1. Anemia and iron deficiency
Anemia is a health condition that occurs when red blood cells aren't as effective at transporting oxygen throughout the body as they should be, and an iron deficiency is a common reason why anemia may occur, although there are other potential causes as well. When the under-eye area isn't receiving enough oxygen, it often results in dark circles around the eyes, as demonstrated in a study where nearly half of the 200 participants suffering from dark circles had anemia.
Symptoms of anemia include pale skin, feeling tired or dizzy, and the condition can be easily diagnosed through a blood test and treated. Addressing the anemia can help reduce the appearance of under-eye darkness. Including more iron in your diet by consuming more seafood, spinach and other iron-rich foods should also be helpful.
2. Crying and watery eyes
The skin under the eyes is some of the thinnest and most delicate in the entire body, and even minimal fluid retention can appear as under-eye bags, which can cause or worsen dark circles. This is because fluid is more easily trapped in your lower eyelids, so crying or having watery or irritated eye may make them swell up, which can further exacerbate the darkness under the eyes.
In fact, some people who have puffy eyes actually think that they have dark circles, but once they get rid of the puffiness, the dark circles are gone, too. Eye bags tend to be worse in the morning or around the period in women. Luckily, though, puffiness-related dark circles are typically temporary and respond well to cold eye compresses, so if you had an emotional day, applying something cold over the eye area and resting for a few minutes will clear the issue up right away.
3. Too much sun exposure
Here's another reason to wear those sunglasses when you're out in the sun. Apart from being good for your eye health and protecting your skin from sun damage, sunglasses may also reduce the likelihood of developing dark under-eye circles. As we've mentioned previously, the skin around the eyes is very delicate, which makes it a lot more susceptible to sun damage and sunburns.
Our body's natural way of preventing sun damage is producing melanin - a dark skin pigment - which is exactly what it does when you don't wear sunglasses or sunscreen when you're out in the sun. As a result, the skin under the eyes will turn darker (usually brownish or blackish in tone) and even some sunspots may appear around the eyes. The best way to deal with this issue is to prevent any further discoloration, to begin with, and always protect your eyes and the surrounding skin from the sun.
Fatigue is certainly one of the most common and overarching symptoms across health issues of different magnitude and seriousness - from anemia, cancer, and hormonal issues to stress and depression. And one of the most common ways fatigue manifests itself is through dark under-eye circles. Therefore, if you suddenly feel tired and get under-eye circles that don't respond to diet adjustments, skincare tricks, and really - nothing seems to help - it may be worth to talk to your doctor about it as it may be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.
Do you stare at screens or read books all the time? These activities can cause significant strain on your eyes. In turn, this excessive eyestrain can make the blood vessels around your eyes get wider, which can make the skin around your eyes darker, usually with a bluish or green undertone.
To prevent eye strain related dark circles, it's worth doing the 20-20-20 eye exercise while you're reading, watching TV, or working at the computer. The rule goes as follows: look 20 feet away (6 m) every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, that's it. This will relax and rehydrate the eye surface, which will prevent both dry eye syndrome, eye puffiness, and dark under-eyes, so it's a triple win for your eye health!
6. Sleep issues
Sleep issues are one of the most common causes of dark circles under the eyes, especially in younger people. Sleep deprivation can make your skin paler and cause eye puffiness, for example, both of which can render your dark circles more prominent, for example. But anyone who had ever pulled all-nighter already knows that.
Interestingly, though, not only insomnia manifests itself in dark circles or under-eye bags. Getting too much sleep, or even simply going to sleep earlier or later than usual can result in dark under-eyes as well. The solution to this one is simple in nature, but is sometimes more difficult to attain in practice - just get the optimal amount of sleep - which is 7-9 hours a day for most adults.
Suffering from allergies and having dry eyes can likewise cause dark circles. The histamines that are released into the bloodstream when the body detects an allergen makes one's eyes itchy and swollen. Rubbing, a natural knee-jerk reaction to the itchiness, in turn, may further irritate and worsen the dark shadows under the eyes.
If you're suffering from seasonal or any specific allergies and you're experiencing symptoms, taking anti-allergy medications called antihistamines can help relieve the symptoms of the allergy and the under-eye darkness that comes with it.
8. Too much salt in your diet
Have you enjoyed a bag of potato chips in the evening and woken up with puffy and extra dark under-eye bags the next morning? It's no coincidence, as there's a connection between the two. Having too much sodium in your diet can lead to fluid retention in the face and body. This excess water accumulates under the skin and causes puffiness, especially under the eyes where the skin is especially thin.
Reducing the amount of salt in your diet can help clear up that issue, and be helpful at preventing many other serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular and urinary problems, at the same time, too, so it's good for you either way.
9. Smoking and alcohol
Harmful habits like smoking and drinking alcohol, too, can exacerbate or cause dark under-eye circles. Dermatologists note that smoking is extremely bad for your skin overall, as it slows down the production of collagen in the skin, which leads to premature aging. The carbon monoxide in cigarettes also prevents the skin from getting enough oxygen, which can create dark shadows underneath the eyes as a result.
As for alcohol, it's a known dehydrating beverage, which dilates the blood vessels in the eye area and makes the skin around the eyes feel dark and sullen. In addition, alcohol can cause sleep problems, which can further worsen the appearance of dark circles.
10. Genetics and aging
Sometimes, the dark circles underneath your eyes aren't caused by skin discoloration and darkness at all - all they are natural shadows cast by your facial features. People who have sharp facial features, deep-set eyes, and prominent, high cheekbones, for example, may think that they have dark circles, but it's their bone structure that's making it appear that way.
Others are just naturally predisposed to dark circles, be it due to a disease (e.g. anemia or thyroid issues) that they've inherited from their parents or just due to the fact that dark circles just run in the family without any health issues attached. Little can be done about genetic under-eye circles.
Last, but not least, aging can also create or exacerbate existing dark circles. With age, collagen production slows down naturally and people experience volume loss as a result. This makes the skin not only less plump, but also thinner and often even papery or crepey overall. The eye area is one of the first affected by aging, and this may lead to under-eye veins becoming more visible, which can appear as dark circles that are bluish or greenish in hue. Having a good skincare routine, healthy nutrition, and engaging in sun protection can slow down skin aging dramatically and improve the appearance of age-related dark circles.
Tips to Reduce Dark Circles Under the Eyes
If you suffer from dark circles under the eyes, there are several things you can do to reduce their appearance if they're an occasional issue you're dealing with or prevent them from getting worse if it's a constant problem. Here are the best tips we've collected:
1. First and foremost, it's important to get just enough sleep to prevent excess eye puffiness and darkness, and include plenty of iron-rich foods in your diet. You can also elevate your head during sleep by sleeping on an extra pillow to prevent fluid accumulation in the face and eyes.
2. It's also important not to strain your eyes too much and address any underlying health issues that may be causing dark circles.
3. When it's too late, and you suddenly wake up in the morning with puffy or dark under-eyes or just have a stressful and emotional day and this makes your eyes look dark and tired, it's also good to apply a cold compress on your eye area. To do so, you can simply wet a clean towel with cold water and place it over your eyes for 5 minutes. You can also apply specialized eye patches that you keep in the fridge (like the ones pictured in the image above). Both of these methods are meant to calm, hydrate, and de-puff weary and swollen eyes.
Warning: do not use ice cubes under the eyes because they can irritate the skin and even cause some of the small blood vessels underneath the eyes to break.
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