You go to bed early, live a healthy lifestyle, limit your alcohol consumption, use eye cream, but still those dark under eye circles are there. What’s the deal? I sat down with Dr. Alan Szeftel, Associate Clinical Professor at UCLA and founder of Ocean Cosmetic Medicine, to understand what causes those bothersome raccoon eyes and how to get rid of dark circles under eyes. 

Dr. Szeftel explained there are four main reasons for dark under eye circles under eyes: genetics, a shadow or depression created from loss of volume below the eye due to aging, allergies, and/or thinning skin (also from aging, ugh) allowing blue blood vessels to become more apparent. Each can be addressed, but only the appropriate treatments for each cause will help get rid of dark circles under eyes. 

Lighten Discolored Skin With IPL Lasers
“You have to look at the family history. Discoloration in the orbital area in the skin can be because of inherent skin tendencies. Typically, you see this in Mediterranean countries – Greeks, Italians, Armenians,” says Dr. Szeftel. If skin discoloration is the cause of your under eye circles, he recommends trying Intense Pulsed Light lasers (IPLs) to lighten the skin below the eye.

IPLs target red and brown pigment. The melanin absorbs the light from the laser, which is then transformed to heat. These melanin particles from pigment lesions and cell debris are eliminated by the immune system and through crusting.  Leaving you with a more even complexion and brighter skin. The added benefits include decreased pore size and improved texture and tone through collagen stimulation.”

Replace Lost Volume With Hyaluronic Acid Fillers
“If you in fact have a shadow or depression because you’ve lost some volume and it’s sunken in, any shadow makes a dark area look darker,” says Dr. Szeftel. He recommends injecting temporary non-volumizing hyaluronic acid fillers, such as, Restylane Silk or Belotero to the tear trough (area below the eye) to remove the shadow. Both fillers typically last around six months. “It takes care of the shadow part, but not the blood vessels underneath. Some people have thick skin and it’s not transparent, while other people have thin skin and it is transparent,” continues Dr. Szeftel, “In that case you are looking through clear skin at blue blood.”

Prevent Thinning Skin With Daily SPF
What can be done about thin skin below the eye? Not much, says Dr. Szeftel. The best you can do is protect the skin with daily SPF and moisturize with a nourishing eye cream with anti-aging ingredients like peptides. This will slow down the aging process and prevent skin from thinning more. And of course concealer…

Stimulate Blocked Blood Flow With Allergy Medication
The fourth possible cause of dark under eye circles for most people is allergies says Dr. Szeftel. “The cause of more vessels or plumper vessels below the eyes is from nose obstruction (stuffy noses). The blood backs up and it can’t drain into the nose so it backs up below the eyes. People who have hay fever allergies often have dark under eyes.” For those with congestion, he recommends using an over the counter decongestant to see an improvement in dark circles.

Disclaimer: Any information in the publications, messages, postings or articles on the website should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to address individual medical needs. Your particular facts and circumstances will determine the treatment which is most appropriate for you. And the outcomes.

-by Amy Chang
Photographed by author


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