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Dark Circles

Dark circles are a real pain. They can make you look tired and drawn, even when you’re feeling bright and breezy. But what actually causes them? And what can you do about them? Read on to find out more and scroll down for answers to all the FAQs about dark circles.

dark circles

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Suggested Products for Treating Dark Circles

Which skincare products might you try, to see real results? Here is a selection of the ones I really rate - because they do a great job, and are a pleasure to use.


Elequra Eye Architecture

A terrific all-round cream for the delicate skin in the eye area. It performed amazingly well in independent clinical tests, where the...

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iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex

I really recommend this eye cream for the thin, delicate skin around the eyes. Meticulously tested to prove its benefits a clinical study...

Read More


FAQ ABOUT Dark Circles


What are dark circles under the eye called?

We all call the smudges of darker skin below our eyes ‘dark circles’ but there is a technical name for them and it is periorbital hyperpigmentation. ‘Hyperpigmentation’ is where the skin has excess pigment in it, making it look darker than your usual skin tone, so that the hyperpigmented patch shows up as darker. ‘Periorbital’ simply means ‘around the eyes’

What causes dark circles under the eye?

There are several reasons why we get dark circles under the eyes.

  • It could be genetic – which is just bad luck. We associate dark circles under the eyes with tiredness or with older people who have sunken eyes, but if your genes have given you eyes that always look tired, it’s unfair but it’s a look that’s with you from the start.
  • If you have darker skin, dark circles beneath the eyes are more likely to be the result of extra pigmentation in that part of your skin.
  • If you have lighter skin, the dark circles may be the result of subdermal fascia and blood vessels, which are darker, showing through.
  • If you are older, you will know that dark circles under the eyes are a natural part of the ageing process. Why? Because you are losing the fat pads from the face, which can make the eye area look hollow and in turn create shadows below the eye, which look darker. If these fat pads have dropped into bags or pouches, these can also create the appearance of dark circles.
  • People with itchy skin or allergies often have worse dark circles if they have a tendency to rub at the skin below the eyes.
  • And then, there’s the most obvious of reasons: fatigue and a lack of sleep always make dark circles under the eyes look more obvious.

Does everyone get dark circles?

No, not everyone gets dark circles under the eyes, but it is a very common complaint and something that we all hate because we feel it makes us look tired even when we are not.

For many people, dark circles under the eyes are hereditary – a genetic characteristic that you inherit from your parents. Some people have dark circles under the eyes the whole time, though for most of us, dark circles show up most when we are tired and haven’t had enough sleep. At the other end of the scale, some people are just lucky and don’t get dark circles under their eyes at all.

Does tiredness cause dark circles under the eyes?

Yes, being tired is one of several possible causes of dark circles, and it’s likely that the two things are closely linked in your mind. Lack of sleep often results in a pallid skin tone, which allows the blood vessels underneath the lower eyelids to show through.

What makes dark circles worse?

  • Fatigue – general weariness makes the face look drawn and tired, and this makes dark circles under the eyes more noticeable.
  • Lack of sleep – because this makes the skin look more pale, so the blue-ish blood vessels below the skin are more apparent.
  • Reduced microcirculation – if the blood circulation isn’t moving freely through all the minute capillaries around your eyes, this can show through the skin and make dark circles appear worse.
  • Sun damage – this makes the skin thinner so lighter skins become more transparent, while on darker skins, sun damage results in darker pigmentation patches below the eyes.

What is the best treatment for dark circles under the eyes?

Finding the best treatment for dark circles depends on the sort of dark circles you have. If your dark circles are caused by patches of darker pigmentation, your best bet is to start with active skincare. Preferably, look for products that have been clinically proven to reduce pigmentation in the skin. Dermatologists can prescribe creams containing 4% hydroquinone, which is the gold-standard treatment for reducing pigmentation in the skin. Over-the-counter products containing retinol can also make pigmentation more even, but go carefully when using retinol around the eyes and start gradually.

In terms of tweakments, many practitioners have treatment protocols involving lasers or skin peels, which can brighten the appearance of dark circles, but you will need a personal consultation with the practitioner to work out whether this is appropriate for your dark circles.
An increasingly popular way to treat the hollowing under the eyes that causes dark circles is with injections of an appropriate dermal filler, to smooth the junction between the eyes of the cheek and the area beneath the eyes. You need to find a practitioner who has medical training and plenty of expertise in this particular technique.

Can you permanently remove dark circles?

No. Sorry, it just can’t be done. However, there are many options out there which will help to reduce the severity and visibility of your dark circles. Read on below for more information on the skincare and tweakments that can help.

How can you get rid of dark circles fast?

The quickest way? Find a good concealer. Honestly, I’m not joking. Concealer is one of the most popular cosmetics because, patted into place beneath the eyes, it will hide the darkness and discolouration. Choose one that is the right shade for your skin tone (if you choose one that is lighter, thinking that it will tone down the darkness in the dark circles, it will just look odd) and pick one that has a creamy consistency, so that it doesn’t crease into the little lines below the eyes. Find one which contains light-reflecting particles, and it will blur any lines and hollows beneath the eyes and bounce light back in a flattering way so that your eyes look instantly fresher.

How can you prevent dark circles under the eyes?

If your issue is due to blood vessels and darker subdermal fascia showing through, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make that will help minimise and prevent discolouration around the eyes:

  1. Improve your sleep. Putting dark circles to one side for a moment, a good sleep routine is one of the best things you can do for your skin, your general well-being, your mental health…the list goes on. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, is used as a torture device, which I reckon speaks for itself. Aim for 8 hours of solid sleep – it will do wonders for your skin, improving radiance and masking those unsightly dark circles. Of course, it’s very easy to say ‘get more sleep’, but how do you actually do it? Here are some tips:
  1. Go to bed at the same time each night. This will stabilise your circadian rhythm so that, over time, your body knows to automatically start winding down as you approach the time you go to bed.
  2. Don’t go to bed with your phone. Blue light is the worst for this – as it fools your brain into thinking it’s daytime and that you need to be awake – but any light from a screen is going to confuse your brain, so put down the phone at least thirty minutes before you go to bed.
  3. Set the scene. You’ll get to sleep more quickly and have better quality sleep if you fall asleep in the right environment. The most important factors are light levels (keep it dark) and temperature (a touch on the cold side is better). If you’re a light sleeper then invest in some earplugs to block out excess noise that might cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
  4. Get some really good bedding. OK, this can be expensive, but considering you spend at least a third of your life in bed, it’s a worthwhile investment. A good mattress is vital – a poor quality one can even lead to back problems further down the line – and some comfy pillows and duvets wrapped in cotton sheets (because cotton is breathable) will help you slip into the land of nod all the more quickly.
  5. Avoid anything that’s going to get your system going. For how long depends on what you’re consuming or doing. Here are some of the main ones and how long to avoid them for:
  1. Caffeine (6 hours);
  2. Nicotine (2 hours);
  3. Sugar (2 hours);
  4. High-intensity exercise (4 hours) – stretching, pilates, and yoga are fine;
  5. Eating heavy meals (digestion takes up to 56 hours, so there’s no magic number – just keep your dinner light);
  6. Too much water (2 hours) – you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a full bladder;
  7. Alcohol (4 hours).
  1. Improve your diet. Lots of fruit and vegetables will boost antioxidant levels in your system, resulting in cleaner, brighter skin that doesn’t let as much discolouration show.
  2. Drink lots of water. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but drinking at least 2 litres of water per day will keep your insides functioning efficiently, which shows on the outside. Healthier, brighter, more radiant skin will more effectively mask any under-eye discolouration.

On the medical side of things, keeping your skin in top condition – for example through a good skincare regime, including an antioxidant serum to strengthen skin against environmental damage and pollution, sunscreen to ward off UV rays, and regular dermatology-grade facials – will help to prevent degradation of the skin.

How can you treat dark circles naturally?

By following all the healthy lifestyle tips, above. Eating healthily, getting enough sleep and exercising will all give you the best chance of minimising dark circles under the eyes.

What skincare can you use for dark circles under the eyes?

  • Antioxidant serums e.g. Neostrata Enlighten, which strengthen the skin
    Skincare with retinol, which encourages the growth of collagen;
  • Eye creams designed to tackle dark circles, e.g. iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex or Olay’s Illuminating Eye Cream for Dark Circles; and
  • Eye creams with niacinamide, an ingredient which helps lighten pigmentation, e.g. CeraVe Eye Repair Cream.

What beauty devices can help with dark circles under my eyes?

  • NuFace Fix, which boosts the microcirculation in the eye area. This is sold as a line-smoothing device, and it does a good job at tightening the skin with electrical microcurrents. This makes the whole eye area look fresher and brighter, and reduces the appearance of dark circles.
  • LED light masks with red and near-infrared light also help with dark circles by stimulating collagen growth in the skin, which strengthens the skin, and reduces the look of dark circles.

What tweakments can help with dark circles under my eyes?

There are several tweakments that can help with dark circles:

  • Under-eye filler in the ‘tear trough’ – Delicately placed injections of a lightweight filler gel made from hyaluronic acid can work for hollow eyes, to immediately smooth out the dip between the edge of the cheekbone and the hollow under the eye. This can make the whole under-eye area look brighter, and gives a result that should last for a year.
  • Under-eye PRP – PRP stands for Platelet-Rich Plasma, and to obtain it, a small amount of your blood is taken and placed in a centrifuge until the red blood cells separate from the plasma. This PRP is then immediately injected back into the skin under the eye, using a very fine needle or a cannula, to encourage the skin to regenerate and produce new collagen, which will strengthen the under-eye area over the next two months. (There is a small immediate improvement, but the main results take two months to show.
  • Mesotherapy – Injections of a cocktail of skin-rejuvenating ingredients.
  • Laser – used with care and caution by an experienced practitioner, appropriate laser treatment can help make pigmentation under the eyes more even.

How do I hide dark circles under my eyes with make-up?

The best way to hide dark circles with make-up is to find a great concealer. There’s a reason why the YSL Touche Eclat concealer is still a best-selling product 27 years after its launch.

But your concealer doesn’t have to be an expensive one – just one that blends in with your skin tone, and which has enough pigment to cover the dark shadows that you are trying to hide. I always prefer to use a concealer with a creamy formulation, rather than one that is too solid, so that it is less likely to settle into the fine lines beneath my eyes.

If you are wearing tinted moisturiser or foundation, apply that first, because the pigment in it will provide some disguise for the dark circles. Then you will be able to see how much more coverage you need. Dab on a few spots of concealer onto the area of dark shadows, then gently blend the product into your skin, taking it up to the inner corner of the eye (adding a little lightness here will open up the eyes nicely). You can do this with a fingertip, with a blending sponge, or with a make-up brush, whichever you prefer. You want it to look seamless and fresh. Some people like to ‘set’ the concealer with a little dusting of loose powder – if that works for you, fine, but check that it isn’t making the concealer go cakey!


ASK ALICE

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What would be your recommendation for a 38-year-old starting to show signs of ageing? Dark circles, fine lines and general lacklustre, dull skin.

I'm very keen on a supporting skin from within with appropriate supplements. My favourite three are a liposomal vitamin C called Altrient C, Totally Derma collagen drink, and OG omega-3 supplements which all benefit the skin in different ways. Tweakments-wise, a round or two of an injectable moisturiser treatment might help boost your skin condition and skin strength and amplify the effects you get from skincare and supplements....

I'm 53 and have started to suffer under my eyes. The skin seems loose and is causing creases. What do you recommend or what ingredients I should aim for? Thanks

Sympathies, it's just what happens as we age, perfectly natural but not something that brings us joy. I'd start with a good quality eye cream to help hydrate and strengthen the skin, and take a look at the concerns on the site where you can look at all our specific advice for eye concerns.

I wanted to ask you if you have ever had tear trough filler and what was your experience? My dark circles/ hollows are of real concern to me and I'm considering this procedure with Dr Sophie Shotter who does my toxins. Your list of things that could...

Hi, I'm so sorry to have scared you with the list of things that can go wrong with/ after tear trough filler but I feel it's really important that people should be informed and aware of all the potential issues around any tweakment before they go ahead and book in for it. You would be told all these things at consultation stage and/or will find them all listed on the consent form that you will be asked to sign before going ahead with any treatment. Tear troughs are tricky. Some people are great candidates for tear-trough treatment but others aren't, so it's important to pick a practitioner who knows how to treat appropriately. The...

Who would you recommend in London for conservative fillers around the eye area? I’m thinking tear trough but also the outer area.

Have a look on our practitioner finder – you can search by tweakment as well as by area. There are loads of great practitioners on there who do really good tear trough work, and they will advise you whether this is an appropriate treatment for you.

I have read your information about the three recommended eye creams but still don’t know which one to use. Which is your number 1?

Ah, tricky! They're all great. Why not start with the Elequra Eye Architecture cream and see what that does for you? If you have the budget, the Medik8 R-Retinoate eye cream is fab. It will give you results, but it's gentle with it.

I'm 57 with thin, dull skin, dark circles/ hollow under eyes, lack volume. What do you suggest please? 🙏

Hi, I'd suggest starting with some great skincare to address the quality of your skin and get it looking a bit fresher and livelier. Take a look at some of the products in the TTG shop eg this radiance-boosting bundle - there are videos explaining what the products do and why I rate them. It's worth considering hormone replacement treatment (start with your GP). Losing oestrogen as we go through the menopause wreaks havoc on the skin (as well as on our moods, joints, sleep etc) and replacing it helps the skin to function so much better and to regain a good deal of its strength, bounce and hydration. Re dark hollows under your eyes and...

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