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'Tis the Season...for Dark Circles

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The holidays are a time for preparing celebrations, celebrating and recovering from celebrations. For many of us, dark circles under the eyes come with the season. For still others, dark circles are a chronic condition to battle.

What causes dark circles under the eyes? And more to the point, how can you get rid of yours?

Two Basic Processes

When your eyes look sunken and fatigued, one or two processes are to blame. First, it may be that the tiny blood vessels beneath your under eye skin are showing through, making those dreaded dark rings. Another is that your eyes may appear to be in shadow courtesy of puffy eyelids or deepening hollows under your eyes.

The unwanted blood vessels and shadows arise due to a variety of factors, some temporary, some not. Determining your own set of individual factors will help you know how to help your eyes look more fresh and youthful.

Lifestyle Choices Can Contribute

It doesn’t take much for the tiny blood vessels under your eyes to swell. Smoking, alcohol and caffeinated beverages can contribute, says the Mayo Clinic. All these lifestyle factors cause fluid retention and swollen vessels. Nasal congestion that comes along with allergies and colds also dilates the vessels and makes them appear darker.

Surprisingly, fatigue is not a primary cause of dark circles under the eyes. Some people’s skin does appear paler when they’re tired, however, so lack of rest can sometimes be a factor.

The first step toward banishing circles under your eyes, then, is to take good care of your health. You can also try cold compresses to reduce swelling and elevating your head at night to drain fluid away from your face.

Pigmentation Plays a Role

Dark circles under the eyes tend to run in some families. If this is the case for you, it simply means the blood vessels under your eyes are more prominent than for other people. Choosing good quality, concealing make up may be the best move you can make. Many women opt for mineral makeup, taking advantage of its reflective qualities.

If you’ve spent a great deal of time in the sun, your skin may be discolored with too much melanin. You may be able to fade this hyperpigmentation in time with prescription-strength skin care creams, taking care to keep them out of the eyes themselves. Or you may be a candidate for laser treatment or a chemical peel. Consult a dermatologist or qualified skin care expert for a recommendation.

The Effects of the Passing Years

With time, our skin becomes thinner. When this happens under the eyes, the delicate skin can no longer hide small blood vessels or hold in the small pockets of fat almost everyone has. In addition, as collagen and elastin underneath the surface break down, skin begins to sink and hollows known as “tear troughs” can show up.

If you feel one or more of these conditions applies to you, the first action you may want to take is a dermal filler like Restylane® or Radiesse®. In the hands of a skilled, experienced plastic surgeon or other practitioner, these injectables can go a long way to filling hollows and bringing your eyes out of the shadows. In plumping skin from underneath, they can also help disguise puffy lower lids.

Finally, you may want to talk to a board certified plastic surgeon about blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery. In a quick, outpatient procedure, you can have that little bit of fat removed from your lower lids with no scars at all. Surgery may be a good move especially if your upper eyelids are also droopy. Blepharoplasty has been steadily gaining in popularity over the years; it’s now the third most popular plastic surgery procedure in the country. Do choose a board certified plastic surgeon with all these characteristics: plenty of experience in eyelid surgery, a portfolio of natural-looking results and a conservative approach to treating the skin around your eyes.

Take Time to Keep an Eye on You

The holiday season puts demands on almost everyone. Do your best to take care of yourself amid all the excitement, and if dark circles should appear anyway, vow to give yourself some time to relax when the New Year arrives. If your eyes cause you more than usual concern—especially if you’re seeing one eye look different than the other or another change that may alarm you—don’t hesitate to see your doctor.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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