Once upon a time, there was a girl who never fussed with concealer: she was bright-eyed and blissfully ignorant about dark circles, puffiness, and fine lines because she was oh so young and lucky in the under-eye department. Then she joined the ranks of the self-employed, turned 30, and developed a slew of bad habits related to poor hydration, stress management, and fun- size candy bars; now, when she takes off her makeup at the end of a long day, she looks in the mirror and thinks, “what happened here?!”
Gone are the days of waking up, rolling out of bed, and leaving the house without a stitch of makeup: no matter how many hours of sleep I log these days, the blueish circles under my eyes seem to have taken up permanent residence. Those dark circles, paired with puffiness and dry skin, make me look washed-out and tired. (Don’t you love when people tell you, “you look tired”? I may never understand why some folks think that’s a helpful observation.)
I did some research — i.e., Googled “HOW TO GET RID OF ANNOYING DARK CIRCLES FOREVER AND EVER AMEN” — and here’s what I learned: the skin around our eyes is thinner than anywhere else on our faces, which is why those windows-to-the-soul are the first areas to show signs of aging, bad habits, and fatigue. As we get older, the little fat pads under our lower eyelids start to diminish, leaving the abundant blood and capillaries of the area more visible under the skin (dark circles) and hollowness under the eyes that creates shadows. Genetics play a big role, too: look to your mother and grandmothers for a glimpse into your future.
Of course, lifestyle is a factor is well. Drinking more water, reducing your salt intake, and getting a good night’s sleep go a long way in reducing puffiness.
There’s good news, and there’s bad news. The bad news: there’s no miracle eye cream that can eliminate dark circles, no matter how much beauty advertising may try to convince you otherwise. The good news: there are things you can do to minimize dark circles and puffiness now and protect your eyes from premature aging down the road.
1 :: Practice safe sun. UVA rays damage elastin, a protein that helps the skin “snap back” after being stretched or contracted. I apply a good SPF right up to the lash line every day — I love Tarteguard, a gentle physical sunscreen that never irritates my eyes — and always wear sunglasses outdoors for extra protection.
2 :: Get a good eye cream. I don’t think I realized how important this was until I started using one twice a day, every day. Eye cream made a big difference in the texture of the skin around my eyes — no more dryness, crinkly skin, or tiny bumps. Look for a good fragrance-free formula with antioxidants, peptides, and hyaluronic acid to plump and smooth the skin. Beautypedia is a great resource when you’re shopping for beauty products; they have a roundup of the best eye products for every budget.
I got a sample of Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Eye Lifting Balm in a Sephora Play Box, and loved it so much I bought the full size. It’s expensive, but I use a small drop for both eyes, day and night, and the tiny sample tube lasted nearly 6 weeks. You can also use it on your lips to prevent fine lines, and it wears really well under makeup.
3 :: Get the red out. On the mornings that I wake up with red, tired-looking eyes, I brighten them up with plain ol’ lubricating/redness relief eye drops from the drugstore. Confession: it took me a while to get over my aversion to putting drops in my own eyes, but it’s an instant-gratification trick that makes my eyes look fresh and clear.
4 :: Use a color corrector before you reach for concealer. Peach and salmon-toned color correctors help neutralize dark circles and brighten the eye area. I apply them after eye cream and before foundation. My two favorites: Pixi Correction Concentrate, a highly-pigmented peach cream that melts into the skin and contains a host of good skin care ingredients like rose hip extract and vitamins A,C, and E; and Becca Under Eye Brightening Corrector that color-corrects with Becca’s signature micro-fine, light-reflecting illuminators. Most days, I find that either of these is enough to get the job done with a little foundation on top; I usually save concealer for special occasions.
5 :: Speaking of concealer, splurge on a good one. Concealer can be tricky: it does wonders for covering dark circles, but can emphasize any dryness or texture under the eyes; especially when you set it with a powder to prevent creasing. I think I tried a dozen concealers in my search for the perfect one last year, so let me save you some trouble and point you in the direction of Urban Decay’s ‘Naked Skin’ Weightless Complete Coverage Concealer. The buildable coverage dries to a natural, demi-matte finish, and the formula has a mix of antioxidants and peptides to help the delicate skin around the eyes. (I love a good multi-tasking product.) Since I don’t use it every day and a little goes a long way, I bought the travel size for $12.
6 :: Make healthy choices. Or try to, anyway; it’s all about balance. Drinking adequate water, reducing your salt intake, going easy on the booze, and getting a good night’s sleep go a long way in reducing puffiness and may help with dark circles not related to heredity.