So many of the creams that claim to combat dark, puffy under-eye circles either aren't effective ("Eye cream is a marketing bonanza!" says Cybele Fishman, M.D., an integrative dermatologist in New York City), or are full of can't-pronounce-them chemicals. But why would you treat such a sensitive, delicate part of your face so harshly?
Fortunately, mellower options abound, and they can effectively erase those blue half-moons—up to a point. "How deep your eye sockets are in relation to your brow and cheek bones will make light reflect in different ways," Fishman explains. "That's why some patients say, 'I've always had dark circles, even when I was a child and got lots of sleep.'" Here are seven natural under-eye remedies that'll help you work what your momma gave you.
1. Sleep. It's obvious, yes, but it's so fundamental. "Lack of sleep is the number-one cause of dark circles under the eyes," says dermatologist Amy Wechsler, M.D., whose practice focuses on the mind-body connection. Turn in early and "begin winding down and distancing yourself from all electronics 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep," she says.
2. Avoid sugar; load up on antioxidants. "What you eat matters!" Fishman says. "A diet rich in antioxidants and low in processed sugars will decrease inflammation in your body, including your skin." Load up on things like berries, beans, Brussels sprouts, and dark leafy greens, and avoid alcohol.
3. See an allergist. "One of the biggest dark circle contributors is allergies," says Jillian Wright, a facialist and founder of the New York Cit-based Jillian Wright Skin Spa. When your body detects an allergen, it goes into inflammation mode and the eyes are one of the first places to show it. A saline solution can help with nasal congestion, Wright says, as can manual lymphatic drainage—a gentle massage around the eyes, face, and neck.
4. Wear sunglasses. No, not to cover up those circles (that's what natural concealers are for). "Sun weakens the collagen in blood vessels," Fishman says, "weak collagen means the blood vessels are more likely to rupture, releasing blood into the tissues." And that's how the under-eye area darkens, she warns.
5. Try tea. Wright's favorite "old-school" remedy is two black tea bags, steeped in warm water (go for organic, non-GMO options, she says). Squeeze them so they don't leak, lay down, and relax. "The tannins in black tea help reduce blood vessel dilation," she says. Fishman likes green tea bags, chilled. The cold reduces puffiness, she explains, and ECGC (a phytochemical in green tea) is a potent antioxidant that helps repair damaged cells.
6. Or a milk mask. Many of the best natural remedies for eye circles come from the kitchen, Wechsler says. A milk compress will help brighten dull, dark skin and soothe irritation thanks to its combo of fat and lactic acid. "Simply soak a compress in whole milk and rest it over your face or eyes for a few minutes," she recommends.
7. Moisturize. While eye creams rarely live up to the hype ("So many claims, so little effectiveness," Fishman says), hydrating your under-eyes, which get irritated just by rubbing them too much, can help with overall quality. Look for a light moisturizer with soothing ingredients (think Tata Harper's Restorative Eye Creme) or that's full of natural, nourishing oils (like Vered Organic Botanicals' Anti-Wrinkle Eye treatment).
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