Dark under-eye circles are an inevitable symptom of sleeplessness and stress, but sometimes they can also be caused by allergies, dehydration, sun exposure, vitamin deficiencies, or genetics.1 These pesky periorbital shadows occur because super-thin under-eye skin exposes dark tissue and shallow blood vessels. Sleep deprivation causes skin to dull, making the blood vessels more visible. As the skin thins with age, dark circles and puffiness become more common.
Some attack the unwelcome pigmentation with laser techniques, chemical skin brighteners, caffeine, and fillers—all of which could create even more damage in the long run. Why resort to artificial means anyway when there are virtually endless natural solutions said to work just as well? From the old-fashioned cold spoon trick to turmeric masks and potato slices, here are 12 skin-friendly and cost-effective natural ways to get rid of dark circles.
Those who struggle with dark circles and under-eye bags often keep a pair of spoons in the freezer for quick relief in the mornings. The age-old trick is a form of cryotherapy—the cold temperature causes blood vessels to constrict while the pressure of the spoon itself accelerates lymphatic drainage.2
These days, spoons have been replaced by high-tech freezer-friendly facial rollers and massage tools. Whatever you use, apply it to your eyes for about five minutes and repeat as needed.
Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, is packed with antioxidants that promote circulation and help protect those delicate blood vessels that create unwanted coloration.3 One of the best ways to apply turmeric powder to this sensitive region is to first wet it with lemon juice and apply the nutrient-packed paste as an under-eye mask, leaving it on for about 10 minutes.4
While drinking copious amounts of caffeine to combat dark circles is deemed an unwise strategy, applying tea topically is widely recommended. The caffeine in green and black tea contains antioxidant properties that stimulate blood circulation.5 Herbal teas like chamomile are caffeine-free but help reduce inflammation and irritation.6 (As a bonus, extending the life of your morning tea bag is great practice in upcycling.)
To use, steep two tea bags in hot water for a few minutes, squeeze the liquid from them, and put them in the fridge until thoroughly chilled. Apply to your eyes for about 15 minutes and repeat as needed.
Potatoes contain a mild bleaching enzyme called catechol oxidase that reduces melanin production.7 They’re also rich in vitamin C, which stimulates collagen production—dually beneficial for aging and thinning skin.8 A traditional Ayurvedic practice for dark circles is to grate a raw potato, squeeze out its juices with a clean cloth, and apply the liquid to skin with a cotton ball. Alternatively, you can chill the whole potato in the fridge, then cut it into slices and apply to eyes for 15 to 20 minutes.
Darkness under the eyes can just as well be caused by shadows from puffiness or fine lines. Aloe vera helps with both of those as it’s an anti-inflammatory that also soothes and hydrates, reducing the chance of developing fine lines and under-eye bags over time.9
The best way to target dark circles with this multitalented succulent is to apply chilled aloe vera gel to your bottom lids overnight. The surge of hydration and cooling effect will leave you with bright and alert eyes come morning.
Like spoons, cucumbers are the quintessential cold compress. Although composed of 96% water, they also contain vitamin K, which strengthens your capillaries (blood vessel walls) and makes them less visible under the skin.10 They also reduce puffiness, dehydration, and inflammation.11 To increase the cucumber’s dark circle-fighting power, puree it with mint leaves or lemon juice—both rich in skin-brightening vitamin C—and apply the paste for 10 to 15 minutes.
One of the more unorthodox dark circle combatants, tomatoes are brimming with beauty-centric nutrients. One of the most notable is lycopene, a carotene that causes the tomato to be red in color and helps improve circulation, therefore minimizing dark pigmentation.12 With a multitude of vitamins (A, C, E, etc.), lycopene fights free radicals and protects against UV radiation that leads to darkened and damaged skin. What’s more, tomatoes contain enzymes that gently remove the top layer of dead skin.
Make a toner at home with pure tomato juice and lemon juice. Apply with a cotton ball for about 20 minutes.
Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E is a celebrated skin savior, able to protect it from UV damage, strengthen its barrier function, moisturize, and relieve burning and itching.13 Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it also wards off under-eye darkness and puffiness. Vitamin E oil can be applied directly to skin, but you can also use vitamin E-rich almond oil or wheat germ oil instead.
Keep a chilled mixture of vitamin E oil and coconut oil—praised for its high fatty acid content—in the fridge and make a daily ritual of massaging it into the delicate periorbital region to prolong the effects.
Vitamin C is a recurring theme in natural dark circle treatment. It’s a proven skin brightener that also helps build collagen to make skin more elastic and resilient. Citrus fruits are some of the richest sources of vitamin C available, and a common DIY dark circle application is orange juice with a few drops of glycerin. Glycerin is a less pure form of glycerol, a humectant that can help reduce the appearance of bruises.14 It comes from both plant and animal sources, but the former is most often used for cosmetics and food.
While you can apply this vitamin C cocktail regularly to your dark circles, you should also make sure you’re eating the recommended 65 to 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day.
Dehydration can affect your blood flow and simultaneously cause your skin to dull: the perfect storm for prominent dark circles. In more severe cases, the skin around the eyes tightens and creates a sort of sunken-in appearance. One of the best, easiest, and most natural things you can do is to drink the recommended six to eight glasses of fluid per day. Watch your alcohol and coffee intake, as caffeine-containing beverages can exacerbate dehydration.
Tired skin might appear dull or pale, better exposing shallow blood vessels. In addition to getting more sleep, elevating your head could prevent fluid from accumulating under the eye, ultimately casting tiny shadows.15
Stress can also cause dark circles because it can drain the blood from your face and send it to other organs, again leaving skin colorless. Stress and restlessness go hand in hand, so make sure you’re making time to relax and unwind.
All skin benefits from sun protection—not least the thinnest and most delicate skin of all, located just under the eye. UV exposure increases the skin’s melanin content, resulting in darker pigment (in other words, a tan). Naturally, the skin under your eyes is particularly sensitive to UV radiation and may darken quicker than the rest of your body, creating the appearance of dark circles.16
The best way to prevent this from happening? Good, old-fashioned SPF and sunglasses.
- “Dark circles under eyes — Causes.” Mayo Clinic.
- “Cold-induced cutaneous vasoconstriction in humans: Function, dysfunction and the distinctly counterproductive.” Experimental Physiology. 2019.
- “Effects of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) on Skin Health: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence.” Phytotherapy Research. 2016.
- “Overview of Skin Whitening Agents: Drugs and Cosmetic Products.” Cosmetics. 2016.
- “Caffeine’s mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use.” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2012.
- “Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future.” Molecular Medicine Reports. 2010.
- “Formation of the browning pigment melanin decoded.” ScienceDaily. 2016.
- “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.” Nutrients. 2017.
- “Aloe vera: Potential candidate in health management via modulation of biological activities.” Pharmacognosy Review. 2015.
- “Make Sure You Have These Vitamins To Keep Your Veins Healthy.” Vein Clinics of America.
- “Evaluating the potential benefits of cucumbers for improved health and skin care.” The Journal of Aging Research & Lifestyle. 2012.
- “‘Tomato pill’ improves function of blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease.” ScienceDaily. 2014.
- “Vitamin E in dermatology.” Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 2016.
- “Glycerol — Just a Moisturizer? Biological and Biophysical Effects.” Scientific Spectator.
- “Dark circles under eyes — When to see a doctor.” Mayo Clinic.
- “Dark Circles.” Sanova Dermatology.