I often get asked what it is that I love working in beauty, and for me, it's simple: It's the magic of beauty products. Sure, it might sound a little bit Marie Kondo, but I'm always amazed at the transformative nature of beauty. Sometimes it might be something small (like a primer that makes your skin look subtly brighter or an eyebrow gel that finally manages to fill in a sparse patch that's been nagging you) while other times it might be something more obvious (like a full-on hair transformation or forgoing your usual lip balm for a bold red lip). Either way, I find that I always feel most like myself when I've got the right beauty products on my side.
On the other hand, though, there are certain things that beauty products just can't help with—despite the amount of marketing that might tell you otherwise. I have yet to find a lotion that will genuinely reduce the appearance of my cellulite, and nothing that you can find on the high street will actually completely heal my acne. Also, sometimes no amount of dry shampoo will help with the fact I'm definitely overdue a hair wash.
When it comes to dark under-eye circles, however, the jury's out. On the one hand, I've heard that they're entirely hereditary and it's down to your genes as to whether you'll have them. On the other hand, I'm told that it's late nights, stressful jobs and Netflix marathons that attribute to the under-eye darkness that often greets me in the morning.
So what's the truth?
I caught up with Kate Kerr, skin expert and director of the Kate Kerr London Clinic, to chat all things dark under-eye circles—including what causes them, how to avoid them and if there's any way to actually get rid of them.
Spoiler: Yes there is, and it doesn't involve permanently wearing sunglasses.
The Major Causes of Dark Circles
"There are three main causes of dark circles under our eyes," explained Kerr. "The first is pigmentation, the second is having a thin skin and the third is having hollowing under the eyes."
"It's really important to be treating the right cause because a lot of people think that an eye cream can help with dark circles, but if the dark circles are caused by a loss of volume, for example, there is no way it's going to help."
Kerr explained that pigmentation is more common in darker skin types but can also be caused by inflammation and friction. "For example, wearing waterproof makeup and having to rub your eyes to remove it or frequently rubbing your eyes," said Kerr.
Having naturally thin skin means that you can see the veins and muscles underneath, which means that dark circles can be more visible. "This can also be caused by tiredness," explained Kerr. "But also it can be caused by allergies or it can also just be from having very fair skin and it being more transparent."
The hollowing under the eyes is "caused by a loss of volume that happens with age," said Kerr. This loss of plumpness and elasticity almost creates a "trough," which then creates shadowing and dark circles.
Now that you might have identified the causes of your dark circles, it's time to work out how to keep them at bay. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to do this according to Kerr.
"If dark circles are caused by pigmentation, you can use ingredients that stabilise the melanocyte to help prevent the activation of the pigment," advised Kerr. Look out for ingredients like L-Ascorbic acid, a potent form of vitamin C, to help with this. "Being very gentle with the eyes and wearing lots of sunscreen can help with prevention, too."
"If dark circles are caused by a thin skin, using a retinol-based eye cream will help to strengthen the area and create more of a barrier that hides the blood vessels underneath," said Kerr.
"If dark circles are caused by a lack of volume then, really, having a cosmetic procedure like a face filler is the only known prevention, as you can't plump that up any other way," explained Kerr. "The fat pads slip, and they also become smaller with age, so you get this loss of volume, and there is no way to replicate that other than to replace that volume."
Minimising Dark Circles
Luckily, if it's too late to totally prevent your dark under-eye circles from appearing, then Kerr's advice will also help to diminish the look of dark circles once they're there.
"Using light-reflective eye creams can also help minimise their appearance," Kerr suggests. Looking for formulations with ingredients like retinol and vitamin C when choosing an eye cream will give you the best chance at reducing the darkness and preventing the dark circles from reoccurring on a regular basis.
Kerr is keen to point out that there is no quick fix for dark circles, however. Even if you opt for a filler, it's only semi-permanent. "It will break down over time," advised Kerr. To really combat dark circles, "you need to be constantly stabilising that melanocyte [which causes the dark pigmentation], so you need to be controlling it at all times."
Shop Kate's Product Recommendations for Dark Circles and Some of My Favourites
NIOD stands for Non Invasive Options in Dermal Science and makes a great option if you aren't sure about opting for a cosmetic procedure like filler yet. Kerr swears by this powerful serum for targeting dark circles, puffiness and fine lines.
Another of Kerr's picks comes in the form of this antioxidant-rich eye cream that kickstarts your skin's natural rejuvenation process to repair damage, lighten dark circles and improve skin health.
A beauty-editor favourite, this brightening eye cream is packed with five forms of vitamin C to fight pigmentation and improve the appearance of darkness under your eyes.
If you already have an eye cream that you love but that doesn't contain vitamin C, then mix a little of this in to give it some dark-circle diminishing powers.
A fragrance-free formula containing vitamin C and protective wild Arctic cloudberry to energise under-eyes and brighten the skin.
The other key ingredient that you should be looking out for in your eye cream is retinol. This new formula from Pixi does a great job of plumping and protecting the delicate skin for healthier-looking under-eyes.
Not only does this advanced night cream do a great job of diminishing dark circles, but the addition of collagen and Gallic acids also work to reduce creases and fine lines.
Containing 1% retinol, this night cream slowly releases the cell-energising ingredient over the course of eight hours for the best chance at combatting dark circles over time.