I've Had Dark Circles All My Life, and These Are the Only Products That Work

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.”


(Image credit: @SHANNONLAWLOR)

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.

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2. SPF

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.

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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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4. Retinol

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.

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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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Next Up: 21 Affordable Anti-Ageing Skincare Products That Truly Work

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Freelance Beauty Editor

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.