Dark Circles Under Eyes

Nobody wants to walk around with dark circles under their eyes, and not just because they're a detriment to our aesthetic appeal. According to the public at large, dark circles tell a story. They're associated with negativity, stress, smoking, drinking, and illness. People with dark circles are assumed to be insomniacs, tired and often overworked. They're believed to be unhealthy, and it’s often said that they take part in bad lifestyle choices and vice. Sometimes that is true, but more often than not, it isn’t. The majority of the public buys into the myth without actually trying to understand the science behind why dark circles form.

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What are Dark Circles Under Eyes

Dark circles under the eyes, also known as periorbital hyperpigmentation (POH) or discoloration, is an aesthetic condition during which dark semi-circles form in the area beneath the eyes. They can be brown, blue, purple, or black in appearance. Anyone can develop them, but they are more common in patients who are older, those who have a genetic predisposition, or patients with a darker skin tone. There are a lot of reasons why dark circles under the eyes develop. It's usually believed to be a result of fatigue, stress, or a lack of sleep. But that’s not always the case. 

Dark circles under the eyes usually aren't a cause for medical concern. When they do occur, there's no reason to see a doctor or seek assistance. They can happen naturally. It may be a result of thinning skin. They could be shadows cast by our eyelids when they are puffy. When we get older they may occur due to hollows beneath our eyes. In many people, dark circles under the eyes are temporary. Others may find that they stick around, though they do tend to look different from day to day. Fortunately, there are a number of different treatments that can aid in removing them. 

Common Types of Dark Circles Under Eyes

There are three different types of dark circles that occur under the eyes: pigmented, vascular, and indented. They’re mainly classified based on what causes them, and they are in fact separate conditions, each formed by a different biological process and various environmental stimuli. Learning about them can help patients find out how to address them.

  • Pigmented

    Pigmented dark circles are usually brown or black. In the medical community, they are referred to as idiopathic hyperchromia of the orbital ring. They occur when melanin builds up beneath the eyes. Melanin makes the skin darker, which is why this type of dark circle is most often seen on patients with darker skin tones. Pigmented dark circles can be congenital, meaning a patient can be born with a genetic predisposition that causes them to develop naturally. They can also occur for acquired reasons. Sun exposure is a main contributing factor because it causes the skin to create more melanin. 

  • Vascular

    Unlike pigmented dark circles, when vascular dark circles occur, there is no change to the color of the skin. They’re not a result of melanin buildup. Instead, they are caused by the skin beneath the eyes thinning and growing lax. This allows the color of the vascular structure beneath to peek through. It’s a result of aging and a stunted microcirculation of the eye contour. This type of dark circle is often accompanied by wrinkles and puffiness beneath the eyes. It is more common in patients with fair skin tones, mostly due to the fact that darker skin tones make the vascular structure beneath the eye less visible.

  • Indented

    Indented dark circles, also known as hollow or sunken eyes, can be a result of exhaustion, dehydration, or aging. They travel from the inner tear duct down the tear trough, to the area above the cheekbone. They crop up when patients lose volume in their intraorbital layer, often as a result of fat loss. This causes the vascular structure beneath the skin to show through. For some patients, indented cheekbones are an inevitable part of growing older. Others acquire these dark circles because of poor health and bad habits. Sometimes they can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. 

What Causes Dark Circles Under Eyes

There are many things that can cause dark circles under the eyes. Sometimes they are an inescapable result of aging or genetics. People simply develop them to no fault of their own. There are also a few bad habits and lifestyle choices that can be avoided to delay the problem.

  • Aging

    Aging is one of the most common reasons why dark circles develop under the eyes. As we get older, our skin starts to thin and sag. This can cause the blood vessels beneath to show through, creating a darker tone. We also tend to lose fat and bone structure, which can exacerbate the effect.

  • Sun exposure

    Sun exposure is another common factor that can result in dark circles. The sun causes the body to produce more melanin, which is why we tan. It's our body's way of protecting itself from the UV rays. The under-eye area is very sensitive to this process, so it may appear darker than other regions.

  • Genetics

    Genetics plays a huge part in whether or not dark circles develop. Some people are born with thin skin, which can cause the dark blood vessels beneath the eyes to become more apparent. Genetics also determines the color of our skin. Those with darker skin tones are more likely to have dark circles.

  • Exhaustion and Stress

    When people are stressed, anxious, or exhausted, the circulation in the area beneath the eyes tends to move slower. This can cause blood to pool up, which creates a visible effect that can be seen through the skin. Tiny blood vessels in that area can also stretch and leak, exacerbating the condition.

Procedures That Remedy Dark Circles Under Eyes

Dark circles under the eyes are a huge focus in the field of aesthetics. Patients are constantly looking for ways to remedy them, especially due to the stigma they cause. Since it's not always possible to cover them up with makeup, patients will often turn to different forms of cosmetic treatment.

  • Chemical Peel

    Chemical peels are particularly effective at reducing dark circles under the eyes, especially if they are a result of hyperpigmentation. The acid content manually removes the melanin, physically peeling away the dark layer of skin. The skin in that area can be thin, so only superficial peels are recommended. Anything stronger could potentially damage the eyeball.

    Find doctors who offer Chemical Peel
  • Eye Lift surgery

    Lower-eyelid surgery, also known as an eye lift or blepharoplasty, is one of the most effective ways to remove dark circles. Sometimes dark circles are a result of fat loss or puffiness beneath the eyes. During lower eyelid surgery, the surgeon will reposition the fat and alter the skin, ensuring that the blood vessels beneath don’t show through.

    Find doctors who offer Eyelid Surgery
  • Dermal Fillers

    Dark circles are often accompanied by swollen eye bags. They turn dark when the skin thins in that region, allowing the blood vessels to show through. Dermal fillers are injectable anti-aging treatments that add volume to the skin to reduce the appearance of blood vessels, while smoothing the wrinkles and lines that cause swelling.

    Find doctors who offer Dermal Fillers

Frequently Asked Questions

Eye Lift surgeries often involve tiny alterations, barely visible to the naked eye. For that reason, many patients take them for granted. They assume that it's a quick, seamless procedure with minimal recovery time. But even small changes can make a huge difference. Patients usually require about 10-14 days before they will feel comfortable returning back to work and going out in public. The eyes will appear bruised for a full week after that, and the effects of the surgery will continue to take hold months later. It is a drastic procedure that requires a huge amount of planning, extensive consultations, and research.

Chemical peels carry a bit of a stigma. Many patients balk at the idea of having acid applied to their faces. It doesn't seem safe. To make matters worse, pictures of patients' faces peeling have circulated around online, showing giant flakes of skin falling away as a result of severe treatment. Chemical peels are perfectly safe. They were approved by the FDA after undergoing the same process that is used to screen medical procedures and medications. They also come in different grades. The mild peels used to treat dark circles under the eyes are formulated to remove only the upper layer of skin.  

Dark circles are caused by different conditions. When they are a result of a lack of sleep and fatigue, they will go away and come back periodically. They may even change color. But they are rarely permanent. Certain types of dark circles, such as those caused by pigmentation in the skin can be permanent, but they can also be removed. They will not come back so long as patients avoid heavy exposure to the sun. Dark circles are also an unavoidable part of aging. Everyone develops thin skin as they get older, and when they do, the blood vessels beneath the eyes will become apparent. They can be hidden, treated, and delayed. But eventually everyone loses that battle.

There are many different types of under eye fillers. Most providers use hyaluronic acid, which does remove the appearance of dark circles immediately after they have been treated. But sometimes it can take more time depending on which type of brand is being injected. Sometimes hyaluronic acid fillers can cause swelling and bruising beneath the eye. This is perfectly normal, and there are ways to avoid it. But it could obscure the results of the procedure for several days. If patients are uncomfortable with the results of hyaluronic acid fillers, the filers can be dissolved using hyaluronidase within 48 hours of having them administered, effectively reversing the effects of the injections. 

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