Masked and Answered: Under-Eye Circles

One of the primary reasons I began this little project is because I started getting lots of questions in the comments when I would post masking/skincare photos on my personal Insta. So I started a new, dedicated account, and I also started this here blog. I’m accepting questions in really any form you like – through the Contact page, via comments on photos or posts, and any other way you want to ask (for now, at least). Note that I’ll always want your permission to post your questions.

Today’s question comes via Instagram from rebekahwithak. She asks:

What are your recs for dark skin under the eyes?

I loved this Q and wanted to start with it because the dark circles under my eyes are THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. As someone who is over-the-top about skincare, doesn’t like to wear a lot of makeup, and is extremely Type A about basically everything I take on, it bothers me so, so, so much that I continue to have dark circles beneath my eyes. I’ve done a lot of looking into it, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Shadows vs. Discoloration

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to figure out if your dark circles are the result of shadows (i.e. if they’re more hereditary/due to your bone structure) or because the skin itself is discolored.

You’re probably thinking, what about when you get dark circles because you’re tired? That’s shadows. When your skin is fatigued it loses hydration, which exacerbates the inherent structure of your face – think of a deflated balloon as an example here.


True story, as a small child I knew all the words to “I’m Tired.” No, I didn’t know the meaning, but I sure did belt them out.

Depending on which it is, you’ll want to take a different approach.

Shadows: Plump and Conceal

If you’ve got dark shadows under your peepers, I’ve got some bad news for you: there’s not a whole, whole lot you can do about those. This is my situation. Unless you’re going to go in for cheek/eyelid restructuring surgery (I am not) you don’t have a lot of ways to permanently solve this problem. That said, there are a couple of things you can do.


Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum | Dr. Dennis Gross

Part of why, as we get older and/or exhausted, our dark circles start to show more is because the skin underneath is losing its elasticity. Just like in economics, elasticity in your skin basically refers to how quickly it’ll respond to external pressures. The older you get, the bigger the effect. One way you can restore some of that elasticity is by using a retinoid. Dermatologists and cosmetic chemists seem to agree across the board that retinoids are universally amazing. Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A — you’ll see them most often as retinol and retinyl palmate in over-the-counter products — and they work to increase cellular turnover. Increased cellular turnover = younger surface skin = increased elasticity = plumper, fuller surface = fewer opportunities for dark shadows.

There are plenty of retinoids out there. Best practice is to start with a lower concentration and work your way up as you need to. That means don’t go asking for a Retin-A prescription right away! The Dennis Gross serum is well-reviewed on Beautypedia and it sinks into the skin beautifully. That said, if you’re already using a retinoid for the rest of your face, just use that — there’s not any substantive difference between an eye retinoid and a face retinoid, as long as your skin responds well to it. Shiseido also makes a spectacular retinol eye mask for when you want a more intense burst of treatment.


Baggage Claim Gold Eye Masks | Wander Beauty

Another way to plump up that skin around your eyes is to keep the moisture levels high. This skin is thinner and more delicate than in other parts of your face, so it shows wear and tear more quickly. (This is why crows-feet wrinkles are usually among the first to show up.) I really like these eye masks from Wander Beauty – the foil construction intensifies the effect of the serum on your skin, and the gold just looks baller as hell. I’ve recently discovered Sephora’s in-house brand makes some amazing mask options, and the eye masks are among my favorites. The rose eye mask is a particular favorite of mine; it has an amazing shape that covers the whole orbital bone and it’s deeply moisturizing to boot.

bye bye undereye

Bye Bye Under Eye Corrector | It Cosmetics

At the end of the day, though, there’s only so much you can do about your bone structure. I don’t know enough about injectable hyaluronic fillers, so I’m not going to recommend that without knowing more. As someone who doesn’t really love the feeling of wearing makeup, though, I can recommend this under eye corrector from It Cosmetics wholeheartedly — it is very lightweight and a little goes a long way. It works fine on its own (no need for a concealer on top, though I do throw a bit of the Hourglass Veil Retouching Fluid on top for luminosity) and makes a huge difference.

Discoloration: Cellular Turnover

If your under-eye circles are a result of discoloration, you’re in luck! There are actual things you can do to permanently* improve the condition of your skin here. The first, is, as mentioned above, a retinoid. Get that retinoid on your under-eye area while you sleep, and over time you’ll see dramatic improvement.

*With maintenance.

c e ferulic

C E Ferulic | SkinCeuticals

Of course, given the intensity of retinoids, they’re not recommended at night. But you want a 24-hour plan, you say? Then Vitamin C is going to be your other best friend. That said, Vitamin C is extremely unstable as an ingredient (especially in the form of ascorbic acid, which seems to be agreed upon as the best form for effective cell turnover) so packaging, pH, and intensity are going to matter a LOT. This SkinCeuticals product is the best of the best, in my opinion, and it lasts a long time, so the price tag can be justified. It has a pH of 3 (the lower the better) and the 15% ascorbic acid content is effective and stabilized by the presence of ferulic acid and Vitamin E. Totally understandable, though, if a $166 serum makes you flinch. The Drunk Elephant C-Firma serum gets extremely high marks as well, and the Paula’s Choice C15 booster is also well-beloved.

A note on smell: I, and many others on the internet, have found the most effective Vitamin C products tend to smell like hot dogs. Clearly, there’s something to it, but it definitely meant that it takes a while to get used to using one. It also means I have to wash my hands in the morning after applying my skincare regimen because otherwise I go around thinking “What’s that smell?” any time my hands come near my nose.

Any other go-to under-eye circle relief that works wonders? Share ’em in the comments!


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