"How can I get rid of dark circles?" is one of the questions I get asked most frequently, so I figured that it deserves a post of its own. If a quick summary of the information is what you're looking for, scroll to the end for an infographic. Otherwise, keep reading.
In order to understand what does, and does not work for dark circles, you need to first understand what causes them. The causes can be several and varied, and any attempt at correction will necessarily need to take into account the possible underlying cause. So without further ado, the key reasons follow:
Even as tanning is a popular activity in large parts of the Western world, we're well aware that the sun is no friend to our skin. UV radiation results in an increase in the production of melanin and the deposition of this excessive pigment around the eye area can lead to dark circles. UV rays also cause the degradation of collagen fibres found in the skin. This causes skin to lose its elasticity and consequently sag, creating dark shadows around the eye area. While the latter also tends to be a somewhat natural part of the ageing process, along with other processes the likes of tear trough depression and the loss of fat beneath the skin, which are more pronounced in some individuals than in others, UV rays can expedite the process of skin ageing and exacerbate the damage the results.
One way your skin responds to trauma or stress, is by darkening - think about the dark mark left behind after a pimple or a cut. Dark circles then, can also be the result of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIHP) that might result from allergic contact dermatitis. I'm one of the lucky few not prone to dark circles, but have personally experienced allergic contact dermatitis around the eyes on more occasions than one and the result has always been a temporary darkening of the area. While its perfectly normal to try and get rid of PIHP on your skin with the use of actives, I personally would not recommend using anything strong around the eye area. The skin around your eyes is much more sensitive and delicate than the skin on the rest of your face, and strong actives can lead to irritation that exacerbates the problem instead of improving it - I speak from accidental experience.
Another factor that can play on the sensitivity of the delicate eye region is the use of cosmetic products that contain irritants. I've already cautioned against the use of strong actives around the eye area, so this point revolves around avoiding the use of products containing excessive alcohol, fragrance, and other irritating skincare ingredients that include, but are not limited to, formaldehyde releasing preservatives such as DMDM hydantoin and diazolidinyl urea, certain sunscreen actives, physical scrubs, soap, and several others, that also have the potential to irritate the skin.
In some individuals, veins and capillaries tend to lie close to the surface of the skin under the eyes, resulting in dark circles with a slightly violet appearance that tends to become exaggerated during menstruation.
Dry, dehydrated skin can also build-up around the eyes and causes light to scatter instead of reflecting it, resulting in dull skin around the eyes.
You can also be one of the unfortunate few with a family tendency towards dark circles or allergies, as the latter can also be a cause. You could also have been born with deep-set eyes that create dark shadows.
Lastly, while this is not clinically substantiated, some lifestyle factors, the likes of a lack of sleep, which lets face it, aspects every aspect of your health negatively, stress, alcohol overuse and smoking, may also contribute to the development of dark circles.
Now that we have a solid understanding of what causes dark circles, here are some steps that you can take to try and fix them:
Use a mineral sunscreen around the eye area and use sunglasses when you go outdoors to try and prevent sun-induced pigmentation and collagen degradation.
If allergies are causing your dark circles, look into using an anti-histamine.
Moisturise. The AccuFix Carbamide Intensive Hydration Cream is an excellent choice that prevents dryness and also gently causes dead skin to slough off.
Is eye cream necessary? No. Is it going to cause a miracle? No. However, if pigmentation is causing your dark circles, looking into an eye cream containing brightening actives such as vitamin C or niacinamide might help.
Caffeine. This however, can be irritating for the delicate skin under the eye area and should be used sparingly.
Sleep, sleep, sleep. This cannot be emphasised enough.
There are also medical options, such as intense pulse light, radiofrequency and certain lasers, that you can discuss with a licensed professional.
Lastly, concealer. I hate to break it to you but there’s no miracle fix for dark circles and none of the above might work, so you might find it useful to have a good concealer handy.