We've all experienced an irresponsibly late night followed by an unacceptably early morning. Our eyes refuse to open; "just another five minutes!" they scream. You squint and stumble all the way to the bathroom, cracking open one eye and then the other. The whites of your eyes have been rendered red, the lightning-like capillary vessels have exploded, and it hurts to see. Beneath that you notice something odd. Is that a shadow? A trick of light? Did you get punched last night at the bar—in both eyes?
Dark circles under your eyes can be an indication of many things. In the all-too-common example mentioned above, it's a sign of fatigue and irritation, but it could be an indicator of a greater health problem. It could also just be the way you are. If you have very pale skin or deep-set eyes, you might be cursed with a lifetime of dark circles under your eyes. It could be worse—put a cold washrag over your eyes and meditate on the positive aspects of your life.
Dealing with the Dark Circles
Maybe it's natural. Heredity and your age can have a lot to do with your susceptibility to dark circles under your eyes. Some people have thinner and lighter (or almost translucent skin) around their eyes, which obviously makes circles more apparent. Also, as we get older, our skin starts to stretch and get thinner. This happens because of gravity, a slow down in collagen production, and a loss of elasticity. There isn't much you can do to stave off aging or change your genetics—or we'd always be beautiful and live forever.
Fatigue is another cause. This is what everyone thinks about when they see dark circles under the eyes. They assume you've had a late night and an early morning, one too many IPAs, or suffer from insomnia. They may be right. There are a couple of things happening when you get dark circles from lack of sleep: sleep deprivation can cause your skin to become lighter and slacker, and it can irritate your eyes (causing puffiness). The solution is simple; make it a priority to get enough sleep.
Allergies can irritate your eyes. Whether it is seasonal allergies, food allergies, or reactions to some kind of environmental factor (like smoke or dust bunnies) eye irritation can lead to dark circles under your eyes. This happens because of inflammation and the rupturing of delicate capillaries around the swollen area; this essentially creates a bruise-like edema under your eyes. Determining and avoiding the allergen or irritant responsible is the first step, but you can also try an anti-histamine like Claritin or Zyrtec. Talk to your doctor about medications and other therapy options which reduce the allergen's effect.
Water retention can lead to puffiness. Water retention can be caused by a lot of different things including dehydration, oddly enough. Some other causes include hormonal changes due to a woman's menstrual cycle, pregnancy, lack of exercise, alcohol, diet changes, and eating too much salt. To correct your water retention problem, drink lots of water, cut back on salt, eat healthier, exercise more, and stay away from recreational drinks like coffee and alcohol. If your water retention doesn't subside, you should visit the doctor. These problems are sometimes related to high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
Anemia is another possibility. Anemia means you have a lower than normal number of red blood cells or a lack of hemoglobin. Those cells carry oxygen throughout the body, so if they are reduced in number, you are slowly suffocating. There are some common symptoms to look for, such as: pale skin and darkness under eyes, shortness of breath, a racing heart beat, and a feeling of fatigue or malaise. A lot of anemia is caused by an iron deficiency, but it can also be something as devastating as renal failure. Treatments range from simple iron supplements to blood transfusions.
Dark Circle Treatments
If you are really concerned about your dark or puffy eyes, talk to your doctor about it. In most cases, it is just superficial, and there is nothing to be worried about. Occasionally, dark eyes can be a symptom of a larger problem involving your liver or kidneys.
There are some cosmetic treatments that you can get from a physician or dermatologist; most will be in cream form and involve retinol, which is a derivative of vitamin A. This helps your skin to grow faster, and might speed up the healing time of under-eye discolorations.
Another treatment involves laser resurfacing, which takes a little skin off the top and encourages new skin growth. It's purely cosmetic, very painful, and sort of expensive.
Sometimes the best option is to accept that your body is the way it is and quit worrying. If you've made sure that you are sleeping enough, adjusted your diet, talked to a doctor, and tried cosmetic treatments, then you know it's just who you are. If not, perhaps you could look into some kind of cover-up makeup?