How Dark Circles Develop Under Our Eyes

By: Melissa Stock  |  December 1, 2016


After staying up late cramming for a test the next day, many of us wake up and must confront the huge bags under our eyes. According to Dr. Carol Clinton, a skincare specialist, both genetics and our environment contribute to our eye bags. Eye bags are generally more noticeable on paler skin because the skin is lighter. When we do not sleep enough or are over-stressed, blood circulation tends to slow down in the eye area. This allows blood to pool in this area, causing puffy, dark eye circles to form.

Many people find that even when they are well rested, they still have dark circles under their eyes. One explanation for this is simply genetic predispositions. If your parents’ eyes puff up, it is likely that yours will too. It is also possible that environmental factors such as allergies may contribute to the puffiness under our eyes. Clinton explains that when the body is exposed to allergens, it releases immune proteins known as histamines which make our eyes swell. During an immune response, histamine is secreted by basophils to increase the permeability of capillaries to white blood cells and proteins, often leading to inflammation.

Dr. David McDaniel says that “while there is no proof of a relationship between snoozing and under-eye bags, it does seem that a lack of sleep affects the severity of the condition.” He also suggests that some other behaviors that appear to affect puffiness are rubbing the eyes because of allergies and eating salty foods, both of which cause your body to retain water. Irritants in the air such as pollutants and mold also seem to contribute. Getting too much sun can also harm the skin, causing it to thin and make dark circles more visible.

There are many remedies that people claim help to soothe puffiness under eyes. Some examples include putting cucumber slices or tea bags on closed eyes. The cooling from the cucumbers and the caffeine in the tea are believed to help with the inflammation. Grossman says that there is no proof that these remedies work: they are merely folk- tales. He suggests that “good diet, exercise and sleep are probably the things you can do to help yourself.” Of course, there are always beauty products with which to try and conceal your eye bags. Although this is not a cure, it does help them appear to be less noticeable. Dr. Bashour suggests using topical products that contain alpha hydroxy acids which thicken the skin under your eyes and make the blood vessels less visible.

As long as your eye bags don’t appear too suddenly or have discoloration that does not go away after a couple of days, there is nothing to worry about. While there’s no definitive link between healthy behavior and smooth skin surrounding the eyes, it can be claimed that “your eyes reflect the health of your skin and your body,” says McDaniel.

So, when you’re stressing over your upcoming finals, don’t forget to get enough sleep and make healthy choices in the caf to prevent eye bags!