"Genetic under-eye circles are ones that are passed down to us from our parents in heritage," says Dr. Devgan. And typically, the circles "have been present from an early age, often childhood or teenage years." But there's no clear sign that under-eye circles are genetic or not because we all have some heritable traits that become more defined as we age. Plus, the fact that they're inherited doesn't necessarily impact the way they're treated.
"There's a continuum between all types of under-eye circles," says Dr. Devgan. "Sometimes people feel that they're genetic when they noticed some at a slightly younger age, but pretty much everyone at one point or another, unless you're super genetically blessed will notice that they have some tiredness around the eyes, just because that's kind of a thing that happens with facial aging."
Because under-eye circles can have so many different causes, Shirley Chi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in California, recommends consulting your dermatologist to help figure out a game plan.
"There are lots of reasons why people have under-eye bags. Some of it's hereditary, some of it's discoloration-related, some of it's volume-related, some of it's photo-aging or wrinkle-related. And if you don't know exactly what your issue is or what combination of issues you have, you're not going to be going down the right road," says Dr. Chi. "It's always beneficial and time-efficient to go in to see your dermatologist first when you're tackling these issues because they can give you an overall sense of whether you can do this topically, or whether you need also in-office treatments."
Which route you take is dependent on what you're comfortable with and what results you're hoping to get.
"Depending on your situation, you may consider something very conservative, like a topical product, something slightly more invasive, like a laser or a chemical peel or another step up, like an injectable, such as Botox or filler. And then finally something like surgery," says Dr. Devgan. "There is truly no topical products that will function as well as an injectable or a surgery. So it's very important to manage your expectations."
If you're only noticing under-eye darkness developing on one side, Maral Skelsey, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Maryland, says you should absolutely make an appointment with your dermatologist.
"There's a thing called lentigo maligna on the face. They can just show up as a dark patch and it can be mistaken for dark under-eye circles, especially if it's just one side versus both," says Dr. Skelsey. "That's something that you want to bring to the attention of a dermatologist because we're seeing an increase in melanoma."
If you're not looking for drastic results and just want something to help you look a bit more awake, there are some topical ingredients that can be helpful to treat genetic dark circles.
Products to help manage genetic dark circles
“I happen to love my own peptide eye creams, which is a peptide-rich product that really nourishes the delicate tissues around the eyes,” says Dr. Devgan. “A great peptide-rich eye cream can improve the turgor of the skin around the eyes, which is the thinnest skin on the body.”
Dr. Skelsey also likes this cream from SkinBetter, a line that you can only purchase through a dermatologist. “I like really the SkinBetter InterFuse Eye because it has vitamin C that brightens up the skin and then caffeine which constricts the vessels,” she says.
Prescription-based topicals for under-eye circles
If you're dealing with darkened pigment under the eyes and you're hoping to seriously brighten them, Dr. Chi says to get something from your derm. "Topicals do work for discoloration, but again, the prescription-strength topicals are much more effective than the over-the-counter strength," says Dr. Chi.
Learn more about managing dark circles and other under-eye issues:
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