Dark Circles: What Causes Them and How to Get Rid of Them

If there is one thing that most people can agree on, it is that no one wants dark circles under their eyes. Dark circles can be… Trista - August 24, 2019

If there is one thing that most people can agree on, it is that no one wants dark circles under their eyes. Dark circles can be hereditary and caused by some environmental factors. These dark blemishes under the eyes are known as periorbital dark circles. While you may think that they are caused by just being tired, there are actually quite a few causes of these dark spots.

From sleep deprivation to allergies to heredity, numerous things lead to under-eye circles. Occasionally, dark shadows may appear under your eye due to puffy eyelids or hollows beneath the eyes. These can be caused by aging and are perfectly normal. To get rid of dark circles under your eyes, there are several methods of treatment. If you don’t want to try any medical procedures, there are specialized makeup products that are designed to cover dark pigmentation on the skin. Keep reading to learn more about dark circles under the eye and ways to treat them!


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1. Causes

Everyone’s skin is different, and everyone’s body functions uniquely, so there could be several reasons why you have developed dark circles under your eyes. Blood vessels under your eyes can appear darker, and your skin under the eyes can thin as you age. Your ethnic background can also determine whether or not you get dark circles.

Keep in mind that fatigue, allergies, eczema, and other common conditions may lead to dark circles. Spending much time in the sun will prompt your body to produce more melanin, which can result in dark circles under your eyes. Losing collagen and fat in your face as you age is also a factor.

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2. Allergies

Having a condition that causes you to frequently, it’s around your eyes can cause dark circles. If you find yourself rubbing and scratching your eyes, especially underneath, you could be causing darkness. People who suffer from hayfever tend to get “smudges” under their eyes when allergy season is in full bloom.

When allergies are particularly bad, the eyes can get red, swollen, watery, and itchy. It can be hard for people to avoid scratching their eyes during this time. If you suffer from allergies, avoid touching your eyes at all costs to prevent dark circles from forming. This will also help keep the delicate skin under your eyes from becoming damaged.

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3. Sleep Deprivation

The most common cause of dark circles under the eyes is fatigue. Not getting enough sleep leads to your skin becoming increasingly pale. This leads to blood underneath the skin becoming more visible.

When this happens, the area underneath your eyes appeared darker and bluer. In addition to a lack of sleep, being mentally exhausted will also lead to dark circles. To avoid dark circles due to fatigue, be sure to get enough rest and give yourself a break every once in a while. If you find yourself chronically exhausted, see your doctor for help. Even if you get eight hours of sleep every night, you may still end up with dark circles under your eyes.

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4. Anemia

Anemia is a lack of red blood cells in your blood or a reduced ability of your blood to carry oxygen. Common signs of anemia are a weakness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. A person who is anemic tends to look extremely pale.

People who are anemic tend to be deficient in iron. A lack of nutrients and a lack of a balanced diet are major factors in getting dark circles under your eyes. In addition, women who are pregnant or on their period are lacking in iron, which allows veins under the eyes to become more visible. Because of that, many pregnant women are given iron supplements.

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5. Reduction of Fatty Tissue

As we age, we tend to lose a lot of fat and collagen in our faces. Because of this, many people noticed a dramatic change in their faces as they get older. The skin will become less elastic and much thinner. Fat loss in the face can start as early as age 25.

When the skin on your face becomes thinner, especially under your eyes, the blood vessels under your skin become more visible. That is because your skin can no longer cover up those dark blood vessels. There are procedures to restore fat and collagen in your face that can also treat dark circles.

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6. Thinning Skin

Because of genetics, Some people have thinner skin under their eyes than others. They can also have a skin tone that is so light it makes the area under their eyes practically translucent. Most people that have dark circles under their eyes tend to have thin skin as well.

Having deep-set eyes paired with thin facial skin almost guarantees that you will develop dark circles. That is due in large part to your genetics. Those who have lost weight or have mature skin will experience tissue breakdown, resulting in periorbital dark circles. Having thin skin under the eyes will cause capillaries to stretch and leak. This makes blood pooling under the skin extra visible.


7. Hyperpigmentation

A skin condition called periorbital hyperpigmentation could be the cause of your pesky under-eye circles. People with this condition have darker skin around their eyes because of an excess of melanin. This occurs mostly in people who have dark pigmentation or have Mediterranean ancestors.

Since this condition is genetic, there is not much you can do to prevent it. If you’d like to keep your circles from getting darker, avoid too much sun exposure and make sure to wear sunscreen at all times. Staying hydrated and take good care of your skin to help keep the darkness under your eyes from getting any more pigmented.

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8. Medications

Did you know that some medications can cause under-eye circles? If you are on any medication that can cause your blood vessels to dilate, be advised that it might make the skin under your eyes appear darker. This is thanks to the skin under the eyes being so delicate.

The delicate nature of the skin under your eyes leads to any blood flow increases being visible. Studies show that certain oral contraceptives can contribute to an increase in pigmentation around the eyes. Talk to your doctor to see if there is anything that can be done to stop the effect of your medication from making your dark circles worse.

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9. Sunlight Overexposure

We know that spending time outside in the sun is great, but be careful not to catch too many rays of sunshine! Not only can you cause your skin to become sun damaged, but you can also get dark circles. Getting a lot of sun exposure causes the body to produce more melanin.

An abundance of melanin production will not only make you more tan, but it will make your dark circles more prominent. Additionally, spending time in the sun will break down collagen, leading to thinner skin on your face. Too much sun, especially around the eyes, will lead to major skin darkening. That’s why you should wear sunscreen every day, no matter how much time you spend in the sun.


10. Aging

We’ve mentioned it before, but aging is a major risk factor for developing dark circles under the eyes. Our skin gets thinner and more transparent as we get older. That leads to blood vessels becoming more visible.

Getting older means losing fat and collagen in the face. When the face becomes thinner, the dark circles become more prominent. Losing elasticity in the face makes the skin more prone to damage as well. Having an uneven smile or other habitual facial expressions may lead to developing a darker circle under just one eye. A deep shadow, known as a tear trough, can appear under the eyes giving the impression of dark circles.

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11. Rubbing the Eyes

Whether it’s because of allergies, irritating makeup, or just a nervous habit, many of us tend to rub our eyes throughout the day. It may seem harmless, but constantly rubbing your eyes is not good for your face. It can damage the skin and cause bruising.

Rubbing and scratching on and around your eyes can cause bruising, swelling, inflammation, and broken blood vessels. It can also put harmful bacteria in your eyes. This action will not only hurt, but it will also lead to dark skin forming under your eyes. If you have allergies that make you want to scratch your eyes, look into taking antihistamines for relief.

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12. Smoking

In addition to being bad for you internally, smoking is also terrible for your skin. It contributes to thinning skin as well as hyperpigmentation. Quitting smoking can help you breathe better and look better.

Additionally, smoking is a major cause of fluid retention in the body. Fluid retention leads to the blood vessels under the eyes becoming engorged and dilated, causing dark circles. Other common causes of this are excess salt in the diet and heart, liver, thyroid, and kidney diseases. If you are experiencing noticeable water retention, speak to your doctor. Some medications may also lead to blood vessel dilation.

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13. Inherited Genes

For many of us, our dark circles are caused by genetics. This pigmentation under the eyes is routinely passed down from generation to generation. Those with deep-set eyes or fair skin have the most noticeable instances of dark circles.

Those who inherit their dark circles may see them developed as early as childhood. They could get worse as you get older or if you’re lucky, disappear. If you have a genetic predisposition to a medical condition like thyroid disease, you may be more susceptible to developing dark circles under your eyes. Your bone structure may also play a part in how prominent your dark circles are.

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14. Thyroid Conditions

One of the most important glands in the body is the thyroid. The thyroid is essential for hormone production and function. Without this gland, the rest of the hormones in the body cannot function properly.

Those with a low thyroid condition like hypothyroidism may experience issues with anemia and blood production. The liver, gastrointestinal system, and energy production may all be affected as well. This leads to issues with toxin removal and nutrient delivery in the body. Because of this, the skin under the eyes may appear darker due to stress and sickness. Hypothyroidism may result in darker skin in other areas of the body like the gums or creases of the palms.

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15. Dehydration

The human body is made up of about 75 percent water. Drinking water is essential to living and can have great effects on your health. On the other hand, not getting enough water can lead to numerous health issues.

A major symptom of dehydration can be written on your face. When you haven’t had enough water, the skin beneath your eyes will look dull, and your eyes will appear sunken. That is because of how close the eyes are to the bone underneath them. To avoid dark circles and sunken eyes, be sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.

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16. Dermatitis

Inflammatory skin diseases may lead to dark circles under the eyes. The main skin disease that can cause them is eczema. Also known as dermatitis, eczema comes in several forms, all of which cause itching and irritation.

It may seem weird, but you can actually develop eczema on your eyelids. This can be caused by various volatile substances, including insect sprays and lemon peel oil. Most commonly, this condition occurs because of a substance that has been transferred from the hands to the eyes. When you get eczema on your eyelids, it can be extremely itchy and cause you to scratch. This will irritate the skin around your eyes and lead to dark circles.

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17. Glaucoma Treatment

Glaucoma is a group of several eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can cause a loss of vision. Most of these conditions develop slowly and are virtually painless. If left untreated, a person will most certainly go blind.

The main treatment for the different types of glaucoma is eye drops. There are several different types of eye drops for glaucoma. One of the side effects of glaucoma eye drops is the growth of eyelashes and hyperpigmentation around the eyes. In order to avoid dark under-eye circles from glaucoma medication, wipe the area around your eyes with an absorbent pad after using the eye drops.

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18. Risk Factors

Some people have more of a risk of developing dark circles than others. As we’ve mentioned before, those who are aging may be more susceptible to hyperpigmentation under the eyes. Additionally, genetics may be the cause of seeing dark circles appear as early as childhood. Heredity is also to blame for having thinner skin under your eyes.

Those who have darker skin tones are more likely than white people to have dark circles. The cause of this is most likely due to differences in pigmentation. African American and Asian ethnicities tend to have the most people with dark circles under the eyes.

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19. Ethnicity

As we talked about before, some ethnic backgrounds are more likely to develop dark under-eye circles than others. Those of Asian, African American, and other non-White ethnicities are more prone to dark circles than paler people. This is thought to be because they have more melanin in their skin.

Irregularities in pigmentation affect Asian and African American people and can cause dark circles under the eyes. This is especially noticeable in the skin under and surrounding the eyes. Another condition that can occur is venous congestion, which is the disruption of blood flow in the vessels underneath the eyes. This paired with periorbital dark circles in common in non-White ethnicities.


20. Genetics

Genetics play a major role in the likelihood of someone developing dark circles. The quality of your skin, bone structure, and blood flow all can determine the pigmentation under your eyes. Genetics and skin tone are the top factors in causing dark circles under the eyes.

People with fair skin have the most apparent dark circles. Thin, translucent skin will show dark blood vessels prominently. Those with very little fat under their eyes will also display extremely dark hyperpigmentation. Genetics can determine whether or not you have a tear trough that makes it look like you have dark circles. Thanks to genetics and bone structure, a tear trough can appear around age 25.

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21. Hay Fever

Like allergies, hay fever can lead to dark circles appearing under your eyes. This condition is an inflammation of the nose characterized by sneezing, red, watery eyes, runny nose, and facial swelling. It can take minutes from being exposed to an allergen to developing hay fever.

Because hay fever causes so much facial itching, it’s easy to want to scratch at your eyes constantly during a flare-up. When allergy season is in full swing, those suffering from hay fever may develop visible “smudges” under their eyes from so much irritation. Rubbing and scratching at the skin on your face will make your irritation and dark circles worse. Look for an antihistamine to take that will lessen your desire to scratch at your eyes.

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22. Treatment

There are many ways to treat dark circles under the eyes. There are plenty of home remedies that have been known to work. Additionally, several medical procedures and topical treatments have been developed for treating periorbital dark circles and hyperpigmentation.

Many times, several types of treatments are necessary to keep your dark circles at bay. Visit a doctor to see if any health conditions may be at the root of the issue. Then see a dermatologist to discover if they have any medications or serums to treat under-eye circles. In the meantime, take care of yourself by drinking enough water, eating a balanced diet, and getting plenty of sleep.

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23. Home Remedies

If you’re a fan of home remedies, there are quite a few options out there for treating under-eye circles. With just a few items you can find around your house, you can help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. The best part is most of these items are inexpensive, so you don’t need to spend a lot of money to diminish dark circles!

From applying a cold compress to putting cucumbers on your eyes, there are countless ways to treat dark circles under your eyes. Another way is to elevate your head while you sleep to keep fluid from pooling beneath your eyes. This will also help your eyes from becoming swollen and puffy.

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24. More Sleep

Since fatigue is the biggest cause of under-eye circles, getting a good night’s rest is a great way to prevent them. Everyone varies on how many hours of sleep they truly need to get in a night, but aim for seven to eight hours. You will wake up well-rested and will have less of a chance of developing dark circles.

If you have trouble with sleep, try a few tricks to have a great night of rest. Wear earplugs and an eye mask if you are awoken easily. For those who have issues falling asleep, listen to a white noise machine or smartphone app to drown out noises that keep you awake. You can also drink a soothing cup of tea or take a relaxing bubble bath before bed.

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25. Cucumbers

In movies, whenever someone goes to a spa, they always get a facial and have cucumbers placed over their eyes. Although it seems like just a funny thing to put in a film, this technique is actually beneficial. Nutrients found in cucumbers can help to naturally reduce circles under your eyes.

Cucumbers contain caffeic and ascorbic acid, which help to reduce water retention. They also contain properties that lighten the skin, which helps to inhibit dark circles. To try this technique, slice a cucumber into thick slices and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then place the cucumber slices onto your eyes for 15 minutes. Once you’re done, rinse your face with cold water. For best results, repeat this method twice a day.

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26. Facials

Doesn’t a facial sound like a great idea? Having a spa day and going to a facialist is not only relaxing, but it can help reduce your under-eye circles. Additionally, you can improve the rest of the skin on your face with a facial treatment.

By seeing a facialist, you may learn a few ways to keep your dark circles at bay. A professional esthetician will know what types of products work the best with your skin type. They will also try a few techniques to reduce the darkness under your eyes. You may even get to experience an unusual method like facial cupping.

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27. Cold Compress

A good old-fashioned cold compress is another way to decrease the dark circles under your eyes. With just some cold water and a washcloth, you may be able to refresh your face and feel less tired. This method is great for treating both under-eye circles and puffy, swollen eyes by shrinking dilated blood vessels and reducing swelling.

Take a clean washcloth and fill it with several ice cubes, then apply it to your eyes. Another way to use a cold compress is to get a washcloth soaked with cold water and place on your eyes for about 20 minutes. If the cloth becomes warm or the ice has melted, repeat these steps.

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28. Tea Bags

Like cucumbers, many movies and TV shows have portrayed people using tea bags on their eyes. Antioxidants and other properties in black and green tea are not only good for you internally, but they do wonders for your skin. Tea not only soothes the skin, but it helps to tighten it as well.

Black and green tea contain caffeine which constricts small blood vessels in the skin around your eyes. Tannins contained in caffeinated tea help to stimulate blood circulation. For this method, soak two tea bags in hot water for a few seconds and then remove them. Let the bags cool to room temperature and then place them on your eyes for 30 minutes. Doing this twice a week can help tame dark circles and tighten your skin.

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29. Almond Oil

Almond oil is loaded with vitamins and minerals that are great for your skin. Vitamin E, niacin, and phytosterols help with skin lightening. Phytosterols help revitalize the production of collagen. When paired with vitamin E, phytosterols dramatically assist with reducing dark circles under the eyes.

To use almond oil for the reduction of dark under-eye circles, apply it to your face at night. Right before bed, gently massage almond oil on the darkest parts of your skin, paying special attention to the areas under your eyes. After massaging in the oil, leave it on your skin overnight. The next morning, rinse your face with cold water and pat dry. This oil is gentle enough to be used on the skin daily.

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30. Egg Whites

Egg whites are part of a healthy, balanced diet and an excellent source of protein. Additionally, they are also great for your skin. High protein and vitamin E levels found in egg whites help to tighten the skin. The tightening properties in egg whites also help to reduce puffiness and hyperpigmentation under the eyes.

For this method, gently beat an egg white for a few seconds and then apply it to your face using a brush or your fingers. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. You will feel it start to tighten as it tones the skin. When the 15 minutes has passed, rinse your face gently with cold water. This technique is most effective when used every day.

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31. Makeup

What many people do to cover under-eye circles is use makeup. There are so many makeup brands out there with a variety of products that are ideal for covering dark circles under the eyes. If you’ve never used makeup to cover your dark circles, there are plenty of tutorials out there to teach you.

The first step is to apply moisturizer. This will help to nourish the thin skin around your eyes and protect it. Next, you will even out any discoloration with a light layer of foundation. Then you will take a shade of concealer that’s two shades lighter than your natural skin tone and put it on over the foundation. Finally, absorb any leftover oil with a dusting of setting powder. It takes only a minute or two to cover your dark circles with makeup.

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32. Sunscreen

A rule of thumb should be to wear sunscreen every day. Even if you only spend a few minutes outside, you will know that your skin is protected from harmful UV rays. It doesn’t take long for the sun to cause skin damage.

Because the skin around the eyes is so sensitive and thin, choose a lightweight sunscreen. You can find a moisturizer that contains SPF, which is perfect for keeping your skin hydrated and protected from the sun. Many SPF moisturizers contain physical filters that help to bounce UV light away from your skin, which is a great feature for preventing sun damage and dark circles.

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33. Medical Treatments

If your dark circles are particularly noticeable or tend to bother you a lot, there are several options. Many dermatologists offer medical treatments to reduce the appearance of under-eye circles. These are more permanent solutions to the issue of hyperpigmentation.

In terms of plastic surgery, there are quite a few methods that work. There is laser surgery that helps to tighten and resurface the skin. Another option is medical tattooing that inserts pigments into areas with thin skin. You could also have fat removal to get a smooth, even surface under your eyes. There is also the process of having surgical implants put under your eyes.

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34. Topical Creams

If surgery isn’t your thing, you could try applying a topical cream to the skin under your eyes. Many topical creams and gels contain acid that is designed to reduce the darkness under your eyes. Typically you need to be prescribed a topical cream in order to use it.

The most common topical creams for treating hyperpigmentation are tretinoin, hydroquinone, and a combination of the two. Doctors recommend using these products for at least three months before an effect takes place. You can also find eye creams sold over the counter that help keep the skin under your eyes moisturized and hydrated.

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35. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that keeps us healthy. Did you also know that it is excellent for brightening the skin? This natural antimicrobial is great for promoting collagen growth as well as halting unusual pigment production. Vitamin C can also help to strengthen the walls of your blood vessels.

While placing pieces of raw cucumber on your eyes works, we wouldn’t recommend doing the same with orange slices. Look for an eye cream that is infused with vitamin C. It’s a bonus if it also includes vitamin E, peptides, and other vital antioxidants. You may be able to see results in just two weeks when using a vitamin C-based eye cream.

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36. Kojic Acid

If the dark circles under your eyes are due to hyperpigmentation, then kojic acid may be the right treatment for you. This acid is produced by several fungi species known as koji. Kojic acid is created during the process of fermenting malting rice and the production of the Japanese rice wine, sake.

This acid has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Kojic acid is used in cosmetics to help with skin lightening. Because of that, kojic acid can assist with lessening the dark circles underneath your eyes. Look for creams and serums with kojic acid to aid in diminishing the hyperpigmentation on your face.

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37. Chemical Peels

Another method for reducing your under-eye dark circles is a chemical peel. During a chemical peel, chemical solutions are applied to the face, hands, and neck that cause the skin to exfoliate. As a result, the skin will appear smoother, less damaged, and less wrinkled.

In addition to hyperpigmentation, chemical peels are used to treat wrinkles, sun damage, acne scars, and uneven skin tones. There are three different types of chemical peels to choose from. Superficial peels use mild acids to penetrate the outermost skin layer. Medium peels are ideal for removing damaged skin cells by getting to the outer and middle layer of the skin. The final type of chemical peel is the deep peel, which penetrates all the way into the middle layer of skin using trichloroacetic acid or phenol to eliminate damaged skin cells.

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38. Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is an organic compound that is typically found in barley, wheat, and rye. It is used in a variety of products, including hair conditioner and cosmetics. This acid is frequently found in acne products and products designed to reduce redness.

Azelaic acid is great for reducing redness, inflammation, and swelling. Additionally, it’s effective at treating hyperpigmentation and dark circles, especially in those with darker complexions. Another plus of using azelaic acid is that it will not affect your normal skin pigmentation. Keep in mind that azelaic acid may cause the skin under your eyes to become itchy, so if you cannot handle that, look for other methods of treating dark circles.

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39. Fillers

When concealer, chemical peels, and other treatments don’t work, you may want to consider getting fillers. This method is especially effective for those whose dark circles are a hereditary condition. When your bone structure and skin composition are the reason for dark circles, the filler can help improve the look of your skin.

When getting fillers for periorbital dark circles, hyaluronic acid is injected under the eyes. A small layer of this acid is applied underneath the eyes in order to gently lift the delicate skin up and away from blood vessels. After two days or so of redness and bruising, your skin will appear brighter. Hyaluronic acid fillers can last between six months and one year.

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40. Surgery

If you don’t mind going under the knife, there are surgical options for treating dark circles under your eyes. The most popular choice is blepharoplasty. Also known as lower eyelid surgery, this procedure treats dark circles and baggy areas around the eye.

When dark circles are caused by the shape of your lower eyelid and how light hits the area, surgery might be your best option. The blepharoplasty procedure may be performed on either your upper or lower eyelids or both areas. During lower eyelid surgery, a plastic surgeon will remove excess skin and repositions excess fat in the lower eyelid. This will rejuvenate your face and make dark circles vanish.