Dark Circles

Dark circles, also called dark rings or shadows, can be described as the darkening of the skin between the lower eyelid and the top of the cheek. These shadows can affect men and women in their adulthood, though kids can also develop dark circles. As you grow older, the skin under your eyes becomes thinner and loses collagen. This augments the appearance of blood vessels beneath the eyes and makes the area seem darker than it is.

Most of us try our best to getting avoid dark circles, because they usually make us look tired, exhausted, unhealthy and maybe even old. We also tend to assume that a person who has dark circles isn’t getting enough sleep during the day. However, dark circles are not necessarily a sign of fatigue, insomnia or any serious illness. There are several different factors that could cause you to develop dark rings under the eyes.

At times, shadows under the eyes crop up suddenly and then disappear just as quickly. This usually occurs when you are suffering from a mild reaction to dust to animal dander, or perhaps if you are under the weather. However, in some cases dark circles develop over a period of time and may not go away. This is usually an indication of anemia or chronic dehydration.

Dark circles are almost never a cause for concern, though if you’d like to get rid of the unsightly shadows under your eyes, it is best for you to consult a dermatologist as soon as they appear. Your dermatologist may recommend a wide range of topical products, home remedies, dietary changes and skincare tips, to lighten the dark circles. However, if these options do not yield the desired results, you could also choose to opt for laser therapy or surgery.

In case you notice the sudden appearance of a dark circle under one eye only, it is best to seek prompt medical care.

Symptoms of Dark Circles

Dark circles are not a skin or medical condition; instead they can be described as symptoms of underlying problems or deficiencies. Depending upon the causes, at times the shadows or discoloration under your eyes may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Eczema or atopic dermatitis, caused by allergies
  • Irritability, fatigue and anxiety because of poor sleep quality
  • Itchy skin and rash in case of allergies
  • Mild swelling or puffy bags under the eyes
  • Pain or pressure in the face because of sinusitis
  • Severe headache because of sinus infection
  • Watery and itchy eyes, sneezing and nasal congestion

In some instances the occurrence of dark circles, along with a few other symptoms could be an indication of a severe, life-threatening condition. These severe symptoms include:

  • Breathing difficulties like shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Bruising or redness around the eyes
  • Changes in levels of consciousness like passing out or becoming unresponsive
  • Constant itching in the throat or the mouth
  • Decline in the ability to move the eyes normally and vision changes
  • Feeling of tightness in the throat
  • High fever
  • Swelling, deformity or bleeding of the nose
  • Warmth in the eyelids and the eye area

Call an ambulance or have someone drive you to the emergency room in case you happen to notice any of these symptoms.

Causes of Dark Circles

Many people wonder why they have dark circles in spite of getting an adequate amount of rest and sleep each day. However, there are several different factors that could cause you to develop dark rings under the eyes, some of which include:

Diseases, Disorders and Medical Conditions

  • Orbital or peri-orbital cellulitis (an invasive eye infection)
  • Irregularities in pigmentation, mainly evident in Asian and Black populations
  • Dehydration
  • Allergies
  • Malnutrition
  • Anemia

Traumatic Factors

  • Injuries in and around the eyes
  • Eye surgery
  • Facial surgery (nasal surgery or plastic surgery procedures)
  • Rubbing or scratching the eyes too hard
  • Fracture of the nose, face, bones around the eyes, or the skull
  • General and Lifestyle Causes

    • Excess stress
    • Deep set eyes
    • Genetic or inherited factors
    • Crying excessively
    • High consumption of alcohol, caffeine or sodium
    • Smoking
    • Fatigue
    • Use of certain medicines, like birth control pills
    • Ageing
    • Thinning of the skin as well as loss of fat and collagen in the area around the eyes

    Exposure to the sun for a prolonged period of time could also increase the production of melanin mainly around the eyes, which darkens the area considerably.

    In order to treat dark circles appropriately, your skin specialist will need to first identify the exact causes.

    Remedies for Dark Circles

    In case the discoloration under eyes is severe or worsens with time, your doctor may advise you to undergo medical treatment options like:

    • Laser therapy and chemical peels to reduce or erase discoloration
    • Injectable fillers to smooth hollows under eyes
    • Surgery to eliminate puffiness in the eyelids
    • Unfortunately, the results of these options are not always perfect and therefore, you need to discuss all the possible outcomes with your doctor before you decide to go in for them.

      If your doctor determines that the dark rings under eyes are not caused by a medical concern, you may just be advised to follow simple self-care steps. The home treatment for bags under eyes usually includes natural cures like:

    • Cold Therapy: Wrap a few ice cubes in a soft napkin and place it under your eyes. This reduces the dilation and discoloration in the blood vessels. Instead of an ice pack, you could also try a bag of frozen peas, a chilled teabag and a cold spoon.
    • Cucumber Slices: This happens to be one of the most commonly used remedies for reducing puffiness and dark circles, as it immediately refreshes the skin around your eyes. Apply a thick slice of chilled cucumber on each eye and just relax for about 15 to 20 minutes. For best results, use this remedy every day.
    • Elevation: Place two or more pillows under your head when you sleep or take a nap. This prevents the puffiness that occurs when liquid gathers in the lower eyelid
    • Shades and Sunscreen: In the short term, a tan may hide your dark circles, but as tan wears off your shadows may be more prominent than before. To prevent this, protect your skin from extra pigmentation
    • Saline Spray: Relieve your nasal congestion by rinsing your sinuses with a saltwater solution or an over the counter saline spray. This should help alleviate dark circles
    • Potato: There are natural bleaching agents present in potato that can help lighten the dark circles and get rid of the puffiness around the eyes. Grate two small chilled potatoes and apply it on to your eyes for 15 to 20 minutes, before rinsing your eyelids off with cool water.
    • Sleep: While lack of sleep may not necessarily cause dark circles, it could cause you to appear pale, which makes the dark circles on your skin stand out more evidently. To avoid this, make sure that you get at least 8 hours of sleep each day.
    • These home remedies are quite safe if used correctly, but it is best to check with a doctor before trying any of them.

      Diet for Dark Circles

      There are no magical foods that can make the shadows under your eyes just disappear and therefore, there is no specific diet for dark circles that you can follow. However, a well-balanced and nutritious diet has a positive impact on your overall health and can improve your overall skin tone. Make sure you increase you intake of:

      Vitamin A

      • Cantaloupe
      • Carrots
      • Dried apricots
      • Eggs
      • Mango
      • Papaya
      • Peaches
      • Pumpkin
      • Spinach
      • Sweet potatoes

      Vitamin C

      • Bell pepper
      • Broccoli
      • Brussels sprouts
      • Cauliflower
      • Guavas
      • Kale
      • Kiwis
      • Mustard Greens
      • Oranges
      • Parsley
      • Strawberries
      • Vitamin K

        • Asparagus
        • Cabbage
        • Coriander
        • Cucumber
        • Dried basil leaves
        • Lettuce
        • Prunes
        • Spring onions
        • Turnip and beet greens
        • Vitamin E

          • Avocados
          • Corn
          • Olive
          • Sunflower seeds
          • Taro root
          • In addition to the foods mentioned above it is also important that you have at least 6 to 8 glasses of water each day.


            1. Roh MR, et al. Infraorbital dark circles: Definition, causes, and treatment options. Dermatologic Surgery. 2009;35:1163.
            2. Eberlin S, et al. Effects of a Brazilian herbal compound as a cosmetic eyecare for periorbital hyperchromia ("dark circles"). Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2009;8:127.
            3. Oppenheimer JJ. The nose and its relationship to the eyes. Current Allergy and Asthma Report. 2010;10:75.
            4. Roh MR, et al. Treatment of infraorbital dark circles by autologous fat transplantation: A pilot study. British Journal of Dermatology. 2009;160:1022.

            Suggestion for Dark Circles

            Though dark circles are not a serious problem, they should not be ignored for a long period of time. In case your dark circles are getting more prominent even when you do get an adequate amount of sleep and rest every day, it is best for you to consult a doctor.

            Dark Circles Treatments - more information
            Dark Circles - Frequently asked questions