Lightening Dark Under-eye Circles

Discover the best treatments for improving under-eye circles in darker skin tones


Looking tired is a common aesthetic concern, and dark undereye circles are a big contributing factor. While they can affect people of all ethnicities, they are often more noticeable in people with darker skin tones. According to aesthetic practitioner Dr Stephen Humble, this is due to them having a higher concentration of melanin (a natural skin pigment), which can accentuate any underlying hollowness and hyperpigmentation.

The best treatment for dark circles differs between different skin tones, so Beyond Beauty spoke to Dr Humble about some of the main causes of dark circles around the eye and found out what the solutions are for darker skin.

Tear through Deformity

Your tear trough is the deep crease between your lower eyelid and upper cheek. Tear trough deformity refers to volume loss beneath the eye, which is caused by fat loss as we age. In non-severe cases it can be effectively treated using hyaluronic acid dermal fillers, which can be administered with either a needle or cannula, explains Dr Humble. “My personal preference is to use a cannula for skin of colour patients, because they are less likely to cause any bruising, which may appear particularly dark in skin of colour,” he adds, “The best candidates for tear trough fillers are those who don’t already experience puffiness under their eyes.”

In severe cases, Dr Humble notes that the tear trough may need to be treated using surgical techniques, but this is typically used for older patients due to greater volume loss and will be determined by your practitioner.


Hyperpigmentation refers to a condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. This is more noticeable in patients with skin of colour, explains Dr Humble. “Naturally, darker skin tones tend not to experience sunburn like those with light skin, and as such, especially during childhood, may not have necessarily had a natural prompt to wear SPF,” he says, stating that this is one reason why SPF is still important for these individuals. “Also, many people with skin of colour have connections with hot countries and may have spent time living there or visiting regularly, thus increasing their cumulative exposure to UV light, which is one if the main causes of hyperpigmentation,” Dr Humble says.  

The main treatment for hyperpigmentation in skin of colour is topical therapy, mainly skincare and eye creams containing tyrosinase inhibitors, explains Dr Humble. He says, “Tyrosinase inhibitors are what we can use to lighten the skin. The most effective and well-known tyrosinase inhibitor for skin of colour is hydroquinone. The treatment typically requires at least three months’ duration due to the length of time the skin cycle (the process where a new skin cell is formed and works its way up to the surface of the skin) takes to complete. While it’s effective, long-term or incorrect use can be damaging. One or two pea sized amounts should be sufficient for the entire face.”

Other tyrosinase inhibitors include kojic acid, arbutin and azelaic acid, which aren’t as strong as hydroquinone and may potentially be used over longer periods of time in patients that require ongoing treatment to prevent pigmentation returning, adds Dr Humble. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, ferulic acid, retinols, and phloretin are also very useful in helping hyperpigmentation, and can also stimulate collagen and elastin production to help plump any volume loss.


Other options…

Other non-surgical options that can be used to treat dark circles in skin of colour include: platelet-rich plasma therapy (where a small amount of a person’s blood is taken, processed, and then injected back into their body in order to stimulate healing), lasers, radiofrequency devices, and superficial chemical peels. Dr Humble adds, “Not all types of lasers or peels are suitable for dark skin types, as they may cause excess hyperpigmentation, so it is important to be assessed and treated by a qualified medical practitioner who is able to determine the best treatment for you individually. If done correctly, or in combination with other treatments, cautious use of either of these methods can help to produce good results.”

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