What Causes Dark Circles Under the Eyes?

Dark circles under the eyes are defined as round uniformed areas of pigmentation beneath each eye. Many persons tend to associate dark under eye circles with fatigue, sleeplessness, stress or illness and become distressed when they see them. Dark circles are really oxidizing hemoglobin. Dark under-eye circles begin in the capillaries which are tiny blood vessels in the skin around the eyes. The area around the eyes is the thinnest and most delicate skin of the face. Weak and thin capillaries may leak blood onto the skin causing oxidation of hemoglobin which causes the leaked blood to become darkened and give the appearance of bruising or blemish around the eye.
Dark circles under the eyes can be caused by: continuous rubbing of the eyes, sleep difficulties, allergies, aging, pallor, bruising, medications, dehydration and other conditions such as eczema. One of the more common causes is hereditary. Vitamin C, vitamin K, and alpha hydroxy acid are some of the treatments used in some cases of under eye circles.

Causes of Dark Circles under the Eyes


As persons get older the skin becomes thinner; the skin underneath the eye area especially become thinner and more delicate and causes under the eye to darken.

Sleep Deprivation

Skin is healed during deep-wave sleep, as there is increased blood circulation to the face. Without quality sleep, the face will become more prone to under eye circles. Experts state that sleep deprivation will increase stress hormones such as cortisol which will lead to swelling that causes the dark circles.


Edema-related facial puffiness will occur if the adrenal glands are exhausted and weakened. Exhaustion can result from stress, caffeine, sugar, smoking and alcohol.
Sodium and potassium levels are kept in balance by a hormone called aldosterone, which is produced in optimal amounts by healthy adrenal glands. Excess stress, caffeine, alcohol or sugar will affect the functioning of the adrenals.

Family History

Dark circle under the eyes can be inherited and is more common in families where the members are light skinned (translucent). Pigmentation irregularity is what is passed down from one generation to the next.


Persons that are sensitive to cosmetic/beauty products and certain food additives can get puffy eyes and under-eye circles. Also nasal congestion will dilate and darken the veins that drains from the eyes to the nose

Sun Exposure and Dilated Skin

Unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage and eye damage. Sun exposure will cause premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. Thin skin and loss of fat and collagen, increases with aging which make the reddish-blue blood vessels under the eyes more obvious.

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