Dark Circles Under Eyes

Symptoms   Causes   Self help summary   Self help discussion   News

Dark circles or black circles under the eyes are rarely caused by temporary circumstances and are more difficult to treat than bags under the eyes. They are often the result of some combination of the following: lack of sleep, chronic stress, menstrual disorders, pregnancy, poor diet and medications. For others, dark circles are a hereditary trait. People who suffer from allergies and sensitivities often have a bigger problem with dark circles as well.3

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Types Related to Cause

We think of dark rings under our eyes as being due to fatigue, and while fatigue may worsen appearance, the rings have an underlying cause.

Blueish rings/circles. The skin under the eyes is normally thick enough to conceal blood underneath the skin. But some people’s skin is very transparent; it also thins as we age. In addition, as we age, collagen and fat beneath the skin decrease revealing the blue below. In these cases, a blueish tint appears due to oxygenated blood pooled beneath the under-eye skin. This is known as a vascular type of dark ring and accounts for about 35% of all dark ring cases. These blueish rings may be more noticeable in the morning.

Dark circles under eyes

Brown rings/circles arise from the skin pigmentation, usually due to genetics. Eye rubbing or sun exposure can make the circles worse. Circles from skin pigmentation especially affect people of Asian and African-American heritage. This is known as a pigmented type of dark ring/circle. About 54% of dark-circle cases are a combination of pigmented and vascular types.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, the kidneys are connected to the adrenal glands (and overall endocrine system). Therefore, kidney energy imbalances due to for example lack of sleep, chronic stress and/or poor diet can result in Kidney Qi Deficiency. Related symptoms can include fatigue or adrenal exhaustion often resulting in dark circles under the eyes. It may help to meet with a nutritionist/allergist to rule out foods or other allergens that may be contributing to this condition.

Sufficient sleep, stress management and eating a healthy diet are a couple of the simplest home remedies recommended.


Dark coloration of the skin under the eyes. Tiredness from lack of sleep or stress may also be experienced if fatigue is the cause. There can be some puffiness; see bags under the eyes.

Blue circles under eyes


Generally, the following have been associated with dark circles under the eyes.

  • Severe sleep problems
  • Nutrition, poor diet
  • Stress
  • Heredity Dark circles can run in families.
  • Exposure to sun
  • Allergies, asthma, eczema
  • Medications
  • Pregnancy and Menstruation
  • Aging - as the skin thins with aging, blood vessels below the skin are more visible.
  • Adrenal exhaustion
  • Kidney energetic deficiency (Chinese Medicine)
  • Individuals of African or Asian descent are more likely to experience dark circles

Conventional Treatment

Conventional treatments include:

  • For dark circles due to thin skin: Vasoconstricting creams
  • For dark circles due to pigmentation: light therapy, laser and bleaching techniques4

Blue rings/circles are sometimes reduced with topical creams that have stimulating ingredients like caffeine that can constrict blood vessels and temporarily boost circulation. Potent hydrators, such as hyaluronic acid may plump the area, pushing the skin up and away from the pooled blood. Retinoic acid creams may be able to thicken the outer layer of the skin to conceal shadows.

Brown rings/circles might be reduced by over-the-counter creams that contain soy or citrus and which claim to lighten circles over a period of four to six weeks.

Note. Avoid hydroquinone, a go-to lightener for sunspots and scars. It reduces melanin production in the skin that lightens the skin, but it can impact allergies, liver or kidney disease, and use of antibiotics. It can cause burning, stinging, itching, or redness. It can make you sunburn more easily and make your skin more sensitive to cold and wind.

Complementary Care

Sufficient sleep, good stress management, and a healthy diet are the simplest home remedies. These remedies are not really effective if the dark rings/circles are related to genetics.

  • Lithospermum is traditionally used in Chinese medicine to cool blood, stimulate circulation of blood, and eliminate toxins from the skin.
  • Licorice is considered to be an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and anti-arthritic.
  • Dong Gui helps the body to eliminate excess fluid retained by tissues around the eye.
  • Vitamin E enhances the body's ability to cleanse the system of free radicals and eliminate toxins.
  • "Six Ingredient Pill" is a Traditional Chinese Medicine formulation that supports healthy kidney functioning4.

Self Help

  • Creams containing herbs that are natural vasoconstrictors such as agrimony may be helpful. You can try natural creams for under the eyes to move and increase circulation in that area and to help repair the skin cells. Creams and lotions that contain some combination of the following nutrients can be helpful: hyaluronic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, rose hips, cucumber, and green tea.
  • Sleep Get enough sleep
  • Don't rub your eyes
  • Diet: Eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet, drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks. These go a long way in preventing circles and wrinkles.
  • Don't smoke
  • Sunscreen. Use a sunscreen when outside
  • Possible remedies.
    Lemon and tomato combinations can also be helpful for dark circles. Apply a mixture of lemon and tomato juice (equal parts) two times a day. Or make a paste out of 1 tsp. tomato juice, 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, pinch turmeric powder, 1 tsp. flour. Apply around eyes. Leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing (the turmeric may color your skin temporarily). Turmeric-pineapple paste (paste of turmeric with pineapple juice) on the skin under your eyes may help. Almond oil massaged under and around eyes at bedtime, daily for two weeks helps remove dark circles and is an excellent "skin food."
  • Purple-Gold Formula is a Chinese formulation that often reduces the darkness under the eyes. It is a combination of four Chinese herbs including Lithospermum, Coiix, Licorice, and Dong Gui as well as vitamin E.

    "Due to continued steroid medication, I still have very severe "moon face" with horribly hooded eyes, extremely discolored eyelids and deep under eye dark circles and bags. I am told moon face will last months, maybe years. I have tried every cream and ointment I can find to help with the dark eyelids and circles/bags -- from drugstore brands to expensive names and those recommended by my Mayo dermatologist- no results, no improvements.

    "I recently stumbled across your website during a new search for products to help with the eyelids and under eyes and ordered your Purple Gold Formula. Honestly, I had no big expectations for $18. As usual, I treated only 1 eye as directed (morning and evening) so I could gauge any improvements against the other eye. To my utter amazement and delight- after 2 days I am seeing a very noticeable improvement under the eye!" I'm writing to first thank you for the product."
    --J.W., Scottsdale, AZ 06/2012

    Other Purple Gold reviews

Dark Circles News

Want to learn more? See our blog news on dark circles.


1. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, Vol 5, Issue 3, 2012, Rashmi Sarkar, Dept. Dermatology, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India
2. Roh MR, Treatment of infraorbital dark circles by autologous fat transplantation: a pilot study, Br J Dermatol. 2009 May;160(5):1022-5.
3. Roh MR, Infraorbital dark circles: Definition, causes, & treatment options. Dermatologic Surgery. 2009;35:1163.
4. Momosawa A, et al. Combined therapy using Q-switched ruby laser and bleaching treatment with tretinoin and hydroquinone for periorbital skin hyperpigmentation in Asians. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2008;121:282.

Symptoms   Causes   Self help summary   Self help discussion   News