How to treat dark circles and puffy under-eyes!

Most of us have dark circles under our eyes at some point. Whether it’s temporary because we slept badly or because of long-term allergies and irritation.

The skin around our eyes is literally the thinnest on the body. It’s only 0.5mm thick whereas the rest of the skin on your body is at least 2mm.

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What are dark circles?

dark circles under eyes

There are three main kinds of dark circles. The first is simply caused by the fact that the skin under the eyes is very thin and if it is irritated or stressed the very fine capillaries under the skin will show right through. Bleaching or lightening creams will not help to get rid of these at all. They will simply irritate the skin further.

Along the same lines, it is believed that dark circles are caused by those same little capillaries leaking blood into the surrounding tissues, effectively “bruising” the skin. This can be due to inflammation from allergies. You will need to get rid of the inflammation to allow the skin to heal.

The last kind is hereditary. It is called Periorbital Hyperpigmentation. Some people with darker skin can develop dark patches around their eyes. This can be treated with lightening creams or resurfacing treatments.

What causes dark undereye circles?

  1. Thin undereye skin: As I’ve said, the skin under your eyes is only 0.5mm thick. If the little capillaries under the skin are dilated and full of blood, your under-eyes will look either blue or greenish depending on your skin tone. You have to be EXTRA nice to the skin around your eyes.
  2. Illness: When we are sick the body will send blood and nutrients to where it’s needed. This is why we appear pale and drawn when we don’t feel well. If the skin in your face isn’t getting nutrient-rich blood and moisture, the skin becomes sunken and thin looking which makes your under-eye area look grey or blue.
  3. Allergies:
    When we are congested due to hayfever or our eyes are itching due to allergies, there is a lot of inflammation in the nose and eye area. Even when sinuses are irritated and infected they will inflame the whole area which causes puffy eyes and dark circles because all the little capillaries are full of blood to try to get rid of that inflammation.
  4. Stress: This works a little like illness. When we are stressed, the body sends blood to the most important functions in the body. That is why we go pale when we are frightened or scared. The body sends blood to the brain, heart and muscles so we can fight or run. Stress is such a part of our lives that we live in “fight or flight” mode. Less oxygen and nutrient-rich blood reach the facial area and we have pale, drawn faces with dark sunken eyes. Here are a lot of good ways to manage stress.
  5. Dehydration:
    Do I really have to tell you to drink water? When we are dehydrated, our skin loses volume and elasticity. The thin skin under your eyes will be even thinner when you are dehydrated. It will also get that dry crepey look. The whole area will become sunken and dark. Here are loads of good reasons to drink water!
  6. Sun Damage: Do you put sunscreen on your under-eyes? Me neither. Well, I didn’t but I will now! UV rays damage the skin in many ways. It reduces collagen and elastin in the skin which means that you lose elasticity and volume where you need it most. Exposure to harmful rays also depletes moisture which will make sagging or thinning skin appear even thinner. Those little capillaries will shine like little blue diamonds under that thin skin…
  7. Ageing:
    activated charcoal anti ageing
    As we age we lose volume and elasticity in our skin. Collagen and elastin will begin to deplete and our skin will start to sag. We also develop issues with blood circulation which means that our skin doesn’t get all the oxygen and nutrients it needs. When the skin becomes thin and sags our faces will lose volume and appear sunken around the eyes. Tah DAH! Dark circles.
  8. Anaemia: Women tend to have this problem due to our menstrual cycles and iron deficiency. It can also be due to lifestyle, poor diet or illness. When our bodies don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to all areas of the body it can cause fatigue and problems with blood circulation. Poor circulation can cause puffy under eyes and dark circles.
  9. Bad Habits: Alcohol and smoking will never be good for your skin. Excessive alcohol dilates blood vessels, dehydrates the body and stops you from sleeping properly. All things that make dark circles appear like magic! Smoking destroys all that lovely collagen that stops your face from sagging down to your knees! It dehydrates the skin and stiffens blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the skin surface. Old hag by 30…not sexy!
  10. Bad Skincare Habits: 
    • Not removing makeup before bed: Stale mascara, eye makeup and concealer traps bacteria on the skin that can cause irritation and puffiness. If you haven’t taken your makeup off, chances are you haven’t moisturised either so your skin will be dry and irritated by morning.
    • Not moisturising the skin properly: Eye creams and gels provide delicate skin with moisture and nutrients to protect and repair itself.
    • Using harsh products to remove eye makeup: Eye makeup removers with alcohols or chemicals to break up makeup and remove them will dry out the eye area and can even cause broken capillaries in the skin.
    • Using old, out of date makeup or cosmetics in the eye area: This is just an infection looking for a place to happen. As they get older the ingredients in your makeup will become less effective or unstable and can even be damaging to the skin. Every time you use mascara or any kind of applicator you can pick up bacteria from the skin surface and trap them in the product. As the product accumulates bacteria it can cause skin and eye infections.
    • Rubbing or scrubbing the eye area when applying makeup or skincare: If you drag the skin around when you apply makeup or creams in the eye area you are just stretching and irritating it.
    • Not wearing your sunnies when you are outside: Sun damage causes premature ageing and thinning of the skin. Squinting into bright light also causes lines and wrinkles.
  11. Bad Nutrition:
    • Too much salt that causes inflammation and water retention
    • Crash diets that deprive the body of essential nutrients that result in dry, flaky and irritated skin.
    • Not enough fruit and vegetables will deprive your skin of essential nutrients and antioxidants that build collagen and repair skin.
    • Junk foods full of saturated fats, chemicals, sugar, salt and preservatives that cause inflammation in the body.

How to treat dark circles:

    1. Sleep:
      rose water sleep
      You need your 6 to 8 hours a night. It really isn’t as negotiable as you think. Your body repairs and rejuvenates the skin during sleep. Research suggests that this repair process only starts after 3 to 4 hours of restful sleep. If you are only getting 5 hours, that doesn’t leave your body much time to work. You should also make sure that you are properly hydrated before going to bed. Dehydration will leave you with dark circles when you wake up.
      If you struggle with puffy eyes, try sleeping on your back with your head and shoulders slightly elevated to allow fluid to drain away from your face.
    2. Eat Well:

      • Eat fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C and K to fight damage from free radicals and repair the skin – Get as many colours on your plate as possible to make sure that you are getting all the nutrients you need.
      • Avoid salt if you can. It simply hardens cell walls and causes water retention. It also causes high blood pressure that damages collagen.
      • Check for allergy-causing foods such as citrus fruits, peanuts, yeast, wheat, dairy, eggs or soy. If you have food allergies they can cause inflammation in the body and face which will cause capillaries to expand and show up as dark circles under the eyes.
      • Avoid processed and junk foods because they are full of sugar, salt, preservatives, saturated fat and chemicals that cause inflammation.
      • Get your omega’s from fatty fish, nuts, avocado and flaxseed to help build and repair collagen to keep skin plump, elastic and healthy. Healthy fats are great for your skin.
      • Be careful with caffeine, especially energy drinks full of chemicals and sugar. A cup of coffee or two during the day isn’t nearly as bad and energy drinks full of chemicals that cause inflammation and ultimately dehydrate you. They also spike and drop blood sugar which causes stress in the body.
      • No crash diets that deprive the body of energy and nutrients. If you don’t eat properly you won’t consume enough of the essential fats, vitamins and minerals that you need to keep your body healthy. Crash diets can damage your metabolism and cause anaemia which will both give you a sunken and drawn appearance. If you feel the need to lose weight, do it slowly, cut out junk food but eat a variety of nutritious foods to keep your skin healthy.
      • Easy on the booze lady! Binge drinking is just bad for you. It puts stress on your whole body, not just your liver. It dehydrates you, stops you from sleeping properly, dries out your skin and just generally makes you look sick. Having a drink or two won’t do too much damage, but excessive alcohol consumption will show up on your face as bags and dark circles eventually.
    3. Go outside! cycling tones and strengthens thigh and butt muscles(But wear your sunnies while you are out there.) We need sunlight, fresh air and exercise. We need the vitamin D for our mood as well as the absorption of calcium, magnesium and several other minerals. When we don’t get enough sunlight, our levels of Vitamin D will drop and along with it, the feel-good hormone serotonin. This can affect our mood and our sleep. Dark under-eyes here we come. Breathing deeply and moving relaxes the body reduces stress levels. It also oxygenates the body which is great for your skin. It also improves circulation which means that the capillaries under your eyes won’t appear as dark.
    4. Step away from that screen! Staring and squinting at computer screens or phones all day will cause wrinkles and fine lines. Sitting still for hours at a time also affects your circulation which will cause water retention and puffy eyes.
    5. Treat your allergies. If spring is sheer misery to you then you need to see your pharmacist for a good antihistamine. Take care not to rub your eyes too much. Use a nasal spray to relieve congestions and eye drops for the itching.
      If you have been outside you should wash your face as soon as you can to get rid of pollen on your skin and eyelashes.
    6. Careful in the sun!
      As you know that the sun will dry and age our skin. Be careful to wear sunscreen and sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes. Those sunnies are not just a fashion accessory.
      The little bit of sunscreen in your foundation is not enough to protect your skin. Here are a few sunscreens that work well with makeup:

    7. Moisturise Moisturise Moisturise! Because the skin in the eye area is so thin and delicate it needs as much protection as you can give it. This may be counter-intuitive but heavy creams can cause puffy eyes. Try serums and gels if you struggle with puffy under eyes. Eye roll-ons also help to massage the tissues to get rid of the dark blood in the capillaries and the excess fluid causing the swelling.

Dark Circle and Puffy Eye Treatments that you can whip up in your kitchen or bathroom
aloe vera recipes

  1. Good Old Cucumber: It works…what can I say? Cold cucumber slices will gently moisturise and tone the undereye area to remove excess fluid and brighten the dark circles.
    • Use thin slices of cold cucumber under the eyes for dark circles or undereye “bags”
    • Place a full slice over the whole eye if you wake up with puffy eyes to remove swelling.
    • For undereye pigmentation, you can mash a slice of cucumber with half a teaspoon of oatmeal and two drops of lemon juice. Apply under the eyes but don’t allow it to dry all the way. Leave it on for 10 minutes and remove gently with warm and then cool water. If you feel any burning due to the lemon juice you should remove it immediately.
  2. Sweet Almond Oil: (Bitter Almond Oil is for aromatherapy only not for skin care) Due to its high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties sweet almond oil will help to restore volume to the skin under the eyes by rebuilding collagen. It also treats the inflammation that dilates the little blood vessels under the eyes that cause dark circles.  Pat a little sweet almond oil on your dark circles before bed. You can apply your moisturisers over the sweet almond oil.
  3. RoseWater: Rosewater is also anti-inflammatory and soothing to the skin. It contains antioxidants that help to rebuild and protect skin cells. Soak two cotton pads in rose water and put them in the refrigerator for twenty minutes. Place them over the eyes and lay back for a few minutes with your head slightly elevated.
    Read more about rosewater for skin care here.
  4. Argan Oil: Because it contains high levels of Vitamin E, squalene and sterols, Argon oil helps to protect the skin’s moisture balance. This helps to protect delicate skin from sun damage and other irritants. It restores volume and elasticity to the skin. It is light enough to be used as a daily moisturiser. Simply pat it under the eyes as you would any undereye cream.
  5. Coconut Oil:
    A little like Argan oil, Coconut oil is full of vitamin E and antioxidants that help to rebuild skin cells. By restoring volume, the little veins under the eyes won’t be as visible.
  6. Rosemary Oil: Rosemary essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce swelling and inflammation. It also helps to drain excess fluid to reduce puffy eyes.
  7. Honey:
    Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory that will also help to attract and seal in moisture around the eyes. You can combine honey with an oil or a drop of lemon juice and apply it to the area to help to lighten pigmentation-related dark circles.
  8. Turmeric: Another great anti-inflammatory that will help to reduce the size of capillaries. Simply mix half a teaspoon of turmeric with a little honey or yoghurt to make a thick paste. Apply it under the eyes and leave on for 10 minutes. Gently rinse away with lukewarm water. Read more about turmeric for skincare here.
  9. Aloe Vera:
    Anti-inflammatory, cooling and moisturising. You can apply a little aloe vera gel under your eyes morning and evening to reduce inflammation and moisturise tired skin. Read more about aloe vera for skincare here.
  10. Castor Oil: This is a great all-around healing oil. It reduces inflammation, heals irritated skin, helps to rebuild collagen and elastin and seals in moisture. You can pat a little castor oil under your eyes twice a day. Allow it to sink in before applying any other products.
  11. Avocado:
    You should eat it and apply it to your dark circles. Avocados are full of good fats that moisturise and repair the skin from the inside and out. You can simply mash a little avocado and apply it under your eyes. Leave it on for 10 minutes and rinse away with cool water. Add a little castor or olive oil to your avocado mask for a moisture boost.
  12. Tomato: This one is very good for dark circles due to hyperpigmentation. Lycopene in tomatoes will help to reduce the pigmentation. It is also full of antioxidants that help to rebuild damaged skin cells and rebuild them. Simply mash tomato into a paste and apply it to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse it away with cool water.
  13. Chamomile Tea:
    chamomile - flowerheads
    Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, chamomile can be used to treat dark circles and pigmentation. It lightens and evens out skin tone while calming irritation and swelling. Chamomile contains Bisabolol an alcohol that inhibits the production of melanin in the skin. It also speeds up healing which helps to fade dark spots and uneven areas over time. Make a pot of chamomile tea with two tea bags. Remove the bags after brewing for 5 minutes. Put them in the fridge or freezer while you drink your tea. When they are cold, lie back and apply the tea bags to your under eyes for 10 minutes. You don’t have to rinse the tea away afterwards. Read more about chamomile for skin care here.
  14. Green Tea: This age-old remedy for just about anything you can think of will also help to reduce the appearance of dark circles. The caffeine in green tea will constrict the little capillaries to reduce the “bruised” look and the tannins will firm up the skin under the eyes to reduce wrinkles and sagging. Just like chamomile tea, brew a pot of green tea using two tea bags. Put the bags in the fridge or freezer until they are cold. Lie back and place the tea bags on your eye bags for 10 minutes.
    Read more about the beauty uses for green tea here.
  15. Fennel Seeds: Fennel contains high concentrations of various antioxidants including Vit C, rutin and quercetin which protect cells from damage-causing free radicals. It is also packed with Iron, zinc, selenium and calcium which are helpful in maintaining the oxygen balance in the skin. For a fennel seed toner:
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds1/2 cup boiling water
    1 drops fennel essential oil
    Put the fennel seeds in a small bowl and pour the hot water on top along with the drop of fennel essential oil. Leave it to sit for a few minutes then put it in the fridge until it is cold. Strain the mixture and soak two cotton pads in the fluid. Apply to your under eyes and leave on for 10 minutes. You can keep the remaining mixture in a sanitised glass container in the fridge for use the next day.
    Read more about the beauty uses of fennel seeds here.

heading photo_darkcircles undereye

Dark circles aren’t really the end of the world. Some people simply have deeper set eyes than others or the skin is naturally a little darker in that area. If they really bother you or you feel that they make you look tired then work on them or conceal them. There are surgeries and injectables but many of them will have to be repeated as you age so keep that in mind before you do anything invasive.

I have bags and dark circles. I have made friends with good concealers and chamomile tea bags. Allergies make me look like I’ve been slugged in the eye and a cold looks twenty times worse than it actually is because I look like the walking dead.

On the plus side, puffy little under eye bags are a thing of beauty in Korea. Women go around putting little stickers underneath their eyes to give them a puffy lower lid. Apparently, it looks more youthful and “cute”…Don’t think hubby’s going to move to Korea for the sake of my under eye luggage… I’m away to put some tea bags on my eyes…

Lots and lots of love!


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