What Causes Dark Circles Under Your Eyes?

I feel like no matter what I do, I perpetually have dark circles under my eyes. I don’t remember having these when I was younger, so I spent some time reading about common causes and solutions. Read below to find out, and leave those dark circles under your eyes to the animals that are meant to have them!


Your circles match mine!
Your circles match mine!

First, it is helpful to know that the skin under our eyes is some of the thinnest of all the places on our bodies. Therefore, it’s very sensitive to the flow of water, or to sun damage or allergies.

Here are some common causes of dark circles or bags under the eyes:

1. Not getting enough sleep:

This one might be the most obvious on the list. Any stressed out college student could tell someone this! Although scientists don’t actually know why, not getting enough sleep does seem to cause or contribute to dark under eye circles or bags. Therefore, it’s another good reason to try to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

2. Allergies:

Given the time of year, I thought I’d mention this one. Allergies have actually been found to be a culprit because they can cause the blood vessels under the eyes to dilate, leading to the dark circles. Therefore, it may be helpful to treat your seasonal allergies if you aren’t already. I don’t know what I’d do without my antihistamines! 

3. Pigmentation:

If you press on the dark circles under your eyes but the darkness doesn’t go away, it may mean that the actual pigment of the skin has changed. This change may be less temporary than other causes. People of Asian or African descent are more prone to this change in pigmentation under the eyes. It could also be caused by too much sun exposure.

No matter what the cause, it will be helpful to:

  • Wear good sunscreen on your face each day, and apply it all the way up to your bottom lashline.
  • Don’t rub your eyes! Friction causes a darkening of the skin.
  • If you’re sensitive about how the dark circles look, some people use concealer or makeup.

4. Blood vessels:

On the other hand, if you press on the circles under your eyes and the darkness does go away, then it could be an issue of blood vessels showing through your skin. In this case, you can apply a retinoid cream every night before you go to sleep. They make either prescription or over-the-counter brands.

5. Smoking or Alcohol Use:

Additionally, if you smoke, then see this as another reason to try to quit! Smoking can cause or worsen dark under eye circles and bags. Drinking a lot of alcohol in one sitting can have a negative effect on dark circles as well.

If you’re feeling really concerned or would just like to talk to a medical professional, you can always go to Campus Health walk-in services, or check out UNC Hospital’s Department of Dermatology.







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