How to Fix Dark Circles
If you have dark circles under the eyes and have tried to get rid of them, you’ve likely been disappointed by the results—if you saw any improvement at all. Although it’s true that you cannot get rid of dark circles permanently, there are skincare and in-office treatments that can make an impressive difference.
Using great skincare products, from a cleanser to a leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliant, a retinol serum, and a sunscreen, along with a well-formulated eye cream or eye gel that contains peptides, will give you consistent, incremental improvements in the appearance of undereye circles.
In short, a well-formulated skincare routine that includes daily broad-spectrum sun protection (sun damage is a hidden cause of dark circles) with a product rated SPF 30 or greater is necessary to improve the look of dark circles. Here’s what else you can do to help visibly reduce dark circles under the eyes:
- Always wear sunglasses outdoors. As effective as using sunscreen in the eye area is, the delicate skin around the eyes needs more protection. Sunglasses rated to provide 100% UV protection will make a big difference, plus the right pair can look stunning on you.
- Use an over-the-counter antihistamine. Allergies often are an unsuspected cause of or contributor to dark circles (and puffy eyes). Consult your healthcare provider for recommendations and follow his or her advice.
- Use a brightening product. A well-formulated skin brightener can help brighten dark circles as it improves the luminosity and vibrancy under the eyes. Paula’s Choice Skincare RESIST Pure Radiance Skin Brightening Treatment works beautifully underneath, or mixed with, your concealer for correction plus coverage. Vitamin C products play a positive role, too.
- Try skin-lightening products. Products that contain 2% hydroquinone can significantly improve the appearance of dark circles caused by or made worse by unprotected sun exposure. For even better results, layer lightening products over brightening products twice daily.
- Try azelaic acid. Higher concentrations of this ingredient, such as in our 10% Azelaic Acid Booster, can soften the look of dark circles due to sun damage. You can layer an azelaic acid product with those that contain brightening ingredients; in fact, doing so may lead to more dramatic results, especially for very dark circles. Apply once or twice daily to the undereye area.
- Find a great concealer. Concealers with a soft matte or satin finish (rather than one that’s creamy or greasy) are best because they tend to last longer and don’t crease. Learn how to conceal dark circles and find the best concealer for dark circles here.
What in-office treatments are available? Research has shown several options that have promise, although most require more than one treatment to get the best results. Intense pulsed light (IPL), radiofrequency, Q-switched ruby lasers, pulsed dye lasers, and ablative lasers (which have the biggest risks and longest recovery time) are all worth discussing with your dermatologist.
What else can be done by a doctor? Dermal fillers using hyaluronic acid, fat transfer, and a cosmetic surgery procedure known as blepharoplasty can provide further improvement.
Chemical peels with salicylic acid (BHA) are sometimes used to improve dark circles, almost always in combination with other treatments. (When it comes to treating dark circles, it takes a village!)
All of these treatments address the underlying causes of dark circles or surface discolorations, or they help improve skin around the eyes so it becomes smoother, firmer, and tighter. Hitting all three targets, along with a great skincare routine (don’t forget the sunscreen!) is the research-proven way to make dark circles look dramatically better.
References for this information:
Lasers in Medical Science, December 2016, pages 1783–1787
Indian Journal of Dermatology, July-August 2016, pages 413–417
Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, April-June 2016, pages 65–72
Annals of Brazilian Dermatology, January-February 2014, pages 11–25
Dermatologic Surgery, August 2012, pages 1277–1282
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!