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Christine 04-05-2009 11:53 AM

Eye Therapy: Disguise and Treat Dark Circles and Puffiness

Recognize the Root of the Problem
Assuming you’re in pretty good health and have been getting enough sleep, hydration, and iron in your diet (all huge under-eye circle contributors if neglected), your dark circles or puffiness could still stem from a number of things. Finding out why you’re getting them is the first step to potentially treating the problem. Keep in mind: “Some causes of darkness are treatable and some aren’t,” says plastic surgeon Dr. Garth Fisher.
Dark Pigmentation
If your dark circles stem from dark/brown pigmentation, caused by accumulation of pigment in your skin (melanocytosis), allergy-related inflammation or sun damage, first stay out of the sun. Then ask your doctor if any medications you are using (eye drops, hormones, etc.) could be making your dark circles worse. (If so, discuss changing your medication to resolve that.)
To help counteract the problem, Fisher recommends skin-bleaching ingredients like hydroquinone (which may take several months to show results and should only be used under medical supervision). Alternative, over-the-counter treatments include creams containing vitamin K (like Peter Thomas Roth Power K Eye Rescue, $100, which also has skin-lightening kojic acid), as well as retinol, which helps stimulate skin cell turnover. (Try RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream, $20.99).
If you have dark circles because of hereditary causes like superficial veins (aka thin skin which shows more veins), “you can’t really do anything about them,” says Fisher. (In this case, skip to step five for expert concealing tips.)
Esthetician and Kinara Spa owner Olga Lorencin-Northrup recommends trying a non-surgical laser treatment (like Fraxel, Thermage or IPL Photofacial) to get rid of these types of dark circles, particularly when they involve genetic water retention. (Fluid retention, which also contributes to puffiness, can dilate the blood vessels under your skin and make them appear more noticeable.)
If you have under-eye bags, hollow areas or fat pads that protrude from your lower eyelids and make a shadow, you can remove or modify the fat there via surgery to fix the problem, Fisher says. Some people prefer to use injectable fillers like Juvederm, Restylane and Radiesse to fill hollow areas, although Fisher warns that they can cause lumps and bumps under the thin skin around the eyes.
“If the puffiness around the eyes is persistent even when you eliminate alcohol, sugar and salt, it is hereditary. Some swelling could be reduced by silica (found in cucumber and the herb horsetail, aka equisetum arvense) but it is limiting,” Lorencin-Northrup says. (This goes for allergy-related puffiness, too.)
Still, you have some temporary options: Dermatologist Dr. Heidi Waldorf says products that contain caffeine can vasoconstrict, or close the blood vessels, in the area, reducing the appearance of puffiness—and small bags. (Try Replenix CF Serum, $63.) If you want to go the natural route, try placing wet, cool, caffeinated tea bags on your eyes. Also, the herb eyebright is recommended by Liz Earle of Liz Earle Skincare, for its ability to reduce puffiness. Layering that with cooling organic aloe vera and witch hazel, which is “also rich in natural tannins which have a mildly astringent effect,” she says, can be more effective.
Expert Concealer Tips
When all else fails, learn the keys to using concealer effectively. “The trick to hiding (dark circles) is not to glob on a bunch of concealer,” says makeup artist Patty Bunch. “Mix a light, hydrating concealer with moisturizer so coverage doesn’t look dry and cakey.” (Try Neutrogena Skin Soothing Undereye Corrector, $9.55.)

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