4 Dark-Circle Cures (That Actually Work)

Photo: ThinkstockBy Jenny Bailly

The Cause: Puffiness

The Cure: Undereye bags cast shadows that make you look exhausted no matter how well-rested you are. First, cut out salt and alcohol, which lead to water retention and exacerbate swelling. Sleep on an extra pillow to drain the fluid that can accumulate around the eyes when you're lying down, and if you still notice puffiness in the morning, try a cold compress. Many of Wechsler's model patients--as in, the frequently photographed (not necessarily perfectly compliant) women who fill her waiting room--chill a teaspoon in ice water, then use it to firmly massage the fluid down and away from their undereye area before their fashion shoots. If the puffiness is present all the time, no matter what you do to reduce it, you are probably dealing with fat pads that protrude with age; unfortunately, they can only be removed by a plastic surgeon through a procedure called a lower blepharoplasty.

The Quick Fix: Trace an illuminating concealer pen (like Maybelline DreamLumi Touch Highlighting Concealer, $8; drugstores) over the shadowy space just beneath the bags. This makes that area look less deep, so puffiness is less prominent. (Never put concealer on the bags themselves; this will only accentuate them.)

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The Cause: Pigmentation

The Cure: To determine whether excess pigment is the culprit behind your dark circles, press on the discoloration. Does the darkness lessen? Then you're probably dealing with blood vessels underneath the skin. (See the next slide for your cure.) If the darkness remains, your dark circles are caused by hereditary pigmentation or sun exposure (or both). The most effective fix: Apply sunscreen right up to your lower lashline every day. A physical sunscreen (like SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50, $32; SkinCeuticals.com) is least likely to irritate your eyes. Wechsler also recommends investing in large sunglasses for further protection. Avoid rubbing your eyes, because friction causes a darkening of the skin (anywhere on the body, but especially in the delicate undereye area). If your pigmentation is superficial, it can be lightened with certain topical ingredients, like hydroquinone, licorice and kojic acid. To treat deeper discoloration, dermatologists can use the Fraxel laser, which minimizes darkness over three to five sessions.

The Quick Fix: Shadows caused by pigment are usually brown, maybe a little yellow. A slightly peachy concealer helps counteract them. Tap a concentrated, creamy formula (like AmazingConcealer, $42; AmazingCosmetics.com) on the dark areas only.

The Cause: Blood Vessels

The Cure: If your dark circles lighten when you press on them, they're likely caused by blood vessels showing through your skin. The thicker your skin, the less visible the vessels will be. Apply a retinoid cream underneath your eyes every night to build collagen and plump your skin. (Ask your dermatologist for a prescription or try an over-the-counter version like RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream, $22; drugstores.) Top the retinoid with a rich eye cream that will reduce potential irritation and further fortify the skin. Allergies can cause the blood vessels underneath the eyes to dilate, worsening shadows; an over-the-counter antihistamine, like Claritin, will help.

The Quick Fix: These dark circles are usually blue-tinged so are best camouflaged with a creamy, yellow-based concealer (like Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer, $23; BobbiBrownCosmetics.com). Lightly tap the concealer over the discolored areas.

The Cause: Hollows

The Cure: When dark circles are created by hollowness under the eyes, the only long-term solution is the injection of a hyaluronic-acid filler (like Restylane) to replump the area. Many doctors now favor Belotero, the most recently FDA-approved hyaluronic-acid filler, to minimize sunken areas under the eyes. It doesn't create the blue tinge that can sometimes result when other hyaluronic-acid fillers are injected beneath thin skin.

The Quick Fix: An illuminating concealer (like Neutrogena Healthy Skin Brightening Eye Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 25, $12; Neutrogena.com) makes hollow areas look fuller. Don't forget to blend it at the innermost corners of the eyes, which often cast the darkest shadows.

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