What Really Causes Dark Circles Under Your Eyes

Have you ever woken up after fewer than seven or eight hours of sleep with dark circles under your eyes and wondered how on earth they got there? While many believe lack of sleep is the cause of dark circles under your eyes, this is not entirely true. 

"There are a variety of different reasons that dark circles appear but, contrary to popular belief, fatigue isn't actually one of the main causes," ocuplastic surgeon and aesthetic doctor, Dr. Maryam Zamani, told Vogue. Instead, Paula Begoun, founder of Paula's Choice Skincare, explains, "Not getting enough sleep doesn't cause dark circles; rather, it exaggerates their appearance." 

So, what really causes dark circles under your eyes?

According to Zamani, dark circles are generally are simple hyperpigmentation, which is caused by genetics. "Individuals of Asian and African skin types are predisposed to having hyperpigmentation under the eyes because there is a common genetic trait of very thin lower eyelid skin," she said. "This allows veins to show through, resulting in a darker appearance." Dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross agrees, adding, "If you pinch the skin and lift it off the surface and it stays brown, this means you have a pigment problem."

Diet, sun exposure, and weather can contribute to dark circles

Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by factors other than genetics, like diet, sun exposure, and even the weather. Dermatologist Heidi Waldorf told Good Housekeeping that age can also play a role. "Since skin becomes more translucent with age, blood vessels appear more prominent," she explained. In other words, as you age, your skin thins, meaning you're more likely to experience hyperpigmentation.  

Smoking is another leading cause of hyperpigmentation and dark circles under the eyes. "Research has shown that smoking cigarettes and inhaling second-hand smoke worsens dark circles, as does being overweight and having high cholesterol or triglycerides — both of which can be reduced via dietary changes, medication, and exercise," says Bedoun. "Essentially, anything you do to make yourself healthier will make some amount of difference in the appearance of dark circles," she continued. While there are other ways you can try to get rid of under-eye circles, paying attention to your overall health might be the first step.