Does too much screen time really cause dark circles?

‘What happened?!’ asked my concerned friend after I sent what I thought was an inconspicuous mirror selfie to our group chat.

‘Nothing?’ I responded (I’d simply been showing off my helmet hair, nothing to worry about).

That’s when I realised.

Both of my under-eyes had become so dark that it looked like I’d taken a one-two to the face.

I chalked it up to the unnatural amount of time I’d been spending staring at my laptop while drowning under deadlines – after all, the day I took that selfie was the first time I’d surfaced in weeks.

That’s a thing, right?

Well, kind of…

Although an influx of screen time doesn’t directly cause dark circles, it can definitely increase the likelihood of them appearing.

As Dr Elizabeth Hawkes, consultant oculoplastic and ophthalmic surgeon explains: ‘Screen time itself is not a direct cause of dark circles.

‘However, spending too much time looking at a screen can inadvertently cause them to become more visible by contributing to the more specific causes of dark circles such as the dilation of blood vessels which become more visible underneath the delicate eyelid skin or dehydration of the skin if you’re taking less breaks.

‘The blue light emitted from our screens also affects our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), so screen time can disrupt sleep and make dark circles worse.’

‘In summary it’s the effects of excess screen time rather than direct damage from the blue light.’

What are the specific causes of dark under-eye circles?

Genetics – A family history of dark circles can increase the likelihood of dark circles.

Vascularity – The eyelids are very vascular so, due to poor circulation, the vessels can become dilated.

This will make them more apparent under the eyelid skin and cause the appearance of dark circles.  

Allergies -Allergies such as hay fever and eczema can cause hypertrophy and erythema of the eyelid skin which contributes to the appearance of dark circles.

Aging – Volume loss and descent of the structures around the eyelid will cause the appearance of the tear trough and also worsen the appearance of dark circles.

Over the years, the bone of the orbit atrophies and this causes the eyes to sit further back in the socket and appear sunken, enhancing the appearance of dark circles.

Dehydration and smoking – Not drinking enough water and smoking a lot can cause dark circles.

How can we combat dark circles?

Luckily, it is possible to reduce the appearance of dark circles, with or without treatment.

Reduce dark circles naturally

While lotions, potions and cosmetic surgery can be used to lessen the appearance of dark circles (more on that below), it is possible to treat dark circles naturally.

Dr Hawkes listed some potential solutions to decreasing your dark circles:

  • Stay hydrated 
  • Don’t smoke 
  • Wear UV protection such as sunglasses in the day as well as SPF, and use retinol at night
  • Reduce salt intake, which causes puffiness.
  • Be careful when removing eye makeup – remember the eyelid skin is very delicate and to remove makeup thoroughly yet carefully
  • Do not rub the eyes excessively
  • Get enough sleep
  • Use a night cream to keep the skin hydrated

Use a topical cream

‘Topical creams are good for dehydration and allergy relief but they will not restore volume or reverse a family history of dark circles,’ Dr Hawkes says.

‘When picking the best eye creams for dark circles I would advise looking for ones that include tried-and-tested ingredients like retinol, hyaluronic acid and caffeine – these are the ones that will effectively hydrate, plump and brighten those dark shadows, while smoothing fine lines.’

She adds any eye cream should be applied ‘as gently as possible’ and patted, rather than rubbed, into the skin.

It’s also important to go all the way around your orbital socket, aka the bone surrounding your eye.

Get a treatment or surgery

‘It is possible to treat dark circles however in order to do this effectively it’s important to visit an oculoplastic specialist who will take a full medical history and perform a thorough examination to ascertain the underlying cause and ultimately determine the correct management,’ says Dr Hawkes.

‘Treatments vary depending on the cause, and can include: topical prescription creams, a chemical peel, anti-wrinkle injections to the eye muscle, dermal filler to restore volume or surgical lower eyelid blepharoplasty may be required as an option for dark circles.’

She adds: ‘A thorough ophthalmic examination is necessary to exclude an eye disease or allergy that could be affecting the skin such as allergic conjunctivitis secondary to pollen.’

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