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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Dark Eyelids: Causes, Treatment and Pro Tips from a Dermatologist

Updated: May 10

Dark eyelids are a common dermatological concern for many, myself included. This comprehensive guide will explore the reasons behind dark eyelids and the best ways to treat them. Please read the article entirely because I am going to sprinkle this one with a lot of research-backed pro tips. Let's dive in.

How Does Eyelid Skin Differ From Rest of the Face?

Before discussing the causes of dark eyelids, first, we need to understand how the skin on our eyelids is distinct from the rest of our face in several ways.

Firstly, it is much thinner, lacking the protective layer of fat found beneath the skin elsewhere, known as the subcutis. This thinness makes the eyelid skin more susceptible to damage from environmental factors like trivial trauma and UV rays, leading to an increased risk of pigmentation changes and wrinkles.

Additionally, the eyelids constantly move as we blink, rub, and express emotions, which can also contribute to wear and tear. These factors combined make eyelid skin more prone to damage and pigmentation issues compared to the thicker skin found on the rest of the face.

Often, some people have hooded eyes, which are characterized by an extra layer of skin that droops over the crease of the eyelid.

What Causes Dark Eyelids?

  • Fatigue: This would be the no. 1 cause of dark eyelids. Lack of sleep can cause blood vessels to expand, leading to a darker hue. The good news is that such dark circles are reversible!

  • Genetics: The second most common cause of dark eyelids is genes! Some people are genetically predisposed to have more melanin in their skin, particularly around the eyes. This can give the appearance of darker eyelids.

  • Rubbing Eyelids: The skin of our eyelids is fairly delicate. Rubbing the area around the eyes can cause the tiny undereye blood vessels to break, which leads to blood cell deposition under the skin, making eyelids appear darker or pigmented. This can sometimes be pronounced in people using eye makeup like eyeshadows that need some rubbing to apply.

  • Contact Dermatitis due to Makeup: Not only can the makeup cause dermatitis, but the residual color might be difficult to remove, too. This further increases the appearance of dark eyelids.

  • Allergies: Allergic reactions can cause blood vessels to expand, leading to a dark tint around the eyes.

  • Sun exposure: Overexposure to the sun can cause melanin production to increase, darkening the skin over time.

  • Medical conditions: Conditions like dermatitis, eczema, or thyroid diseases can contribute to dark eyelids. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which could be a result of other dermatological conditions, can also cause dark eyelids. Although less frequent, lichen planus pigmentosus can also be present on the eyelids, causing pigmentation.

  • Aging: As you age, the skin around your eyes can become thinner, making blood vessels more prominent and leading to a darker appearance.

  • Dehydration: When you're dehydrated, the skin under your eyes can appear darker because it becomes thinner and more transparent, making blood vessels beneath it more noticeable. This can give the impression of dark or shadowed eyes.

  • Excessive Salt Consumption: Yes, you heard it right! Your salty snacks might be an unsuspecting foe responsible for your dark eyelids. Salt causes your body to retain water, which can accumulate under low-resistant sites of the body, like eyelids and under the eye area. This water retention causes puffiness, stretching the eyelids and making them appear dark and puffy.

Expert Recommended Treatments

The recommended treatment will depend on the cause of the dark eyelids. Your dermatologist will specify the exact treatment you need based on the reason for your dark eyelids. They could be any of the following:

  • Topical Treatments: Retinoids or creams containing vitamin C, niacinamide, or kojic acid can help reduce pigmentation and improve skin quality.

  • Chemical Peels: These involve applying a chemical solution to remove the outer layer of skin, revealing a lighter layer beneath.

  • Laser Therapy: Lasers can target melanin-producing cells, reducing the appearance of dark circles. Depending upon the underlying cause of your dark eyelids, your dermatologist might employ different laser systems.

  1. To target pigmented eyelids, the Q-switched Nd:YAG laser is commonly employed.

  2. For enhancing dermal collagen production under the eyelids, lasers such as fractional CO2, long pulse Nd:YAG, and Erbium lasers are utilized.

  3. Bluish discoloration from blood vessels is treated with the Pulsed-Dye Laser (PDL).

  • Fillers: They can reduce the appearance of blood vessels and improve the skin's texture, leading to a brighter look. Hyaluronic acid is the most commonly used filler for this purpose. The results last for 9-12 months.

  • Proper Sun Protection: Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen and sunglasses can prevent darkening from sun exposure. I know many sunscreens can cause a burning sensation in the eyes. That's why I have already researched and written an article about sunscreen for eyelids. Do check it out because sun protection for eyelids is essential.

Product Recommendations for Dark Eyelids

Here's a detailed breakdown of ideal products for dark eyelids, along with product recommendations:

  • Retinol: Best for those with dark eyelids accompanied by wrinkles or fine lines. Retinol helps in reducing hyperpigmentation, building up collagen, and reducing the appearance of hollowed under eyes. It's most effective when used at night due to its sensitivity to sunlight.

  • Vitamin C: Ideal for dark eyelids with wrinkles and for daytime use under sunscreen as it helps prevent damage from UV radiation while brightening the skin.

  • Caffeine: Suitable for eyelids that appear blue due to the visibility of blood vessels underneath, not actual pigmentation. Caffeine helps to constrict blood vessels, reducing the blue appearance and instantly brightening the area. This is especially helpful for those with thin eyelids.

  • Kojic Acid, Arbutin, and Niacinamide: These are effective for true hyperpigmentation of the eyelids. They work by inhibiting melanin production.

    • Product Recommendations:

Home Remedies

  • Cucumber Slices: The cooling effect of cucumber can reduce puffiness and darkness.

Cucumber slices
  • Tea Bags: The caffeine in tea helps constrict blood vessels, reducing dark appearance.

tea bag
  • Aloe Vera Gel: Known for its soothing properties, it can improve skin texture.


Preventive Measures

These are some measures that you can take on your own to help prevent dark eyelids. They are kind of obvious, but consistent adherence to these simple practices can go a long way.

Dark eyelids can be a result of various factors. Understanding the cause is crucial in determining the right treatment. With a combination of professional treatments, home remedies, and preventive measures, it's possible to reduce or even eliminate the appearance of dark eyelids.

Before You Go...

Did you know that crying can also, in a convoluted way, lead to dark eyelids? While shedding tears is only human, crying can also have other impacts on your skin.


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