sleep the next night. This should reduce any darkening caused by lack of sleep or dehydration.

How to treat it? Hyaluronic acid can be used to fill in any under-eye hollows. Dr Zeichner explains that this powerful ingredient can hydrate and plump the skin, which will allow you to get rid of any under-eye circles caused by dehydration.