5 Reasons Why You Have Dark Under-Eye Circles

If you’ve ever had those weeks where it seems like every night you’re spending hours into the evening catching up on work or socializing with friends, then you probably know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and see dark under-eye circles staring back at you in the mirror. While you may be accustomed to caking on foundation and drinking multiple cups of coffee in an attempt to look more awake and alert, those dark circles can put quite a damper on your complexion. Alternatively, if you’re making every effort to get enough rest and you’re still seeing under-eye circles that won’t seem to budge, then sleeplessness might not be to blame. Here are the top five reasons why you have prominent under-eye circles that just won’t disappear.

1. You have hyperpigmentation

young woman's eye

Hyperpigmentation could be causing your under-eye circles. | iStock.com/Steve Mcsweeny

You may hear your friends and family complain about dark under-eye circles that are gray in color or take on a bluish hue, but if your under-eye circles look brown, this could mean that you’re dealing with some hyperpigmentation, says Real Simple. Hyperpigmentation is mostly found among those who are of Asian or African American descent, as it shows up clearest on these skin tones. If you’re a chronic eye-rubber or have been exposed to the sun often without sunscreen, then this could also put you at risk for developing hyperpigmentation no matter what you skin tone is.

This coloring of the skin is harmless, but if you have it under your eyes, it will give you those dark under-eye circles that can be unappealing. The darkening effect occurs when melanin forms deposits in the skin, which is a brown pigment that’s found naturally in all skin colors. So, what can you do about this? To prevent hyperpigmentation from forming in the first place, always remember to wear sunscreen no matter what time of year it is. You can also visit a dermatologist that can recommend exfoliating peels, or for a DIY treatment, try using a daily cream or serum that has skin-brightening agents like citrus. Just make sure any product you’re using is safe near your eyes.

2. Your allergies are setting in

Man sneezing in a tissue

Allergies could be the reason why your under-eye circles won’t go away. | iStock.com

Allergies are a real nuisance for many people throughout the year, and your clogged nose and throat may not be the only evidence that allergy season is upon you. While allergies can be a pain, it’s important to get them checked out and treated early, as your under-eye circles could be a result of seasonal allergies or any allergic reaction, says Good Housekeeping.

Dr. David E. Bank, director at the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in New York, explains that histamines, or chemicals that are found naturally in the body that cause classic allergy symptoms, are triggered when you come into contact with an allergen. This histamine release causes your blood vessels to dilate. While this effect is not noticeable on areas of the body where the skin is thicker, the under-eye area has extremely thin skin. This will make the swollen blood vessels look darker than the rest of the skin on your face and body, giving you the appearance of unwanted under-eye circles. So, what’s the solution? Get your allergies treated, and then visit a dermatologist to talk about correcting the pigmentation.

3. You’re sleeping too little or sleeping too much

Man in a deep sleep

Too much or too little sleep could be affecting your under-eye skin. | iStock.com/Ammentorp Photography

All of that hype you hear about sleep is really true — sleeping the adequate amount is one of the most restorative actions you can take to improve your body’s health, and it can improve the health of your facial skin and under-eye area immensely. Everyday Health explains that anything that’s causing an interruption in your sleep, whether it’s insomnia or waking up frequently during the night, can give you those dark under-eye circles you’re looking to avoid. When you’re lacking in sleep, your blood vessels under your eyes dilate, giving you that dark hue. You also may notice some puffiness under your eyes as well when you’re lacking sleep, and this is from fluids leaking out into the skin, creating that “baggy” appearance.

If you’re lacking in sleep during the week, then sleeping 13 hours a night on the weekends to “catch up” on sleep might actually make your under-eye circles even worse. Sleeping too much is associated with dark circles and bags under the eyes as well, and there could be even worse news for side-sleepers. When you sleep on your side, fluids can build up over night on one side of your face and cause fluid retention under one eye only. If you find that you’re having trouble with dark circles and puffy skin under the eyes, try adjusting your sleep schedule so you can get an adequate amount of sleep every night. You can also try applying a damp tea bag that is cool to the touch underneath each eye for a few minutes to shrink the blood vessels.

4. You’re anemic

man rubbing his eyes while he works on a laptop

Are you iron-deficient? This could be causing your under-eye circles. | iStock.com

If you’ve tried getting enough sleep and you take good care of your skin, you might have a deeper cause that’s affecting the skin underneath your eyes. Anemia, which is a condition indicating a red blood cell or hemoglobin deficiency, can lead to having dark under-eye circles. If you truly are anemic, you’ll have more symptoms than just under-eye circles, but the dark circles can be a result from the lack of healthy red blood cells, says Livestrong.

Getting your iron levels checked is the first step to finding out if you are indeed anemic. Having enough iron in your diet allows your body to create enough hemoglobin, which is a red protein that carries oxygen in the blood to your cells. When your iron levels are low, you cannot produce enough hemoglobin, which can affect the look of your skin and the formation of dark under-eye circles. You’re also likely to experience dizziness, fatigue, and frequent colds if your iron levels are too low, so if you find that you’re having any of these symptoms and you have dark under-eye circles that won’t budge, it’s important to have a complete blood count performed by your doctor. Many women who experience monthly blood loss from their periods can get iron-deficient anemia, and if you’re on a restrictive diet, you may not be getting the vitamins and nutrients that you need to stay healthy, either. Before taking iron supplements, always check with your doctor for their expert advice.

5. Dehydration

man drinking water

Always remember to hydrate — it’s important for your health. | iStock.com

Your diet and sleeping habits could be in tip-top shape, but if water is what you’re lacking, then your under-eye circles might be here to stay. According to India Times, dehydration is one of the key reasons why dark circles appear under the eyes in the first place — it may even be more common to develop under-eye circles for this reason than it is to develop them from lack of sleep. The reason behind why dark circles occur from improper hydration is because of how thin the skin is underneath the eyes, and how close this skin is to the bones beneath it. Not drinking enough water causes the skin to lose elasticity and dry out, and underneath the eyes, the skin can also start to look transparent, giving it a darkened look.

Curing this problem is very simple — drink between eight and 10 glasses of water a day to make sure you’re well hydrated, and you will see instant results in your skin. Not only will your under-eye circles disappear, but your skin will look more radiant and blemish-free altogether — it’s the cheapest and fastest health boost you can give yourself. Beware of consuming things that will rob you of your hydration (alcohol and coffee, for example), as these can make your dark under-eye circles even worse.