in this comprehensive guide, I’ll explore the causes of these dark shadows and the best treatments to help you banish dark circles and unveil brighter, more refreshed-looking skin.

Unveiling the Shadows: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Banishing Dark Circles Beyond Just Skincare


Holistic Beauty, Skincare

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Dark circles under the eyes can be a pesky problem that many of us face. These dark shadows can be really frustrating, whether caused by genetics or lifestyle factors.

Therefore, in this comprehensive guide, I’ll explore the causes of these dark shadows and the best treatments to help you banish dark circles and unveil brighter, more refreshed-looking skin.

Considering the fact that you are here, I’m willing to bet you’ve already spent a fair bit of time researching dark circles. From searching via Google and magazines to scanning through beauty influencers’ IG accounts about “how to eliminate dark circles” while adding yet another full-coverage concealer to your Amazon cart. And honestly, I totally understand. At some point in life, under-eye circles seem to come for every one of us. Pinpointing the cause—be it genetics, stress, insufficient sleep, allergies, hyperpigmentation, or countless other factors—is just part of the challenge. The remaining piece of the puzzle? Finding the most effective under-eye remedies and expert treatments tailored to your unique kind of dark circles. 

Annoyingly, as with most persistent skin concerns, dark circles aren’t easy to eliminate.

That is why I put together this comprehensive guide to break down what causes dark circles on different skin tones, how to treat the type of under-eye circles you’re working with, and what to do if you’re dealing with dark circles, puffiness, and eye bags (a.k.a. the holy trinity). I also reveal what ingredients work best for your kind of dark circles.

Banish dark circles for good beyond just skincare. Let me share all the insights you've been wanting to know

So before you apply a concoction of marketing gimmicks and unfulfilled promises that might irritate your skin, let me share all the insights you’ve been wanting to know about banishing dark circles and these frustrating dark shadows for good.

As this guide is a mammoth of knowledge well, let’s start with this critical question:

What’s the difference between dark circles and under-eye bags?

Here’s the first tricky part of dark circles: They often go hand-in-hand with puffy under-eye bags.

Dark circles typically appear as flat or recessed areas of pigmentation under your eyes. Depending on your skin tone, they might appear purple, blue, green, red, brown, or black. However, color alone is usually not sufficient for accurately determining the underlying cause of dark circles, despite popular claims on social media platforms like TikTok.

On the other hand, eye bags are swollen areas of under-eye skin that either match your skin color or appear slightly lighter. Since eye bags protrude from your face, they create a dark shadow around your eye area that can resemble a bruise. If your dark circles are a result of under-eye bags, you’ll need to address the bags first. (Don’t worry, I’ll guide you through this.)

What causes dark circles under the eyes?

The cause of dark circles is always multifactorial. We often think it’s one factor, but usually if you address just one, you’re not going to get the best results.

The significant reasons why dark circles show up and persist under the eye area are as follows:

  • Sun damage from years of unprotected sun exposure (tanning indoors or out is the worst). This leads to excess pigmentation showing through the thin skin underneath the eyes.
  • Blood flow shows through the thin skin around the eye, sometimes called vascular dark circles.
  • Using irritating ingredients, including fragrance, around the eye area.
  • Allergies
  • Inherited traits, where there’s a family tendency to have dark circles around the eyes or just under the eye area.
  • Natural shadows, resulting from having deep-set eye.
  • Shadowing from sagging skin and lost facial volume
  • A build-up of dry, dehydrated skin around the eyes, causing dullness and a loss of radiance.
  • A habit of rubbing the skin around the eyes steadily damages delicate under-eye skin.
  • Iron or vitamin B12 deficiencies may be contributing factors. However research establishing a strong link is lacking.

Not sure which one you’re dealing with? Try this trick: Look in the mirror, close one eye, and gently press on your eyeball. If the bulging beneath your eye gets bigger, then you’re likely dealing with under-eye bags and their shadowing. If the area looks the same, you probably have textbook dark circles, the cause of which can be…varied.

Surprisinglynot getting enough sleep is not a cause of black circles around eyes. Although failing to get sufficient sleep makes existing darkness look worse, as many of us know all too well.

So, in reality, how can I permanently get rid of dark circles?

How can I permanently get rid of dark circles and banish them for good

Unfortunately, there’s no way to banish dark circles for good. Even if you faded them away tomorrow, they would continue to ebb and flow in intensity throughout your life. The reason is that we are, as they say, only human. That’s not to say you can’t drastically improve your dark circles to the point where it kinda, sorta feels permanent. But drastic results will require professional, in-office treatments with ongoing maintenance — so, you know, not exactly budget (or lazy) friendly.

As you can see, dark circles are complex because of their many causes. Although most cases of dark circles, like those that are hereditary, are permanent and cannot be eliminated entirely, they can appear better or worse. This is because it’s based on your everyday habits and the skincare products you use.

How to get rid of dark circles then?

If you have dark circles under the eyes and have tried to eliminate them, you’ve likely been disappointed by the results. Dark eye circles are multifactorial and highly specific to each person. If the direct causes aren’t addressed, the results will be lacklustre.

As I mentioned above, you cannot get rid of dark circles permanently. Still, specific products and techniques can make an impressive difference…

Let’s start with using specific skincare

Gentle Retinol or Retinol Alternatives

  • Using gentle, well-formulated skincare products, from a nourishing cleanser to a leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliant, a gentle retinol product, a serum, and a sunscreen, along with a dark circles under-eye cream, will give you consistent, incremental improvements in the appearance of under-eye circles.

    If you’re pretty positive your dark circles are due to thin skin or hyperpigmentation, you can try incorporating a gentle retinol made specifically for around the eyes; try RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Eye Cream. With repeated use, retinol can stimulate the production of collagen, making the skin less thin.
    Retinol also helps resurface your skin to fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots over time. More collagen plus newer skin equals fewer dark circles for you.
    It’s skin math.
    If your skin can handle some actives, try the SkinBetter Science EyeMax AlphaRet Overnight Cream which uses a mix of retinoids, AHAs, and niacinamide to majorly brighten and smooth skin.
    Or, if you have sensitive under-eyes, go for a moisturizing eye cream spiked with nature’s retinol, Bakuchiol like Peach & Lily’s Pure Peach Retinoic Eye Cream as a traditional retinol-first serum.

Brightening Products

  • Use a brightening product. A well-formulated skin brightener can help combat dark circles as it improves the luminosity and vibrancy under the eyes. Look for eye creams for dark circles with formulas starring skin-brightening antioxidants like vitamin C (ascorbic acid or its derivatives). For even better results, layer multiple brightening products during both your morning and evening skincare routine (don’t forget to top it off with sunscreen during the day).

    The best non-whitening brighteners include vitamin C, kojic acid, tranexamic acid, arbutin, and licorice root. These ingredients help decrease skin pigmentation over time, ultimately resulting in the lightening of the dark circles.

Extra Beneficial Ingredient to Add

  • Another great ingredient is azelaic acid, one of the best ingredients for dark circles. Higher concentrations of this ingredient can soften the look of dark circles due to sun damage. You can layer an azelaic acid product with those that contain the brightening ingredients listed above; doing so may lead to more dramatic results, especially for very dark circles. Apply once or twice daily to the under-eye area.

Sun Protection

  • SUN protection: Even if you don’t have dark circles and are looking to avoid getting them in the future, focus on protecting the under-eye area from sun damage and sensitisation, as these are two of the main contributing factors to their development. Adopting practices that limit the eye area’s exposure to UV rays (hello, sunglasses!), skin-sensitising ingredients, and environmental aggressors can help stave off under-eye darkness. After all, sun damage is a surprising hidden cause of dark circles.
    Here’s what I’m loving… 

What ingredients work best for your specific type of undereye circles

Dark circles + allergies: Allergies irritate the under-eye area and lead us to tug and pull at the skin there too. To combat the redness and darkness that allergies tend to promote, look for an eye cream with skin-soothing ingredients, like allantoin, and avoid formulas that contain fragrance, which sensitises skin.

Dark circles + thin skin: Some dark circles worsen when the skin around the eyes becomes thinner. Applying eye cream that includes ingredients that promote firmness, like resveratrol, can help restore the look of skin density under the eyes, resulting in lighter under-eye circles. Skin-restoring ingredients like peptides and hydrators, including hyaluronic acid, can also temporarily increase the plumpness of the under-eye area, decreasing the appearance of dark circles.

Dark circles + environmental stressors (sun, pollution): Antioxidants are superstars when it comes to protecting the skin from potentially harmful environmental stressors that worsen the look of dark circles. If you notice your under eyes getting darker in colour due to your environment, seek out an antioxidant-rich eye cream formula. Zerumbone, an antioxidant derived from the stems of wild ginger, is a great ingredient to look for to combat environmental stressors, as it also targets the root causes of dark circles.

Non-skincare tips for dark circles

Here’s what else you can do to help visibly reduce dark circles under the eyes:

Always wear sunglasses outdoors: As effective as using sunscreen in the eye area is, the delicate skin around the eyes needs more protection. Sunglasses rated to provide 100% UV protection will make a big difference.

Change up your sleep style: If your dark circles seem to be worse in the morning and are also accompanied by puffiness or under-eye bags, try sleeping on your back with your head elevated, so lymphatic fluid doesn’t pool as easily overnight. You can go with the “Ill’ shove-another-pillow-under-your-head trick”, or, for way more comfort (and less potential neck pain), try Sleep&Glow Omnia Pillow.

Banish dark circlse with the help of Sleep&Glow Omnia Pillow

Incorporate facial massage: You can use massage and pressure point movements at home to increase your lymphatic circulation, reducing dark circles and increasing the blood circulation, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients to the area.

Use an over-the-counter antihistamine: Allergies often are an unsuspected cause of or contributor to dark circles (and puffy eyes). Consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for recommendations.

Reset your diet and add some skin-loving supplements: It’s crucial to connect the two essential pillars of your unique beauty bridge – external and internal skincare. The holistic approach of resetting your diet and adding skin-loving supplements can also have a positive impact on under-eye dark circles by addressing some of the underlying causes:

How can I get rid of dark circles fast?

In case the exhaustive list of at-home and in-office treatments isn’t doin’ it for you, you do have one tried-and-true option for fast results: concealer. 
I know, I know, there’s no magic in a bottle when it comes to under-eye circles — there’s only makeup. Concealers with a soft matte or satin finish are best because they tend to last longer and don’t crease.

If you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation under your eyes, try a full-coverage concealer that’s on the creamier side, like Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer

On the other hand, if your under-eyes are dry, lined, and/or sunken, try the hyaluronic acid-packed Tarte Shape Tape Radiant Concealer that has reflective particles that help create a brightening effect.

And if you have no idea what’s going on with your under-eyes and you just want to nap, go for Kosas Revealer Concealer. It’s an all-in-one concealer that’s filled with vitamin C (to brighten), caffeine (to de-puff), hyaluronic acid (to plump), and peptides (to help strengthen skin).

Home remedies for dark circles

It’d be convenient if the home remedies and DIY solutions we encountered through word-of-mouth and social media really worked for under-eye circles; however, many such tips touted as “effective” are barely beneficial at best and won’t banish your dark circles for good.

For instance, the idea that sliced, chilled or frozen cucumbers placed gently over the eyes can do everything from curing irritation to lightening dark circles has long been a part of skincare folklore. Unfortunately, this eye area cure-all simply doesn’t live up to the hype. There’s no research to prove that raw, sliced cucumber helps combat dark circles, even if the cucumber is frozen. When applying chilled cucumber to the under-eye area, it’s the coldness, not the cucumber that’s helping reduce puffy eyes, but this concern is unrelated to dark circles.

It’s long been said that a good night’s sleep banishes dark circles. After learning more about dark circles, it’s easy to now see that a solid eight hours of sleep cannot reverse under-eye discolouration. Sleep just can’t combat inherited traits, allergies, or sun damage, but it can help dark circles from worsening.

Professional dark circle eye treatments

What in-office treatments are available? Research has shown several options have promise, although most require more than one treatment to get the best results. Intense pulsed light (IPL), radiofrequency, Q-switched ruby lasers, pulsed dye lasers and other vascular lasers, picosecond pigment lasers and ablative lasers (which have the biggest risks and longest recovery time) are all worth discussing with your dermatologist.

What else can be done by a doctor? Dermal fillers using hyaluronic acid, fat transfer, and a cosmetic surgery procedure known as blepharoplasty can provide further improvement – but be very careful about choosing the right expert and also think carefully about this last resource before jumping in.
Chemical peels with salicylic acid (BHA) are sometimes used to improve dark circles, almost always in combination with other treatments. When it comes to treating dark circles, it takes a village!

All of these treatments address the underlying causes of dark circles or surface discolourations, or they help improve skin around the eyes, so it becomes smoother, firmer, and tighter. Hitting all three targets, along with a great skincare routine (don’t forget the sunscreen!) is the research-proven way to make dark circles look dramatically better.


To sum it all up, while dark circles can be challenging to get rid of completely, incorporating these skincare tips and lifestyle changes into your routine can help reduce their appearance and brighten up your under-eye area.
Remember, consistency is key, so stick to the new routine you decide on and you’ll be unveiling brighter, more refreshed-looking skin in no time.

While there’s nothing you can do about seasonal shifts (aside from moving somewhere with a milder climate), that doesn’t mean your skin has to suffer the consequences. So, to help you even further, I have something else for you – Your Seasonal Skin Checklist

References for this information:

  • Cosmetics, March 2021, ePublication
  • The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 2016, 49-55
  • Lasers in Medical Science, December 2016, pages 1783–1787
  • Skin Research and Technology, August 2016, pages 276–283
  • Indian Journal of Dermatology, July-August 2016, pages 413–417
  • Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, April-June 2016, pages 65–72
  • The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, January 2016, pages 49–55
  • Annals of Brazilian Dermatology, July-August 2015, pages 494–503
  • Indian Journal of Dermatology, March-April 2014, pages 151–157
  • Annals of Brazilian Dermatology, January-February 2014, pages 11–25
  • Dermatologic Surgery, August 2012, pages 1277–1282
  • Dermatologic Surgery, August 2009, pages 1163–1171

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