Numerous times in my life, mostly in my teens, I had people approach me and ask me if I had been in a fight or punched in the face for some reason. Most of the time, the answer was no. At first I wondered why people kept asking me this question? I soon realized that, unfortunately for me, I was predisposed to developing "bags" and "dark circles" under my eyes.
I always wondered why. The answer I was given most often was that I wasn't sleeping enough. But, honestly, as a teen I was getting 8-10 hours of sleep every weeknight and probably closer to 14 on weekends (yes, I was a lazy kid). So, then the answer changed to "you're sleeping too much". I would like to take a moment here to thank everyone in the past who supplied me with this invaluable information.
So why do we get dark circles and bags under our eyes??
First, lets talk a little anatomy!
The skin covering our eyelids is very thin. In fact, its the thinnest of any part of the body. This makes the skin more translucent (somewhat see through). Immediately underneath this thin skin is a dense network of small blood vessels which can dilate and become leaky just like all other blood vessels in the body.
Unfortunately, this is the most likely answer for the majority of people. Thin skin plus superficial blood vessels equals dark circles. Simple equation. Its usually more pronounced in fair skin individuals but can also be noticeable in dark skin as well.
People who suffer from allergies often have puffy eyes. This is because allergies cause blood vessels to dilate and become leaky. Dilation of the vessels adds to the colour and the leaking makes the eyelids swell.
Rubbing Your Eyes
I wrote a blog on this a while back explaining why its bad. In this case, rubbing can cause the little blood vessles to break. This results in darkening and swelling. Also, in allergies, rubbing can release more of the histamines that cause the allergic response in the first place.
Sleep and Stress
Less sleep and more stress. Bad for you in so many ways.
As we age, our skin loses elasticity and slowly begins to sag. This exaggerates the look of bags under the eyes.
What's the Treatment??
There are so many creams, ointments, and roller-thingys on the market that claim to reverse the appearance of dark circles. What I have always wondered is, if these creams, ointments, and roller-thingys all worked so well, then why is there a new product coming out every other day??
Applying Something Cold
What do we do when we sprain an ankle? How about for a bump on the head? One of the first things we reach for anytime there's swelling is an ice pack. The cold helps decrease swelling by decreasing inflammation and reducing blood flow to the affected area. The same simple therapy can be applied to our eyelids.
As far as I can tell, there's no scientific reason for cucumbers to be the miracle cure. I've read in places that they contain some nutrients that help lighten skin, but as we have already established, the skin is not usually the problem. The only thing I can think of is that cucumbers are cool (in temperature, not social status) and as we discussed, applying something cold can reduce swelling.
Cold Tea Bags
Its possible that the caffeine in tea can help constrict the blood vessels below the skin's surface. And again, the cooling effect would be helpful.
My favourite solution.
This is generally reserved for people who have skin pigmentation problems.
I worked with an Oculo-Plastics surgeon for a little while during one of my clinical externships. I asked him if there was anything he could do for dark circles around the eyes. His advice: "Cover your eyes and tan the rest of your face".
If you are ever worried about the skin on or around your eyelids, please see your eye doctor or dermatologist.