Dark Circles Under the Eyes

Dark circles aren’t dangerous, but many people want to lighten their appearance

Dark circles under the eyes are a common complaint. The circles of darker skin can appear when you’re tired or experiencing allergies, and some people are more prone to them than others.

It’s important to note that dark circles under the eyes are not dangerous, and they do not require treatment. However, many people want to know how to get rid of under-eye bags and dark circles for cosmetic reasons.

Read on to learn more about eliminating dark circles under the eyes, including symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Woman looking at face in mirror.

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Dark Circles Under the Eyes Symptoms

Dark circles under the eyes are a common symptom, with darker skin pigmentation and possibly puffiness in a circular pattern beneath the lower eyelid. Medically, this area is referred to as the infraorbital area, which is the section of the face between the bottom of the eye sockets and the roof of the mouth.

The color of dark circles under your eyes can vary but will be darker than your typical skin color. It will generally be in the blue, purple, brown, or black range. You may also note darker circles if the under-eye area has puffiness or bags due to shadowing.

Many people note dark circles occurring temporarily. Others have chronic dark circles, although they may be lighter or darker from day to day.

Associated symptoms, depending on the cause, may include:

Causes of Dark Circles Under the Eyes

Research into the cause of dark circles under the eyes is lacking, but some causes have been identified. These include:

  • Inflammation due to allergies and dermatitis
  • Physical traits, which may be genetic
  • Age
  • Fatigue
  • Smoking

Common allergic conditions like hay fever and skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis cause inflammation, swelling, and itchiness in the eye area. These conditions can lead to post-inflammatory pigmentation and the appearance of dark circles.

Nasal and sinus congestion from allergies can also cause blood to pool temporarily under the eyes, producing dark circles called allergic shiners.

Dark circles and bags under the eyes can be a physical trait that may be inherited. You may have thin skin or excess fat deposits in the infraorbital area that cause shadowing. Or, you may have veins close to the skin's surface in that area, which creates more coloration.

Collagen is lost with age and your skin often thins, so dark circles and puffiness are more common in older individuals. This can make the reddish-blue blood vessels under your eyes more visible. Also, some people might develop puffy eyelids or hollows under their eyes as they age. These physical changes can cast shadows that appear to be dark circles under the eyes.

Many people associate dark circles or bags under their eyes with fatigue. When fatigued, the blood flow to the infraorbital area can slow down. Since the skin in that area is thin, the pooled blood can create a darker hue. At the same time, pooled blood can stretch blood vessels, creating swollen bags under the eyes.

Smoking can cause you to lose collagen, making the already-thin skin beneath the eyes even thinner. This can make the appearance of dark circles more dramatic. 

How to Treat Dark Circles Under Eyes

Although many people want to get rid of dark circles, there’s no proven way to do so. Genetics plays an important role in the formation of dark circles. Since there’s no way to change genetics, you may not be able to remove dark circles or puffiness completely.

However, some treatment options may help. It helps to understand what’s causing your dark circles—like lack of sleep, allergies, or thin skin. Once you’ve identified the cause, you can choose a treatment that’s most likely to work for you.


Sometimes, dark eyes can reflect the fact that you're not taking care of yourself. Make sure to get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and avoid smoking. Not getting enough sleep can also increase stress, which can worsen dark circles. You’ll probably feel better overall and may see your dark circles lighten. 

Try to reduce or eliminate sun exposure on your face. Make sure you are wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 every day. Sunglasses and hats can protect the skin from the sun and prevent your dark under-eye circles from getting worse.

Cool Compress

Applying a cool compress to your eyes can reduce inflammation. For added benefit, try applying thick slices of cool cucumbers to your eyelids for about 10 minutes. Then rinse the area with water. Cucumbers contain vitamin K, which has been linked to a reduction of dark circles and improvements in skin elasticity.

Treat Allergies

If your dark circles are caused by allergies, treating the symptoms might reduce the appearance of dark circles or bags. Take a daily antihistamine during the time of year when your symptoms are worst. Use an air purifier, keep the windows closed, and shower before bed. 

Use Eye Cream

Over-the-counter (OTC) eye creams can reduce the appearance of dark circles and bags, especially if you use them for a long time. Look for a cream that has vitamins K and E and that includes a topical antihistamine, which can reduce inflammation.

Consider Fillers

Dermal fillers are substances that are injected by a dermatologist to plump up the area beneath the skin. They can be helpful for reducing wrinkles and hiding discoloration under the eyes. Fillers must be injected by a professional, so talk with your primary car provider or dermatologist (specialist in conditions of the skin, hair, and nails) if you’re interested. 

Laser Treatment

Laser treatments can be used to lighten the skin under the eyes and reduce the appearance of wrinkles that can make dark circles look worse. A dermatologist can help you determine whether laser treatment is right for you.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Dark Circles Under the Eyes?

If you or your child is experiencing dark circles along with symptoms of eye irritation, puffiness, or congestion, a healthcare provider can consider whether a skin condition or allergies are the causes. The healthcare provider will take a medical history and report of symptoms and do a physical examination.

Allergy testing by blood tests or skin tests may be used to determine which allergies may be present.

A Wood's lamp examination can also assess how deep the pigmentation is, which may be useful for some causes and guide what treatment is recommended.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Dark circles under your eyes are usually a benign cosmetic condition. But your emotional well-being is also important, and if they are causing you distress, consult a healthcare provider or specialist such as a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to see what your options may be.

If the dark circles seem to be associated with allergies, a skin condition, or sleeping problems, see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


Dark circles can be a cosmetic issue for many people. While they may be due to physical or genetic factors or aging, they may also be seen in some medical conditions, such as allergies and skin conditions. If you have dark circles or bags beneath your eyes, lifestyle adjustments, OTC treatments, and dermatological procedures may help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes dark circles under the eyes?

    Dark circles are often caused by genetics that predisposes a person to thin skin or blood vessels close to the surface. They can also be brought on by fatigue, allergies, smoking, and aging.

  • How can I get rid of dark circles under the eyes?

    First, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and keeping stress levels low. Use an OTC eye cream. If that doesn’t work, talk to a healthcare provider about cosmetic procedures, including fillers or laser treatment.

  • What do dark circles under eyes look like?

    Dark circles under the eyes are often a few shades of deeper pigment than the surrounding skin. They may be puffy and inflamed or sagging.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Park KY, Kwon HJ, Youn CS, Seo SJ, Kim MN. Treatments of infra-orbital dark circles by various etiologies. Ann Dermatol. 2018;30(5):522-528. doi:10.5021/ad.2018.30.5.522

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By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.