Why you get puffy, dark circles under your eyes when you're tired

Here's how to calm them down and look well-rested fast.

Most of us have noticed dark circles under our eyes after a bad night’s sleep. But why do they show up, and what can you do about them?

What you’re seeing is actually dilated blood vessels under the skin around your eyes, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City and assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Sometimes, the tissue under your eyes will swell with fluid, making them seem puffy, too.

Since your eyelid skin is so sensitive, rubbing your eyes—like when you wake up zonked—or using irritating products can make it even darker, says Suzanne Friedler, M.D. at Advanced Dermatology PC. Plus, the thin, delicate skin there is also one reason dark circles show up so noticeably to begin with.


Dr. Jaliman says these dilated blood vessels should go away after a good night’s sleep—ideally seven or eight hours. In the meantime, coffee is your friend for more than one reason: In addition to waking you up, it makes blood vessels constrict. And when blood vessels are smaller, they're less noticeable, meaning no more darker circles.

You can put niacinamide (vitamin B) creams, retinol, or creams containing hydroquinone, Kojic acid, or licorice extract under your eyes to treat them, says Dr. Jaliman. Other fixes include putting gel ice packs, tea bags, or cucumber slices on your eyes and taking an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl.

You can also try a product like Dr. Jart+ Black Label Detox BB Beauty Balm to hide your undereye circles, says Men's Health fashion editor Dan Michel.

Undereye circles aren’t always a result of sleep deprivation, though. They could also come from smoking, allergies, excess salt, alcohol, or in rare cases, liver, kidney, or thyroid disease, says Dr. Friedler.

To minimize darkening under your eyes in the long-term, use sunscreen in that area (even in the winter) and cut the cigs and excess alcohol. And try a product like Clinique For Men Dark Spot Corrector, says Michel.


It’s also possible to develop permanent undereye circles. These sometimes come from superficial blood vessels, which you can get rid of with laser treatment if they bother you, or natural volume loss (making your skinner thinner and vessels more noticeable), which fillers can correct, says Dr. Friedler.


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