They're called all sorts of names: Panda eyes, raccoon eyes, eye rings, eye bags... No matter what we call them, dark circles under the eyes is the most common beauty problem among women, according to a 2006 study by Clinique.
Generally, most people attribute panda eyes to lack of sleep. While it's true that insufficient sleep can make you look like Xing Xing or Liang Liang the day after, dark eye rings can actually be caused by other factors. Understanding the cause of your eye rings is the first step toward getting the right treatment. Different causes call for special treatment modules, so there's really no one-cure-fits-all.
Why am I turning panda?
Ever notice children with black eye rings? Yes, a lack of sleep can give you eye rings, regardless of age or gender. If this isn't addressed early, the dark rings will eventually become permanent, lasting into adulthood. Being Asian doesn't help either because we have thinner skin under the eyes. Having thin skin makes the pigment below the eye stand out more, giving a darker impression of the circles.
If you spend a lot of time in the sun, be prepared to be conscientious with your eye serum, moisturiser and sunscreen. Excessive sun exposure creates fine wrinkles around the eye, which darkens the skin and casts those circles. Swollen and puffy eyes also cast shadows under the area to give us dark circles. So, if you've cried buckets after watching a movie or having an argument, expect to look like a panda the next day.
Puffy eyes can happen due to a diet rich in salt. Because of osmosis, the water in our body accumulates at areas with high salt concentrations. That's why a salty dinner can leave you with puffy eyes. Rubbing our eyes will only worsen the condition because of our thin skin around the area. In fact, people with allergies and sinus conditions who tend to rub their eyes are often the ones battling dark eye rings.
Also, nasal congestion makes the blood vessels from the eyes to the nose swell, which darkens the under-eye area. And panda eyes are more prominent during pregnancy when hormonal changes darken the skin and dilate the blood vessels around the eye, making eye rings more conspicuous. Of course, hormonal changes can also be the result of a poor diet and smoking.
Research has shown that certain sleeping positions can cause panda eyes as well, like sleeping on our sides and stomach. People who sleep on their sides will find their black eye circles worse on the side they sleep on, because gravity causes fluids to accumulate under that eye.
Meanwhile, ageing also causes the eye area to hollow out, creating shadows that mimic black circles. Age also thins the skin under the eyes, making the blood vessels in that area stand out.
Correcting those circles
Some people are born with pigmentation problems, which cause skin discolouration at the eye area. For them, the only help is through make-up and concealers to lighten the dark area and reduce the effect of the eye circles.
Side sleepers should try sleeping on their backs to reduce the fluid accumulation. If you have trouble sleeping, try shutting off all non-essential electrical devices, drinking a glass of warm milk and dimming all the lights, and no caffeine drinks after dinner - these are some ways to relax about an hour before going to bed.
Conscientious use of eye serums and gels can reduce puffiness and dark circles, too. Placing cucumber slices, aloe vera gel and tea bags on closed eyes have some minimal effect, but they do help us to relax and reduce our stress levels.
Creams with retinol and skin-lightening formulas can also help to lighten the skin tone around the eyes, which will reduce the darkness of the circles. Sun protection is important if you're outdoors a lot, whether you at a beach resort or driving around all day. Apply sunblock gently under the eyes with your middle finger.
For severe dark circles and eye rings, consider seeing a cosmetic surgeon or aesthetic doctor. Several procedures can reduce the circles effectively, like skin lasers (which stops the cells that produce pigments around the eye) and light microabrasion (which removes a thin top layer of the skin with abrasives). Cosmetic surgeons may also recommend hyaluronic acid filler injections to boost the volume of sunken eyes. However, the effects last less than 12 months as the filler will inevitably break down in our body over time.
Your last resort would be cosmetic surgery. But to avoid having to remove your eye bags with a nip and tuck, try the early remedial methods suggested here. Accumulative action over a prolonged period will save you money and the risk of surgery.
Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist (FRCOG, UK). For further information, visit www.primanora.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.