Even if you’ve learned to embrace the parts of you that change over time—like your skin—some are still just not fun to look at, dark under-eye circles being among them. Not only are they annoying to cover up; they serve as a constant reminder that we probably need more sleep. And while a strategically placed concealer can temporarily make them vanish, we’re more interested in the long-term solutions that ensure they go away for good.
But after swiping and slathering on countless moisturizers and eye creams, we’re wondering if that’s even possible. The short answer: Yes, but it will take time, a lot of patience, and ingredients that target the actual cause.
What Causes Dark Circles?
For starters, where do they come from? According to Dr. Audrey Kunin, board-certified dermatologist and founder of the skin-care brand DERMADoctor, it can be several things. The most obvious culprits are harmful lifestyle choices, such as lack of sleep, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke and seasonal allergies. (But you knew that already.)
The other not-so-obvious cause is “the loss of fatty tissue, or genetic predilection to deeply set eyes or puffiness and bags.” Both of these can create a shadow, giving the illusion of dark circles. And unless you’re especially strict about your skin-care routine from a young age, losing fatty tissue happens at a quicker pace as you get older.
Kunin also says, “Cumulative sun damage can also trigger the formation of more veins. Additionally, as the dermis thins, veins are closer to the skin’s surface. Both of these issues make the blue color of the veins more apparent, creating the appearance of darkness.”
The Ingredients That Work
Because dark circles aren’t actually a true darkening of the skin, one of the biggest mistakes we tend to make is investing in brightening products that alter our skin tone. In this case, the only one that would get the job done is vitamin C because according to Kunin, it “also helps support the dermal collagen (a.k.a. collagen found in the lower layer of skin), which in turn, helps reduce a sunken look, the resulting shadows and allows veins to not be so superficial.”
In order to diminish under-eye circles, you’ll instead have to strengthen the dermis (a.k.a. skin) as opposed to simply changing its color, which again, hasn’t even been altered. Remember: What you’re seeing is an illusion of darkness, not actual darkness.
Vitamin K is another lesser-known ingredient that can awaken and heal the area around the eyes. In addition to giving us prothrombin, the protein that keeps our bones and blood in tip-top shape, it also supports blood circulation. So those weakened cells in the eye area are being supplied with the energy they need to expand and grow, therefore making your skin plumper.
However, vitamin K does have the potential to cause irritation, depending on your skin chemistry. In that case, Kunin says hesperidin methyl chalcone may also help reduce the appearance of vein-created darkness. This is a derivative of hesperidin, a naturally occurring ingredient found in select fruits that regulates blood flow close to the surface of the skin, so you’re seeing less of that bluish shadow under the eyes.
As noted before, you’ll need patience if you’re determined to have brighter eyes. It usually takes at least six to eight weeks for an eye cream to deliver even the smallest results, but combined with more shut-eye and sun protection, it is possible. Add any of these vitamin-C- or K-infused eye products to your regimen if you’re in it for the long haul.