The beauty market is full of serums and creams that promise a miraculous disappearing act for the under-eye circles that plague busy, sleep-deprived moms. Alas, these products don't always deliver. While it may not be possible to make dark circles disappear completely, there are better – more affordable – ways to minimize the discoloration.
Causes of Under-Eye Circles
There are nearly as many potential causes of dark circles under the eyes as there are solutions for the problem.
Fatigue is usually blamed as one of the biggest reasons for under-eye circles. “When we don't get enough sleep the blood flow slows and we have less oxygen in the blood so the area looks darker," says Pearl Dworkin, licensed esthetician and holistic nutritionist from Cupertino, CA.
A few good nights of sleep can remedy the situation for some people, but, “for others, even getting eight hours of sleep regularly doesn't seem to help," says Fayne Frey, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist from West Nyack, NY. In such cases, dark circles under the eyes may simply be hereditary.
Then there is the pesky matter of getting older. “As we age, the skin thins and the fat under the skin atrophies, allowing the blood vessels around the eyes to become more obvious. The skin appears darker," says Frey.
Bad habits don't help either. Rubbing or scratching your eyes can contribute to under-eye circles. And neglecting to wear sunscreen and exposing yourself to sun damage can speed up the thinning of the skin under the eyes.
Natural Ways to Minimize Under-Eye Circles
“There is no substitute for good quality sleep, but we can stimulate circulation and give our skin the nutrients it needs to lessen the effects," says Dworkin. And sometimes giving your skin what it needs involves altering eating habits.
“Healthy and diverse nutrition play a key role in skin health and beauty," says Dr. Karin Harmoni, nutrient complex category manager of Lycored in Orange, New Jersey. So, next time you go food shopping, be sure to pack those groceries bags with the healthy stuff. “Natural phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables can support skin color and glow and provide the first line of defense against different environmental challenges our skin is coping with," says Harmoni, adding that lycopene – the red pigment of tomato – is a strong antioxidant with benefits to skin wellness and appearance.
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits will help strengthen the under-eye area, as well as reducing the consumption of caffeine, alcohol and sugar, says Dworkin.
Hands-On Remedies for Under-Eye Circles
If you are looking for an effective topical solution, experts recommend seeking out a moisturizer with a high concentration of vitamin K.
Essential oils are also promoted as helpful for reducing under-eye circles and puffiness. “Jojoba, olive and tea-tree oils are known for eliminating under-eye bags and dark circles," says Zondra Wilson, founder of Blu Skin Care, LLC in Hawthorne, CA. “A recent study showed that mixing chamomile essential oil and jojoba oil together can reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes as well. Jojoba oil helps with reducing inflammation in the area and provides a smooth, even skin tone."
Really want to get back to earth? Consider an application of catechoclase, an enzyme found in potatoes, which is used as a skin lightening agent in many cosmetics. “Grate the potato and squeeze into a cheese cloth or similar soft fabric. Place on eyes for 15 minutes a few times a week at first, then one time per week after," says Roberta Perry, found of Scrubz Body Scrub in Bethpage, NY.
And all those movies you've seen where women have cucumber slices over their eyes? It's not just for looks. The cold cucumbers can reduce dark circles and puffiness, according to Wilson, as will wet tea bags under the eyes.
Bottom line: Spend time in the produce section on your next grocery run. It does a body good, and can help reduce under-eye circles too.