How To Get Rid Of Under Eye Dark Circles & Bags, With Tips From An Expert

Illustration: Anna Sudit
Dear Daniela,
I have the WORST dark circles. I swear I have them even when I get lots of sleep, they’re just so grey and sullen and make me look permanently tired. Skipping concealer just isn’t an option without people asking if I’m sick, but to be honest, even concealer doesn’t do that much – just minimal brightening. Am I stuck with these forever? I swear I have them in my baby photos!
Linh, 29
For a mum, my mum didn’t go in too heavy on the old wives’ tales. She never stopped me pulling funny faces "in case the wind changed". I was never told to eat my crusts so my hair would go curly (though to be honest, I don’t need any convincing when it comes to carbs). One thing I do remember hearing a lot, though? "If you don’t get some sleep, you’ll wake up with bags under your eyes."
The cruel cosmic joke of it all is that like you, Linh, I pretty much have perma-bags. I’m a good sleeper usually, but even after a blissful nine-hour weekend snooze, I have a touch of the grey under my eyes. So believe me when I tell you that I can definitely relate here. I’ve tried a lot of topical solutions, from gels to creams, thick, gloopy concealers to lightweight highlighters, and my reaction to most of them? Meh. I’ve even considered getting the suckers injected away (Kim K’s makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic told me in a soothing tone, "You know we’ve got procedures for that in the States, right?" when I quizzed him on concealing them). I decided to put your questions to oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Maryam Zamani, who’s seen more eyes than Argus Panoptes.
"Many people think there is nothing that can be done, but there are a number of treatments that can help improve this area," confirmed Dr. Zamani. "There is some genetic component to dark circles. Some ethnicities, such as Asian and southeast Asian can have hereditary hyperpigmentation around the eyes, which is difficult to treat. Some individuals have a family history of puffy lower eyelids from fat prolapse. Tear troughs and some degree of puffiness is inevitable in all populations as part of the normal ageing process," she added. As a beauty writer, I feel like dark circles and cellulite are on a similar footing – every brand claims to have something to treat them, without ever really explaining how it works. Dr. Zamani noted that "caffeine, or bark extract can help with pigmentation caused by the visibility of the veins. Hydration can also help – hydrated skin is plump and therefore creates more volume, making dark circles less noticeable. Brightening ingredients like vitamin C or retinols can also help thicken and brighten the skin in the lower eyelids."
Dr. Zamani’s onto something – of all the things I’ve tried on my dark circles, it’s The Ordinary’s Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG that’s made the most difference. Plus it comes in a 30ml bottle, unlike the 15ml or smaller sizes you usually get for eye products, making the £5.80 price tag go unbelievably far. Dr. Zamani also has a product in her MZ Skin Line called Soothe & Smooth Eye Complex, which has peptides, hyaluronic acid and ceramides to hydrate and replenish the delicate eye area, making it a good option if you’re also concerned about fine lines and wrinkles.
If you feel that it’s the whole eye area, not just the sallow skin that’s making you look tired, consider a more holistic approach. "Other than sleep and hydration, in-clinic treatments can help," explained Dr. Zamani. "Microneedling can help with collagen production and thickening (therefore densifying) the skin in this area. Also, fractional ablative lasers and radiofrequency can have good results in improving this area. The tighter this skin, the better the overall appearance of the lower eyelids." (It goes without saying that you’ll need to see a specialist if you want any of these done, so do your homework and be prepared to pony up for an oculoplastic surgeon like Dr. Zamani.)
Now your skincare’s in place, onto the fun bit: concealer. My go-to combination is BECCA Under Eye Brightening Corrector, followed by Charlotte Tilbury The Retoucher, £22 for a tiny pot may seem steep, but the orange-hued cream cancels out greyness instantly, and you use a hair’s breadth on each eye. A lick of concealer on top (and a dust of loose powder) keeps everything perky and bright. Oh, and you must curl your lashes. It’s non-negotiable, especially if you have long lashes. They’ll only make your eyes look smaller if you don’t. If all else fails? A slick of red lipstick and trust me, no one will be looking at your eyes.
One more thing. I asked Dr. Zamani about the whole sleep thing, and: "The body replenishes and rejuvenates as we sleep. Without proper sleep, we’re too tired for our bodies to do the work needed for healing and rejuvenating. This also means that our veins, including those under the eyes, can become more restricted, causing dark circles." Well, she is a mum. So she would say that.
Good luck,
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

More from Skin Care

R29 Original Series