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What really causes dry skin and dark circles under eyes?

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Many women struggle with dry skin under the eyes. But what causes dryness, eye bags and dark circles in this sensitive area? We asked dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos to explain.

Factors responsible for tired-looking under-eyes

The area around the eyes is one of the most sensitive parts of the face due to its extremely delicate skin - up to five times thinner than the rest of the face.[1]
As such, the under-eye area tends to be prone to puffiness or swelling. Many women also report recurring dark circles, regardless of how much sleep they’re getting, as well as dryness and/or itchiness.

The skin around the eyes is up to
5 times thinnerthan the rest of the face

The above symptoms can be caused by a number of factors, both internal and external.[2] Genetics has an important role to play in our skin’s future, as does our lifestyle, with smoking, stress and fatigue all contributing to the appearance of a tired-looking under-eye area.
Poor circulation can also lead to blood vessels becoming blocked, leading to the appearance of bruising or hyperpigmentation around the eyes. What’s more, the skin around the eyes is particularly sensitive to sun-related damage as a result of its delicate composition.
This makes the under-eye area particularly prone to dryness and dehydration.[3]

How to fight dry skin and dark circles

We asked dermatologist Dr. Nina Roos for her tips on improving the appearance of the eye contour.
“The skin is a window into what’s going on elsewhere in the body, so if something’s off in terms of your overall health, this is one of the first places you’ll notice.” When it comes to the eye area, Nina reminds us that lifestyle factors can have a considerable influence on how we look, with smoking and lack of sleep a big no-no.

The skin is a window into what’s going on elsewhere in the body, so if something’s off in terms of your overall health, this is one of the first places you’ll notice.

Dr. Nina Roos, dermatologist

For those mornings where you might have overindulged the night before, facial massage can help improve the appearance of under-eye bags, as stimulating circulation is important in reducing water retention. When choosing an under-eye cream, Nina recommends hyaluronic acid for an intense dose of moisture.[4]

Look for thinner textures to avoid overloading delicate under-eye skin, and opt for ingredients known to stimulate micro-circulation (such as caffeine or ginkgo biloba) for a brighter, boosted appearance.

[1] Dhanalaxmi UR, Pralhad SP. Evaluation of clinical efficacy and safety of under eye cream in the treatment of under eye dark circle and pigmentation in J Indian Med. 2009;103:115–20.

[2] Goldberg, R.A. et al. ‘What causes eyelid bags? Analysis of 114 consecutive patients’ in Plastic and reconstructive surgery.  15;115(5) pp. 1395-402 [Accessible at:]
[3] Pilkington, S. et al. ‘The Tricky Tear Trough’ in The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology 8.9 (2008) pp. 39-47 [Accessible at:]
[4] Alsaad, S.M. et al. ‘Periocular hyperpigmentation: a review of etiology and current treatment options’ in Journal of Drugs in Dermatology 12.2 (2013) pp. 154-157 [Accessible at:]

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