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Article: What causes dark circles under eyes?

What causes dark circles under eyes?
Eye Circles

What causes dark circles under eyes?

You wake up in the morning, roll over exhausted - and see, alas, a reflection that makes you cry out “What causes dark circles under the eyes?!” in frustration. 

Dark circles are a sigh-inducing nuisance too many people can identify with. In addition to making you want to hide your face with concealer, the appearance of dark circles under the eyes can make a person look older than they really are. 

Dark circles under the eyes can vary in appearance- they may be purple or blue to dark brown or black, depending on skin color and additional factors. 

These circles are rarely a cause for worry (we’ll touch on a few things to potentially check out), but know circles mostly something to be addressed for cosmetic reasons. In short? You want to glance in the mirror and feel your most gorgeous, abundant self. [source]

In this blog, we’re going to go into:

  • The real causes of dark eye circles
  • What the best remedies for dark circles are 
  • A quick fix for dark eye circles...that doesn’t involve lots of foundation makeup

What causes dark circles around eyes?

People often think dark circles are caused by fatigue and lack of sleep. This is indeed a major culprit of what causes dark circles around eyes. The less your brain gets to rest, the more likely it is to show that exhaustion in physical appearance. 

However, know this → 

Lack of sleep is only ONE cause of under eye circles, and we’re sharing the other perpetrators. 

According to Dr. Diane Berson, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in Manhattan, “There are a lot of factors that contribute to quote-unquote dark circles- it’s a combination of heredity and genetics.” [source]

The main causes of dark circles under the eyes are, as we’ll share more about: 

  • The hours and quality of sleep (including how menopause could be triggering sleep issues...even if only in your 30s or 40s) 
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Allergies

The hours (and quality) of sleep

If you’re not getting enough sleep, there may be a variety of reasons: 

  • Life is so busy you’re not getting that ideal 7 - 8 hours 
  • Insomnia makes getting sleep not only hard - but tends to have lower quality snoozing

woman sleeping

Dark areas under the eyes are often thought of as being caused by lack of sleep, says Susan Van Dyke, MD, a dermatologist with Van Dyke Laser and Skin in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Now, why does this happen? 

The lack of sleep tends to cause the blood vessels under the thin skin of the eyes to dilate, creating a dark tint. In some instances, exhaustion can also make the area under your eyes appear puffy, which has us pressing cold water on our faces - hoping to reduce the size before we go to that coffee date or meeting.

Menopause may have an effect, as soon as your 30s 

As women start to get older and make that life transition, sleeping is often a factor that is intensely problematic - yet little talked about. 

In addition, while many of us see menopause as something farther off, “in the distance”, many women may not even REALIZE they hare having symptoms of menopuase - with perimenopause.

“Many female patients who come to my office in their late 30s and 40s with symptoms of insomnia are actually experiencing the beginning of their transition to menopause which is called perimenopause. Sleep can be impacted by many things, such as hormonal and lifestyle changes,” says expert Joyce Walsleben, RN, PhD with the National Sleep Foundation.

If you’re having intense trouble sleeping, even if only in your 30s, it could be a good idea to look into this possibility with a trusted professional. 

Hyperpigmentation, which is often hereditary

In the case of genetics, dark circles can be a result of hyperpigmentation (aka an overproduction of melanin, which is what gives your skin its color). 

Ethnic groups are predisposed to this condition since their skin has higher levels of melanin. Family history plays a big role in the development of dark circles, as well.  Sometimes, such colors can be seen even in childhood and become more prominent as you age, or do the opposite and disappear altogether. 

Dr. Howard Murad, dermatologist, also explains that ethnicity plays a factor in being more prone to darkening of the skin around the eye area. 

“People from African-American or Asian descent can sometimes experience a pigmentation irregularity which causes the skin around the eye area to be darker.

If you’ve had dark circles underneath your eyes for your entire life, chances are it’s genetic.”


Over-exposure to the sun (and not using a protective skin barrier while out in direct sunlight) can also cause your body to produce excess melanin-- which in turn can cause pigmentation in the skin under your eyes. A fantastic way to help is to make sure you’re using a natural moisturizer with skin-healing, sun-fighting ingredients. 

Allergies - an indirect accomplice

Another of what causes dark circles around eyes? Allergies. 

blowing nose

Beneath your eyes, there are dilated blood vessels sitting cozy-like. These dilations can be worsened by airborne allergens - like hay fever- which cause blood to pool in the vessels under the skin, says Dr. John A. Persing, a professor and the chief of plastic surgery at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Allergic reactions, coupled with eye dryness can trigger dark circles. 

Why is this so? 

During an allergic reaction, your body releases histamines as a response to harmful bacteria. In addition to the uncomfortable symptoms like itchiness and puffy eyes, histamines cause blood vessels to dilate, making them a lot more visible under your skin. Scratching and rubbing your eyes can lead to inflammation and broken vessels- which then results in the appearance of dark shadows underneath your eyes.

How can you deal with dark under-eye circles?

The good news is, no matter what the cause of your dark circles, there are various natural & healthy remedies to manage this condition and keep their appearance under control. 

Apply a cold compress

A cold compress can help reduce swelling and shrink dilated blood vessels. This can reduce the appearance of puffiness and help eliminate dark circles. Wrap a few ice cubes in a clean washcloth and apply to your eyes. Alternatively, you can also wet a washcloth with cold water and apply it to the skin under your eyes for 20 minutes for the same effect. Repeat this process until you notice an improvement.

Use the class spa technique

Place two slices of cucumber over your eyes while you rest. Perhaps lay back on the couch and put on some music or a podcast. 

What causes dark circles around eyes to lessen because of this fruit? (Yes, due to the seeds, cucumber is a fruit rather than a vegetable.)

Cucumber contains a substance called beta-carotene, which acts as an antioxidant and is great for inflammation. You can even place the cucumber slices underneath the eyes while you work, for that refreshed feeling.

relaxing w cucumbers on eyes

Increase this ONE thing in your life

This is easier said than done, but adequate sleep and rest is essential. Aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night to allow your body to recover and rejuvenate. Your eyes will thank you as well. 

*As mentioned above, whether have insomnia or (even if seems unlikely) an early form or menopause, it’s a good idea to go to a trusted professonial if have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. 

When the circles are unavoidable, do this

Though makeup and cosmetics are not a cure for dark eye circles, they can help to camouflage them. Concealers can cover dark marks so they blend in with your normal skin color. 

However, there’s an even more powerful technique. 

How to treat the circles before they appear too dark 

While makeup and ice cubes can help soothe the circles once you see them, there’s a way to help fight the circles - besides trying to get more sleep. 

If you use the right natural ingredients, once that seep deep into the skin and give relief to those dialated blood vessels, you nourish and relieve your undereyes from within. 

The best way to is apply a daily elixir that contains the highest quality ingredients - like this luscious, reduces-dark-circle cream. 

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