Dark Under Eye Circles Explained

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Dermatologists and plastic surgeons will tell you that one of the number one complaint and concerns of their clients is the appearance of dark circles under their eyes. They make women look tired and much older, no matter how well-rested they are. You can get dark circles for a myriad of reasons, ranging from diet and lack of sleep, to pigmentation and allergies. A lot of the time you may be suffering from a combination of causes, so a multi-faceted approach to getting rid of them may be required.

Your plan of attack depends on the color of your circles. Look straight into a mirror in natural light, then lower your chin slightly to expose the shadows under your eyes. This way, you’ll see clearly whether your circles are more blue or more brown.

Blue Circles:

Hereditary Under Eye Circles

Blue circles under your eyes can be caused by the blood vessels being visible underneath your skin. The circles seem to be more visible in the morning than any other time of day. This happens because you’ve been horizontal for a while, fluids accumulate and the veins expand to hold more blood.  If you have thin skin underneath your eyes, it’s more than likely a genetic trait. If you are genetically prone to having blue circles, there are a few things that can make the problem worse. Sun, a diet heavy in salt and caffeine, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can cause and severely exacerbate dark circles.  Avoid them as much as possible, if you can. Blue circles may get worse with age because as we get older, we lose subcutaneous fat, which can mask blueness below the surface of the skin.

Woman applying under eye cream
What can you do about it?
Since this is mostly a hereditary thing, there is little you can really do to prevent it entirely. However, simple over the counter remedies like  an anti-aging moisturizer,  retinol or vitamin C cream helps stimulate collagen production to make skin thicker and the veins beneath less noticeable. Sleeping on propped up pillows and applying a cold compress in the morning can reduce puffiness around the eyes. If these don’t have the desired affect, see a dermatologist to see if any of their laser or filler treatments might work for you. 

Brown Circles

Brown circles result from hyperpigmentation, dehydration, can be triggered by chronic eye-rubbing, sun exposure, or genetics. Never underestimate the detrimental effects of  lack of moisturization. Make sure you are always drinking enough water.
What can you do about it?
Eye Brightening

Your best option is a daily use of a cream or serum spiked with a skin brightener, like soy, cucumber or citrus. These added ingredients can help lighten circles over a period of four to six weeks. It’s best to avoid hydroquinone, a go-to lightener for sun spots and scars. Most dermatologists agree that it’s far too heavy-duty for the eye area and could actually severely damage your skin. Just like blue circles, there are treatments dermatologists use elsewhere on the face that can also lessen the look of brown circles. This pigmentation responds well to low-concentration TCA (trichloroacetic acid) peels, which deeply exfoliate your skin. Plan on spending about $100 a treatment, and you may need several over the course  of a few months. For further enhanced results, there are lasers which destroy pigment cells and even out skin tone with a beam of light energy. Most circles lighten after two or three $500 sessions.

Other Ways To Fight Dark Circles

Dark circles are a sign of aging that can also be remedied with various cosmetic dermatology treatments. At Oregon Derma Center, we have a number of anti aging treatments available, including fillers, injectables and laser treatments. We have two offices, one in Nob Hill and One in McMinnville,  and we are proud to service clients from all over the greater Portland area, including Tigard, Happy Valley and Lake Oswego. Call us today to find out how you can begin to fight the signs of aging.


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