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Ever since I started creating and selling organic, plant-based skincare products over 10 years ago (have you met the new Hello Joyous yet?) I've become obsessed with learning everything I can about natural skincare and beauty. One question I’m often asked is what causes dark under-eye circles and are there any natural solutions to help reduce them? To help me answer this question, I asked some experts in the field of natural health and beauty for their advice. You’ll see their amazing suggestions below!
This post will outline 7 common causes of dark under-eye circles and the solutions you can try to help reduce their appearance, naturally.
7 Causes of Dark Under Eye-Circles
Since the body works as a holistic system there is rarely one singular cause of dark under-eye circles. Below I’ve listed 7 of the most common causes and tapped into some experts for their advice on everything from kidney health to facial structure and how that can impact the appearance of dark circles.
1. Low Iron
Iron is a crucial component of red blood cells, specifically hemoglobin, which is tasked with carrying oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This blood helps to nourish your cells and organs so your body feels healthy and vibrant. When your iron levels become low, your body may start producing fewer red blood cells, which means there are fewer of them available to nourish the surface of the skin.
Since ensuring your internal organs are receiving enough oxygen-rich blood is a priority, if you’re iron deficient blood may be diverted away from the skin to supply your organs instead. When you have a lack of oxygen-rich blood getting to your tissues this enhances the look of dark under-eye circles because the skin looks paler.
2. Food Allergies
I learned about this cause of dark circles over 15 years ago when I was in nutrition school. These circles are a common symptom of an allergy, which can be triggered by certain foods but may also be caused by dust mites, mold, or seasonal allergies. You might hear dark circles under the eyes that are caused by allergies referred to as “allergic shiners.”
The reason allergies, whether to foods or environmental allergens, can cause dark circles under the eyes is often due to the accompanying sinus congestion. When you have an allergic reaction to something, your immune system accidentally identifies a typically harmless substance, like pollen, as something harmful. This reaction causes the body to create antibodies that tell your blood vessels to dilate and signals to your body to make a substance called histamine. The body’s reaction to histamine is what causes symptoms of allergy including stuffiness, sneezing, coughing, or watery, red eyes.
How does this relate to dark under-eye circles? Well, sinus congestion can cause the delicate veins under the eyes to become congested as well. When this happens, blood pools in the veins causing them to darken and dilate which leads to dark circles and under-eye puffiness!
3. Low Thyroid Function
One reason low thyroid function can impact the appearance of dark circles is because it can cause fluid retention throughout the body, which includes the area around your eyes. The fluid retention triggered by hypothyroidism can cause excessive bags under your eyes, which can pull down on your eyes causing darkness and puffiness.
4. Poor Sleep
I think we all knew this one was coming! Poor sleep habits and poor sleep hygiene causing you to not get enough sleep makes you look older, more tired, and enhances the dark circles under the eyes. Lack of sleep can cause the blood vessels under the eyes to dilate giving the appearance of darker skin since the vessels are closer to the surface.
5. Not Drinking Enough Water
This cause is the easiest one on the list to fix! Dehydration enhances the look of dark under-eye circles because blood vessels become more prominent when you’re not drinking enough water. The skin around your eyes is very, very thin, which makes the appearance of the blood vessels more prominent. So when you’re dehydrated it’s like a double-whammy: blood vessels that already appear more prominent due to the thin skin under the eye look EVEN MORE prominent, leading to darker under-eye circles.
6. Adrenal Fatigue
A common sign of adrenal fatigue is dark under-eye circles. This is because when you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue, usually your kidneys and liver are not functioning as optimally as they could be. This impact on the kidneys can be associated with the causes of dark under eye circles as found in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rachel Schwartzman, ND told us that in “TCM, the area under the eyes is associated with the kidneys, which not only regulate the fluid of our bodies, but store our essence, or vitality. It is this kidney essence that gives our body the energy for reproduction, and longevity.”
Tying this back to adrenal fatigue she highlights that the “adrenals are also connected to the kidneys, so stress will have a negative impact on our kidney energy. The kidneys detoxify the fluid portion of our body, making sure the “dirty part” of the liquid is excreted.” That’s why “too much stress, overworking, not sleeping enough, being exposed to chemicals, and a diet low in fruits, vegetables, and fluids, can all exhaust this intricate system. One of the ways a drained kidney essence can present in the body is, with dark circles under the eyes.”
If you’ve been experiencing a lot of chronic stress (and the lack of sleep that often accompanies it) that can be a recipe for dark under-eye circles!
7. Facial Structure
Finally, some people are more prone to dark under-eye circles due to the shape of their face. According to Seanna Cohen, a holistic Skin Therapist, “When it comes to the appearance of dark circles, natural facial structure can be a culprit. The ‘tear trough’ is a depression that runs from the inner corner of the eyes down along the nose, lower eyelid, and upper cheek.”
She shares that anatomical “facial features can make this depression deeper and dark circles appear more pronounced such as with the shape of the eye socket or cheekbones. Deep set eyes, where the brow bone is more prominent and the eyes set back, can also cause shadows and give the appearance of dark circles.”
Even if you’re not born with this anatomical feature, she shared that the “tear trough can become more prominent with age. Eyes can take on a sunken look when facial bones shrink, collagen degrades and fat pads around the cheek lose volume.”
Joyous Tips to Reduce Dark Under-Eye Circles
It’s no surprise that you can help reduce dark under-eye circles from the inside out since the skin is often a reflection of what’s happening inside the body. You can increase the benefits by pairing joyous diet and lifestyle tips with all natural skincare products designed to nourish and protect the delicate skin around the eyes. Below are some of my favourite joyous tips for reducing dark under-eye circles, inside and out.
1. Support Kidney & Adrenal Health
I spoke to Dr. Aliya Visram, Chiropractor and Reg. Acupuncturist for more information about dark under-eye circles and kidney & adrenal health. She told me that “Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) centers around the concept that beauty is a reflection of the state of one’s whole body. Radiance or the “glow” comes from a balanced state of energy - from inside out. Chinese medicine often associates dark circles under the eyes as a sign of imbalance in the kidneys and adrenals.”
Dr. Aliya also shared that “in addition to seeing your friendly acupuncturist to help balance the body, you can also help your kidneys by reducing your salt intake, drinking more water, getting plenty of sleep and eating nourishing foods. Using your Gua Sha to stimulate blood flow in the under eye area is also a great DIY way to improve circulation and reduce the appearance of dark circles.”
Long story short: supporting adrenal and kidney health is a great way to help cleanse the blood and reduce those dark circles!
2. Incorporate Collagen Into Your Diet
As Seanna mentioned, collagen degradation can lead to a sunken look around the eyes, making dark circles appear more prominent. Try supplementing with a high quality collagen or incorporating delicious collagen-rich elixirs and treats into your diet to support supple, healthy, skin!
3. Practice Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Getting enough good quality sleep is an important component to support your adrenal health and help reduce the appearance of under-eye circles. Try winding down with a cuppa TLC tea, loaded with herbs to support stress relief & relaxation and check out my 10 Natural Solutions for Sleep to help send you off to dreamland!
4. Check for Food & Other Allergies
If you’re experiencing symptoms of food or environmental allergies, it’s worth investigating the root cause so that you can eliminate or avoid them as much as possible. Working with a natural health provider is a great way to get personalized guidance since it can sometimes feel overwhelming figuring out where to start when it comes to discovering allergens in your diet, home, and environment.
5. Check Your Thyroid Health & Iron Levels
If you suspect low thyroid or low iron may be the culprit of your dark under-eye circles, I suggest working with a qualified natural health practitioner, such as a Naturopath, who can order the appropriate blood work to check your levels. They will also be able to provide customized support to help rebalance your hormones and recommend an appropriate supplement and dosage to get your iron levels up if needed.
6. Stay Hydrated
Make sure you are drinking enough water every day to prevent dehydration and its impact on your blood vessels. I have recipes for lots of super hydrating, delicious drinks that are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients to support glowing skin and reduce dark circles from the inside out.
7. Use a High Quality Eye Serum
In addition to supporting our physical health, adding a high quality eye serum to our beauty routine can make a huge difference in the appearance of dark circles. I use the amazing Hello Joyous Eye Elixir Serum because it contains green tea extract. Since we’ve seen that dark circles are often caused by dilated blood vessels under the eye, green tea extract is an incredible ingredient to help reduce their appearance. It’s rich in antioxidants & tannins that help shrink blood vessels, reducing eye puffiness and under-eye darkness. It also contains vitamin K, an antioxidant that helps lighten dark circles.
In addition to reducing dark circles, it also contains nourishing ingredients that infuse the skin with moisture and antioxidants to soften the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. You can read more about our new magical Eye Elixir here.
I hope this post empowers you with the knowledge you need to support joyous health and reduce the appearance of dark under-eye circles, naturally!