Dark circles—we seem to spend hundreds of dollars, and hundreds of hours, trying to defeat them. They can make us look tired when we’re actually wide awake, or even look older, when we are young and exuberant. And worse of all, nothing actually ever seems to help get rid of them (or hide them). They’re always our plus one to every single errand, class, and event we go to.
Yes, while you should absolutely accept and love your face and body as it is, there is something to be said about feeling your best, too. So good news: There are actually a few things you can do about dark under-eye circles, as we found out when talking with a bevy of our favorite (celebrity-approved!) dermatologists, aestheticians, and makeup artists.
But before we get to the tips (and there are lots of tips), what are these dark circles, where did they come from, and why do we get them?
“Some people just don’t seem to get them even if they haven’t slept in weeks, while others eat healthy, sleep well, don’t have any allergies, and still have them,” says Dr. Lamees Hamdan, Founder and CEO of Shiffa. “There is a definite genetic element to them, which can also be exacerbated by allergies, lack of sleep, and aging (the skin gets thinner as we age, making the dark circles more prominent).”
The first plan of attack is to figure out the cause. “The most effective treatment depends on why you have dark circles in the first place,” says Dr. Lamees. “Try pressing your finger underneath your eyes. If the dark circles disappear when you press, you probably have a blood vessel or skin-thinning issue. If they don’t disappear, it is probably due to excess pigmentation due to genetics or sun exposure.”
Now that you’ve pinpointed in on the cause, there are a ton of things to try out that could help you, from improved sleep and special creams to needles and eggs. Here are 16 expert-recommended tips and tricks.
1. Get the right amount of sleep, consistently.
“The first thing I recommend doesn’t cost you a cent,” says Dr. Lamees. “Try sleeping for at least eight hours a day for three weeks, and see if that makes a difference.”
“A lack of sleep causes the blood vessels to dilate, which results in a dark tint under the eyes,” says aesthetician Athena Hewett, founder of Monastery Made. “Use a soothing essential oil on your temples before bed to help get a deep long sleep.”
2. But make sure you’re sleeping correctly.
“Many of us sleep on our stomachs, but when we do this, we give the blood in our body a chance to pool to the front side of our body, and this includes our eye sockets,” says Hewett. “This is a big culprit of dark under-eye circles. Putting a large pillow under the knees is very helpful as well as using little pillows propped on the side of your face. These will prevent you from being able to easily turn onto your stomach in the middle of the night.”
3. Use a hydrating cream.
“One of the best things you can do is keep the under-eye area hydrated,” says celebrity esthetician Shani Darden. “This will help to keep your eyes looking bright and smooth. I like the iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex ($98). It has hyaluronic acid, which is one of my favorite ingredients to plump up the under-eye area. It also contains Copper Tripeptide Growth factor, which will help to smooth and tighten the area.”
Plastic surgeon Dr. Melissa Doft is a big fan of the super ingredient for under-eye hydration, too. “Hyaluronic acid will cause the skin to be plumper and thus the small vessels to appear less superficial.”
Ed note: Try Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Eye Cream ($18) as an cost-conscious option, too.
4. Remove your makeup before bed.
“Make sure you’re always removing any makeup to not contribute to any irritation,” says Darden.
5. Eat an egg—no, really.
“Iron deficiency can prevent blood from carrying sufficient oxygen to the eye tissues making them look a bit sunken and dark,” says Hewett. “Eating food rich in iron can prevent this. Try a hard-boiled egg (eggs are a food rich in iron) before or after a night out to keep fatigued eyes at bay.”
Overall diet is important: “Make sure your diet is clean from processed food, alcohol (or maybe just cut down in alcohol!) and sugar,” says Stoj, makeup artist for Streeters. “If your liver, kidney and intestines are overworked, then it will show on your face. Dark circles and acne are all related to internal issues.”
6. Use an eye mask.
“Adding in an eye mask will also deliver intense amounts of hydration to the eye contour, and will help perk up tired, puffy eyes,” says Darden. “I love the Intraceuticals Eye Masks ($39), which can be kept in the refrigerator to help de-puff, or you can run the package underneath warm water and then apply them, which will help the product absorb more deeply.”
7. Try a targeted eye cream.
“I recommend Shiffa Rejuvenating Eye Remedy ($97), specifically formulated with a special ingredient that breaks down heme (the pigment in blood that makes it red),” says Dr. Lamees. “As we age, we tend to leak more heme, and this builds up, and shows as dark circles in the thin skin under the eye. With use, the excess heme under your eyes is gradually broken down, reabsorbed and carried away, giving you amazing results. Please note that it does take at least three months of use for this to happen effectively.”
8. Use a caffeinated skincare product.
“Caffeine is a great quick fix when applied topically, as it constricts the blood vessels,” says Hewett. “Use a half-cup of whole-milk yogurt as a base to one teaspoon of ground coffee. The coffee works to constrict the vessels, while the yogurt helps smooth the under-eye area, providing a natural form of lactic acid. Apply the mixture under the eyes and lie on the couch. Relax for 10 minutes and remove.”
Not a coffee fan, but still want a quick fix? Hewett also recommends tea. “Sometimes excess fluid in the connective tissue under the eyes results in under-eye circles and puffiness. Green tea is most commonly used to treat under-eye puffiness, but you can use black or white tea bags, too. Place the chilled tea bags on your eyes. The caffeine shrinks the blood vessels just under the skin and thus reduces swelling and puffiness to help eliminate the dark circles. Using a chilled tea bag adds to the constriction of the blood vessels.”
9. Roll it out every day.
“Regular use of the Jade Facial Massage Roller ($66) on the face, neck and under-eye helps brighten the area,” says Dr. Lamees. “Jade rolling helps decrease under-eye puffiness, and when your eye area gets puffy, it pushes the blood vessels under your eyes closer to the surface, making dark circles worse. Add to that what my mother used to use: daily cucumber slices with rosewater.”
10. Eat more fish.
“A diet that incorporates fish into it helps under-eye circles because omega-3 fatty acids improve blood circulation,” says Hewett. “Taking a shot of fish oil goes straight to the blood. In pill form, it takes a little while longer to get where you want it to go. When our blood moves smoothly throughout the body, it has less chance of pooling in the under-eye area. Look for a fish oil with lemon to take the edge off the fishy aftertaste.”
11. Don’t skimp on the sun protection.
“Many patients have brown spots, which form under their eyes from the sun contributing to the dark circles,” says Dr. Doft. “Sunscreen and wearing sunglasses will help prevent brown spots. If the brown spots have already appeared, lightening creams with kojic acid or licorice can be helpful.”
12. Massage your face.
“Another way to improve the blood circulation around the eye is massage,” says Hewett. “Apply an oil around your orbital bone and massage from the outer corner to the inner in a circular motion. The massage will stimulate circulation, and in turn get any stagnant blood moving. Using an anti-inflammatory oil like rosehip seed will further improve the puffiness.”
13. Use an at-home peel.
“Facial peels can also be helpful, such as repeated lower strength fruit acid peels,” says Dr. Colbert. “It depends on the cause but generally speaking, calming agents like bisabolol (which is chamomile), found in our NYDG Skincare Re-Contour Eye Gel ($60), and kojic acid, or symwhite, found in our COLBERT MD Tone Control Discs ($80), are just a few.”
14. Concealer is your friend!
“I use an eye mask under the eyes, then I apply YSL Touché Eclat ($38) to brighten the area,” says Stoj, makeup artist for Streeters. “Then I’ll apply Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage concealer ($35) on top.
“Cle De Peau Beaute Concealer ($70) is buildable from medium to full coverage, so I can apply as much or as little as needed for a particular spot or area,” says Yuki Hayashi, Makeup Artist for Streeters. “It works especially well when used to brighten and conceal dark under-eye circles. And most importantly, after it dries, it sets and lasts for hours without need for retouching. And it photographs well with any kind of flush or lighting, too.”
15. Opt for fillers.
“A quick fix is to see a dermatologist for filler injection under the eye. This fills out the hollowness, and therefore light reflects under the eyes making the area appear less dark,” says Dr. Lamees. “I find it very effective—if done properly. Be careful not to overfill, otherwise it just looks puffy.”
16. Try a laser treatment.
“If your dark under-eye circles are genetic, then certain lasers can reduce pigment molecules in the skin, for example the Ruby Dye laser,” says Dr. David Colbert. “If circles have a red/purple color, then the Excel V or V Beam laser would be good.”