What Causes Dark Under Eyes?

We’ve all had those mornings when we roll out of bed after far too little sleep and glance in the mirror to see a dark shadow under our eyes. Undereye bags, darkness, and puffiness are often attributed to poor sleep or lack of sleep, but it could be more complicated than that. Before you throw your pillow over your head and burrow back into the covers, however, know there’s good news: uncovering the cause of dark under eyes is the secret to finding the solution.

We’re all worn out by stress and anxiety, but we don’t have to show it. There may not be a miracle cream that can take the place of a good night’s sleep, but there are some simple things you can do for your clients to keep their skin from looking as tired as they feel. It all starts with education.

Here’s what you need to know about the causes of dark under eyes so you can help your clients come to a better understanding of their skin and what they can do about common issues like dark circles.

The Two Primary Causes for Dark Under Eyes

It’s easy to assume there’s only one reason for dark circles under the eyes: sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep has something to do with it, certainly, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. In reality, the two main causes for dark under eyes are genetics and skin tone.

If your client has inherited fair skin, the area under the eyes may appear blue or purplish because the skin is thin and translucent enough that you can see the underlying deoxygenated blood within the fine capillaries. This is particularly common in people who don’t have a lot of subcutaneous fat supporting the skin under the lower lid. When you don’t get enough sleep, fluid retention can cause blood to pool in the superficial blood vessels under the eyes, making them appear even darker. This is called venous congestion.

Another way in which genetics play a role has to do with the skin’s natural tone. Some people, particularly those with darker skin tones, simply produce more pigment in the skin around the eyes which can lead to a general darkening of the skin in that area. If the client’s facial anatomy includes a naso-jugal groove or “tear trough,” dark circles may become more apparent due to shadowing on either side of the nose. Fat loss, particularly related to aging, can deepen the trough.

Having a conversation with your client about the potential causes for their dark circles is the first step toward finding the right solution.

How to Resolve Dark Under Eyes

Genetics and skin tone aside, the natural aging process has a lot to do with the development of dark circles under the eyes. As you get older, your skin produces less collagen which, combined with fat loss related to aging, can cause the skin to become thinner. The thinner your skin, the more prominent the vessels under the eyes become.

As a skincare professional, you may not be able to stop the clock on aging but you can address certain factors that increase the appearance of dark under eyes.


Getting a good night’s sleep works wonders for your skin and for your mood. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to rest and recover which can lead to a host of problems. Recommend your clients aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night and suggest they practice good sleep hygiene to ensure quality sleep.

Fluid Accumulation

When you sleep, fluid can pool underneath the lower eyelid which gives you those dark, puffy eyes when you wake up. Suggest your client try elevating their head during sleep to reduce puffiness. They might even try using a cold compress to constrict dilated blood vessels under the eyes which may be contributing to dark circles. Limiting salt intake which is especially high in pre-packaged and processed foods will prevent excess fluid accumulation.


Just as important as a good night’s sleep is drinking plenty of water. When the body becomes dehydrated, the skin can become dull and pale – the eyes may even appear sunken in which can increase the appearance of dark circles. Recommend your clients consume at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day (coffee and tea don’t count!).


Sun damage and certain genetic factors can lead to an excess of melanin, the pigment that gives skin color. Topical lightening agents like kojic acid and vitamin C may help your clients decrease skin pigmentation over time. Even with treatment, be sure to stress the importance of wearing sunscreen to protect against further skin damage.


If your client has allergies, they’re familiar with respiratory symptoms but may not think about how their allergies affect the skin. Your body releases histamines during an allergic reaction which can cause the blood vessels to dilate and become more visible under your skin. Taking an antihistamine might help but let the client know to speak with their doctor before taking anything.

Thin Skin

The skin naturally becomes thinner as you age, but certain products may help slow the process. Recommending a facial or at-home treatment with vitamin C, vitamin A derivatives,  and peptides can stimulate collagen production which may give the skin a plumping effect to reduce the appearance of under eye darkness.

 Other Tips to Reduce Under Eye Darkness

There may not be a miracle cure for under eye darkness, but if you’re able to narrow down the potential causes you may find a solution that works for your client. It’s always important to recommend a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and hydration for both skin and body. Along with these healthy lifestyle changes, the following tips may help resolve your client’s under eye darkness:

  • Give the eyes a break from screen time and the high energy visible light they omit as often as they can during long workdays. Eye strain can cause the blood vessels around the eyes to enlarge, darkening the skin around them.
  • Sleep on their back instead of on their side so fluid doesn’t accumulate under the eyes overnight. If allergies are a problem, recommend an encasement on the mattress and pillow.
  • Treat the skin gently, especially when cleansing and removing makeup. Avoid rubbing or pulling on your skin, especially the delicate skin under the eyes, because it can lead to inflammation.
  • Apply cold tea bags to the skin under the eyes to reduce the appearance of darkness and puffiness. Tea contains caffeine and antioxidants that may help stimulate blood circulation and shrink the blood vessels.
  • Regularly use a botanical rich eye mask capable of boosting the micro-circulation resulting in a draining effect and eyes that look refreshed.
  • Try facial massage to distribute lymphatic build-up in the under-eye area and to stimulate both circulation and collagen production in the skin.

If your client is concerned about a skin condition or underlying health problem which could be contributing to under eye darkness, direct them to their doctor or dermatologist. Professional facial treatments like chemical peels or laser surgery may help with issues like hyperpigmentation but should only be administered by a trained professional.