What Causes Dark Circles Under the Eyes?

What Causes Dark Circles Under the Eyes?

What are dark circles?

Dark circles, also known as periorbital hyperpigmentation, are a commonly encountered condition and are best described as the darkening of the pigmentation in the skin around the eyes. Whilst dark circles are not usually caused by an underlying medical condition, many people think they make them look tired, sad or older than they are, and therefore can affect their emotional well-being and quality of life1.


What causes dark circles?

The darkening of the pigment underneath the eyes can be caused by a number of environmental and biological factors. The reason for an individual’s dark circles may be that excessive pigmentation is simply genetic or hereditary. Other factors which may cause dark circles include allergies, skin laxity, and deep tear troughs, sometimes referred to as tear trough depression.


How much do genetics influence dark circles?

Dark circles are certainly considered to have a genetic basis and can often be due to genetics. Some people are more likely than others to have excessive pigmentation, melanin deposition, or low levels of collagen2 in the area under the eyes3 - all of which contribute to the appearance of dark circles. Although hereditary genetics can ensure one individual is more susceptible to dark circles than another, it is also recognised that stress, ageing and a lack of rest can cause pigmentary change.


What about the other causes?

Excessive pigmentation can be caused by inflammation in the skin around the eye as a result of allergic reactions and other dermatological conditions. Rubbing or scratching the skin around the eye, due to irritation, worsens inflammation, contributing to skin laxity and the appearance of dark circles.

Tear trough depression is another cause of dark circles and is primarily an age-related cause. As people age the skin thins and becomes lax in the region, coupled with a loss of the layer of fat under the skin, the shadowing of the tear trough is accentuated and causes dark circles to become visible under the eyes.


What environmental factors can cause dark circles?

Lifestyle and environmental factors can also aggravate dark circles or contribute to the development of them. These include4:

  • a lack of sleep
  • stress
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure
  • smoking.


Can dark circles be prevented?

Avoidance of aggravating lifestyle factors can have a positive effect on the appearance of dark circles. Whilst hereditary causes of dark circles are almost impossible to avoid, there are a number of treatments which can mask, minimise and prevent hyperpigmentation.   


What treatment options are there?

A spectrum of treatment options are available for hyperpigmentation. Among these are non-invasive options such as skin-protective or restorative creams and concealment and camouflage products, minimally invasive treatments such as soft tissue fillers and resurfacing, and more invasive treatments including surgical intervention.

Concealers and cosmetics are the least invasive option for the treatment of dark circles. Mineral make up foundation can be used to blend skin tones and help conceal undesirable darker pigment in the under eye region. Similarly, there are topical treatments which can help combat the appearance of dark circles by tackling the underlying causes of skin laxity and thinness, UV light damage, and the build-up of fluid around the tear trough.


Our products

SkinCeuticals has developed a range of products to help with the appearance of the overall eye area including dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles.

AOX+ Eye Gel helps improve visible signs of ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles and combats signs of fatigue. It is a refreshing serum enriched with antioxidants such Phloretin, L-Ascorbic Acid and Ferulic Acid to help fight against free radical damage. Also enriched with Caffeine, AOX+ Eye Gel improves the overall appearance of the eye area and helps to reduce under eye puffiness when applied with a gentle tapping action. A.G.E. Eye Complex is a three-dimensional treatment with its own unique combination of ingredients to help combat visible signs of intrinsic ageing and hydrate the eye area. It is a silky anti-wrinkle cream formulated with optical light diffusers to immediately improve radiance. Enriched with Blueberry Extract, Proxylane™, and peptides, it helps renew tired, dull-looking eyes. Mineral Eye UV Defense SPF 30 provides high-UV protection due to its mineral base and has been formulated specifically for the thinner and more sensitive skin around the eye; it is non-migrating, meaning it doesn’t migrate into the eye and cause irritation. In addition, this product unifies the skin tone around the eye, provides a universal tint.

This article is intended as general information only. You should seek advice from a professional before starting any new regimen or course of conduct.


1,3,4Rashmi Sarkar et al. Periorbital Hyperpigmentation: A Comprehensive Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol, 2016

2 Ivan Vrcek et al. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. J Cutan Aesthet Surg, 2016