I Got Plenty of Sleep Last Night! or How To Make Undereye Circles Disappear

“You look tired.” Unless that is followed by “Let me take care of your workload/children/commitments for you while you sleep,” that statement might make you want to clock somebody. And I feel you, I really do. But I am a peaceful, soft-serve loving, bookworm makeup artist, so I can’t advocate physical violence. What I can do is help you cover dark circles.

A dull complexion, red eyes and lack of color in the lips are all factors that can make someone look tired. But the biggest physical indicator of exhaustion seems to be dark circles under the eyes. If that is an issue you face, we can get through this together.

Let’s first clarify that there is a difference between dark undereye circles and undereye puffy-ness (or “bags”). Both can be caused by lack of sleep (and by genetic or health factors), but they need to be addressed in different ways. On a positive note, dark circles are generally easier to correct with makeup than under eye puffy-ness.

What the hell causes these things anyway? Well, there’s not just one offender. And if you are lucky, you might have a combination of causes.

Dark circles are often apparent on people with deep set eyes (one of the hereditary factors). That’s a bone structure thing. People in this group (I’m one!) have eyes that are set further back into their face. The placement of the eyes leaves a noticeable hollow under the eyes (trying my best to explain this here), and that hollow appears shadowed. The undereye skin is super thin, and the veins in that area are (hopefully) always pumping your blood through, so you can actually see this biological process at work. If undereye skin was thicker, the concealer market would be smaller. I want to take a second to point out that although I’m sure you are surprised by this–as my medical jargon seems so professional–I am not a doctor, scientist, or even a former Biology major, so this is all information I have researched and/or learned in Esthetics school.  Also, the word “veins” makes me queasy.

Allergies or pollutants can also cause or worsen dark circles. People with environmental allergies often tell me that their dark circles are significantly less noticeable when they take allergy medicine. This is my personal belief/experience here, but I think food sensitivities and allergies can cause or worsen dark circles as well. A lot of food issues can show up on your face, whether in the form of breakouts, rashes, or dark circles. I have always had dark circles, but when I started eating the right foods for me and taking supplements, I swear they got better.

If you are dealing with any of these causes of undereye circles, lack of sleep can make them worse. Some doctors say this because your body produces more cortisol to keep you awake, which makes the blood vessels enlarge. Larger blood vessels under thin skin shows up as darkness, so there you go.

Dark undereye circles can also be due to pigmentation of the skin. In this case, melanin production has been amped up, so what you’re seeing is darker skin, not shadows from eye placement or blood under the eyes. These kind of dark circles usually need to be corrected via a dermatologist. Makeup can only cover them to a certain extent, at least in my experience.

If your dark circles are from pigmentation, you can try these steps, but you may not find them as effective. If your dark circles are from any of the other causes, these suggestions may work better for you. Here’s what I have learned in the dark circle covering department.

1) Get more sleep. Now, I understand this is not always a possibility for some people (mothers of young children come to mind). If you are losing sleep because of a baby at home, a crazy, inconsistent work schedule, major stress, or construction on the apartment under you until 2:00am (this happened to me), these are factors that are difficult to get around, so skip ahead to suggestion #2. But if you are not getting enough sleep because you insist on staying up to watch every Bravo marathon, or you just have to party until dawn every day, then hey, you’re making your own choice. My point is, if dark undereye circles are a concern for you and you can get more sleep, do it.

2) Make sure all of your eye makeup from last night is completely removed. This is actually the first step in my own makeup process. As thorough and consistent as I am with my makeup removal and face washing routine, there is usually a little bit left of eye makeup left in the morning. So before I do anything else, I put some eye makeup remover on a cotton ball and lightly wipe the area under my eye. If you don’t do this, you are potentially mixing in some of yesterday’s eye makeup with the concealer you are going to apply, which is going to make it ashy and bring more darkness to the area.

3) Put a thin layer of moisturizer under each eye. Whether you apply color corrector and concealer or just concealer next, having this layer of moisturizer as a base will allow the makeup to absorb more evenly into the skin and will keep it from caking up.

4) Consider a color corrector. When circles are very dark, a concealer only will not do the job. You need a color corrector to cancel out the darkness first. Depending on your skin color, you’ll want something that is in the peach (light to medium skin), salmon (medium to dark skin), or orange (dark skin) families. Bobbi Brown, Eve Pearl and Make Up For Ever all carry good color correctors. Color correctors are normally pretty thick, so your best bet is to scrape out a little, put it on the back of your hand and let it sit for about 30 seconds while your body heat breaks it down. Using your ring finger, apply a thin layer of the corrector to the areas that are dark (normally from underneath the inner corner to about halfway or 2/3 out). Blend it with a makeup sponge or fluffy eyeshadow brush.

5) Apply a concealer a half a shade or a full shade lighter than the rest of your face. (If you have already applied a color corrector, let it sit for a minute so it can blend into your skin). Using your ring finger, apply the concealer and blend with a makeup sponge or a fluffy eyeshadow brush. You can use a brightening concealer, like Clinque Airbrush Concealer, but I wouldn’t recommend using one if you are being photographed. The undereye concealer I use most often (it doesn’t flash back) is MAC Select Coverup.

6) Set your concealer with powder. I wait about 5 minutes to do this after applying the undereye concealer. I found that if you apply powder right away, it can get caked up. Letting the concealer(s) absorb for a few minutes first keeps that from happening.

7) Avoid smudgy eye makeup looks. If you are really concerned with darkness and you are not one for touchups, I would avoid wearing dark, smudgy, eye makeup looks. If there is any darkness you were not able to conceal, the darkness will be accentuated by dark shadow fallout or smudges under the eyes.

8) If your circles have a purple undertone, stay away from purple eyeshadows. If you are completely confident that your dark circles are covered, ignore this rule. But if you can still see a slight dark purple tinge, some purple eyeshadows may enhance it. This is one of those things you will have to play around with to see if it actually affects you.

9) Use an eye cream with retinol. Retinol thickens the skin which makes darkness from blood under the eyes less visible. Retinol also boosts collagen production, which is a bonus if you have fine lines around your eyes, because that diminishes them.

Like anything else in the beauty world, lessening dark circles takes some effort. But if it is something that bothers you, it might be worth it to take some of my suggestions into consideration. This is an issue that I personally have (if my eyes were any more deep set, I’d look like a demon), and I know how much better I feel having it under control.

Good luck! Please feel free to leave any questions or your own suggestions in the comments.

Have a beautiful day 🙂