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What makes dark circles look worse?

Dark circles under the eyes are a common cosmetic concern for many people. While dark circles can be caused by a variety of factors like genetics, allergies, and lack of sleep, there are certain habits and lifestyle choices that can make them look worse.

Not getting enough sleep

Lack of sleep is one of the most common causes of dark circles. When you don’t get enough sleep, blood vessels under the eyes dilate and become more visible, creating a dark bluish-purple hue. Consistently not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night will exacerbate dark circles.


Dehydration causes skin to become dry and thin, making dark circles more apparent. Drinking adequate water helps nourish skin and keeps it looking plump and youthful. aim for 8 glasses of water daily to hydrate the skin and minimize shadows under the eyes.

Sun exposure

Too much unprotected sun exposure can damage and thin the delicate skin around the eyes, making blood vessels and discoloration more visible. Always wear SPF 30 or higher when going outside and limit direct sun exposure by wearing hats and sunglasses.

Rubbing your eyes

Rubbing your eyes too aggressively can stress and irritate the thin skin around the eyes. This trauma can cause blood vessels to rupture and create discoloration. Try to avoid rubbing your eyes to prevent further pigmentation.


Allergic reactions cause blood vessels around the eyes to dilate and become swollen or inflamed. Common allergens like pet dander, pollen, or dust mites can trigger under eye shadows. Take antihistamines or use nasal steroids to control allergies and reduce dark circles.


The nicotine and carcinogens in cigarette smoke can significantly age skin, especially around the eyes. Smoking depletes oxygen and nutrients that keep skin healthy. Quit smoking as soon as possible to prevent premature aging and worsening of dark circles.

Lack of sleep can worsen dark circles in several ways:

  • Fatigue causes blood vessels under the eyes to dilate, making dark circles more visible
  • Tiredness leads to skin pallor, making discoloration more apparent
  • Lack of sleep inhibits collagen production, thinning the skin around the eyes
  • Sleep deprivation results in fluid buildup and inflammation around the eyes

Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to reduce shadows and puffiness around the eyes.

How dehydration exacerbates dark circles:

  • Dehydration causes skin to lose elasticity, making it thinner and more transparent
  • Not drinking enough water leads to dry, sunken skin that reveals veins and pigmentation
  • Lack of water inhibits nutrient delivery, starving skin of essential hydration
  • Minor dehydration also causes eyes to look tired and swollen

Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily for hydrated, youthful looking skin around the eyes.

Why sun exposure makes dark circles worse:

  • UV rays break down collagen and thin the skin around the eyes
  • Sun exposure can cause hyperpigmentation and age spots around the eyes
  • Squinting in bright sun reinforces dynamic wrinkles around the eyes
  • Sunburn leads to inflammation that enlarges blood vessels under eyes

Wear broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen daily and limit sun exposure to protect the thin skin around the eyes.

How rubbing eyes contributes to dark circles:

  • Rubbing causes blood vessels under eyes to rupture and leak blood
  • Frequent friction leads to irritation and swelling around the eyes
  • Pulling and tugging the skin can damage the fragile eye area
  • Rubbing eyes spreads bacteria and causes eye infections

Avoid rubbing eyes to prevent trauma to the thin, delicate skin. Use eye drops to relieve irritation instead.

Why allergies make dark circles worse:

Allergen Reaction Impact on Dark Circles
Dust mites Inflammation and puffiness around eyes Allergic shiners become more visible
Pollen Dilated blood vessels under eyes Increased discoloration and shadows
Pet dander Watery, swollen eyes Fluid retention exacerbates circles

Control allergy symptoms with antihistamines and nasal steroids to minimize shadows and swelling around eyes.

How smoking worsens dark circles:

  • Constricts blood vessels, causing oxygen deprivation and thinning of eye skin
  • Releases toxins that break down collagen and damage eye area
  • Causes squint lines and crow’s feet around eyes
  • Leads to vitamin deficiencies that contribute to pigmentation

Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke to prevent premature aging around the delicate eye area.

Treatments for dark circles

While dark circles can be difficult to get rid of completely, there are many treatment options that can help reduce their appearance:


Retinoids like retinol increase collagen production and skin cell turnover to thicken the skin around the eyes. They also help fade pigmentation.

Laser resurfacing

Laser resurfacing treatments remove the outer layers of skin to improve texture, reduce shadows, and minimize fine lines around the eyes.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels with alpha hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin to lighten pigmented areas, even out tone, and make dark circles less noticeable.

Filler injections

Hyaluronic acid fillers like Restylane can plump up sunken areas under the eyes and push color away to reduce the appearance of dark circles.

PRP injections

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy injects concentrated growth factors to stimulate collagen and thicken thin skin around the eyes.

Home remedies for dark circles

Some home remedies may also help temporarily reduce the appearance of dark under eye circles:

  • Cold compresses to constrict blood vessels
  • Cucumber slices to soothe swelling
  • Tea bags to decrease puffiness
  • Cooling eye creams with caffeine
  • Concealers to camouflage discoloration


While some causes of dark circles like genetics can’t be controlled, implementing healthy lifestyle practices can help prevent them from worsening:

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Wear sunscreen when going outside
  • Take breaks when staring at screens
  • Manage allergies properly
  • Avoid rubbing or tugging eyes


Dark under eye circles can be challenging to treat. However, avoiding lifestyle habits that thin the skin and worsen discoloration can help prevent them from looking more prominent. Getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, protecting from the sun, treating allergies, and being gentle around the eyes will all help keep dark circles from getting worse over time.