The Dark Side of the Eye

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from my patients concerns those dreaded dark circles under the eyes. Many reveal that even when they feel energized and rested they are told by well-meaning meddlers that they ‘look tired’ or ‘should get more sleep’. Despite what most people seem to think, fatigue isn’t the only cause for dark circles under the eyes. While alcohol and late nights can both contribute, there are many other different causes for the panda eye complex. Some people are just genetically predisposed to look that way from childhood and quite often what appears to be dark circles under  the eyes is sometimes just shadows cast by puffy eyelids or hollows under the eyes that develop as a normal aspect of aging. Other causes include eczema, fluid retention, an iron deficiency, excessive exposure to the sun, an excess salt in the diet and sometimes even oversleeping can cause dark eye circles.

Mid section view of a young woman in a swimming pool

If you do suffer from the complaint take some solace in the fact that you are not alone.

A 2006 study by the cosmetics company Clinique revealed that 50 per cent of women said that dark circles and puffiness around the eyes were major beauty concerns.

Before you decide on treatment you should first determine the color of your circles. To do this, find some natural light and look straight into a mirror, then lower your chin slightly to expose the shadows under your eyes. This way, you’ll see clearly whether your circles are brown or blue. Brown circles are most prevalent among Asian and African American skin tones. They are usually triggered by chronic eye-rubbing, sun exposure, or genetics. If you are looking for an over-the-counter treatment then you should use of a cream or serum spiked with a skin brightener, like soy or citrus, which can lighten circles over a period of four to six weeks. Blue circles come from oxygenated blood pooled beneath the under-eye skin, which is often so thin that it is almost transparent and allows the blood to show through. The bad news is that blue circles often get worse with age because as we get older we lose fat in the subcutaneous tissue below the eye that masks the blue color. Over-the-counter topical creams with stimulating ingredients, like caffeine, can constrict blood vessels and temporarily boost circulation another option is potent hydrators, such as hyaluronic acid that can plump the area and push the skin up and away from the pooled blood. In some rare cases, dark circles may be a symptom of a more serious condition. Dark under-eye circles appear in a variety of serious conditions, from hypothyroidism to trichinosis (a parasitic disease that can be contracted from eating undercooked, infected pork) to certain diseases of the liver. If swelling and discoloration appears only under one eye and do not go away after a few days then it is imperative that you seek medical advice as soon as possible.

If you want a more lasting solution than concealers and over-the-counter creams can provide, then you must consult your dermatologist.

These days a wide range of procedures are available. Blue circles can be significantly diminished by a treatment called Thermage, which involves a high-tech handheld radio-frequency device. It is nonsurgical, requires no downtime, and is thought to increase the production of collagen, which builds up and tightens the skin. Another procedure to create collagen and reduce dark circles is Ulthera.  Ultrasound is used to heat the muscles and skin to create both deep and superficial collagen production without cutting or disrupting the surface of the skin. The use of ultrasound also enables practitioners to see the layers of skin, ensuring the energy is delivered to where it will have the biggest impact.  A slight visible improvement is often noticed immediately after the treatment, but more progressive and distinct results will appear over the following 2-3 months.

If hollowing is your issue and you require an immediate result then a dermal filler is the best option available. The latest product and best product available is Volbella because its new patented hyaluronic acid formula results in less swelling and it is designed to last for 12 months.

The doctor injects the filler along the tear trough, lifting the hollowing by placing small amounts of filler in the deeper subcutaneous tissue. After treatment there is often slight swelling, some redness and occasionally a small bruise so it is best to allow a few days recovery time before any social events. That said, a little bit of make-up goes a long way towards covering up any bruises. Patients are also advised to avoid strong exercise and alcohol for a day or two, as both can contribute to more swelling. Procedures that involve injectable substances should always be carried out by a well-trained aesthetic doctor or plastic surgeon, never a beautician. A good dermatologist or aesthetic physician knows that a beautiful face is a symmetrical face, but more important knows facial anatomy and where veins and arteries are. Untrained cosmeticians have been known to cause facial nerve damage and even blindness by injecting filler in the wrong place.

Whatever course of action you decide on you can rest assured that you no longer have to grin and bear those panda eyes.