The topic of dark circles within the beauty industry is one that has frustrated me for as long as I can remember. You see, I came into this world sporting an impressive pair of purple rings underneath my eyes. I have spent most of my life batting off concerns from people that I look tired, drained and unwell. Honestly, I’m fine. It’s just my dark circles.
For many, dark circles don’t come about because of lifestyle choices. Sure, things like dehydration, lack of sleep and a poor skincare routine can worsen the situation, but for people like me, dark circles are permanent fixtures. Elizabeth Hawkes, consultant ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon at the Cadogan Clinic, explains, "The term ‘dark circles’ is used to describe increased pigmentation of the under-eye and is a very common concern. The skin around the eye is unique. There is no subcutaneous fat underneath the skin, meaning it is prone to appearing darker than the rest of the face.”
I find myself frustrated by the use of the term "dark circles” in the industry because so much of the messaging implies that dark circles are our fault and can be totally reversed with one magical product. (RIP Becca's Under-Eye Brightening Corrector.) The truth is that no eye cream will eradicate dark circles. Trust me. I’ve tried them all. There is no magic product that can fix our genes. "The causes of dark circles are multifactorial but include genetics (increased melanin deposition), allergies, location of blood vessels and age-related changes,” says Hawkes.
Having said that, despite the fact that there are injectable and surgical options available (Hawkes informs me that there are procedures called lower eyelid blepharoplasty and orbital fat repositioning that can be done and that filler is another option), I’d rather try my hand at as many at-home treatments as possible until I’ve exhausted all of my options. I have found a number of things that help the situation, and it’s not all down to certain eye creams. Keep scrolling to discover the best at-home treatments for dark circles that I have tried.
1. Brightening Cream
Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Of course, there are brightening eye creams out there that can help reduce pigmentation and generally make the eye area look more radiant. "Poor skin quality can worsen the appearance of dark circles, so it’s important to keep it hydrated,” explains Hawkes. Out of all of the brightening eye creams I have tried, these are the ones that have proved most effective.
SkinCeutical's latest eye cream launch contains Proxylane, glycyrrhetinic acid, Matrixyl 3000 and caffeine which work in tandem to brighten the eye area with visible results. The texture is ultra silky, and has light-diffusing effects that make dark circles look less visible as you wear it.
You only have to take a look at the glowing reviews of this brightening eye cream to know that it really works. It delivers a visible difference on dark circles, leaving the eye area looking refreshed and bright. The gel formula is instantly cooling too, helping to de-puff the skin around the eyes.
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A lot of eye creams irritate my sensitive eyes, but this stuff keeps things looking plumped and hydrated with no signs of redness. I use it morning and night and saw a noticeable difference after a few weeks of use.
Not only does this gel-like cream look pretty on the shelf, but it’s also so wonderfully lightweight, refreshing and cooling to use. On top of that, it contains bakuchiol and peptides to boost firmness and make you look more alive.
Not only does this lightweight serum contain the super-brightening antioxidant vitamin C (which also fends off further skin damage), but it also contains milk peptides to increase collagen synthesis and plump the surrounding skin. I have a bottle of this in my stash at all times.
For when my eye area is particularly dry, this rich cream really does the job. It has an illuminating finish that helps to diffuse the look of dark circles and that generally makes the skin around my eyes look brighter and healthier.
This stuff is perfect for giving eyes that plump and hydrated look we all crave after long weekends. Formulated with rosehip oil and rosewater both of which work to help tone and nourish the skin. For best results, I'd suggest using it morning and night and it as it comes in handy swipeable stick, it's an easy one to add to the rotation.
You might not realise it, but sun damage can really affect the state of your dark circles. "You should never avoid the eye area when applying sun cream. It’s so important, particularly on the upper and lower lids. It will help to delay the signs of skin ageing (including dark circles) as well as protect against the development of small skin cancers,” warns Hawkes.
If you ask me, a great SPF is one that can be layered on. This cult option from Ultraviolet hits all the right spots both protection-wise and its all-day under makeup wearability.
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The Who What Wear UK team agree—this SPF is amazing. Its true to its name with a silky, lightweight formula and it leaves the skin primed for makeup if you're applying concealer on top too.
On top of the fact that this SPF feels like a second skin and is one of the best I’ve ever used, it contains vitamin C to boost glow and a colour-correcting tint to even out discolouration like dark circles.
3. Cleansing Balm
The skin around the eyes is incredibly delicate, and being too aggressive with your skincare application can cause damage. "Applying products should involve gently dabbing around the bony rim of the orbit with your ring finger,” advises Hawkes. While that might be something you’re already aware of, it’s important to note that the same rules apply for makeup removal. So if you’re someone who goes in heavy-handed with micellar water, you might want to think again. Hawkes reveals, "Be careful when removing eye makeup. Don’t rub the eyes excessively,” Personally, I opt for hydrating products that have slip, like a cleansing balm. Using a balm or an oil for your first cleanse to remove eye makeup means you don’t drag or damage the skin with abrasion.
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This stuff is responsible for getting me through the great spa hiatus of 2020/2021. It’s affordable but feels super luxurious and gets rid of stubborn makeup with ease.
When I’m feeling exceptionally tired and when my face looks particularly drab, I reach for this plumping balm come evening. It contains a bunch of skin-loving ingredients, including hydrating hyaluronic acid as well as plumping and restoring ceramides and peptides.
This is possibly one of my favourite beauty products of all time. I’m yet to find a waterproof mascara that this buttery balm can’t beat.
If you’re a fan of Elemis’s cult Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, you might have noticed that the essential oil content means it gets particularly eye-watering. However, this new naked version is fragrance- and essential oil-free, meaning it’s perfect for removing eye makeup.
Using retinol around the eye area might seem odd at first, but believe me when I say it can make all of the difference. The myth that retinol thins the skin is a very abundant one, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. "A vitamin A derivative like retinol helps in several ways. Over time, it will improve skin smoothness and reduce pigmentation,” says Hawkes. The trick is to avoid any irritation where possible. Look for gentle formulas and start off using them only once or twice a week. With consistent application, skin will build up a tolerance, and you can up the usage.
This clever product harnesses the power of bioflavinoids to brighten dark circles. Working in tandem with slow-release retinol and hyaluronic acid, it also helps to address fine lines and dryness too.
If you’re dubious about using retinol creams around your eyes because you’re prone to sensitivity, this one might also be for you. This formula uses slow-release retinol that delivers its dosage in gradual increments to minimise irritation and damage.
Practically every beauty editor I know rates Medik8, so it's no surprise that the brand's eye cream has made it onto this list. It comes in three strengths, so you can pick which % retinol suits your needs and skin best.
A great affordable option for those just starting their retinol journey, The Ordinary serum will help reduce the appearance of pores and fine lines.
5. Facial Roller
I know that facial rollers seem like a gimmick, but I’m sure that my dark circles have diminished since I started using them more religiously. While stone rollers (such as jade and rose quartz) heat up a little too quickly to make a difference on my skin, I have found some products that deliver instantly brighter results.
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There is no better feeling than popping these in the fridge overnight and applying them come morning on tired eyes—they work great to wake up the eyes and help massage in your eye cream.
The rollerball head of Jones Raod's serum helps to cool and depuff as you apply, and the added multi-vitamins helps to brighten dark circles.
You might have seen these on Instagram. Any sort of ice globe that can be rolled over and around the eyes to help reduce puffiness is a total winner for me. The trick is to make sure you have some sort of cream or serum applied first to allow slip.
I love how small this roller is. Unlike so many others, the size allows you to really get into the inner corners and help awaken the whole eye area.
Possibly one of my favourite eye products out there, this eye serum contains a whole bunch of ingredients to deliver hydration and radiance and minimise dark circles. Plus, it has a built-in metal roller that makes it a dream to apply.
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.
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