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From makeup to hairstyling, TikTok is bursting with beauty hacks and while plenty of them are not particularly recommended (like stuffing your lip gloss with chilli flakes for a plumper pout – please don't try this at home!), others are piquing the interest of beauty enthusiasts and experts everywhere.
One skincare gripe TikTokers always happen to find new hacks for is dark under-eye circles. They are very common and entirely normal but with more of a focus on no-makeup makeup and bare skin lately, their appearance may bother some people.
What causes dark under-eye circles and what can you do to minimise them?
Claire Williams, skincare expert and founder and CEO of WOW Facial, explains that dark circles are the "deep, dark purple muscle, called the orbicularis muscle, that shows through the thin skin in this area." Under-eye skin is typically a lot more delicate so any darkness is more likely to show. That said, it's important not to confuse dark circles with eye bags. "The main difference between the two is that dark circles tend to simply be a darker area of skin underneath the eye, whereas eye bags cause swelling and puffiness around the eyes," says Dr Mahsa Saleki of SAS Aesthetics. "There are different treatments for both."
There are many things that can result in or exacerbate dark under-eye circles. "Genetics are the main cause of dark circles under the eyes," says Dr Mahsa, "but there are many other factors that can contribute, including lack of sleep and tiredness, physical stress, hormones, the natural ageing process, allergies and excessive alcohol consumption." Dr Mariam Adegoke, skin expert and founder of Adegoke Wellness Clinic, adds that puffiness and hollowing (both natural results of ageing) can cast shadows, causing dark circles. However, eye bags and dark circles are two different things.
Can turmeric reduce dark under-eye circles?
It's impossible to scroll through TikTok without spotting a natural DIY remedy for skin gripes. One popular concoction for supposedly minimising the appearance of dark circles is a honey and turmeric mask, as demonstrated by TikToker Sonali. Some TikTokers swap turmeric for buttermilk or yoghurt, as both contain lactic acid (typically an exfoliating ingredient). The bright yellow turmeric contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant which protects skin against environmental aggressors such as pollution. It is said to brighten the skin but Dr Adegoke says that the evidence is limited and more robust research is needed. As for honey? There is a low chance that it could penetrate the skin to make a real difference to under-eye circles in the long term, says Claire, as it's just too thick.
Still, I was intrigued by the thousands of views and likes and promises of an instant 'fix' so I decided to whip up my own version: a teaspoon of honey to one teaspoon of ground turmeric. I let it work its magic for 15 minutes but it only stained my skin bright yellow (it wouldn't budge, not even with oil cleanser!) and didn't do anything to minimise my circles. The only plus is that the honey felt really moisturising. I know it's a popular remedy but I wouldn't recommend this one.
Can facial massage reduce dark under-eye circles?
From gua sha to jade rolling, facial massage techniques have been around for centuries but they are suddenly huge. According to Dr Adegoke, the idea of massage is that it helps lymphatic drainage (fluid under the eyes, which causes puffiness). Lately, TikTokers like Lena are championing massage without tools, using their fingers to tap the under-eye area in a bid to minimise dark circles. Unfortunately, Dr Adegoke says that there is no evidence that it works or has long-lasting benefits.
I wanted there to be some method in it and used the technique every morning and night while applying my eye serum for over two weeks. While it was relaxing and forced me to take a couple of moments to focus on myself and my routine, I can't say it made much of a difference. However, Claire says that it's not a fad. As well as promoting drainage, she says it can "tone up the skin, making dark circles less noticeable over time" but to achieve results you should combine it with "plenty of sleep, water and a good eye cream." It might be worth a try and being consistent with it but, personally, I'm not convinced.
Can vitamin C reduce dark under-eye circles?
Do eye creams, serums or gels that target the under-eye area really do anything? It's all in the ingredients, with vitamin C being one to try. Vitamin C regulates pigmentation and makes skin appear brighter to a limited degree. It also has another benefit. "Vitamin C eye serum helps, as it can stimulate collagen and elastin, which adds more density to the skin in this area and may reduce fine lines and wrinkles that cause shadowing," says Claire. This could potentially make the circles appear less dark. Claire adds that not all vitamin C products are created equal, though. "Some are more irritating than others and would not be suitable for around the eye area," she says, so gentle formulations are best.
An eye treatment with targeted ingredients is probably your best bet but like the above treatments, good results will take time, which is why I didn't see an immediate change. I love Drunk Elephant's C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream, $122, which is ultra moisturising and doesn't irritate my sensitive skin. You could take your gentle facial vitamin C serum up to your eye area, too. I like La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum, $72, which doesn't cause the dreaded vitamin C tingle and makes skin glow.
Vitamin C eye masks are also everywhere right now. "Using a cold compress causes the blood vessels to constrict, theoretically lessening dark circles," says Dr Adegoke, adding that any improvement is probably only temporary. Cooling masks are probably better suited to puffiness or eye bags, which are a separate issue, and I presume that's why I didn't see a noticeable difference while using them. They are very soothing, though.
Dermatologists say that eye products containing caffeine may also help brighten under-eye skin to a small degree. The Sunday Riley Auto-Correct Brightening and Depuffing Eye Contour Cream, $96, is adored by skincare enthusiasts worldwide. An affordable alternative would be The Inkey List's Caffeine Eye Cream, $15, which has great reviews.
Dr Adegoke suggests retinol eye creams if vitamin C or caffeine doesn't sway you. "Retinol increases cell turnover, is anti-inflammatory, stimulates collagen and elastin, improves the elasticity and texture of the skin and fades hyperpigmentation, creating healthier skin all round," she says. However, retinol can be very irritating, especially on delicate under-eye skin. If you want to give it a go, I'd recommend the bareMinerals Ageless Retinol Eye Cream, $70, which uses a gentle, plant-based version of retinol.
What is the best concealer for hiding dark under-eye circles?
Though temporary, makeup is the only thing that minimises dark under-eye circles fast, so it gets my vote as the best trick. I have to sing Fenty Beauty's praises here and the Bright Fix Eye Brightener, $37, is one of the best concealers I've tried recently. It's much lighter than other concealer formulas, which tend to collect in fine lines and creases. It's easy to blend using just your fingers, stays in place for hours and tones down the appearance of dark circles without making them look obviously cloaked in heavy product.
What are the alternative treatments for reducing dark under-eye circles?
Aside from skincare or makeup, Dr Mahsa mentions that there are a handful of alternative ways you can treat dark circles under the eyes, should you want to. "One of the most popular in-clinic treatments is tear trough filler, which is a a hyaluronic-based filler that is injected to treat the hollowed out area under the eyes," she explains. This area can often appear dark in colour thanks to the shadow the hollow creates. "Results are immediate and last up to 12 months," says Dr Mahsa. Prescribed creams can also help brighten the area, says Dr Mahsa, and some skin peels can also be beneficial.
Finally, Dr Mahsa says that dark circles can potentially be a sign of a health condition such as anaemia or iron deficiency, so if you are worried, it's important to visit your GP. "I'd recommend to always see a specialist before undergoing any kind of treatment for under-eyes," Dr Mahsa concludes.