Dark circles, raccoon eyes, bags or periorbital circles are all names for those dark rings we get from time to time under our eyes. But before you go slapping on cucumbers like Sybil from Fawlty Towers, it doesn’t hurt to know a little about the underlying causes.

The Science behind dark eye circles.

Dark circles occur because the skin underneath the eye area is the thinnest skin on our bodies – 0.5mm thick as opposed to 2mm everywhere else. This thinness means the skin is translucent, allowing the underlying veins to show through, especially when those veins are dilated, when water builds up, or when the skin is made even more see-through due to a number of causes.

Causes Of Dark Circles

Waking up with bags under our eyes, most of us will immediately think that we should have stayed in bed another couple of hours. To some extent this is true, but there are many more reasons for those bags to appear. Many of us are born with naturally light skin, which will always be more susceptible to discolouring because it allows underlying colour to get through.

Iron deficiency, which causes anemia, means that not enough oxygen is making it into the body tissues, which causes ageing through the breakdown of natural collagen. This in turn tends to make the skin even more thin and translucent. Iron deficiency can also occur temporarily during menstruation and pregnancy. A bad diet, low in antioxidants, is another reason for skin to age and thin.

Some more mundane causes of raccoon eyes are colds or sinus problems, allergies, sleeping in make-up, or anything else which irritates the eyes.

But even crying or eating salty food will attract water to your undereye area and exacerbate the problem. Aspirin or other medicines which dilate the veins will also make darkness more visible.

Avoid and Treat Dark Circles

Naturally the cosmetic industry would have us believe that only the latest ultra-hyper-Q10-anti-rectinol super cream can help us out with this problem. Naturally, this isn’t entirely true. If you are genetically programmed to have light skin, then only make-up can really help. If not, however, then there are several ways to avoid or get rid of those bags.

Smoking is one of the main causes of skin ageing. It thins the skin and allows the underlying darkness to show through, so that’s another good reason to quit for good. Eating well, including lots of fruits and vegetables to keep the skin oxygenated, as does exercise and deep-breathing. Exercise will also help you to control stress and sleep better, which will immediately show on your face.

If you are suffering from allergies, sinus problems or a cold, get treatment for them and take the pressure off your eyes. Also wash them regularly, first with warm water, then splash with cold water. This increases circulation, soothes and cleanses the eyes.

If you sleep on your stomach or side, you are helping the blood to converge on your head and face. Sleeping on one particular side long-term can even lead to permanent bags forming on that side, so try sleeping on your back and using an extra pillow.

And once you have taken all these steps, feel free to slap on the cucumbers or grated potatoes. While they don’t have much use medically, it will help to cool, calm and soothe the eyes, and will draw out some of the liquid causing puffiness.

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