From lasers to powerhouse ingredients to a camouflage cheat sheet, a comprehensive guide to dismissing your dark circles.
Written By FIORELLA VALDESOLO
Easy on the eyes. The idiom belies a simple truth: Our eyes, those oft-rhapsodied features, don’t always have it so easy. Surrounded by delicate skin, the area is prone to many a cosmetic bête noire—and prominent among these are dreaded dark circles. Here, The Violet Files investigates what they are and what you can do about them.
Your parents can’t shirk responsibility when it comes to dark circles—the primary causes are genetics and heredity. “If you have a darker skin tone, your body has a proclivity toward pigment production, and that can result in more pronounced and chronic dark circles,” says New York–based dermatologist Dr. Robert Anolik. And for those with increased melanin, the sun can only make matters worse. Additional dark-circle culprits, he explains, can be asthma or allergies, which often bring blood vessels to the surface of the thin eye skin and create a shadowy effect. Then, of course, there are the dark circles that can occur episodically, spurred on by lack of sleep or too much alcohol, both of which dehydrate and stall circulation in an area that, because the skin is so thin, is simply more susceptible.
THE PRODUCT PROTOCOL
Regardless of your dark circles’ provenance, the most important practice for treating them should be sun protection. “People don’t think about sunscreen around the eyes, but it’s so important,” says celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas. While no eye cream, despite their lofty claims, will eliminate under-eye darkness completely, zeroing in on formulas with certain ingredients can certainly help curb it by increasing circulation. New York–based plastic surgeon Dr. Melissa Doft calls out her hero eye cream components as: caffeine, a vasoconstrictor that tugs at those tiny blood vessels found in the Susanne Kaufmann Eye Rescue Stick, thereby making them less visible; hyaluronic acid, a plumper that will help build up volume between vessels; and, for those with chronic hereditary circles, lightening agents like licorice or kojic acid. Anolik relies heavily on peptides, the building blocks for your cellular activity that will stoke collagen production, and a retinoid or retinol. “They’re safe to use on the under-eye and lateral areas, just not the eyelids, but if a patient finds prescription-strength retinoid too irritating, you can use an over-the-counter retinol” he says.
Light massage around the eyes can both improve darkness and reduce under-eye puffiness. Use your fingers and grape seed or almond oil, says Vargas. And that throwback spa ritual of placing tea bags over the eyes is not without merit: “The caffeine in green or black tea helps to promote circulation, the root cause of under-eye discoloration, and reduce water retention and flush out toxins,” says holistic wellness expert and Naturopathica founder Barbara Close.
THEY ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Windows to your soul, maybe, but your eyes really reflect what is going on internally. Too much alcohol and sodium, fatigue, allergies, and sinus issues can exhibit themselves as eye puffiness or dark circles. Medical herbalist and nutrition coach Daniela Turley advises reducing sodium, especially close to bedtime; not drinking to excess; and embracing a diet that is high in anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine plant chemicals (pineapple, berries, green tea, kidney beans, citrus, fish, nuts), a good mix of amino acids for collagen production (bone broth), and five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. She also recommends switching up your grains (try millet or oats, which are high in silica, a mineral vital for skin) and starches (try sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, beets, celery root, and turnips). “Up your potassium with foods like dandelion greens, parsley, salmon, white beans, avocado, banana, spinach, and walnuts to help flush out the sodium that causes puffiness,” says Turley. And, of course, water is of paramount importance. “Drinking enough water (that’s four to six 8-ounce glasses per day) is critical for keeping skin hydrated overall but also reducing water retention, swelling, and puffiness around the eyes,” adds Close.
THE FILLER APPROACH
Fillers can be another way to make under-eye shadows less dramatic by plumping up hollows around the area. But any fillers or injectables used in the area need to be wielded both carefully and judiciously; because our eyes are home to the face’s most delicate stretch of skin, mistakes reveal themselves very easily. “The key to filler everywhere, but especially around the eyes, is using micro-droplets and very small needles,” says New York–based plastic surgeon Dr. Melissa Doft, who prioritizes how the light hits her patients. “If the light is hitting you in one direction it will cast a shadow, so I’m using filler to make that shadow less dramatic. I inject into the hollows to correct them, but also under the skin to thicken the dermis, plumping fine lines and under-eye crepiness.” The doctor, who relies on hyaluronic acid–based fillers, reports that formulas have improved significantly over the past ten years. “People used to take regular Restylane and mix it with saline to dilute it, but what’s different about these newer, more sophisticated hyaluronic products—like Belotero or Restylane Silk—is that they have a low molecular weight, meaning you can inject them closer to the surface without getting this blue effect, and they have improved penetration.” The result: a more seamless, natural effect.
THE CAMOUFLAGE PLAYBOOK
For those seeking a quick and noninvasive fix, consider concealer your closest confidante. But application can get precarious—choose too light or too dark a shade and the makeup will be glaringly obvious. The key, says makeup artist Terry De Gunzburg (the woman who conceived of YSL’s Touche Éclat), lies in the fine art of layering. “It’s all about playing with the reflection and light,” she says. “Use a brighter shade of concealer or base to color-correct the upper and under-eye area, then follow with a more skin-natural shade for coverage, hydration, and additional brightening effects.” Then De Gunzburg advises dusting a bit of her By Terry translucent Hyaluronic powder under the eye to set and seal your work and prevent concealer from settling into lines (note that the old adage about no powder around the eyes doesn’t always apply), and a brighter concealer or highlighter around the temples for a final hit of radiance. De Gunzburg’s favorite depuffing-product tip? Keep your eye cream and concealer in the fridge.
DARK CIRCLE TREATMENTS
La Mer $235
Joanna Vargas $60
Royal Fern $190
Susanne Kaufmann $251
Yves Saint Laurent $35