A Moment of Science

Why Do Dark Circles Form Under My Eyes?

There may be more to it than not getting enough sleep.

close up of human eye

Photo: orangeacid (flickr)

Do you have dark bags under your eyes?

It’s eleven o’clock Sunday morning, and you’ve just woken up after a late night of carousing. You stumble out of bed, brace yourself on the bathroom sink and blink into the mirror.

There, under your eyes, are dark, puffy patches that make you look like an NFL linebacker. I need more sleep, you think, fingering the dark spots. And so you stumble back to bed.

Do I Need More Sleep?

You may indeed need to sleep a bit longer, but despite the common misconception, dark circles and puffiness under or around your eyes appear to have little to do with lack of sleep.

In fact, what seems to be a fairly common and hence supposedly explainable phenomenon remains something of a mystery to scientists.

Mystery

What scientists do know is that the skin under the eyes is very thin and sensitive. When for a variety of reasons blood and other fluids accumulate in the area under your eyes, the delicacy of the skin makes the fluid’s color partly visible. This is what appears to account for the dark patches.

Allergies may also be to blame. An allergic reaction can cause cells under the skin of the eyes to release histamine, a chemical that causes fluid accumulation and swelling. This is what appears to cause puffy eyes.

And finally, there is heredity. Do your parents have dark circles under their eyes? If so, you may have found the source for your own dark circles.

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