Everyone’s experienced it at lest once in their lives. You wake up and look in the mirror and don’t recognise that person in the mirror. Those dark circles that makes you look like you were punched in the eyes by a kangaroo, and undereye puffiness (a.k.a. eye bags!) that gives the impression that you haven’t slept in weeks.
There are lots of causes for puffiness and dark circles, some of which are treatable and some that are not. Dark circles can come from weak or broken capillaries, or sometimes it’s just skin discoloration. Puffiness can come from water retention or fatty deposits. So, depending on the causes of your puffiness and dark circles, you should be able to manage it without too much trouble.
Weak or Broken Capillaries:
- Sneezing from a cold or allergies. Have you ever noticed that your eyes look red after a sneezing fit? Your eyes get red from the little capillaries that burst from the force of a sneeze. So it shouldn’t surprise you that the capillaries under your eyes break too.
- Rubbing your eyes. Since the skin and capillaries under your eyes are very fragile, rubbing them even a little can cause the capillaries to weaken, leading to leakage and then dark circles.
- Vitamin K deficiency. This is a very important vitamin that helps keep the integrity of veins and capillaries, and also aids clotting when they leak or break.
- Vitamin A deficiency. The skin under your eyes is very thin and delicate. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that aids in repairing the skin under your eyes so that it’s not as easy to see the capillaries that lay right beneath the surface.
- Medications. Some medications, like Prednisone, cause capillary leakage due to blood vessel dilation or fragility. You’ll need to speak to your physician if you suspect that your medication is causing dark circles, because it might be a sign that it can cause capillary or vein leakage elsewhere in the body.
- Smoking. This can cause both thinning of the skin AND capillary leakage. Unfortunately, smoking can also cause long-term damage. It can permanently cause veins and capillaries to weaken (not only under the eyes).
- Illness. Some illnesses cause the blood vessels to dilate or leak. And since the capillaries under the eyes are some of the weakest in the body, you’ll notice it there before anywhere else.
- Natural (or hereditary) darkened pigment. People that are darker skinned are more prone to this, but anyone can have a darker pigment under their eyes.
- Sun exposure. Some people are more prone to darkening under the eyes from sun exposure. This happens the same way as a normal tan, except there aren’t many ways to prevent this other than wearing UVB protectant sunglasses.
- Smoking. This is a double whammy, since it can cause the issues listed above with the capillaries, as well as uneven pigment in the skin, often beneath the eyes.
- Medications. Some medications, like Minocyclene, can also cause skin discoloration. Again speak to your physician if you suspect that this is the issue.
- Dark shadows from puffiness or other natural facial features. OK, I know, this doesn’t exactly fit in this category. But shadows can cause you to look like you have darker circles than you already do. Other common causes of shadows are folds in the skin due to aging or hereditary features.
- Allergies. Fluid builds up in the sinuses, and also in the rest of the facial area including under your eyes.
- Too much salt. This one’s obvious. The more salt you consume, the more fluid you retain, and much of settles in places of least resistance, like under your eyes.
- Bending over at the waist for too long.
- Medications. Some medications cause temporary fluid retention. Do not discontinue any medications unless you consult your physician first!
- Fatty deposits. As we age, fat is deposited under our eyes. Nature’s cruel joke, since the fat leaves our cheeks where we’d really like it.
- Sagging skin due to aging or hereditary features.
So now that we know some of the things that cause the dark circles and puffiness, how can we get rid of them? There are a few things we need to concentrate on: strengthening the capillaries, dissipating pooled blood, lightening uneven pigmentation, reduce fluid retention and tightening sagging skin. Sorry, nothing you can do about fatty deposits unless you hit the plastic surgeon’s office.
- Take vitamin supplements that contain vitamins K, A and E, as well as antioxidants like grape seed extract. This will help strengthen the blood vessels, and will help even out the skin tone.
- Get your allergies in check. Don’t forget to take your allergy medication, even if you’re feeling a little better. Just one sneeze or bad cough per day is enough to cause those tiny little capillaries to break and cause fluid to start pooling under your eyes.
- Cold compresses can help shrink the blood vessels back to normal size, reducing the appearance of darkness, as well as reducing inflammation and puffiness.
- Sleep with your head above your heart. This will encourage the pooled fluid and blood to clear.
- Vitamin K and Vitamin C can be used topically to help strengthen the capillary walls and prevent future darkening.
- Apply Arnica or Cucumber can be used topically to reduce swelling and keep dark circles from looking worse.
- Vitamin E and Vitamin A (Retinol) can be used topically to help heal and strengthen the skin under the eyes to keep dark circles from appearing as bad. Retinol is also known for evening out the skintone, so it can help lighten the darkness from an uneven skintone.
- Use caffeine to constrict the blood vessels and keep them from leaking, as well as reduce puffiness. There are a multitude of products on the market that contain caffeine. Or you can try cool black tea bags (not herbal tea bags), although the caffeine level is generally lower than the concentrated forms in eye treatments.
- Sunglasses with UVB protection, since those are the rays that darken the skin.
- Tighten loose or sagging skin. Make sure you use a product that is just for your eyes! There are products on the market that promise tightening, but are NOT meant for your eyes. Some of these products “puff up” the skin so the wrinkles are filled out. That’s not what you want around the eyes. try a product like TFF Eye that actually tightens the skin around the eyes.
- Guide to Dazzling Winter Skin
- Parabens: The Dirty Little Secret
- Eye Puffiness (mothernature.com)
- How to Reduce Eye Bags, Eye Puffiness, and Dark Circles with Tea Bags (notecook.com)