Are people constantly asking if you got enough sleep last night? Even if you slept for a solid 8 hours. Let us understand about the science behind those dark circles under your eyes, and all the things that might cause them.


Dark circles underneath your eyes is called periorbital dark circles now. It refers to the dark skin tone often caused by the visibility of blood vessels around your eyes.

There is a simple reason those eye bags look all purple-ish, just check out your wrists. If you can see the veins under your skin, they might look blue/green/purple depending upon your undertone, even though the blood inside them is red. That’s because of the way that different wavelengths of light interact with your skin and blood vessels. It appears green/ red/ purple instead of red because they have a shorter wavelength than red.

The area under your eyes appears darker because the skin is thinner there, and does not have much fat. Upper and lower eyelid skin is the thinnest in the body, its 0.5mm thickness when healthy. That means that more tiny blood vessels can show through. People with darker skin have more of a pigment called melanin in their skin. And sometimes they produce extra melanin below their eyes – a condition called periorbital hyperpigmentation.

A lot of people think their dark circles are created by hyperpigmentation but there are multiple reasons for dark circles. We’re going to be breaking down different reasons about what causes dark circles.



Shadowing is not true hyperpigmentation. The effect of shadowing creates hyperpigmentation appearance. The easiest thing to think about is even just the shadow coming from the orbital rim the bony structure. It just casts a shadow underneath the eye.

Tear trough depression in dark circles

The other thing that causes shadowing is tear trough depression and some people are just born with deeper tear troughs. Tear trough depression is a sunken appearance of the area around the eye, casting a dark shadow over the lower eyelid. These depressions with time and with age can cause those depressions to get deeper. Hence that’s the shadowing that creates these darkened appearances.


You have this little gland in the brain called the pituitary. It sends signals down through the body in the form of hormone to different tissues. One of the tissues that it controls is the adrenal glands. You have two adrenal glands deep into your abdomen. The adrenal glands produce a lot of different hormones but there’s one that is called cortisol (stress hormone). The pituitary sends a signal down to the adrenal when there’s perceived stress and that pituitary hormone is called ACTH. It hits the adrenal and then the adrenal produces cortisol. Once the desired amount of cortisol is produced it reaches up to the pituitary and tells the pituitary to turn off. Then it stops producing ACTH.

When you go through a period of stress called a chronic stress which could include loneliness, losses, cortisol prednisone medications Etc. what’s going to happen is your body is going to develop cortisol resistance. What happens in this situation is because of the excess communication (ACTH) coming down from the pituitary gland due to chronic stress, your receptors kind of shuts down and inhibit(stops) the absorption of cortisol into the cells. This is a protective mechanism.

Dark circles

Now this would create a deficiency of cortisol. So the communication is being sent but it’s not being received so it’s kind of like talking to someone but they’re completely ignoring you. So what are you going to do is you’re going to start shouting at them and that’s exactly what the pituitary starts doing, it starts to increase its level of communication (ACTH).  Your pituitary thinks that you have a cortisol deficiency but it is just resistance in the receptor. So, anytime you have too much ACTH you’re going to have a big spike in this other hormone called melanocyte stimulating hormone and that’s where you get the increase in melanin which is that darkening of your skin and very commonly it can occur right underneath your eyes. This is how stress causes dark circles.


People usually blame their dark circles on tiredness, and there probably is a correlation. When you’re tired or stressed, your body produces more of a hormone called cortisol to get more glucose into your bloodstream to give you the energy to stay awake.

Dark circles due to tiredness

Over time, cortisol constricts some blood vessels and dilates others, so it’s possible that the vessels under your eyes can get a little bigger, which means darker eye circles.


The lymph nodes go all around the eyes. If your sinuses are congested with mucus you have a lot of lymphatic congestion. This congestion restricts blood drainage from these areas, causing small veins below the eyes to get wider and pool with blood. The veins is kind of blue which will look kind of darker underneath the eyes because you’re seeing this congested backflow of blood and lymph. This gives appearance of dark circles.


Allergic reactions can trigger your immune system to release these compounds called histamines, which causes blood vessels to dilate. What it means by that is there could be dilated blood vessels under the skin which can give a rosy appearance to the inner aspect of the lower eyelid, itching and rubbing your eyes can make any puffiness worse.

Dark circles due to old age

Unfortunately, as we get older, we lose even more fat underneath our skin and it gets thinner. Which means more, darker circles.


Having dark circles can give the wrong impression about you and how you feel. In a world where first and last impressions are so important, it’s understandable why people are seeking all kinds of solutions for this common issue. Popular strategies used by many people is the application of over-the-counter creams which make claims which they never live up to. While creams can moisturize the skin, they are limited in addressing any other anatomic issues which if addressed can result in more significant benefit.

Dark circles treatment

Just be aware that there are multiple causes, a lot of contributing factors. The treatment that you’re going to do to augment these, really need to offset whatever’s causing the dark circles for you. Look for the cause and then look for the treatment.

If you are interested in some DIY mask for your dark circles and for more such article do check out our website http://medicoved.com

Author : Dr. Easminara Shaikh

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