Under-eye circles reveal a lot more than how many hours of shuteye you got last night—they offer a window into what’s going on inside your body. Many assume this common disorder, also coined “raccoon eyes,” is simply a sign of fatigue, but lifestyle factors, heredity, allergies, nasal congestion, sun exposure, and aging can also play a large role.
Let’s look at some of the common causes of under-eye circles:
Seasonal allergies, cold, and nasal congestion: Sinus issues can lead to water retention under the eye, dilating and darkening the veins that drain from your eyes to your nose.
Genes: Dark, under-eye circles can be passed down from previous generations. In fact, pigmentation issues are common among people of Asian or African descent.
Lifestyle factors: Added physical and emotional stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine overload, and even wearing too much makeup can contribute to temporary eruptions and weaken collagen.
Sun exposure: Exposure to UV rays can weaken collagen and prompt your body to produce more melanin, which given skin pigment its color.
Aging: As you age, you naturally lose volume under your eyes. This thinning exposes the orbital bone to create hollowness that rears its ugly head in the form of dark eye circles.
Ways to Treat Under-Eye Circles Naturally
Understanding some of the common contributing factors, there are many things you can do to put your best face forward. Here are some natural solutions and “quick fixes” to treat dark eye circles.
Tip #1: Flush out your system: Beverages like green tea help rid the body of excess liquids, which contribute to dark, under-eye circles. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of clean, filtered water, which helps flush the toxins out of your system.
Tip #2: Treat allergies and sinus build-up: While over-the-counter allergy medications might be a good solution for dark eye circles, try flushing out your nasal cavity with a neti pot—a small teapot and saline-based solution that can be purchased at your local drugstore—to help relieve fluid buildup caused by allergies, sinus congestion, or a cold.
Tip #3: Look at your lifestyle: Do you consume several cocktails or diet sodas a day? Do you smoke? Your lifestyle can hugely impact how you look and feel. If you really want to expel dark eye circles, start with what you are putting into (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) and on your body (chemically laden makeup or physical stress). Assess areas of your lifestyle that may be contributing to emotional stress—like fighting with a loved one or clocking in too many hours at work—and identify solutions or ways to eliminate the emotional baggage.
Tip #4: Eat a well-rounded diet. Try to consume lots of vitamin B and folic acid. In fact, green leafy vegetables are especially helpful in ridding dark eye circles naturally.
Tip #5: Limit the amount of salt in your diet. Too much salt can lead to fluid-retention, which in turn can lead to under-eye puffiness. While drinking water will help you flush out toxins, limiting your salt intake will also reduce the effects.
Tip #6: Wear sunscreen and limit sun time: Always apply a sunscreen, and make sure you get under the eye area. The active ingredients in sunscreen work to reflect the radiation or absorb the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, preventing it from reaching the deeper layers of the skin. Make sure you purchase sunscreens with UVA/UVB protection.
Tip #7: Change your sleeping position: If you sleep on your side or stomach, gravity may be responsible for the extra fluid in the pools of your lower eyelids. Try sleeping on your back and prop an extra pillow up under your head.
Ingredients to Look For
When looking for a cream or ointment to treat under-eye circles, avoid greasy or oily lotions that contain harmful chemicals. Seek out products with more natural, botanical ingredients like the following:
There is a reason aestheticians recommend applying cucumber slices to tired eyes—they have powerful antioxidants and flavonoids that help to reduce irritation and inflammation. The “cooling” effect of applying cold cucumbers to your eyes also helps to reduce swelling by evaporating some of the liquid build-up.
While you don’t want to pump your body full of caffeine through your dietary choices, caffeine as an ingredient may also help to constrict the underlying blood vessels.
Witch hazel acts as a natural astringent, zapping excess liquid and tightening the skin in the process.
While under-eye circles happen to the best of us, it’s smart to talk to your primary care physician if the problem persists, as it could be a sign of thyroid or kidney issues. But shifting to healthier lifestyle habits will often put you on the right track.
Carly Harrill is a writer, blogger, healthy lifestyle advocate and consultant. Follow her on Twitter at @carlyharrill.