Most of us grow up thinking that dark skin under the eyes is a sign that we need more sleep. Mothers often remind their children, and particularly their teenaged girls, that a lack of sleep manifests on the face and dark circles should warrant earlier bedtimes. But research shows that while fatigue can contribute to dark circles beneath the eyes – it causes the skin to become dull and pale, revealing the dark tissues and blood vessels beneath – there are other reasons for this besides.

Sometimes the reason is genes. (If only you’d known that when your mother told you to go to bed earlier as a teenager…) Predispositions to conditions like thyroid disease can contribute to dark circles beneath the eyes.

What’s basically happening when you get dark circles is the tissues and blood vessels beneath your skin are more visible. This can occur when either the skin gets duller or thinner – when you’re tired or dehydrated or elderly, for example – or when the vessels themselves enlarge. Screen time can cause blood vessels around your eyes to get larger, so staring at your TV or computer screen less can help. Allergies can cause blood vessels to dilate, too.

Taking care of your skin more generally is the best way to minimize dark circles, and this is bound up with taking care of your overall health. Staying hydrated, which means drinking enough water and not too much alcohol, can give your skin a more youthful, elastic appearance. Eating foods packed with Vitamin C, such as oranges and bell peppers and broccoli, and taking Vitamin C supplements can help to stimulate the production of collagen, the structural protein in your skin.

To care for your skin, you should consume enough iron, which is found in such foods as red meat, seafood, and leafy green vegetables. You should also wear sunscreen or protective clothing and avoid tanning beds. It’s always a good idea to quit smoking; cigarettes deplete Vitamin C in the body, which produces collagen and which leads not only to wrinkles but also to dark circles underneath the eyes.

Beyond tending to your general health, there are quicker fixes you can also try, such as applying a cold compress or cold tea bags to the skin underneath your eyes as a means of shrinking dilated blood vessels. Tea bags have long been used by runway models to reduce puffiness beneath the eyes; just soak them in warm water, then chill for a few minutes in the refrigerator and apply one under each eye for five minutes. In lieu of a cold compress, you can use a chilled teaspoon, a wet washcloth, or a bag of frozen vegetables.

Retinol creams can prompt your body to produce collagen, which fills in thin skin, increasing its elasticity and youthful appearance. Antihistamines like Benadryl can help with allergies. Skin-lightening creams containing hydroquinone can make a difference. Essential oils mixed with coconut oils, particularly rose geranium, fennel, lavender, and rosemary, can be helpful, too. There are also medical procedures, including chemical peels, laser surgery, microneedling, and medical tattoos that inject pigment, which can reduce the appearance of dark circles.

Another cheaper solution is to do as your mother probably told you to when you were young and get more rest. :)

Written by Allyson Welch

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