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8 Causes of Dark Under-Eye Circles That Aren’t Fatigue

Most everyone has experienced bags under their eyes after a night short on sleep. In fact, a lack of restful sleep is the most common reason dark under-eye circles occur. As the skin is thinnest in this area, it can be easier to see the blood vessels beneath the skin, making the area appear darker.

And while dark under eye circles are not cause for medical concern, they may be an indication of poor habits or that the body is deficient in something. Beyond fatigue, here are eight other reasons you may have them.

1. Allergies

Allergies can take quite a toll on our bodies—from sneezing and watery eyes to an itchy throat and sinuses. Nasal congestion is also a common symptom of seasonal allergies, and one that may be contributing to your dark under-eye circles.

According to WebMD, “a stuffed-up nose can lead to swelling of the blood vessels near your eyes and nose, causing the skin to appear darker.” Itching or rubbing the eyes can also emphasize the discoloration. The source adds that dark circles may be particularly prominent during hay fever season.

2. Stress

Stress is the culprit of a wide variety of bodily issues, including pesky dark under-eye circles. If experienced on a chronic basis, stress can affect one’s ability to get sufficient sleep. A lack of needed rest “can make the skin appear more pale and the eyes more sunken, both of which can make dark circles more noticeable,” notes WebMD.

Additionally, when the body is under stress more blood is sent to the vital organs, which can leave the face looking pale—pronouncing the appearance of dark circles. High stress can also damage the capillaries surrounding the eyes, causing them to leak blood. As the blood oxidizes, it will appear dark purple.

3. Dehydration

A lack of sleep isn’t the only deficiency that can cause dark circles. When not enough water is consumed the skin cells can shrink, causing dryness and a lack of elasticity.

And since the skin under the eyes is so thin to begin with, Livestrong.com says “it becomes transparent when you are dehydrated, thus making the circles under your eyes more visible.”

4. Heredity

Those dark under-eye circles? You may have got them from your mama. According to Women’s Health magazine, dark circles may be the result of a genetic condition called periorbital hyperpigmentation.

The source says that it is particularly common among people with darker skin tones, as they have “more melanin in their skin, and sometimes they produce extra pigmentation below their eyes.”

5. Sun Exposure

Soaking up some rays may give you a nice sun-kissed glow, but it may also be the culprit of your dark circles. The Mayo Clinic says this is because sun exposure “prompts your body to produce more melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.”

Women’s Health magazine adds that too much exposure to UV radiation can also “damage the DNA in skin and kill them off.” Dark circles become more pronounced as a result of this damage affecting the vessels in the membrane under the eyes.

6.  Thinning Skin

Aging also plays a large factor in the development of under-eye circles. As you age, the skin naturally loses some of the fat and collagen that supports the skin, which can make the blood vessels in the under-eye area more obvious.

Women’s Health magazine points out that the skin’s elasticity will also weaken, leading to more sagging of the skin, further pronouncing your bags.

7. Unhealthy Habits

The liver isn’t the only part of the body affected by drinking alcohol. WebMD says that dark circles may become more prominent because “alcohol allows the small blood vessels in the skin to dilate, or expand.”

Smoking is another unhealthy habit that can increase the appearance of bags under the eyes. The source says they will occur regardless of whether a person smokes traditional or electronic cigarettes.

8. Anemia

Dark circles may also indicate an underlying health concern, such an anemia—a lack of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, which carry oxygen to the cells.

Anemia is most commonly due to an iron deficiency, which WebMD says “affects the circulation of the blood and can lead to dark circles under the eyes.” Women are particularly at risk of developing iron-deficient anemia due to menstrual cycles and insufficient nutrients in the diet.


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