Late nights, staring at screens, scrubbing off your makeup – it all contributes to those annoying dark circles beneath your eyes. And it seems the older we get, the more stubborn those circles become when we try to get rid of them. So what's the answer? We spoke to Dr Justine Hextall, Consultant Dermatologist at the Tarrant Street Clinic, who explained the causes of dark circles around the sensitive eye area and exactly how to treat them.
Dr Hextall reveals: "Some people are more prone to dark circles than others and often there's a family history, so there's a genetic propensity to darkening of the skin. The other cause is that as we get older, the dermis of the skin becomes thinner, so we start to see vessels under the eye. The vessels can make the area look dark." She adds: "If you get dehydrated, the skin can get concave and reflect light differently, which tends to exaggerate darkness."
Here, Dr Hextall shares her tips on how to prevent and treat under eye circles…
1. Hydration is key
"If you want to get rid of your under eye circles, keep the skin hydrated," says Dr Hextall. "Use a nice, hydrating eye cream. Toleriane Ultra eye cream by La Roche-Posay has no preservatives and contains niacinimide which soothes the skin, and glycerine, which leaves the skin hydrated and reduces inflammation.
2. Watch out for irritating products
Your dark circles could be down to your current beauty products. Dr. Hextall explains: "Another cause is low-grade irritation or inflammation of the skin from something you're allergic to. It's very important to be careful with what you put around your eyes. Some serums for the face, for example, may irritate the eye area." Time to try a new eye cream?
3. Protect your skin from screens
"We now know that the longer wavelength light that comes off computer screen can cause pigmentation of the skin, but the under eye area is a place people tend not to put sun cream. It's important to put some SPF around the eye. I recommend pure Zinc Oxide. The brand Blockshop is great."
4. Try retinoids
"Using creams containing retinoids will help to stimulate collagen and thicken the skin around the eye. Technically, if you use a retinoid in that area, in time you should have slightly firmer collagen and less dark circles. Retinoids are quite irritating so you need to use a low percentage in that area and keep the skin hydrated – you may not be able to tolerate it every day."
5. Get your sleep
Dr. Hextall advises: "Sleep is really important. Plenty of sleep lowers cortisol, which can damage our skin. When you get a good night's sleep, your skin reflects that."
6. Eat a healthy diet
"Avoid foods that are too salty as it causes puffiness, and alcohol, that dries out the skin. Any healthy, antioxidant foods, rainbow fruits and vegetables are a good idea. We know that antioxidants switch off free radical damage, which break down our collagen and skin scaffolding."
7. Choose a great concealer
According to Dr Hextall, concealers with a yellow hue are best at hiding those dark circles. "The brand By Terry have lovely light-reflecting concealers. The skin is so delicate in the eye area that you don't want makeup that's too heavy or a concealer which is too light, as it can make the area look grey. Charlotte Tilbury's under eye concealer is so popular because it has a hydrating stick on one end and a light reflective concealer on the other."
8. Check your hands!
"If you ever get irritation around your eyes, look at your hands," advises Dr. Hextall."I sometimes see people with things like acrylic nails which can cause irritation around the eyes if you touch that area. If you get itchy or sore eyes when you get your nails done, it might well be to do with your nail product."
9. Use a good eye makeup remover
Dr Hextall recommends gentle, delicate products for removing eye makeup. "I quite like oil-based eye makeup removers because they take off the makeup but won't strip the skin too much and they contain less preservative," she says. "People think they need to get every scrap of makeup off, but over-cleansing can strip the skin. There are some lovely mineral water sprays on the market, which are good for removing the last bits of makeup. Also be careful of using alcohol-based toners as they can dry the skin out."
10. Cosmetic procedures
"People can have cosmetic procedures for under-eye bags," says Dr. Hextall. "They can have filler or Hyaluronic acid injections for that area. However, make sure you are in really good hands because it's a difficult area to treat - you can get swelling from fillers sometimes. Light micro needling of the area can also be effective and stimulate collagen, plus it's lower risk than having a filler put in the area."