What Are Eye Circles?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2020
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Eye circles are more commonly known as under-eye circles or dark circles. This cosmetic condition is when the color of the skin under or around the eyes appears darker than the surrounding skin. Dark circles are very common, both in children and in adults. There are several causes of dark circles, including genetics, a lack of sleep and allergies.

The skin under the eye can actually be a different color than the rest of the facial skin or it can appear to be a different color. As some people age, they lose fat that supported the skin in their youth. If this happens, the skin under the eye can become hollow, and this hollow can become shadowed and appear darker. If a person has puffy eyes, these can cast shadows on the skin, also making the under-eye area appear darker than the surrounding area.

Actual eye circle discoloration has many causes. For example, some people are born with genes that make the skin darker. This is more common in people of African and Asian descent, but it also can run in families of other ethnic ancestries. Children can have eye circles because of these genes.


Sometimes, eye circles are simply caused by lifestyle. People who are stressed, who smoke or drink too much alcohol or who don't get enough sleep might exhibit eye circles. People who rub their eyes too much can also cause eye circles to develop. Sun exposure might cause dark circles through inducing development of melanin, the dark pigment that gives skin a tanned color.

Illness can also cause eye circles. Allergies and eczema can result in excess pigmentation around the eye. The under-eye area has veins running under it. When people age and lose fat from this area, the skin becomes more translucent, and the blue-red color of the veins can be seen, making the skin appear darker. Colds and flu can also cause the veins to become darker and larger and to become more obvious than usual.

People who genetically have eye circles can camouflage them with make-up or can undergo cosmetic procedures such as bleaching, laser treatment or chemical peels. Circles caused by age can be improved through laser treatment or cosmetic filler injections. People who have temporary eye circles can improve their appearance by getting enough sleep, using sunscreen or applying a cold compress to the area.



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