Because the skin beneath your eyes is so thin, it's especially prone to sun-induced hyperpigmentation (and skin cancer). But sunscreen can also be especially irritating if it gets in your eyes. Use a nondrippy or stick formula that won't migrate, says Jessica Wu, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles.
Look for one that's especially formulated for the eye area, like RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream. The vitamin A derivative will fade pigment and increase collagen production to make skin less transparent so dark circles are less noticeable.
"Too-frequent application [of retinoids] can leave you with red, flaky rings around your eyes that turn brownish or gray as they heal, especially in olive or darker skin tones," says Wu. She uses Renova, a prescription formula with a low retinoid concentration (0.02 percent, to be exact) that tends not to irritate the eye area.
When you rub your skin to pry off your liner, you're causing inflammation and capillary damage—both of which can contribute to dark circles. Cleansing oils, like Freeman Eclos Daily Facial Cleansing Oil, melt eye makeup with the least amount of rubbing. As a bonus, you'll lose fewer lashes, too.
Washing your face with hot water "worsens puffiness and can accentuate dark circles," says Wu. The same goes for steam. Who knew?
Arbutin, kojic acid, licorice, vitamin C, and daisy extract all interfere with the production of melanin without riling up sensitive skin. A couple of formulas to try: SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum and Your Best Face Correct Eye Serum. If those don't fade the discoloration, a doctor can prescribe a cream with hydroquinone, the gold-standard—but potentially irritating—skin lightener.
If you have allergies, the histamines released by your immune system can cause swelling and broken, leaky capillaries under the eyes. Itchiness can encourage rubbing, which compounds the problem by prompting hyperpigmentation. An oral antihistamine (like Claritin or Allegra) can halt the reaction. In addition, caffeine-based creams, like SkinCeuticals AOX+ Eye Gel, help shrink blood vessels that can swell with an allergic reaction.
To reduce bluish and red discoloration under the eyes, doctors often turn to a vascular laser, like the Excel V, which constricts visible blood vessels.
To plump the hollows that can cast shadows under the eyes, doctors can inject hyaluronic acid fillers, like Belotero, into the tear troughs. This helps lower lids appear less sunken in and shadowy.
Of course, if you want your dark circles to perform an instant vanishing act, there's concealer. The right one will make you look younger and rested and hide the fact that you ordered a second martini last night. Makeup artist Laura Mercier recommends creamy solid formulas: "They provide more coverage [than liquids] and don't wear off as quickly."
If you look in any makeup artist's kit, you'll probably see at least one of these two concealers: Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer and Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage. "Concealers with peachy undertones neutralize the blue tint in most dark circles," says makeup artist Jillian Dempsey. "Avoid anything that looks remotely yellow in the pot—it'll stand out like highlighter on skin."
Otherwise it'll cake, says Mercier. Swipe a little on your finger, press it against the back of your hand to remove the excess, and then tap it over shadows. "Start where skin is darkest, and blend out from there for the most natural look," says Dempsey. But stop short of the lower lash line, where even 20-year-olds have fine lines, and steer clear of crow's-feet. Concealer will settle into those lines and exaggerate them.
Chances are you've got dark shadows around the inner corners of your eyes (right next to your tear ducts), so pat a little concealer there, too. "Blend it down the sides of your nose just enough so you don't have obvious circles of makeup smack-dab in the middle of your face," says makeup artist Pati Dubroff. "I see a lot of women who don't do that, and it always looks odd."
Even the best concealer application can crinkle late in the day. "Tap it with your finger or, better yet, a little eye cream to smooth it back out," says makeup artist Tom Pecheux.
If you do all this and still look like you pulled back-to-back all-nighters, you need to do some preconcealing concealing. "The only way to brighten up really dark circles is by prepping skin with a peach-colored cream base called a corrector," says makeup artist Bobbi Brown. Apply it with a dampened makeup sponge so it's sheer ("It won't be Hermès orange," says Pecheux) and then tap your regular concealer on top. We like the Lancôme Le Correcteur Pro Concealer Palette because it contains a peach color corrector and a solid concealer.
"A shimmering nude cream or powder shadow can brighten up your eyes, as long as it's a touch darker than your skin tone. If it's lighter, it looks frosty and dated," says makeup artist Troy Surratt, who likes Shiseido Shimmering Cream Eye Color because it's got a fine (i.e., not cheesy) shimmer.
When your lashes are turned up, they don't cast a shadow on your undereye area. And, of course, curling your lashes makes your eyes look more open and minimizes the "I'm exhausted" effect of dark circles.
Drawing a soft peach eyeliner pencil along your inner waterline brightens the entire eye area, making dark circles (and redness) less noticeable. Try the Jouer Eye Clarifier.
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