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Natural ways to prevent dark circles or bags around your eyes


Natural ways to prevent dark circles or bags around your eyes

Credit: Marina Vitale

Do you suffer from dark circles under your eyes even when you’ve had a good night’s sleep? Have you spent hundreds of dollars on expensive eye creams without any results? Dark circles are not only a sign that you may need more sleep or you’ve been out drinking too much alcohol, they can also indicate an underlying health condition such as an allergy to certain foods or something in your environment, a nutritional deficiency, adrenal fatigue or dehydration. The combination of having a fair complexion and thin skin under the eyes is also a common cause of dark circles.

Identifying and treating the cause of dark eye circles is the best solution for a clear, healthy complexion around your eyes, together with some helpful natural topical treatments.

Excessive sun

Chronic sun exposure is a major cause of destruction of collagen and elastin within the skin, which results in the skin losing its elasticity and tone. This damage can accumulate over the years and eventually lead to premature skin ageing, particularly around the eye area, which can worsen dark eye circles.

If you have been overly stressed or work long hours, your dark circles may be a sign of adrenal fatigue.

Increased sun exposure on the face can also cause over-activity of melanocytes around the eyes, which makes the skin around the eyes look darker.

It’s important to wear a good-quality natural sunscreen daily to help prevent sun damage on your face and around your eyes. Look for a natural mineral sunscreen made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, one that’s free from damaging chemicals. Wearing a hat and sunglasses when out in the sun can also help reduce the risk of sun damage and dark circles around the eyes.

Allergies & food intolerances

When related to allergies, dark circles under the eyes are called an “allergic shiner” and they are usually associated with having nasal congestion, a cold or sinus infection. When the nasal passages are congested, blood pools in the veins and capillaries underneath the eyes, causing a dark appearance.

Food allergies and intolerances can also be a contributing factor. Dark circles can be a sign of a wheat or gluten intolerance. The best way to test if you are reacting to wheat and gluten is to go on a two-week elimination diet, where you avoid all foods containing wheat, rye, barley and oats. Having an allergy test is also recommended to ascertain whether specific foods or airborne allergens are problematic. If you are having an allergy test done, remain on your usual diet before the test.

If you suffer from allergies and sinus congestion try either a saline nasal spray or a neti pot (which looks like a small teapot), which irrigates the nasal cavity and helps relieve mucus buildup. Resist rubbing your eyes as this will only make them worse.

Low iron levels

Dark circles can also be a sign that you are anaemic, or deficient in iron. This essential mineral plays a vital role in the production of haemoglobin, which is essential for transporting oxygen around the body. When you are deficient in iron, your skin becomes pale, which accentuates the blue veins under your eyes, leading to dark circles.

The best way to boost your iron levels is by eating more iron-rich foods such as red meat, lentils and other legumes, green leafy vegetables, chicken and fish. Taking an iron supplement at a dosage of around 20-30mg a day is also necessary if you have been tested deficient. A supplement made from organic chelated iron is recommended as it is gentler on the stomach, and won’t cause constipation.

Adrenal fatigue

If you have been overly stressed or work long hours, your dark circles may be a sign of adrenal fatigue. Other common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include exhaustion, anxiety and having difficulty sleeping. This is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take care of yourself.

The good news is there are some wonderful herbs that help support and nurture your adrenals and nervous system. Withania, Siberian ginseng, rhodiola and sacred basil will help calm and rejuvenate you. Drinking Tulsi (or holy basil) tea will also help dampen anxiety and normalise your adrenal function. Magnesium and B vitamins are also extremely important nutrients that help support your nerve and adrenal health.

Nothing, however, takes away from the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. This is when your body repairs and rejuvenates.

Fluid retention

Fluid retention can contribute to dark circles where the blood vessels under the eyes become dilated and swollen.

Consuming too much sodium will cause you to retain fluid, which can result in bags and dark circles. Limiting processed foods that contain high levels of sodium and opting for fresh, natural foods are the best ways to reduce your sodium intake and prevent fluid retention.

When the nasal passages are congested, blood pools in the veins and capillaries underneath the eyes, causing a dark appearance.

Any packaged food containing less than 120mg sodium per 100g is considered a low-sodium food. In particular, watch out for crackers, breads, cheese, tinned foods and commercial breakfast cereals and sauces. You need to make sure you are drinking enough water during the day to help flush excessive sodium from the body to prevent fluid retention.

Dandelion leaf and celery both act as natural diuretics. Drink around three cups of dandelion tea a day and enjoy fresh vegetable juices made with celery.

Taking a magnesium supplement (600mg/day) will help regulate fluid in the body and can reduce fluid retention.

Sleep

Lack of sleep and excessive tiredness can contribute to dark circles and bags under the eyes. You should be aiming for around eight hours sleep a night. Watch what position you sleep in, too. Sleeping on your face can contribute to bags due to the force of gravity pulling the skin downwards. You are better off sleeping on your back with your head propped up on a pillow, to allow gravity to pull any fluid downward. Also make sure you wash off makeup before you get into bed to avoid panda eyes.

Dehydration

Dark eye circles are a common sign of dehydration, too. Drinking too much alcohol, excessive sweating (from exercise or working outside in the heat) or illness can cause dehydration, which can cause the skin under your eyes to appear thin, baggy and darker. Caffeine is also a diuretic, so drinking too much coffee, black tea, soft drinks and energy drinks can dehydrate you.

Go for caffeine-free herbal teas such as peppermint, chamomile, licorice and rosehip, and enjoy two litres of water daily along with plain mineral water and vegie juices. Sparkling mineral water with a splash of fresh juice is a healthy caffeine-free alternative to soft drinks.

If you enjoy a drink, make sure you don’t overdo it. Having a big glass of water in between alcoholic drinks will make sure you stay well hydrated.

Liver & kidney issues

While black circles are often not a sign of a serious health condition, they can indicate an underlying liver problem. The liver plays the vital role of neutralising toxins in the body so they can be safely eliminated via your eliminatory organs, the bowels, skin, lungs and kidneys. If liver function is compromised in any way, detoxification will be affected, allowing toxins to build up in the body. This increases free radical production and in turn damages cells in the body, including skin cells. Dark eye circles and brown liver spots are common signs of poor liver function.

Making sure your liver is working optimally will help promote clear, beautiful skin and prevent dark circles.

Milk thistle is a well-known liver herb used to improve liver detoxification. It helps protect the liver and regenerates injured liver cells. Milk thistle contains silymarin, a bioflavanoid that acts as a powerful antioxidant, which protects the body from oxidative damage. Milk thistle also helps prevent the depletion of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant that prevents free radical damage and supports liver detoxification.

Poor blood vessel tone around the eyes can lead to leakage and dark eye circles.

If you love your morning cup of coffee, try dandelion root coffee as a healthy caffeine-free alternative. Dandelion root stimulates liver detoxification and will give your digestion a boost.

Regular alcohol consumption inhibits the liver’s ability to regenerate, which can lead to liver damage. Long-term heavy alcohol use may also lead to fat accumulation in the liver, which may progress to alcoholic hepatitis or liver cirrhosis. Reducing your alcohol intake is a positive step towards better liver health and reduced dark eye circles.

Eating brassica vegetables daily, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale, can help support liver function. These super vegies contain unique sulfur compounds that assist with liver detoxification and can naturally boost glutathione levels.

Globe artichoke is regarded as a liver tonic. It contains the chemical cynarin, which has been found to improve digestion and increase bile flow, along with strengthening liver and gall bladder function.

Buying organic produce, drinking filtered water and using natural chemical-free skincare and household cleaning products are all great ways to reduce your toxic load.

Improve blood vessel integrity

Poor blood vessel tone around the eyes can lead to leakage and dark eye circles. As we get older, our blood vessels become weaker and are more prone to bruising and dilation.

The best way to improve blood vessel strength is to include plenty of vitamin C and bioflavonoid-rich foods in your diet, such as citrus, berries, green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit, papaya, cabbage, parsley and broccoli. Dark chocolate also contains beneficial flavonoids that have been found to help improve blood vessel tone. Supplementing with 2000mg of vitamin C daily is recommended.

Vitamin K is an important nutrient required for healthy blood clotting and blood vessel health. Vitamin K is found in dark-green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach and cruciferous vegetables including broccoli and cabbage.

Natural topical tips

The best natural remedies for dark circles and bags can be found in your kitchen cupboards. Put slices of potato or cucumber in the freezer for 20 minutes and then apply to your eyes for 15 minutes while keeping your head elevated to allow any fluid to drain from the eyes.

Place two chilled chamomile or green tea bags on the eyes for 15 minutes as they have anti-inflammatory properties, which can cause the blood vessels to constrict and help reduce puffiness and darkness.

Placing cotton balls soaked in chilled milk on your eyes can also help reduce puffiness due to the lactic acid content of the milk.

While you are addressing the cause of your dark circles, a natural cream concealer can help lighten dark circles. Look for a concealer that is slightly lighter than your skin colour and that has good coverage without looking too thick. A concealer with yellow undertones is recommended to cover dark circles. Powder concealers can look too dry and thick, so go for a cream concealer.

Make sure you keep the skin around your eyes well hydrated with a good natural eye cream. Using a cream containing vitamins K and C around the eyes can help improve dark circles due to poor blood vessel tone. Vitamin C also helps improve collagen production and can help improve mild pigmentation.

Witch-hazel is an effective remedy for puffy eyes due to its ability to reduce swelling. Rosewater can also be beneficial for improving dark eye circles.

Witch-Hazel & Rosewater Toner

Ingredients

Method

  • ¼ cup filtered water
  • ¼ cup alcohol-free witch-hazel
  • 10 drops rose essential oil
  1. Place ingredients in a jar or bottle and shake well.
  2. Apply to a freshly cleansed face, then apply a natural moisturiser.
  3. Tip: Keep toner in the fridge and apply toner-soaked cotton pads to your eyes for five minutes a day.



 

Lisa Guy

Lisa Guy is a respected Sydney-based naturopath, author and passionate foodie with 16 years of clinical experience. She runs a naturopathic clinic in Rose Bay called Art of Healing and is the founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.

Lisa is a great believer that good wholesome food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and the foundation of good health. Lisa encourages her clients to get back to eating what nature intended: good, clean, wholesome food that’s nutrient-rich and free from high levels of sugars, harmful fats, artificial additives and pesticides. Her aim is to change the way people eat, cook and think about food.

Lisa is an avid health writer, being a regular contributor to The Sunday Telegraph's Body and Soul, and leading magazines including WellBeing. Lisa is an author of five books to date, including My Goodness: all you need to know about children’s health and nutrition , Pregnancy Essentials, Heal Yourself, Listen to your Body and Healthy Skin Diet .