Why do I Have Under-Eye Circles?

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

Recently we received a question about dark under eye -circles and I thought it was such a common skin problem that I would write about this topic more extensively. If you do a search on the Internet you will find hundreds and possibly thousands of search items related to under-eye circles. This is an extremely popular skin care issue especially for women. A 2008 New York Times article reported that in a survey of 13,000 Clinique (a cosmetic company specializing in skin care) users, roughly 53% named under-eye circles and puffiness as their number one beauty concern. And if you look for remedies for under-eye circles you will find that the skin care industry is listening. In addition, you may also find an almost equal number of home remedies from your kitchen cupboard for this problem.

But what causes these dark under-eye circles to develop in the first place? We are going to explore some of the more popular reasons for this problem. And in a subsequent post we will give you some ideas of how to prevent and get rid of the dark rings under your eyes.

Possible Causes for Under-Eye Circles

The website, Wrong Diagnosis, lists 110 potential causes for these dark rings under the eyes ranging from an allergy to pecan trees to having a genetic disorder called velocardiofacial syndrome.

Although there can be many reasons for under-eye circles, we are going to take a look at the most likely culprits.

1. Lack of sleep

If you are looking tired then there is a good chance that this is because you actually are tired and /or stressed. There can be many causes for a lack of sleep including depression, anxiety, or a sleep disorder. One of the best things you can do for your skin is to get a good night's sleep. Please see your doctor if you are finding it difficult to get enough sleep to feel well and rested.

2. Eczema

If you or your child suffers from atopic dermatitis or eczema, dark under eye circles can result. If you have eczema you may be prone to flare ups of itchy inflamed skin and if it occurs under the eyes damage can result from scratching the delicate skin tissue of that area. The healing process can also cause post eczema pigmentation which may take a period of months to fade. If you suffer from eczema and under-eye circles you will want to consult with your dermatologist about ways to treat your skin condition.

3. Allergies

Right before my son was diagnosed with eczema as well as multiple allergies, we noticed he had chronic dark circles under his eyes. These dark circles are sometimes called allergic shiners which are caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses. There are countless types of allergies which can cause such a reaction including allergies to many types of fungus, pollen, weeds, and trees. In addition to seeking help from your doctor, Health Central's My Allergy Network
can help with any of your allergy questions and concerns.

4. Aging skin

We might not like to admit it but we are all growing older. As your skin ages it tends to thin and there may be a loss of collagen which previously plumped the skin. Thinning skin can cause the blood vessels under your eyes to become more visible causing what looks like shadows under the eyes.

5. Sun exposure

The harmful effects of the sun can damage the skin around the eyes. When your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun it causes your body to produce melanin and this can sometimes cause hyperpigmentation or a darkening of the skin. If you have dark under eye circles, exposure to the sun may make your condition worse. Wearing sunglasses and using general sun protection methods
is one way to decrease the odds that you will develop under-eye circles.

6. Having African American or Asian skin

If your skin is dark there may be more of a chance that you will experience hyperpigmentation, a darkening of the skin, with resulting uneven skin tone. Dark under-eye circles can also be a symptom of pigmentation changes.

7. Heredity

Dark circles under the eyes may run in the family. If your parents or siblings have under-eye circles there may be a good chance that you will have them too. Thin skin around the eye area can be caused by your genes.

There are many other possible causes for developing dark circles under your eyes including dehydration, smoking or drinking alcohol. If you are experiencing changes in your skin under your eyes it may be wise to seek the help of your doctor or dermatologist in determining a cause.

In my next post we will talk about ways that you can get rid of these dark circles including home remedies as well as heavy duty dermatological interventions.

Anne Windermere
Meet Our Writer
Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."