Whether it’s long stressful working days, late indulgent nights with your girlfriends or early starts with your children – all of these have an impact on how well our skin functions. Throw in external aggressors such as the sun and pollution, and your skin will start to buckle under the pressure. And the first place to show the effects? Under your peepers in the form of dark circles. Alas, there is little that we can offer to sort your lifestyle, but there are lots of handy tips and tricks that we can give you to deal with those pesky shadows. You can thank us later.

What are they?

For some, dark circles appear as a subtle bruising under the eyes, turning the skin from healthy-looking to a bluey-grey tinge. However, for others dark circles can be heavily pigmented, dark patches under the curve of the lower lash line. The coloration depends on your levels of melanin (the pigment in the skin that causes it to darken). Fairer skins have less melanin, making dark circles appear less obvious, whereas in darker skins they will be more prominent.

Why do they happen?

It can be in part due to the shape of your eye. Big, alluring eyes are all very well for creating a sensuous smoky look, but the bigger your eyes, the more space underneath for shadows to form. Then there’s the small factor of your lifestyle. ‘When your skin is tired or stressed the body produces more blood to increase your energy levels,’ says LA-based dermatologist Dr Ahmed Hadi. ‘This causes the blood vessels to expand and darken and because the skin under your eye is the most delicate and translucent anywhere on your body, dark circles are in part due to this change.’ And it doesn’t stop there. ‘Any aggressive pressure we apply to this delicate skin – such as rubbing or scratching our eyes – increases pigment production, making dark circles worse.’

Quick instant fixes

‘It’s tempting to reach straight for the concealer, but there are a few prep steps you need to do first to make covering-up dark circles easier,’ says bareMinerals’ international make-up artist, Sarah-Jane Froom. Firstly, 
an eye cream. ‘This is essential to hydrate the skin, which will stop any product you apply on top looking cakey, but will also help your concealer last longer.’

Next is colour-correcting. Concealer alone won’t cover up dark circles; in fact, using just concealer can make dark circles look more obvious because they can’t conceal the darkness of melanin or the blood vessels under the skin. Colour correctors contain clever pigments that brighten the skin and neutralise the darker tones. For dark circles, 
a product with a golden base will instantly reduce darkness and get your under-eye skin nearly back to the colour it should be. Then you’re ready for concealer.

‘Fair skins need a concealer with pinky tones in it to counteract any blueness under the eye, whereas dark skins will need golden tones,’ says Sarah-Jane.

For perfect concealer application, Sarah-Jane recommends applying with a brush first and then using your ring finger to gently roll and blend in for a flawless finish.

Your dark circle concealing kit:

Photo Finish Hydrating Under Eye Primer, Dh118, Smashbox A light, creamy primer that not only contains colour-correcting pigment to neutralise any dark circles but also preps the skin so your concealer will stay on longer.

Mini Miracle Eye Wand, Dh165, Charlotte Tilbury This dual-ended pen contains a light eye cream on one end to tighten the skin, and a light-reflecting concealer on the other that covers and brightens skin. It is available in five shades to suit all skin tones.

Fix It, Dh165, Dior Conceal your dark circles on the go with this dual-texture concealer stick. With one swipe you get the benefit of camouflaging pigment and the blurring ability of the powder for a soft focus finish.

Concealer Brush, Dh145, Bobbi Brown A brush will give a flawless finish. The dense bristles on this brush will ensure you get lots of product on the skin without overloading it.

Skincare heroes

When it comes to the best products for tackling dark circles, start by taking inspiration from your morning latte. Caffeine is packed with antioxidants, which will help strengthen the delicate skin that’s getting distressed from lack of sleep and constant eye-rubbing. It also constricts blood vessels, preventing that surge of blood under the paper-thin skin, and reduces inflammation – all the things that dark circles love.

A caffeine-filled eye cream is like an instant shot of espresso to tired eyes. Another great dark circle banisher is Vitamin K – ‘it helps strengthen the capillary walls, so reduces the ability of the blood vessels near the skin’s surface to dilate, get bigger and look more noticeable as dark circles’, says Abigail James, facialist and Liz Earle Treatment Ambassador.

Now that we know what ingredients we’re looking for, what about product type? ‘It’s best to choose a gel or a light serum; this stops the skin from getting congested and puffing,’ continues Abigail.

To give your eye cream extra power, keep it in the fridge. ‘This really does help – the colder the product is, the more it will help blood vessels constrict, and therefore will immediately reduce the appearance of dark circles. A colder temperature will also help to stimulate lymphatic flow, which is really beneficial for removing toxins and brightening the eye area,’ she says.

The creams you need:

Pigmentclar Eyes, Dh104, La Roche-Posay Combining Vitamin K and caffeine, this eye cream will help tackle dark brown pigmentation as well as lighter blue hues in the skin and is gentle enough to be used night and day.

Eye & Lip Contour Cream, Dh730, Sisley To build up your skin’s resistance to pollution and UV rays, which exacerbate dark circles, you need lots of antioxidants. This light balm is filled with them as well as licorice, which has been proven to lighten dark circles.

Even Better Eyes Dark Circle Corrector, Dh255, Clinique This caffeine-packed eye cream also contains pearlised pigments to instantly make the skin look brighter. Plus the cooling tip applicator instantly helps to massage the delicate skin around the eye.

How to apply eye cream

Choosing the right cream is one thing, but applying it correctly is another. We got Marie McKeever, head of treatment development UK for Clarins, to tell us how to do it right…

  • Most people apply far too much eye cream. You only need a rice grain-sized dollop per eye. Too much product can overload and congest the eye area.
  • Apply it with your ring finger as this delivers the perfect amount of pressure to this very delicate area of skin.
  • Apply the product all the way round the eye contour, starting from the bridge of the nose, around the natural arch of the brow, out to the temples and then back towards the bridge of the nose under the lower lash line.
  • If you and your eyes are feeling really tired, lightly tap the product in with your fingertips. This will boost the circulation and drainage around the eyes.

For an extra boost

For a quick and easy way to tackle dark circles, Liz Earle’s Abigail James recommends some tricks that are oldies but goodies:

  • It’s so much easier said than done, but a good night’s sleep really will help. The more sleep you get the less cortisol your body produces to help keep your energy levels up. The less cortisol you have in your system, the less your blood vessels will dilate.
  • Cold green tea bags placed over the eyes for a few minutes are great. They are full of tannins and antioxidants, both of which help stimulate blood circulation, while tightening and soothing the skin around the eye area. The caffeine content also helps to shrink the blood vessels around your eye, thus reducing the appearance of dark circles.
  • Try placing raw potato slices on your eyes. They contain an enzyme called catecholase, which helps reduce puffiness. They also contain vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy, glowing complexion.
  • Sliced, chilled cucumber is another great eye remedy. They are packed with powerful antioxidants and flavonoids that reduce irritation, have a freshening effect, help stimulate lymphatic drainage and rehydrate the eye area.