Often, fatigue gets the blame for dark circles. But that’s not actually the case. The real exhaustion-related culprit is actually lack of sleep, rather than a need to. And, surprisingly, the opposite is true: oversleeping can cause dark circles as well.

Dark circles have an awful lot of culprits along with sleep-related causes. But at base, it’s all linked to the thin skin around your eye and the blood vessels beneath. Certain conditions thin the collagen in your skin, exposing blood vessels. Illnesses and fluid retention can also dilate those vessels, increasing the darkness beneath your skin. Here are some of the things in your life that might be causing dark circles.



Besides not getting enough or too much sleep, other lifestyle-related causes include:

  • Excessive drinking: Since alcohol is a diuretic, it makes you lose more fluids than you take in. That dehydration then causes dark circles around your eyes. Red wine is the worst culprit of darkness around the eye, but any alcohol can cause it.
  • An iron-deficient diet: Not having enough iron in your diet can prevent sufficient oxygen from getting to the tissues around your eye. This results in darkness.
  • A salt-heavy diet: Salt causes fluid retention, and around your eyes this can result in puffiness and darkness.
  • Sun exposure: Excessive time in the sun encourages your skin to produce melanin. It’s not always as even as we’d like, which can result in uneven coloration around the eyes.
  • Rubbing your eyes: Whether due to allergies or makeup removal, avoid rubbing and rough treatment to your eyes. This reduces the collagen in your eyes and worsens or creates the look of dark circles.
  • Stomach sleeping: Gravity affects the fluid and pressure in your eyelid tissue, so stomach sleeping can worsen the appearance of dark circles.

Illnesses and Conditions

Illnesses can also cause dark shadows or discoloration under your eyes to appear. Whether these are chronic or temporary, your dark eyes may be caused by sickness or injury like:

  • Allergies: Congestion can dilate blood vessels around your eyes, darkening the area. This can also contribute to swelling or bags under the eyes.
  • Eczema: Damage from scratching the delicate under-eye skin can cause dark circles.
  • Mononucleosis: In this case, exhaustion can contribute to the appearance of dark circles under your eyes. However, it also works in conjunction with jaundice, the yellowing of the eyes and the surrounding area.
  • Periorbital cellulitis: Bacterial infections like this can affect the skin color around your eye. But this is easily treated with antibiotics.

Rarely, you may get dark circles under your eyes from more serious conditions like hypothyroidism or liver disease. Consult with your doctor about the possibility of these conditions. You also should talk to a doctor if swelling and darkness appears under one eye and it does not go away after a couple days; or if dark circles appear very suddenly.


Unfortunately, there are some causes of dark circles that we can do nothing about.

  • Heredity: Our genetics can give us dark circles under our eyes that sometimes we outgrow, and sometimes we don’t.
  • Thin skin: Usually hereditary, naturally thin skin around the eyes–which is thin enough anyway–exposes those blood vessels further, creating inescapable dark circles.
  • Age: Getting older makes us lose collagen and fat in our faces, especially around our eyes. This thins the already-slight layer covering up blood vessels around our eyes.
  • Race: Asian, African-American, or dark skin can increase your chance of hyperpigmentation. As a result, you may have uneven skin tone, including dark circles.

If you have questions about the dark circles under your eyes,