The topic of dark circles within the beauty industry is one that has frustrated me for as long as I can remember. You see, I came into this world sporting an impressive pair of purple rings underneath my eyes. I have spent most of my life batting off concerns from people that I look tired, drained and unwell. Honestly, I’m fine. It’s just my dark circles.
For many, dark circles don’t come about because of lifestyle choices. Sure, things like dehydration, lack of sleep and a poor skincare routine can worsen the situation, but for people like me, dark circles are permanent fixtures. Elizabeth Hawkes, consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon at the Cadogan Clinic, explains, “The term ‘dark circles’ is used to describe increased pigmentation of the under-eye and is a very common concern. The skin around the eye is unique. There is no subcutaneous fat underneath the skin, meaning it is prone to appearing darker than the rest of the face.”
I find myself frustrated by the use of the term “dark circles” in the industry because so much of the messaging implies that dark circles are our fault and can be totally reversed with one magical product. (RIP Becca's Under-Eye Brightening Corrector.) The truth is that no eye cream will eradicate dark circles. Trust me. I’ve tried them all. There is no magic product that can fix our genes. “The causes of dark circles are multifactorial but include genetics (increased melanin deposition), allergies, location of blood vessels and age-related changes,” says Hawkes.
Having said that, despite the fact that there are injectable and surgical options available (Hawkes informs me that there are procedures called lower eyelid blepharoplasty and orbital fat repositioning that can be done and that filler is another option), I’d rather try my hand at as many at-home treatments as possible until I’ve exhausted all of my options. I have found a number of things that help the situation, and it’s not all down to certain eye creams. Keep scrolling to discover the best at-home treatments for dark circles that I have tried.
Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Of course, there are brightening eye creams out there that can help reduce pigmentation and generally make the eye area look more radiant. “Poor skin quality can worsen the appearance of dark circles, so it’s important to keep it hydrated,” explains Hawkes. Out of all of the brightening eye creams I have tried, these are the ones that have proved most effective.
Not only does this lightweight serum contain the super-brightening antioxidant vitamin C (which also fends off further skin damage), but it also contains milk peptides to increase collagen synthesis and plump the surrounding skin. I have a bottle of this in my stash at all times.
For when my eye area is particularly dry, this rich cream really does the job. It has an illuminating finish that helps to diffuse the look of dark circles and that generally makes the skin around my eyes look brighter and healthier.
You might not realise it, but sun damage can really affect the state of your dark circles. “You should never avoid the eye area when applying sun cream. It’s so important, particularly on the upper and lower lids. It will help to delay the signs of skin ageing (including dark circles) as well as protect against the development of small skin cancers,” warns Hawkes.
If you ask me, a great SPF is one that doesn’t sting when it gets near your eyes. For me, this stuff feels just like a normal lightweight face cream and leaves skin looking glowing and radiant. Plus, I’ve never had any issues with it causing irritation around my eyes!
The skin around the eyes is incredibly delicate, and being too aggressive with your skincare application can cause damage. “Applying products should involve gently dabbing around the bony rim of the orbit with your ring finger,” advises Hawkes. While that might be something you’re already aware of, it’s important to note that the same rules apply for makeup removal. So if you’re someone who goes in heavy-handed with micellar water, you might want to think again. Hawkes reveals, “Be careful when removing eye makeup. Don’t rub the eyes excessively,” Personally, I opt for hydrating products that have slip, like a cleansing balm. Using a balm or an oil for your first cleanse to remove eye makeup means you don’t drag or damage the skin with abrasion.
When I’m feeling exceptionally tired and when my face looks particularly drab, I reach for this plumping balm come evening. It contains a bunch of skin-loving ingredients, including hydrating hyaluronic acid as well as plumping and restoring ceramides and peptides.
If you’re a fan of Elemis’s cult Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, you might have noticed that the essential oil content means it gets particularly eye-watering. However, this new naked version is fragrance- and essential oil–free, meaning it’s perfect for removing eye makeup.
Using retinol around the eye area might seem odd at first, but believe me when I say it can make all of the difference. The myth that retinol thins the skin is a very abundant one, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. “A vitamin A derivative like retinol helps in several ways. Over time, it will improve skin smoothness and reduce pigmentation,” says Hawkes. The trick is to avoid any irritation where possible. Look for gentle formulas and start off using them only once or twice a week. With consistent application, skin will build up a tolerance, and you can up the usage.
If you’re dubious about using retinol creams around your eyes because you’re prone to sensitivity, this one might also be for you. This formula uses slow-release retinol that delivers its dosage in gradual increments to minimise irritation and damage.
I know that facial rollers seem like a gimmick, but I’m sure that my dark circles have diminished since I started using them more religiously. While stone rollers (such as jade and rose quartz) heat up a little too quickly to make a difference on my skin, I have found some products that deliver instantly brighter results.
This is a more affordable option compared to the above product. Granted, the formula of the serum isn’t quite as juicy and efficacious, but the built-in jade roller is almost impossibly soothing and depuffing.