Dark circles under our eyes are only too familiar. Also known as periorbital hyperpigmentation, dark circles can be caused by a number of environmental and lifestyle factors. Discover more on the causes of dark circles here.
For some of us, dark circles are an unwelcome reminder of fatigue, stress or ill health. For others, dark circles seem to be almost permanent fixtures, no matter how well slept or healthy we are.
They are certainly one of the most common problems presented to Dr Rozina Ali, a reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon, at the Cadogan Clinic in London. Here, we talk with Dr Ali on effective and lasting ways to help prevent and manage dark circles under the eyes.
How can I prevent and manage dark circles?
No matter what the cause is of your dark circles, everyone can improve their appearance. Here are five simple tips, aimed at increasing the quality and thickness of the skin below the eye.
- Stopping smoking
- Attention to diet
More sleep won’t do the trick if you are still gulping down cocktails and eating badly. Alcohol dilates blood vessels and dehydrates the skin. That’s a double whammy in terms of the appearance of dark circles. Plus, when we are tired and stressed we reach for comfort food. Like booze, it is likely to be full of sugar. Sugars attach themselves to proteins in the blood. These new molecules attack collagen and elastin, a process called glycation, degrading the quality of skin. Make sure your diet contains plenty of Omega 3s (found in oily fish and flaxseed, for example) as well as some earlier nights.
- Sun protection, using sunscreen but also wearing a hat and sunglasses. I swear by larger sunglasses - aim to cover the area from your eyebrow to the bony socket line below your eye.
- Better skincare, improved skincare has a pivotal place in visibly reducing dark circles. What you are aiming for is the creation of a thicker blanket of skin, overlying the structures beneath, by rehydrating and increasing collagen and elastin. Avoid using retinol or oil formulations too close to the eye which may make things worse.
What should my skincare routine be?
Here is my recommended step-by-step routine to help improve the appearance of the under-eye area.
- Double cleanse and tone, to thoroughly remove makeup, dirt, excess oil and impurities from your skin.
- Apply an antioxidant-enriched serum, such as SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, to face, neck and chest. Clinically proven to deliver advanced environmental protection against atmospheric skin ageing, this vitamin C serum also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, for firmer-looking skin.
- Apply a vitamin C product for the eye area. Skinceuticals AOX+ Eye Gel is a serum-in-a-gel vitamin C serum, created specifically for the delicate skin around the eyes. Apply up to the bony orbit below the eye but not within 3mm of the eyelash margin. When applied with a massaging action, AOX+ Eye Gel helps improve the appearance of puffiness caused by excess fluid accumulated around the eyes.
- Apply an SPF with broad-spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays, such as Sheer Mineral UV Defense, a lightweight 100% mineral-based formula.
- Apply a non-migrating SPF for your eye area, such as Mineral Eye UV Defense SPF 30, a tinted sunscreen tested safe to use from the brow bone, to the cheekbone, including the eyelid area.
- Double cleanse thoroughly, which is especially important for smokers. Follow with a gentle toner such as SkinCeuticals Equalizing Toner, to help gently exfoliate dead skin cells and soothe skin.
- Apply SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex to help prevent the glycation that causes skin to thin and improve the appearance of the eye area.
- I'm a fan of Metacell Renewal B3 serum. This lightweight B3 serum delivers intense hydration. It’s not a specific eye product, but if it is applied up to the bony socket area, it will diffuse to the skin of the eye area. When in doubt, always use the thinnest product first.
- Continue with your normal nighttime regimen, such as a moisturiser or an evening antioxidant serum, for example SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E, to boost the skin’s own antioxidant defence system for more radiant and smooth-looking skin.
Permanent removal – is it possible?
Many adverts for non-surgical cosmetic interventions for dark circles promise that they can be removed completely. Invasive procedures may make the dark circles look a bit better, but thinking that they can be eliminated is not realistic. Lasers are often recommended but I would advise caution. Lasers have a limited place for dark circles, since they are only useful if there are skin-based pigmentary changes. Plus, there is a risk of eye scarring or even blindness.
Assessment and advice from a trusted specialist should be used to guide any treatments. Here are some useful techniques, in order of invasiveness.
- Injectable fillers are most appropriate for those with dark circles caused shadows, cast by the shape of their skull or depth of their tear trough but also for those whose circles have got worse with age. An injection of hyaluronic acid can lift the skin off the little capillaries beneath, lessening the appearance of dark circles.
- Microneedling is best suited for dark circles caused by pigmentation. By creating tiny injuries in the skin, an injury response is initiated which involves the production of more collagen, increasing the thickness of skin.
- Mesotherapy is ideal for dark circles associated with ageing. Multiple direct injections of hyaluronic acid and other vitamins and enzymes in the eye area are introduced with a very fine needle. Here, the aim is to increase skin hydration and thickness.
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections is an appropriate method for those with more severe circles as it is a more invasive procedure than mesotherapy. A person’s blood is prepared in a centrifuge to obtain platelet rich plasma. This is then injected into the eye area and stimulates collagen. This may also improve the appearance of eye bags.
- Surgery may be appropriate where eye bags cause shadows which make it look as if there are circles. Eye bags are genetic but also increase with age as skin gets thinner and less elastic.
This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before altering your diet, changing your exercise regimen or starting any new course of conduct.