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Dark circles: causes, treatment, home remedies

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 339 views

Dark circles are a dark shading of the skin around the eyes, which is usually most noticeable under the eyes . Experts speak of halonation. Dark circles under the eyes are rarely a sign of a disease, usually it is a purely cosmetic problem. Find out everything you need to know about the causes, forms and treatment options for dark circles under the eyes.

quick overview

  • Origin & Causes : Dark circles under the eyes are mostly due to translucent blood vessels (hereditary or the result of, for example, sleep, fluid or iron deficiency, alcohol consumption, smoking, drug abuse, kidney or thyroid diseases). However, some dark circles are also caused by hyperpigmentation of the skin (hereditary or the result of, for example, increased UV radiation, certain skin diseases, drugs or certain medications).
  • When to the doctor? In the case of suddenly occurring, longer-lasting dark circles that cannot be explained (e.g. due to lack of sleep or malnutrition ). This is especially true if other symptoms appear.
  • Tips : Put moist tea bags (green or black tea), cucumber slices or cold spoons on the affected skin (only helps with translucent blood vessels!). Make sure you get enough sleep, fluid intake and a healthy diet. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and other drugs. Possibly conceal the dark circles with a concealer.
  • Treatment : If necessary, treat the cause, eg iron supplements for iron deficiency, therapy for underlying kidney or thyroid diseases. For hyperpigmentation: bleaching cream, laser therapy or injection of autologous fat in the area under the eyes. If the blood vessels are translucent: injections of autologous fat or hyaluronic acid.

Dark circles: treatment

The answer to the question “What helps against dark circles?” depends on the cause of the dark shadows under the eyes.

If hyperpigmentation is the reason for the dark circles, there are various medications available that can reduce the melanin in the skin (e.g. hydroquinone). However, these bleaching substances may only be applied very carefully and under the guidance of a doctor, as they sometimes have strong side effects. An alternative are special lasers, with the help of which the doctor can destroy the pigments in the skin in a targeted manner. These two methods can also be combined. Injecting the area under the eyes with autologous fat also makes the vessels less visible.

If dark circles appear because of the translucent vessels, the treatment looks very different. Bleaching creams would be completely wrong here because they make the skin even thinner and more transparent than it already is. Instead, fat taken from the patient himself is injected between the skin and the underlying blood vessels (autologous fat grafting). Alternatively, you can also use hyaluronic acid, but autologous fat is better tolerated and has fewer side effects.

Dark circles: You can do this yourself

Whether in advice magazines, on the Internet or from friends: there are many tips against dark circles. However, you should be careful and not follow them carelessly. Some popular home remedies for dark circles can cause problems. For example, damp tea bags or slices of cucumber that you put on your eyes can trigger allergies or irritate the eyes .

Many of the tips that are advertised – including putting cold teaspoons on the face or washing with cold water – are ultimately based on cooling the area around the eyes. This causes local blood vessels to constrict, making them less visible through the skin. But the effect is only short-term. And: If hyperpigmentation is the cause of dark circles under the eyes, these methods will not help at all.

Instead, it makes more sense to avoid typical risk factors for dark circles. Make sure you get enough sleep and drink enough. Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid smoking altogether. If that doesn’t help, you can use so-called concealers. With these special cosmetic creams you can at least temporarily conceal the dark circles under the eyes.

Home remedies have their limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not get better or even get worse, you should always consult a doctor.

Dark circles: origin and causes

Dark circles under the eyes make the eyes sunken and often make those affected appear ill. In fact, diseases are rarely the reason for dark circles. Most of the time, the dark shades around the eyes are harmless and have no effect on health.

There are basically two different mechanisms for the development of dark circles under the eyes: hyperpigmentation and the appearance of blood vessels through the thin skin.

Excessive pigmentation of the skin (hyperpigmentation)

The skin has special pigments, so-called melanins, which help determine the color of the skin. The more of these there are in the skin, the darker it appears. If there is increased accumulation of melanin in individual areas, this is referred to in medicine as hyperpigmentation or melasma.

If the eye area is affected by hyperpigmentation, this usually shows up in the form of blue or blue-grey circles under the eyes. Causes of such hyperpigmentation are, for example:

  • Increased UV radiation, for example through extensive sunbathing or frequent visits to the solarium
  • Rashes and inflammation of the skin, for example as part of a contact allergy or neurodermatitis (rubbing and scratching the affected areas also promotes pigment storage)
  • Drugs and certain medications
  • certain diseases and malformations of the skin (naevus ota, erythema dyschromicum pertans)

However, hyperpigmentation can also be hereditary. It is often the case that several people in a family have dark circles under the eyes without being able to find a specific reason for this.

Translucent Vessels

Most of the time, the skin itself is not the reason for dark circles under the eyes. In many cases, the cause lies deeper:

The eye is surrounded in a circle by a muscle (Musculus orbicularis ori). Because the skin and subcutaneous fatty tissue are very thin, especially below the eye (infraorbital), blood vessels that supply this muscle can shine through the skin there. This makes the affected areas look shadowy and creates visible circles under the eyes.

The extent to which blood vessels shine through the skin varies greatly from person to person. Among other things, this depends on the skin type and the thickness of the infraorbital subcutaneous fatty tissue. Especially very light-skinned, slim people tend to have dark circles under the eyes. There are also many other factors that can make the vessels shine through:

  • lack of sleep
  • dehydration
  • malnutrition
  • iron deficiency
  • Substance abuse, including increased consumption of alcohol and nicotine
  • Environmental toxins such as heavy metals
  • certain underlying diseases, for example of the kidneys or the thyroid gland

Basically, the blood vessels shimmer more through the skin, the less oxygen they transport. Oxygen-poor blood is darker than oxygen-rich blood. Lack of sleep sometimes leads to poorer blood flow to the infraorbital vessels and is therefore often the reason why dark circles suddenly appear.

Some changes with age can also cause dark circles under the eyes. On the one hand, the subcutaneous fat loses substance with age, on the other hand, the skin becomes looser. Both contribute to the vessels showing through more. In addition, the tear trough – a specific section on the inside of the infraorbital region – progressively collapses, increasing the shadowy effect.

As with hyperpigmentation, more translucent blood vessels may also be due to genetic factors.

Dark circles: when do you need to see a doctor?

Dark circles rarely have serious causes. Especially people who tend to have dark circles under the eyes and have no other complaints need not worry. The dark circles under the eyes are often hereditary and have no pathological value. Even after a short night, dark circles are nothing unusual and usually disappear again.

However, if you suddenly notice dark circles under your eyes that last longer and you are not used to it, you should mention this fact the next time you visit your family doctor. This is especially true if you notice other symptoms (such as unusual tiredness, concentration problems, etc.). The information from the doctor-patient discussion about your medical history (anamnesis) and any examinations (such as blood tests) help the doctor to find out the reason for your dark circles and any other symptoms. If necessary, he will then initiate appropriate treatment.

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