Late nights, staring at screens, scrubbing off your makeup – it all contributes to those annoying dark circles underneath your eyes. And it seems the older we get, the more stubborn those circles become when we try to get rid of them. But, why do they occur in the first place?
Well, some people get dark circles because often when there's a family history of them, there's a genetic propensity to darkening of the skin. Some people get them because their eye area is dehydrated, meaning the skin concaves and reflects light differently. While others get them because of stress, fatigue, lack of sleep or even allergies. So, what's the answer? We spoke to Dr Justine Hextall, Consultant Dermatologist at the Tarrant Street Clinic, who shares her tips on how to prevent dark circles around the sensitive eye area and exactly how you should treat them.
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". Not only does using an eye cream often help to brighten the area, it will prevent the bags from potentially getting worse as it stops the skin from becoming sullen and therefore shrinking inwards, closer to the bone, giving the illusion of shadow.
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." When you're thinking of buying a new product, ask for a sample first and do a patch test to determine whether you may have an allergy.
3. Use SPF every single day
"We already know that the sun can cause pigmentation of the skin, but the under eye area is a place people tend not to put SPF. It's important to always put it around the eye too for maximum protectant". Remember, even on overcast days, drizzly and dark days the sun's UV rays can still get you, so use a minimum of SPF 30 throughout the year but aim for SPF 50. Tom Ford's face cream is brilliant for everyday use as it sinks in and doesn't leave any slippy film, meaning makeup blends easily on top.
4. Try retinoids
"Retinoids are a class of compounds derived from vitamin A, which is commonly used in skincare, and using creams containing them will help to stimulate collagen and thicken the skin around the eye. Technically, if you use a retinoid in the eye area, in time you should have slightly firmer collagen and less dark circles. Retinoids are quite irritating however 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." The best thing to do is speak to the person selling the product about it before purchasing. The Ordinary is a good brand, with a reasonable price point, who can help you figure out if and when you should use it.
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." Of course it's impossible to never indulge in treats but aim to eat well at least 80% of the week and you should see a big difference in your skin.
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."