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What Causes Dark Circles Under Your Eyes?

If your dark circles aren’t quite this adorable, you don’t have to grin and bear it. Try these (en)lightening strategies to minimize them.

By Hannah Morrill
Stuffed panda bearRyan Pfluger

Your plan of attack depends on the color of your circles. Look straight into a mirror in natural light, then lower your chin slightly to expose the shadows under your eyes. This way, you’ll see clearly whether your circles are more blue or more brown.

Blue Circles

The cause: Blue circles result from oxygenated blood pooled beneath the under-eye skin. Skin here is very thin and almost transparent, so blood shows through. This is more noticeable in the morning: When we’ve been horizontal for a while, fluids accumulate and the veins expand to hold more blood. Blue circles may get worse with age. “As we get older, we lose subcutaneous fat, which can mask blueness below the surface of the skin,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center, in New York City.

OTC treatments: There are a few options that work in different ways, though their effects last only a day at most. Topical creams with stimulating ingredients, like caffeine, can constrict blood vessels and temporarily boost circulation; potent hydrators, such as hyaluronic acid, plump the area, pushing the skin up and away from the pooled blood. Retinoic acid creams thicken the outer layer of the skin to conceal shadows. Another quick fix: products with stainless-steel rollerball-tip applicators. “The cool metal causes vessels to constrict,” says New York City dermatologist Eric Schweiger. To try: Philosophy Miracle Worker Eye Repair, which contains a high-performance retinoid; $65, philosophy.com. Lancôme Génifique Eye Light-Pearl has a metallic applicator; $68, lancome-usa.com. La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Eyes uses firming caffeine and moisturizinghyaluronic acid; $33 at drugstores.

Professional treatments: A few other treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use on the rest of the face can effectively treat under-eye circles. One noninvasive solution is a cream with a prescription-strength retinoid. Blue circles can also be significantly diminished by a treatment called Thermage, which involves a high-tech handheld radio-frequency device. It is nonsurgical, requires no downtime, and is thought to increase the production of collagen, which builds up and tightens the skin. One session costs about $1,000, and the results last three to five years. Zeichner treats dark circles by injecting a hyaluronic acid filler, such as Juvéderm or Restylane, to plump the skin and hide blueness; the injections can last a year or longer and cost $700 to $900 a pop.

 
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