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What the Yuck: Why do I have dark circles under my eyes?
March 4th, 2011
09:32 AM ET

What the Yuck: Why do I have dark circles under my eyes?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I don't have a problem sleeping, so why do I have such dark circles under my eyes?

A few culprits may have you reaching for the under-eye concealer. Sinus blockage triggered by a food or seasonal allergy can cause swelling of the tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin, giving you "darkened" areas around your nose and eyes. An allergist can determine an allergy trigger, but if yours is seasonal or the irritant is unavoidable, an OTC drug like Claritin or Zyrtec should help.

How's your diet? A vitamin deficiency may also cause circles. Take a daily multi if you don't already, and add a night cream or facial mask containing vitamins K and A (aka retinol) to your regimen.

Of course, your genes may also be to blame. Some women have a genetic predisposition to excessive pigmentation in the area. Laser surgery—which resurfaces the skin and destroys the highly pigmented cells—is a solution, but it doesn't come cheap (it costs thousands of dollars) or easy (expect a lengthy recovery period). Cosmetic-filler injections like Juvéderm or Restylane are a popular alternative (they fill in the sunken areas that cause shadowing), again for a pretty penny—$500 to $800 per treatment, which lasts only about six months.

But before you break the bank, try simply squeezing in even a half-hour extra of sleep because fatigue can dull your skin and make any discoloration more visible. Even if you don't have a sleep problem per se, your body may just need a little more rest than you're currently giving it.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (631 Responses)
  1. Biff

    I think some dark circles in women are caused by their time of the month. They may benefit from a heavy iron supplement during that time.

    March 4, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. scott

    it also may be caused by anemia

    March 4, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. scott

    it also may be caused by anemia

    March 4, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Wzrd1

    Matt, WHY are you hitting yourself?
    You should see a doctor about that problem!

    March 4, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Michelle

    I find that a bit amusing.

    March 4, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Daniel

    I don't know what I was expecting, but it was more than this...

    March 4, 2011 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      My thoughts exactly! I was expecting NEW information.

      March 4, 2011 at 11:02 | Report abuse |
  7. Alison

    I have read that raising the head of the bed by an inch or two will help with dark circles and puffy eyes.

    March 4, 2011 at 10:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sara

      Or instead of messing with the bed, annoying, just sleep with two pillows and elevate yourself that way some–like when you are sick.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
  8. heather

    toxins in the liver, can cause under eye circles. i was just researching this yeasterday.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jenna

      That's right folks, a good enema will solve all your problems and get rid of all those nasty toxins.

      March 4, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
    • H

      That's right, folks, an enema will destroy all of the natural flora in your intestines, flush out your intestinal lining, and leave you at risk to intestinal punctures.

      Pseudoscience for gullible dummies.

      March 4, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse |
  9. Bill

    Surprised the article doesn't mention alcohol. Drinking will give you dark circles. Alcohol affects your body's ability to absorb vitamins (or something like that). It still boils down to nutrition.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Burbank

      Interesting how this article has drawn out so many abusive men. Hopefully you will all end up in the slammer. Karma is coming.

      March 4, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
    • Jac

      Lighten up, he's joking. I realize domestic violence is a serious matter but he's obviously being sarcastic and not serious.

      March 4, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
  10. ZugZug

    This is caused because of Photoshop.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jen

    This article was lame. Did not help at all.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NE

      I know. In that paragraph about the genes, I got excited thinking that there might be a solution other than expensive ways of getting rid of it. Guess not..

      March 4, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
    • sowgoodseeds

      MSG (monosodium glutamate) causes my eyes to get REALLY puffy. That, and too much sodium.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
  12. Fuego

    LOL, some of you guys are funny. thanks for putting a smile on my face. I'm just deciding which one of these is my problem.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. DrFood

    Bad makeup job...hello?! ARE WE AWAKE TODAY?!

    March 4, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. goofy

    Mr. Wonderful, are you implying, you hit your girlfriend? if so, what a coward.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Wonderful

      NO! She just seems to run into my fist a lot.

      March 4, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
  15. Clete

    It could be just good ole fashioned ugly.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MadCityBabe

    I don't think you're 100% right here..............it's usually because the women make the mistake of being with men who are not well adjusted and have severe mommy abandonment issues and they can't break out of their woefully midevil mentalities.....man-up boyz......................your bad behavior is really so passe.....you're such sad little creatures at best

    March 4, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. sunshinestr

    Whoever did that photoshopping should be fired, seriously

    March 4, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Terrisha

    Dark circles happen when you get punch in the eye socket.

    March 4, 2011 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. B

    The article is accurate but inadequate. One of the major causes of dark circles occurs with facial aging. Soft tissue in the cheek descends and orbital fat prolapses. The space between the eyelid and cheek thins out leaving little soft tissue over the inferior bony rim. Bone is vascualrized and a blue/red collor is seen. Treatment goal is to fill the area with an off the shelf filler or fat. The fat can be transposed from the eyelid or transfered from another body region.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. starry12

    Since the teeth are located adjacent to the sinuses, a good cleaning (maybe have the dentist do it) and stepped-up oral hygiene could help. Taking a modified citrus pectin supplement as well as kelp also helps to rid the body of toxic metals which may be stressing the liver and kidneys.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Rose

    I had Hooping Cough at 12 years of age. I had it for 3 weeks before my parents finally took me to the doctor. In that time I had coughed so much I had broken blood vessels all over my facial "T Zone" especially around my eyes. They did not show up as badly as they have since I hit my 50's. The skin in my "T Zone" has thinned allowing the broken blood vessels to shine through. I now look like I have two black eyes. A lot of good concealer is the only thing that has helped. I have tried numerous other OTC products without improvement and according to my doctor; the only option left is the laser treatment. There are many reasons for dark circles, this is yet another one.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Justina

    Women need to be happy to stay lively and beautiful. Men need to fulfill a grand purpose to be happy. Usually.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Carlitos

    dark circles and crop circles are caused by extraterrestrials 🙂

    March 4, 2011 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. woodie

    It could be caused by dirt. j/k

    March 4, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Geekoid

    Almost all Americans get the vitamins they need from a normal american diet. If you are vitamins deficient, then talk to your MD and find out why, it might be a symptom of another issue. If you aren't stop wasting your money on vitamins.

    @starry12 – please learn more about how the body works, your suggest is as much nonsense as the suggest to get an enema to flush away toxins nonsense. Seriously, you are harming people.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Chau Stotelmyre

    Having dark circles under their eyes could result from not having enough oxygen to the areas, tress, lack of deep breathing, sleep, aerobic exercises, and if the areas are puffy, then it could be food alergy due to consumption of too much caffeine, high glycemic index foods, such as, bread, pasta, rice, flours, salts, and sugar. So, try deep breathing every hour at work or at home, get up, walk around, raise both arms up a few times, exhale in the process, roll both shoulders, then look up at the sky, squeeze both shoulder plates to the midline as close as possible to expand the lung cavity for more air to enter. Feel the air enter our lungs and how energy travels from head to toes. The key here is to train oneself so that each gulf of air will bring more oxyegen to the system. Go for brisk walk, eat well, drink water throughout the day, stay away from caffeine and sugar drinks, so it is time to sleep, the body can help us to rejuvenate, to have an alert mind the next day. We really have to minimize stress, if tomorrow is going to take care of itself, then why should we worry? Make the best of the moment, of resources, be in good spirit, positive, and be happy with what we have.

    March 4, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Devara

    Charlie is WRONG

    March 4, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. ronny

    Dark circles are caused by Dark Vader.

    March 4, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Roland

    I probably stayed up one too many nights in college and work & partying and back to work. There is a product out there called eveaporte for men ( i think there is one for women too) made by a french company i think called "beaute de paris".

    It takes away almost all of the dark color... its great!!!! i never reccomned anything but i love this stuff... help me live large and look good!!!

    March 4, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Karen

    Dark circles under the eyes are often caused by an iron deficiency (on its term causing anemia) due to eating grains. Read more about this here: http://www.cutthecarb.com/your-daily-bread-pasta-and-pizza-are-killing-you/

    March 4, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Justina

    Women, men are selfish and chidish; they will never make you happy always. Don't expect that, but let's not be disrespectful. Dwell in God's love as His creation and rest well.

    March 4, 2011 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Clete

      Congratulations on receiving the stupidest comment award.

      March 4, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • Justme

      I guess things haven't worked for you with women? However, if you expect a woman to make you happy always I have news for you – there is no Utopia.

      March 4, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse |
  32. Younan MarketingAnd Management Associates Inc, Int'l Intst'r

    Dark circles and puffiness are caused by a combination of unhealthy habits. Coffee makes dark circles especially when combined with poor sleeping patterns. It's better not to use a pillow if you have puffiness or to change the pillow you have. elevating the top mattress by putting pillows under the first mattress is better than sleeping on the pillow directly. Or if you can get an ultramatic type hospital bed that's even better.- you don't need pillows with those. Pillows then are just for aesthetic appearance and decor when the bed is made and you're not using it. Pillows used wrong will also give you stiff, extremely painful usually too,neck and shoulder and back trouble. definitely if you've had a neck injury such as whiplash you should stay away from using pillows. Sometimes using pillows and sleeping on a bad maybe new pillow but that is too soft will make a big strange mark in your face. also if you sleep on your hands you could imbed fingerprint indents in your face that may take days to smooth out. Low protein, iron rich diet, will contribute to soft facial flesh under the skin that also is easily marked by bad pillows and bad sleeping posture.

    March 4, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Younan MarketingAnd Management Associates Inc, Int'l Intst'r

    Correction: low protein of meat type meaning also iron deficient diet will contribute to poor facial muscle tones and such.
    theresa noelle younan ymma-iii. i still have liver condition problems but i keep a high meat content diet, at least one bigger meal with main course meat on the plate.

    March 4, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Vera

    Alcohol increases one's risk of contracting breast cancer. Take a look at this article: http://www.breasthealthandhealing.com/media/archives/StabroekNewsCancerCampaign011210.html

    March 4, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. PoodleSweat

    Most of the women I know have developed dark circles around their balloon knot.

    March 4, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. lmew

    I used to have dark circles under my eyes, then they went away when I moved to the Seattle area.

    March 4, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jamie

    This comment is uncalled for. Have you ever known someone in an abusive relationship? My guess is you may of and were too ingnorant to notice it. Dark circles under the eye are mainly based on genetics other wise from congestion. (When you have a cold take a glance and look under your eyes... Your congested!!)

    March 4, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. anonmyss

    I am a 36 year old man who has had dark eye circles since I was about 16 or so, I would love to hear someone's take on it. I get ample sleep, excersize, don't do drugs, rarely drink, have fasted yearly, even with a colonic at the end.. still the same.. any guesses anyone?

    March 4, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Maria

    Living a stressed life, demonic oppression and lack of sleep for long periods of time.

    March 4, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Maria

    I asked God what causes dark circles under your eyes in men as well as in women. This is what He told me. "living a stressed life, demonic oppression and lack of sleep for long periods of time."

    March 4, 2011 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Stinker

    I did a stinker. Peeeeew. : ]

    March 5, 2011 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. derek

    I'm sorrybut it seems to me the the news and. World news articles for the media home page have not been updatedin twoweeks so either someone at cnn needs to be fired or since the uprising in libya cnn has decided not to cov er any of it while every other news website is

    March 5, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Sharon

    Anyone knows if you want your face to look better, overall, eat right, get plenty of rest, drink WATER, exercise, reduce stress – and you have it! It is hereditary too and unforunately, the skin layers are so thin there that everyone shows through, including wrinkles in due time! Alcohol and smoking are just a cancer and/or disease waiting to happen. Smoking ages your skin, kills cell growth. Alcohol damages heart and liver. If you want to stay healthy, live a HEALTHY life. If you don't care about your body, it will show and effect you, inside and out.

    March 6, 2011 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. ihatebeeting

    What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? nothing she hasn't heard twice before!

    March 6, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. jbird

    Well, as a guy, I can say for me it's race. My grandmother who passed in 08 was half Cherokee, and she had them. Mine are a bit pronounced.

    March 6, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Margo Zargo

    Everyone knows that dark circles under the eyes are cause by drinking too much alcohol. All of you with dark circles need to lay off the booze or go to AA, and then guess what – NO more dark circles. Either that, or I've also heard that if you drink raw eggs and lay on a slant board upside down in your closet, will help too.

    March 6, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. LEB

    Yikes.

    March 7, 2011 at 05:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Anais

    Dark circles are not due to stress or drinking moderately. I haven't been stressed in a year, nor have I ever gotten more sleep than I do now. But my dark circles have never bothered me more. It seems the more I sleep the worse they get. I go running 3-4 times a week, so I don't know where the problem is. I think it's genetic, nothing much you can do about it, apart investing in a good concealer. Good luck.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. LMAO

    Well, mine were caused from reading all the posts, and laughing, as well as thinking that this was probably 'invented' by the same person who started the margarine is one molecule away from plastic garbage.

    BTW, it is genetic.

    March 14, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. KAT

    I am in my 20s and have dark circles. Mom said I've had them ever since I was little, so I'm guessing it's not the alcohol or caffeine! Probably due to my chronic allergies. In the last few years the hollows have deepened and so prior to my wedding I had restalyne injections. Not something I would have normally considered, but I was sick of people asking me every day "are you tired?" when I had gotten a full 8 hours. I don't want people at work thinking I'm out on benders every night or something! The injections really made a difference. There is still some darkness from the blood underneath, but I can cover that with concealer and I haven't heard "you look tired!" since I got it done. Unfortunately, I can see it starting to wear off. I don't really want to get into the habit of using this stuff (at $1000/ a year) but it did make my eyes look so much more alert.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.