Eye rejuvenation is a common area of interest among dermatologic patients. And now, with masks in common use, people are more focused on your eyes than ever. Eye skin is unique in that it is thinner, which makes it more prone to the signs of aging, stress, trauma, and more. Dark circles can come with age but may also be seen in kids—and they may develop due to certain lifestyle and environmental factors.

Read on to learn what causes dark circles and tips on how to treat the condition.

What Causes Dark Circles Under Eyes in Men, Women, and Kids?

There are several reasons why you may have developed dark circles or discoloration under your eyes. Here are the most common underlying causes:

1. Fatigue and Stress

If you've ever had a sleepless night where you're burning the candle at both ends, you know the physical toll can be obvious. Dark circles are one of the first signs you need more sleep. The skin under your eyes is very thin and acts as a canopy to facial muscles, fatty tissues, and blood vessels. When fatigue sets in, your cortisol levels increase, which encourages blood flow in an effort to boost your energy levels. When the blood vessels in the skin of the eyelid fill up, the overlying skin darkens. There is also more fluid retention from the cortisol, making the bluish hue of blood vessels more pronounced. This same phenomenon happens with stress, seeing as your body triggers more cortisol during situations of heightened anxiety and stress.

2. Allergies

"Allergic shiners" are another common cause of eyelid skin hyperpigmentation. When your nasal passages are congested, there is an increased amount of pressure in the nose that prevents blood from draining back to the heart. This blood pools in the veins and capillaries underneath the eyes, causing a dark appearance. This is very common amongst kids with seasonal allergies or atopic dermatitis.

3. Trauma

Trauma, particularly blunt force trauma, can break the blood vessels around your eyes, causing blood to leak into your tissue. Bleeding under thin skin presents as black eyes and bruises.

4. Sun Exposure

Overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays decreases your production of collagen and elastin, which yields a loss of elasticity in your skin. As time goes on, the skin around your eyes thins and the underlying blood vessels become more prominent.

This is a common area of concern for those who are older and seeking rejuvenating solutions. Easy fixes include wearing sunglasses and always using a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen.

5. Genetics

Unlike the above-mentioned causes, which result from some version of blood collection causing discoloration, sometimes dark circles are caused by genetics. Melanin is the substance that gives your skin its color, and more melanin means a darker skin tone. Darker-skinned people are more likely to have hyperpigmentation around the eye because of increased pigment production in that area.

Black, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian populations often notice this, particularly as they age.

6. Does Sex Matter?

It's commonly accepted that genes and race can play a role in the formation of dark circles, but how about sex? It turns out that there is no prevalence amongst one sex over the other, and it depends more on lifestyle. Anyone can be tired, stressed, and succumb to UV light damage.

How Can You Reduce the Appearance of Dark Eye Circles?

Depending on the cause, there are easy ways to prevent and reduce the appearance of dark eye circles:

  • Get ahead of the underlying cause by sleeping more, managing stress, and reducing your allergy symptoms.
  • Look for creams with antioxidants, vitamin C, E, K, or caffeine that can help brighten the skin.
  • Be gentle when cleansing and moisturizing the thin skin around your eyes—don't rub, scrub, or tug the skin.
  • Discuss procedures such as laser and skin fillers with your board-certified Dermatologist.
  • Always wear sunscreen.

For your skin's overall health, you should seek advice from your Dermatologist before you try to treat any issues by yourself. After all, your skin—and your health—is worth it.

Author

  • Dr. Mona Gohara is a Connecticut-based Dermatologist and associate professor of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. She has a particular interest in skin cancer prevention and treatment for skin of color. Dr. Gohara spends a lot of time outdoors with her husband, son, and two dogs, Coco and Cleo. They all wear sunscreen.