This article by Dr. Preethi Nagaraj was published in Stayfit magazine May 2016.
25 year old Neethu, working in an IT firm, has an almost flawless skin with occasional breakouts and no pigmentation problems. However, she is still upset because her face constantly appears dull and tired. To add to this, people often question her about this nagging issue, which literally stares at them - dark circles.
Dark circles have become a very common concern among young individuals in the age group of 16- 30 years. being more common in females than males. Judging from the number of cosmetics available in the market to treat this concern, one can estimate the burden of this problem.
What causes dark circles?
Dark circles is medically called as Periorbital hypermelanosis or hyperpigmentation.
Genetic and lifestyle factors contribute to dark circles. Some common ones are listed below-
Genetic- Does your mother/ father have dark circles? 50% of patients with dark circles have a strong family history of the same.
Allergies- Allergies inside or around the eye which makes you constantly rub your eyes can cause darkening of the skin around the eyes. Common types of allergies include childhood eczemas, conjunctivitis and cosmetic- induced allergies (kajal, eyeliner, eyeshadows, etc.)
Thin skin around the eyes- This can make the underlying blood vessels prominent giving a bluish black tint to the skin.
Refractive errors- If you are diagnosed with refractive errors like myopia (short sightedness) and are postponing using spectacles, do it right now! This can cause strain of the muscles around the eye and causes dark circles.
Lack of sleep – The common question you are asked when you have dark circles is whether you didn’t sleep well. This is indeed true. Inadequate sleep (< 6-8 hours per night regularly) can strain the eyelid muscles causing dark circles.
Poor habits- Watching TV (> 8 hours a day) and computer use (> 8 hours per day)
Stress- Stress increases pigment producing hormone in our body (MSH). Then you get more stressed about having dark circles and thus a vicious cycle sets in.
Anaemia- 50% of patients with dark circles have iron deficiency anaemia.
Shadow effects- As your age advances, the fat and muscles around your eyes and the cheeks slowly flatten out causing hollowness near your lower eye margin. This casts a “shadow” just below the eye which appears darker than the rest of the skin.
It is important to address the underlying issue to get the best results form treatment. A cosmetic cream that did wonders for your friend may not work for you at all.
Rule out medical problems- This is very important. Your dermatologist may do a blood work up to look for anaemia, diabetes and thyroid disorders.
Eye check up –Consult an ophthalmologist to rule out refractive errors and eye allergies.
Treat allergies –Suspecting a cosmetic to have caused allergy? Discontinue it immediately. Even a few hours of repeated use can worsen the allergy and increase pigmentation.
Improve your lifestyle - This is a crucial aspect of treatment. No amount of expensive creams can improve your dark circles unless your lifestyles habits are changed for the better. Adequate sleep (6-8 hours of regular sleep), avoiding excessive TV and taking regular breaks from computer usage will help in improving the dark circles.
Good diet – Have a diet rich in beta carotene (present in pumpkin, carrots, mangoes, etc) and vitamin K( spinach)
Skin lightening creams- Creams containing kojic acid, arbutin, liquorice, beta- white, niacinamide, etc help in lightening dark circles.
Retinol – Creams with retinol and vitamin K have a dual action in improving dark circles.
Iontophoresis – This involves driving in serums containing vitamin C and other lightening ingredients into the skin using mild current.
Fillers – Using a substance called hyaluronic acid to fill the “ tear trough” below the eyelid crease helps in removing the “ shadow effect”.
Follow these steps and wake up to fresh and bright looking eyes everyday!