I came into this world showcasing an impressive pair of dark rings under both of my eyes and, as I’ve got older, the situation is still pretty severe.
In fact, I’d go as far to say that the purple half moons that sit permanently on my face are my biggest beauty insecurity. Forget my temperamental cystic acne and untameable female moustache, my dark circles trump them all.
It’s suffice to say that I’ve tried more than a few products in a bid to ditch my dark circles. Over the last 10 years, I have trialled hundreds of tinted eye creams, cooling eye masks and brightening treatments, but unfortunately the results tend to be short-lived. As the years have gone on, I’ve found myself getting ever-more frustrated when a new beauty product that promises to ‘banish dark circles’ hits the shelves.
While there’s no doubt that a heavy night of drinking or a busy week work cause my circles to worsen, there really seems to be no explanation for the extremity of their appearance the other 99% of the time.
In an attempt to get to the bottom of my dark circle issue, I have spent a lot of my time as a beauty writer grilling experts on everything they know and researching new ways to help tackle the problem. Somewhere between the marketing, adverts and Instagram #sponcon lies the truth about tackling chronic dark circles, and here are the most important lessons I’ve learned…
More often than not, it’s out of your control
The most important discovery I have made in the last few years is that lifestyle choices play only a small roll. “Eyelid skin [including skin around the eye] is unique to the rest of body. The eyelid layers are skin, orbicularis muscle, septum and fat (eyebags). Whereas in the rest of the face there is a subcutaneous layer of fat directly underneath the skin. For this reason, eyelid skin is prone to appear darker than the rest of the face,” says Miss Elizabeth Hawkes, Consultant Oculoplastic Surgeon at the Cadogan Clinic.
So why do some people have darker eye areas than others? While there’s no question that certain changeable factors such as smoking and dehydration can worsen dark circles, chronic cases usually have another explanation.
Miss Hawkes explains that several factors can cause dark circles. “Genetics can cause pigmented skin due to ethnicity and higher levels of melanin, especially if you have a family history of dark circles. Similarly, poor circulation can also cause vessels to dilate cause the appearance of circles.”
Over-the-counter creams can’t totally reverse the issue
Despite eye creams no doubt working to plump and hydrate the eye area and tackle some causes of temporary dark circles, they don’t have the ability to totally eradicate the pigmentation.
“Topical creams are good for dehydration & allergy relief but they will not restore volume. They will not cause the blood vessels under the eyes to constrict, nor will they reverse a family history of dark circles,” says Miss Hawkes.
While it’s true that no topical eye cream is going to solve my problem, that’s not to say I don’t still rely on them in my daily routine. I find that having dry, dehydrated skin around my eyes only highlights the dark pigment. If I’m having a particularly bad skin day, restoring the moisture around my eyes is my first port of call. Origins Ginzing Brighening Eye Cream, £22, not only offers a shot of hydration, but also has a subtle tint to help camouflage and brighten.
Treatment is no joke
Your average beauty cream might not be able to offer much, but there are effective treatments that exist – they’re just not to be embarked upon lightly.
To ditch your dark circles for good, visit a medical specialist who might be able to assess the underlying cause of your issue and suggest a possible treatment. Miss Hawkes reveals: “There is a prescription only treatment that will help reduce the production of melanin in the skin which can be a useful tool in improving the appearance of dark circles, however it has to be used under the guidance of a specialist only.”
If your issue can’t be helped by melanin reduction, other options are available, but they still require a trip (or a few) to a clinic for an ophthalmic examination. “The treatment depends on the cause, but some potential options include a chemical peel, laser to the eyelid vessels or dermal filler to restore volume,” says Miss Hawkes.
Concealer is a lifesaver (if you know how to use it)
While my dark circles have the ability to ruin my day if they’re particularly bad, mastering the art of discreet coverage makes them so much more bearable to live with.
Initially, I spent years smothering my whole eye area in thick, full-coverage concealer, therefore spending most of teenage years rocking serious white rings around my eyes. After picking up the tips and tricks of some of the best makeup artists in the biz, I’ve learned that less, more precise application is all you need – providing you’ve got the right shade. Now, I’m never without a pot of Nars Soft Matte Complete Concealer, £24.
Attempting to disguise dark circles might feel like rocket science at first, but once you’ve got the knack for it, it’s a truly revolutionary skill.
To share the joys and make sure you’re getting the most out of your concealer, Rachel O’Donnell, MAC Global Senior Artist reveals her three top tips:
1. Covering dark circles effectively is not about the amount of product you apply but the TONE of product. You want to opt for warm, rosy tones to colour correct. It is very important that you do this before adding any “brightening” products as if you do not colour correctly first the dark circles will still come through.
2. Apply concealer only on the dark areas then use whatever is left on the brush to lightly sweep and blend into your foundation. I tend to never add concealer all the way up to the lashline unless I’m adding eyeshadow on top – it makes the eyes look smaller as you are taking out the natural contour.
3. You want to look for a concealer that is creamy or liquid enough to easily apply and blend but have enough pigment to neutralise the area. My go to formula is MAC Pro Longwear Concealer, £19.50.