dark circles

What Causes Dark Circles To Form Under The Eyes?

We have all experienced dark circles under our eyes at some point or other. The stresses of modern life have meant that many of us suffer from inadequate sleep and excessive stress. Dark eye circles are also known as periorbital hyperpigmentation and there are many reasons they can happen. Although getting insufficient sleep is most often associated with dark eye circles, other reasons they can form include genetics, allergies, rubbing your eyes too often, and excessive consumption of alcohol.

Dark eye circles may not affect your health in most cases, however, they are to be taken seriously as they are usually an indication of a lifestyle factor that needs changing. Whether you are getting too much or too little sleep, your dark eye circles are a clear sign that your sleep habits need to change. If you have a bad habit of rubbing your eyes, these dark circles are telling you to stop! In this article, we take a closer look at what causes dark circles to form under the eyes.

The Science Behind Eye Dark Circles

What exactly goes on when dark eye circles form? When the skin under your eyes appears darker than the rest of your face, one of the below two factors could be going on:

  • Puffy and swollen eyes, resulting in dark shadows forming underneath your eyes.
  • Thinning of the skin underneath your eyes, causing blood vessels to become more visible.

Some individuals may have dark eye circles caused by genetic factors that are beyond their control. Depending on what’s causing your dark eye, it can be possible to improve your appearance. Let’s take a look at some common causes of eye circles.

Sleep Deprivation

The reason we are most familiar with is sleep deprivation. Typically, if someone shows up in the office or classroom with dark eye circles under their eyes, you can pretty much tell they have been up all night. Because a lack of sleep can cause your skin to grow pale, this causes blood vessels become more visible. When you are feeling sleepy, you may find that you rub your eyes more often. This can worsen dark eye circles when the capillaries under your skin are broken!


Another common reason for dark eye circles is allergies. When your body experiences an allergic reaction, histamines are released, causing inflammation to occur in various parts of the body. This can result in redness and itchiness in the eyes. As a result, you are more likely to rub your eyes, increasing the irritation to the delicate skin. This can cause dark circles to form under your eyes.

Genetic Factors

Some individuals are simply at higher risk of developing dark eye circles because of their genetic profiles. This is because genetics can affect the levels of collagen and melanin in the body. Collagen is a protein that helps the skin to retain elasticity. As we age, our collagen levels drop naturally, however, some individuals are genetically more prone to lower collagen levels. Melanin is responsible for the pigmentation of our skin and having an excessive amount can result in the appearance of darker skin under your eyes.

Excessive Smoking and/or Drinking

Do you smoke or drink excessively? If so, that may just be what’s causing your dark eye circles or at the very least, causing their appearance to be more prominent. Alcohol consumption can cause the dilation of blood vessels underneath the eyes, causing the delicate skin to start sagging and darkening.

On the other hand, the carbon monoxide in cigarettes deprives your skin of oxygen, causing thinner layers of skin to darken in appearance. This is in addition to the fact that smoking prematurely breaks down the collagen in your skin, causing already present eye circles to worsen in appearance.

Treating Preorbital Hyperpigmentation

Regardless of what’s causing your dark eye circles, they may cause you to look more tired and listless than you actually are. Preorbital hyperpigmentation can be treated in numerous ways. As a preventative approach, avoid rubbing your eyes excessively even if the urge is great. If you are in the habit of smoking or drinking excessively, try to cut down or quit eventually. These small steps can help to improve the appearance of your dark eye circles over time.

If you already have a problem with dark circles under your eyes, one safe and effective way of improving your appearance is through the application of topical creams. Although it can take time to see results and you may have to combine this with some lifestyle changes. Such as getting enough sleep, you can be sure to see a slow and steady improvement.

Author Bio :

 Dermatology & Plastic Surgery

Dr. Behrooz Kasraee is a holder of a doctorate of dermatology issued from Geneva’s Medical University. Dr. Kasraee is currently the Director of the Swiss Vitiligo Center and has been acting as an expert in the practice of melanocyte grafts since 2006. He is also the founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Scientis. He is highly specialized in skin pigmentation disorders, and is highly regarded as inventor of stabilized Cysteamine 5% cream.