Do you have dark circles under your eyes? You're not alone - this situation (also called 'panda eyes') is a surprisingly common problem. While dark circles have often been linked to insufficient sleep, there are other causes too. Let's take a look at the causes and treatment of these dark circles under the eyes.
1. Lack of sleep
Lack of sleep is the most common cause of panda eyes. It is also the most likely cause in the case of school-age children1. No matter what your age, if the condition seems to worsen when you have insufficient sleep, then you need to address your sleeping habits.
Simply getting more sleep, or making sleep a priority is usually the only treatment that is needed. However, to achieve this you may need to make some lifestyle changes.
You'll want to avoid going to bed preoccupied, so switch off your electronic devices at least 15 minutes before going to bed. Instead of checking email or Facebook right up until the last minute, have a winding-down period where you're not really occupying your mind with anything.
Also, be cautious about your caffeine intake. If you want to be certain of getting enough sleep, eliminate caffeine altogether. If you love the taste of coffee or if drinking it is a part of your collegiality at work, then simply switch to decaf.
Are you having enough exercise? If not, then think of ways to add physical activity into your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; walk to the bus stop one stop further than you normally do to catch the bus to work. Being physically tired will help you sleep more easily. But be certain to avoid heavy workouts an hour before bed time.
Restrict your bed to sleeping only, if you're not getting enough sleep. Read or watch TV elsewhere, such as on the sofa. And of course to get a better sleep, consider investing in a really good bedding system like a latex mattress, adjustable slatted bed base and latex pillow. You need to be at your most comfortable if you want to get more sleep. Comfortable blankets and pyjamas will help add to the mood.
2. Pigment in that area of skin
Extra pigment in the area under the eye and around the eye is a common cause of dark circles2. This is quite natural and does not pose any problems from a medical standpoint. However, many people prefer not to have this.
So although there is nothing you can do to avoid this cause of panda eyes, rest assured you can do something about its effects. Retinol creams and skin lightening creams are the most common form of treatment for this. It's also important to remember to use a sunblock or a moisturizer with SPF protection in that area, to prevent it from getting worse.
3. Sun exposure
Sun exposure can also cause dark circles, most often due to fine wrinkles which can give the impression of a skin-darkening effect.
In those cases, treatment is eye serums and eye moisturizing creams. It's very important to avoid getting these creams on the eye itself due to irritation or damage to the cornea. Make sure any eye creams are applied no closer to the eye than just below the lower eyelashes. Also, make sure these creams are applied gently with the ring finger or little finger (these fingers have the least amount of force). To help avoid further sun damage, be certain to use sunblock around that area.
4. Underlying medical conditions
An underlying medical condition can cause dark circles under the eye, and this can be as a direct effect of the disease. However, it's more commonly seen as an indirect effect due to the condition causing puffiness under the eyes, giving a darkening effect. Certain kidney disorders and thyroid conditions are among the culprits. If you have dark circles under your eyes, a visit to the doctor may therefore be a good idea.
For those who are beyond their 20's, the natural aging process is another cause of dark circles under the eye. This can happen in one or both of two common ways. The first is the gradual hollowing of the orbits, which gives an impression of darkening of the skin under the eye. The other way is the eventual thinning of the skin under the eye, which allows the underlying blood vessels to be more obvious and appear darker3.
Treatment is limited in the case of the hollowing of orbits. Concealer can help lighten that area and make it appear the same tint as the rest of the face.
If on the other hand the underlying blood vessels are the cause of the darkness, creams may help which contain caffeine (which constricts blood vessels), or niacinamide2.
6. Puffiness under the eye
Puffiness under the eye can cause that area to look darker due to the way that light and shadow falls on the face. Under-eye puffiness can therefore cause 'panda eyes' even if the skin itself is not darker.
Treatment for puffiness varies. As mentioned earlier, it can be sensible to rule out an underlying medical condition first. Assuming that health issues are not the problem, there are several options for treatment2. A common one is gels with soothing extracts to give a cooling effect to the area, reducing puffiness. Another option is chilled cucumber slices on the closed eyelids for 15 minutes. Cold tea bags can also work similarly when placed on closed lids for 10 minutes. Some people find that eye patches, also known as eye sheets, applied to that area are also effective at decreasing puffiness.
Makeup always works
Regardless of the cause of 'panda eyes', and regardless of your gender, rest assured that judicious use of makeup will always work2. If you are a man, you need not buy your concealer from the women's makeup department if you don't wish to. Men's grooming stores in Singapore are reporting increased use of products which promote a flawless look to men's skin, such as concealer4.
Whether you are a man or a woman, the technique is the same. The best way is to apply a concealer with a colour a shade lighter than your normal skin tone to the under-eye area. Then use either your ring finger or little finger to blend, since these fingers will deliver a very gentle amount of force to this delicate area. Blend the concealer carefully with your foundation (if you are using foundation) or with your skin if you are not using foundation. An alternative product to a light-coloured concealer is a concealer with a greenish tint. This colour will counteract any reddish tint in your under-eye skin that may have arisen due to irritation.
For very severe cases of dark circles or bags under the eye, certain plastic surgery or aesthetic techniques can be carried out by a qualified plastic surgeon3. However, these cases tend to be rare, and the vast majority of people will not need that type of intervention, even though they themselves may be very self-conscious of their dark circles.
Getting extra sleep can't hurt!
Finding and fixing the underlying cause of the dark circles is still important, even though makeup can be used as a 'cover up' solution.
In this regard, getting a little extra sleep may help. Even if the primary cause of your under eye circles is something other than lack of sleep, it may be made worse by a lack of sleep. Because of this, getting a good night's sleep is still important. A reallygood comfortable mattress and a supportive, flexible bed base such as a sprung slatted base can help you with the extra sleep you need.
1. "6 Tips to Avoid Back to School Panda Eyes" Health Promotion Board, Singapore Government, June 2013.
2. "Banish Dark Circles under Your Eyes" by Elizabeth Soal in Netdoctor.co.uk, October 2012.
3. "How Can I Get Rid of My 'Panda Eyes'" by Dr. Yeak Hwee Lee in AsiaOne, May 2012.
4. "Men Now Wearing Make-Up, Thanks to K-Pop" by Phillip Kuoch in HelloKpop, December 2012.