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

Brown Circles

The cause: Brown circles result from hyperpigmentation, triggered by chronic eye-rubbing, sun exposure, or genetics. They are most prevalent among Asian and African American skin tones.

OTC treatments: Your best bet is daily use of a cream or serum spiked with a skin brightener, like soy or citrus, which can lighten circles over a period of four to six weeks. Avoid hydroquinone, a go-to lightener for sun spots and scars, as most dermatologists agree that it’s too heavy-duty for the eye area. To try: Murad Renewing Eye Cream brightens with citrus-unshiu peel; $75, murad.com.

Professional treatments: As with blue circles, there are treatments dermatologists use elsewhere on the face that can also lessen the look of brown circles. They respond well to low-concentration TCA (trichloroacetic acid) peels, which exfoliate. Plan on spending about $100 a treatment, and you may need several over a couple of months. For enhanced results, there are lasers, like the Q-switched or Fraxel, which destroy pigment cells and even out skin tone with a beam of light energy. Most circles lighten after two or three $500 sessions.

Preventive Measures

Reason No. 734 to wear sunscreen: It will keep circles from returning after treatment and can also stop them from developing in the first place. Sun protection prevents skin from both thinning prematurely (exposing blueness) and tanning (getting browner).

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