causes and best treatments for dark circles

What’s the best treatment for dark circles under eyes?

It’s one of the questions that I get more often. One I answer with another question:

What causes dark circles under the eyes for you?

Lack of sleep? Too much sun exposure? Or maybe it’s genetics? You’d better know. Because the symptoms may be the same – dark, black pools under your eyes that make you look always tired and old – but the treatment sure isn’t.

If the sun’s the culprit, a good night’s sleep won’t help. If you’re not getting your beauty sleep, all the retinol in the world won’t lighten those dark circles.

You get the point: if you want to get rid of dark circles, you need to figure out what caused them in the first place. How?

Here’s the best treatment for dark circles under eyes – based on what’s causing them:

Dark Circles Cause #1: Genetics

Sometimes, you’re just born with it. When your skin is so thin to be almost transparent, the blood vessels underneath show through, casting a shadow onto your undereye area.

Or maybe, you’ve just inherited a deep set bone structure from your mother. Both traits make you look tired and older – even if you get your beauty sleep every night. So unfair!

What’s the best treatment for dark circles caused by genetics?

Bad news: you can’t change your genes. No skincare product can do such a miracle (yet).

Good news: You can cover dark circles with concealer. Opt for a peachy hue that can hide any discolouration and brighten the eye area.

Best picks:


Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

Dark Circles Cause #2: Aging

You know what else thins skin? Aging.

The older you get, the more transparent your skin becomes. You know where I’m heading with this…

Now your blood vessels start to show through and you look like you’re permanently tired and sleep-deprived. Ugh. Can you never catch a break round here?

What’s the best treatment for dark circles caused by aging?

Once your skin gets that thin, the only cure is concealer.

BUT, this is one type of dark circles you can prevent (or at least postpone) with a good skincare routine. How?

Easy: use an antioxidants rich serum and sunscreen every single day to slow down the aging process.

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum SPF30 ($36): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Elta MD UV Pure Broad Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): available at Dermstore and Walmart.
  • Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($34.00): available at Paula’s Choice and Skinstore
  • Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($166.00): available at Skinstore


Related: 5 Antiaging Superstars You Should Add To Your Skincare Routine Now

Dark Circles Cause #3: Saggy Skin

Saggy skin casts shadows underneath your eyes, making dark circles look worse. Ugh.

It happens with age. When you’re young, your body produces all the collagen and elastin (the proteins that keep your skin firm and elastic) that your skin desires. But as you get older, it starts producing less and less. Cue sagging.

To add insult to injury, there are many things that can speed up the sagging process. Unprotected sun exposure. A diet rich in sugar. Pollution. Smoking. All the usual culprits.

What’s the best treatment for dark circles caused by saggy skin?

Bad news: once your skin has sagged, you can’t unsag it. Your best bet here is concealer. Yes, again.

Good news: you can slow down the sagging process. How?

  • Sunscreen: Wear it every day, even in winter. UV rays can penetrate through the darkest clouds. You’re not safe just because you can’t see the sun. For my fave sunscreen picks, see point 2.
  • Antioxidant serums: Vitamin C and other antioxidants help boost the production of collagen and brighten the eye area. For my fave picks, see point 2.
  • Vitamin A: Retinol and other retinoids fight free radicals, brighten the skin tone, and boost the production of collagen. My fave picks are below. But be careful! The eye area is very delicate. Use the smallest concentration of retinol you can find twice a week and build up dose and frequency from there.

Best Picks:


Related: 4 Ways To Prevent Saggy Skin (That Really Work)

Dark Circles Cause #4: Lack of sleep

I know you know that a poor night’s sleep is a sure recipe for dark circles. But do you know why?

Believe it or not, lack of sleep causes skin to be paler. You guessed it, that makes those blood vessels under your eyes more visible, too.

What’s the best treatment for dark circles caused by lack of sleep?

Get your beauty sleep. At least 8 hours a night. I’m not joking. You can buy all the eye creams in the world but if you don’t get some proper rest, your dark circles are never going to disappear.

Related: Why Beauty Sleep Isn’t A Myth (+ Easy Tips To Get Yours)

Dark Circles Cause #5: Sun Exposure

Unprotected sun exposure is at the root of all skin evils.

It gives you wrinkles. Dries out your skin. And it leaves dark circles under your eyes.

It’s called hyperpigmentation. The sun has damaged the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its natural colour.

Now your skin’s producing too much melanin in your under eye area, giving you those pesky dark circles that make you look tired and older.

What’s the best treatment for dark circles caused by sun exposure?

Use skin-lightening products that can inhibit the production of melanin. Here are the ingredients you need to look out for:

  • Alpha Arbutin
  • Hydroquinone
  • Kojic Acid
  • Niacinamide
  • Retinol
  • Vitamin C

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen every single day. Those dark circles will come back if you don’t!

Best picks:


Related: Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Treatment For Hyperpigmentation? 

Dark Circle Cause #6: Medications

Some medications make blood vessels dilate. This makes dark circles look worse.

If you’ve started getting dark circles after going on a new med, it may be worth it to talk to your doctor about it.

What’s the best treatment for dark circles caused by medication?

You can ask your physician if you could switch to a different medication. But, this isn’t always possible. Often, the only remedy is a good concealer. Again.

Dark Circles Cause #7: Diet

An unbalanced diet causes all sorts of havoc on your body: it gives you metabolic diseases, robs you of your energy, speeds up premature aging…

Like that weren’t enough, it can give you dark circles, too. Here’s how:

  • Allergy: Allergies to specific foods are associated with dark circles.
  • Drinking too much alcohol/caffeine: It dehydrates skin. When this happens, your blood circulation slows down and the vessels under your eyes become larger and darker.
  • Lack of iron: It gives you anemia, which is associated with dark circles under your eyes.
  • Not drinking enough water: It increases dehydration, too.
  • Too little Vitamin K: This vitamin helps your blood to clot. Without it, your capillaries can leak blood that pools underneath your skin, giving it a purplish, bruise-like look.
  • Too much salt: It makes your body retain fluids, which in turn makes your undereye area puffy and darker.

What’s the best treatment for dark circles caused by diet?

Eat a healthy diet:

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • A moderate amount of protein and healthy fats (think omega-3 in salmon and avocado)
  • Little sugar and bad fats
  • Plenty of water
  • Alcohol and coffee only as a treat

Easier said than done, I know. But, you’ll look and feel so much better, I promise!

Related: I Went On The Low Glycemic Diet And It Transformed My Skin

The Bottom Line

Once you know what’s causing your dark circles, you can finally get the right treatment for them.