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What Causes Dark Circles Under Your Eyes?

Dark circles under the lower eyelids may appear due to genetics, allergies, or other reasons. Home remedies and medical treatments exist that may help reduce their appearance.

Dark circles under your eyes, also known as periorbital hyperpigmentation (POH)Trusted Source, may appear as shades of brown, blue, black, or purple.


They can affect anyone but are typically more common in:

Fatigue is generally believed to be the most common cause for having dark circles under the eyes. This may be controversial, and there are actually a number of reasons.

Read on to learn more about the possible causes, diagnosis, and treatment options for dark circles under the eyes.


Aging may be one of the most common reasons for having dark circles under your eyes.

As you get older, your skin tends to sag and become thinner. You might experience a decrease in the fat and collagen that helps maintain your skin’s elasticity. As this occurs, the dark blood vessels beneath your skin become more visible, causing the area below your eyes to darken.

Aging might also cause tear troughs to appear more hollow. This may give you the appearance of looking tired or older.


Oversleeping, or a lack of sleep, may cause your skin to become more dull and pale. As a result, the blood vessels and dark tissues beneath your skin might become more visible.

Sleep deprivation may also lead to a fluid buildup beneath your eyes, causing them to appear puffy. Dark circles may then actually be shadows cast by puffy eyelids.


Allergic reactions and dry eyes may trigger dark circles.

When you have an allergic reaction, your body releases histamines to fight off the invader. This may cause itchy, red, and puffy eyes. Scratching the itchy skin may cause inflammation, swelling, and broken blood vessels, leading to post-inflammatory pigmentation.

Ocular hypotensive drugs

Certain ophthalmic solution drugs used to help treat glaucoma, such as latanoprost and bimatoprost, may cause POH.

These are most likely to develop between 3 and 6 monthsTrusted Source after starting bimatoprost treatment.

Sometimes, changes may be permanent, so it’s important to speak with a doctor if you notice any major discoloration.


Staring at a television or computer screen for long periods of time may strain your eyes. This strain could enlarge the blood vessels around your eyes, potentially causing dark circles.


Dehydration might attribute to POH developing. When your body isn’t well hydrated, the skin beneath your eyes begins to look dull and your eyes look sunken. This is due to how close your eyes are to the underlying bone.

Sun overexposure

Prolonged sun exposure or injury may cause dark circles to form under your eyes. This is known as post-inflammatory pigmentation.

Too much sun may produce excessTrusted Source melanin, which is the pigment that gives your skin color. Your body might then deposit this excess melanin beneath your eyes, resulting in hyperpigmentation.


few studies suggest that genetics may contribute to the development of POH. One study from 2014 found a strong association between POH and family history for 63%Trusted Source of participants.

It can be an inherited trait seen early in childhood. Over time, the dark circles may lighten or get darker.


Anemia is when your levels of red blood cells are lower than normal. This could leave you feeling:

  • dizzy
  • weak
  • light-headed
  • short of breath
  • tired

The 2014 study mentioned earlier found that 50%Trusted Source of participants with POH had anemia. But once their anemia was treated, many people reported that the dark circles beneath their eyes also disappeared.

If you have anemia, you may notice that your skin is paler than usual, and you might have dark circles under your eyes. Talk with a doctor about getting blood work done to check your iron levels.

Lifestyle factors

A number of lifestyle factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, may also be connectedTrusted Source with developing POH.

Diagnosing dark circles

Dark circles under the eyes are very common. They’re typically no cause for alarm.

That said, if they’re getting darker, swelling, or bothering you, speak with a doctor or dermatologist. They may be able to help you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

To assess POH, a doctor will typically perform a few tests, which might include:

  • physical and medical history examination
  • an eyelid stretch test or slit lamp exam
  • Wood’s lamp examination, which is commonly used to determine bacterial or fungal infections, skin pigmentation disorders, or corneal abrasions
  • blood and liver function tests

The doctor will then use the assessment results to help classify your POH appearances and causes.

These might include:

  • pigmented
  • post-inflammatory
  • vascular
  • structural
  • mixed-type

It’s important to note that scientific and clinical researchTrusted Source on the causes of POH is still limited, especially when compared with how common dark circles are and how many people want treatment. In 2014, there were an estimated 65 cited articles on PubMed, compared with 150 million Google searches for treatment.

Treating dark circles

Certain treatments might help you get rid of dark circles. But, these are mainly for cosmetic reasons rather than medical.

At-home remedies

  • apply a cold compress to the skin under your eyes for 20 minutes
  • get adequate sleep
  • stay hydrated by drinking more water and including more fruits and vegetables in your diet
  • elevate your head with an extra pillow or rolled up blanket while sleeping
  • place chilled, soaked black or green tea bags over your eyes for 10–20 minutes
  • apply eye creams
  • conceal dark circles with makeup

Medical treatments

For a more permanent option, some medical treatments are available to help reduce the appearance of dark circles.

That said, it’s important to remember that dark circles aren’t something that have to be fixed. There’s nothing wrong with just leaving them be.

Some medical treatments used for reducing dark circles include:

  • chemical peels to reduce pigmentation
  • laser surgery to resurface the skin and enhance skin tightening
  • medical tattoos to inject pigment into thinning skin areas
  • tissue fillers to conceal blood vessels and melanin that cause skin discoloration beneath your eyes
  • fat removal to remove excess fat and skin, revealing a smoother and more even surface
  • surgical implants of fat or synthetic products
  • carboxytherapy to increase blood flow to the area under the eyes

Before deciding on any cosmetic procedures, speak with a doctor. Invasive medical treatments can be expensive and painful and may require a long recovery.

Frequently asked questions

Are dark circles related to your liver?

One study found that 7.7% of participants had dark circles due to a liver disorder. But, overall there isn’t enough research to fully support this.

What do dark circles under eyes indicate?

Dark circles under your eyes may appear due to genetics, allergies, or other reasons, such as age, fatigue, or eye strain. Home remedies and medical treatments can help reduce their appearance.

How do I get rid of dark circles under my eyes?

You can try at-home remedies to reduce the appearance of dark circles beneath your eyes or medical treatments.

Home remedies include cold compresses, eye creams, and getting more sleep. Medical treatments include chemical peels, laser surgery, and tissue fillers.

Are dark under-eye circles permanent?

Dark circles may come and go. How long they last could depend on many factors, such as:

  • lifestyle factors
  • genetics
  • nutritional deficiencies

What vitamins are good for dark circles under the eyes?

A few older studies suggest that vitamin ETrusted Sourcevitamin CTrusted Source, and vitamin KTrusted Source in topical products may play a role in reducing dark circles under the eyes. Many products also contain retinoidTrusted Source, made from vitamin A, which may modify skin tone.

Dark circles under the eyes may be a sign of iron deficiency anemiaTrusted Source. In those cases, an iron supplement may be helpful to normalize blood levels.

What deficiency causes dark circles under eyes?

One studyTrusted Source suggests that low levels of vitamin B12 might increase skin pigmentation, which may contribute to dark circles developing beneath your eyes.

Iron deficiency anemia may also cause dark circles under your eyes.

As mentioned earlier, 50%Trusted Source of participants with POH in a 2014 study had anemia, though many people reported that the dark circles also disappeared once their anemia was treated.


For many people, dark circles come and go.

They may be genetic, or they may result from the stasis of blood vessels (when blood flow slows down and pools in one area) caused by a mixture of lifestyle factorsTrusted Source, such as smoking, getting too much sunlight, or spending long periods of time staring at screens.

More often than not, dark circles are simply a part of aging.

They’re not typically a cause for alarm. But, if the discoloration and swelling gets worse, or if they’re bothering you, speak with a doctor or dermatologist. They may be able to help you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

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