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What causes dark circles under the eyes?

Best dark circles cream Learn why you have dark circles here.

Most people think that dark circles under the eyes are caused by working late, or partying a little too hard, or allergic reactions. Turns out that's not the case at all!

Today's explanation of under eye circles, research dermatologists agree, is caused by a complex interaction between your body and the same kind of chemical reaction that produces bruises. It has nothing to do with how late you stay up, how tired you are or anything like that.

The physiological basis of dark circles under the eyes

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The periorbital area (around your eyes) is the thinnest and most delicate skin of your face. Like all skin, the periorbital area is webbed with tiny capillaries, blood vessels so tiny that red blood cells have to stand in line, and sometimes bend in half, to get through them. Blood sometimes leaks from these capillaries - this probably happens all over the body all the time. This loose blood isn't a problem; your body has a method of taking care of it.

Unfortunately, your body's mopping-up process to get rid of that loose blood is what causes dark circles under the eyes.

Hemoglobin degradation? I thought this was an article about dark circles under the eyes!

Stick with us - this is an article about dark circles under the eyes, after all, and we need to explain how they form.

Okay. The way that loose blood breaks down is through an oxidization process known as "hemoglobin degradation." Basically, the hemoglobin (the stuff that makes red blood cells red) gets broken up into smaller components - and guess what? When hemoglobin degrades, it turns a dark bluish-red.

How are dark circles under the eyes like a bruise?

A bruise occurs when something hits you (hopefully not too hard). The capillaries and sometimes larger blood vessels get damaged and broken by the blow. Blood leaks out into the surrounding tissue. And then the hemoglobin in the blood begins to degrade, resulting in the dark bluish-red pigmentation we mentioned above.

So dark circles under the eyes are almost exactly the same as a bruise, except that you don't have to get hit in the face to get dark circles.

How do dark eye circle creams help get rid of the circles?

Dark eye circle creams do a couple of different things. First, and most importantly, they speed up the rate of the hemoglobin degradation. As the loose blood is completely degraded, the dark pigmentation fades.

Secondly, dark eye circle creams help to strengthen the capillaries in your skin. This helps to prevent future leakage, and helps to prevent future dark circles under the eyes!

That's probably the best reason to use a dark eye circle cream - to start preventing those horrible mornings of looking into the mirror and seeing a raccoon staring back at you. Learn more about dark eye circle creams and our recommendations. Learn more about why you have dark circles.

Tanning and dark under eye circles

Did you know that tanning can make dark under eye circles even worse? It's true.

Tanning is caused by melanin, your skin's pigment. Exposure to the sun increases your natural melanin levels and draws the melanin to the surface of the skin, making it darker. Unfortunately, this same principle applies to the skin under your eyes, too. So tanning, or any exposure to the sun at all, can make those dark under eye circles even darker.

Other causes of dark under eye circles


Allergies can cause dark under eye circles in two ways. First, the allergic reaction itself can cause smudges in the under eye area. Second, any condition that causes you to rub your eyes can make dark circles worse because scratching or rubbing can actually darken the skin. Remember, it's very delicate, so be gentle with your skin.

Fatigue or inadequate rest

Well, it's not directly related to dark under eye circles. But being tired generally makes your skin paler. And pale skin makes dark circles look darker, and also allows the dark pigmentation to be seen more easily.


We're sorry to have to add this one to the list... but, as you get older, the skin around your eyes can become even thinner. Dark under eye circles are likely to become more and more pronounced as you age.

Pregnancy and/or menstruation

Frequently, your skin becomes pale during pregnancy and menstruation. So the dark circles look darker and are more easily seen.

Inadequate nutrition

If you're not eating a balanced and healthy diet, a lack of key nutrients can cause dark under eye circles.

Okay, now that you know why you have dark under eye circles, learn how to get rid of them. Or read about home remedies.