There are some days where you wake up and want to head straight for that under-eye concealer. Whether they’re passed down from parents or the results of an all-nighter in the library, dark circles can seriously hinder confidence levels. Beauty by the Geeks is here to shed some light on these shady nuisances…

Skin
Ever remember being told not to rub your eyes? With good reason! The skin around our eyes (periorbital skin) is thinner than the rest of body and has fewer layers of epidermis. A lower concentration of oil glands and collagen add to the transparency of the area and vasculature (blood vessels) is often visible underneath. If you think that dark circles are only the result of dehydration or fatigue, you’re not wrong! However, due to the delicate nature of the area, dark circles can easily appear due to a number of other reasons, from genes to more serious underlying conditions…Let’s look a little deeper:

Age
It’s inevitable, unavoidable that most of us will get periorbital discolouration (dark circles) with age. This is because the cellular turnover of the epidermal layer naturally decreases, so our skin starts to get thinner. Collagen and elastin which give the skin its structure and elasticity become damaged and decline with age. Together, these age-related changes lead to increased transparency around the eye and the veins become more prominent. This exposure results in a darker ‘bluish’ under eye area. A ‘tear trough depression’ where tissue under the eye settles just above the cheek bone to form a little bulge can further accentuate dark circles. Don’t despair! The Geeks recommend investing in products with SPF along with a pair of sunnies as sun exposure contributes to that thinning layer of skin!

Anaemia
Apart from fatigue, a characteristic symptom of iron deficiency is dark circles. Women, particularly, teenage girls are especially prone to anaemia due to blood loss during periods. This is because we don’t have enough of the molecule which carries oxygen molecules around the body – iron (in the form of haemoglobin). With less oxygen reaching the epidermis, the bluish colour darkens and this is one of the most obvious signs of the condition.

Little Irritations
From hay fever to eczema, who doesn’t’ suffer from some kind of sensitivity? That incessant itchiness which makes us rub our eyes until they’re sore is a real encouragement for dark circles. Coupled with the increase of anti-inflammatory fluid making our eyes puffy, this does not make for a pretty sight and can lead onto more serious problems involving the skin’s pigment, melanin…

Allergies and melanin
The melanin deposition around our eyes is determined through genes, but can also be influenced through allergic conditions in what is known as ‘post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation’. This occurs when the skin around our eyes become aggravated. Inflammatory mediators flooding into the eye area can trigger melanocytes (melanin-producing skin cells) to produce unusual amounts of the pigment melanin. There’s no quick fix for this but treatments are available. Keeping inflammation at bay, such as taking antihistamines for hay fever mat go a long way. There are also a number of products and ingredients out there for treating hyperpigmentation – liquorice extract (found in some products we’ve recently had under our Geek-oscope, Alpha H’s Liquid Gold and FAB Facial Radiance Pads are just a couple of exmaples. Liquorice contains the molecule glabridin, which has skin-lightening properties – we took a closer look at in our recent Molecular Mondays feature!

A Sign of Deeper Issues…
Prolonged or worsening pigmentation, including dark circles, may indicate that there is a problem elsewhere in the body such as the liver – the centre point for metabolic activity. Those who smoke and drink alcohol to excess can irreversibly damage liver function and are often seen with darkened periorbital areas (dark circles). But a huge range of conditions can be attributed to liver function including the malabsorption of fats and vitamins from food. In fact, recent evidence suggests that a topical application of vitamin K in an Emu oil base is beneficial for skin under the eye area.

Fatigue
It’s reached that point in the day when you should stop checking your phone and go to bed. Naturally you stay up for an hour longer, but The Geeks say no! The adrenal gland is responsible for producing cortisol and adrenalin, hormones which are released under ‘stress conditions’. It’s part of the sympathetic or ‘fight or flight’ response that is part of our autonomic nervous system. If we overwork the adrenal gland it can lead to ‘adrenal fatigue’, where insufficient amounts of cortisol are produced to meet activity levels. This leads to both general grouchiness and those dreaded dark circles!

We regret to say it – but there’s no miracle cure for dark circles! Helping keep the skin around the eye area hydrated and healthy to try and keep the skin from thinning. Protection from factors that damage the skin, like the sun, are a good place to start and there are a number of products on the market targeted at the eye area, including Lancôme’s Visionnaire Eye Cream and Sunday Riley Start Over Active Eye Cream which we recently took a look at ourselves! Catching up on sleep and avoiding irritation around the eyes look like priorities for tackling dark circles! We’ll keep a scientific eye open for new product to tackle this pesky problem.