Aug 19, 2010

Excess Baggage? Under Eye Causes & Solutions Revealed!

For many women (including myself), dark, puffy under-eye circles is their number one beauty concern. You can get plenty of sleep, keep alcoholic drinks to a minimum and still have circles and bags. This beauty ailment can be the result of a few different factors: allergies, lack of  sleep, nasal congestion, sun exposure, fluid retention, pigmentation irregularities, and/or heredity and age. Unfortunately, dark circles can make you look older and tired and really take away from your face's natural radiance.

Main Causes:

Renowned dermatologist Dr. Susan Evans explains that, " Dark under-eye circles begin in the capillaries. Your capillaries are so small that red blood cells sometimes have to line up, single file, to get through. Frequently, red blood cells get lost and wander and leak into the surrounding skin." According to, this is normal and your body has a mechanism to mop us these rogue cells. Enzymes break down the red blood cells , including their hemoglobin (which gives blood its color). Unfortunately when the hemoglobin is broken down, the remaining components have a dark black-blue color. Your dark under-eye circles are caused by leaky capillaries. This is the same reason we get bruises. Blood can leak out into the surrounding skin and the excess hemoglobin (which appears dark purplish) remains. According to an article in, dark circles can also be caused by excess pigment produced from the melanocytes, or pigment cells.

Puffiness on the other hand, may be attributed to changes as you age. Your body holds the natural "fat pads" of your skin in with supporting ligaments. As we age these ligaments stretch and the "fat pads" become more visible. There is also a loss of elasticity to the surrounding skin which may cause the puffiness around the skin.

These main causes aside, some circles can be attributed to more serious medical conditions. Dr. Evans says, " Medical causes  for unexplained Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) for all patients should be excluded first.  Your initial differential diagnosis may include kidney or liver disease, diabetes and Peripheral vascular disease". She goes on to say, " PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) arises from an acquired excess of pigment related to an inflammatory process, such as infection, an allergic reaction, or a reaction to medication, trauma. In particular, PIH often occurs as a consequence of inflammatory skin disorders, including acne, drug-induced eruptions and eczema". Once you've ruled out these issues you can look for a solution that suits your skin care needs.


A good eye cream is essential but there are a few other treatment options you can use to depuff the eyes and reduce the appearance of dark circles.
Cool Compress/Green Tea Bags-For puffiness Dr. Evans recommends applying a cool compress with green tea bags to the lower eyelids. You can also use chilled teaspoons or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to reduce puffy skin. 

Elevate Your Head- According to try to "elevate your head with two or more pillows to prevent puffiness that develops when fluid pools in your lower eyelids." 

Saline Wash or Spray-The website also recommends using a saline wash or spray. They advise you to "rinse your sinuses with a saltwater  solution (mix 1/4 teaspoon sea salt with 2 cups warm water) or over-the-counter saline spray to relieve nasal congestion".  I personally  have never done this therefore, can't personally endorse this tip. 

Potato recommends putting your food to work. By cutting a potato (which has a skin-lightening enzyme called catecholase) into two thin slices you can temporarily fade the rings. Leave them on for 10 minutes (twice a week) to allow the juice to seep into your skin.  

Take an Antihistamine- recommends consulting your doctor if your circles appear during allergy season. Ophthalmologist, Dr. Robert Mirsky says, "Airborne allergens cause blood to pool in the vessels under your skin. Plus, rubbing your eyes can bruise those same vessels, causing a dark appearance under the eyes."  Your doctor might recommend an antihistamine or allergy-relief eye drops. Do not try anything without consulting a medical professional.

The other solutions remain the most popular: using eye creams recommends doubling up on eye creams. They cited a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology which showed that Vitamin K (the gold standard for lightening the color of the under-eye area) is even more effective when combined with a topical vitamin A derivative (such as retinol). Since retinol is always used on its own, use two creams-one with retinol and one with Vitamin K. Vitamin K can reduce the coagulation of blood in the area and reduce the appearance of dark circles. They recommend MD Skincare Lift & Lighten and MD Formulations Vit-A-Plus Anti-Aging Eye Complex.

Retinol isn't for everyone (it makes your skin very sun-sensitive and can be overly drying), which is why Dr. Evans urges people to speak to a medical professional to consult with them what products you're using in combination. It's important to speak to someone who knows your skin type and color and who is familiar with these products because incorrect use of these agents can lead to hyperpigmentation.
If you can tolerate retinol (remember a little goes a LONG way) you should use it. Retinol stimulates cell turnover and collagen production which will help strengthen the skin and reduce complexion imperfections. recommends Olay Professional Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex.

For other eye cream recommendations check out's 16 Top-Rated Eye Creams

I myself am still searching for the perfect eye cream. I've definitely found a few front runners but I have yet to find a product I swear by. In the mean time, I'm going to focus on getting plenty of rest so my skin doesn't look hollow and thin and focus on the creams I'm testing out to see how the affect my skin and what I like. Different eye creams work for different skin types and needs. There are many out there that will work effectively on your skin. I'll do my best to help connect you with those winners!  Stay tuned!

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