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Why do we get dark circles under our eyes when we are tired?

Credits : Pixabay / David-Karich

After a short or a poor night’s sleep, or quite simply following a build up of fatigue, the area underneath our eyes becomes darker, leaving us with less than desirable dark circles. But what exactly are they, and why do they appear? 

There is no good in trying to pretend at work that you’re not tired, when the tell tale signs give you away: dark circles under your eyes. You may have even made yourself go to bed early the night before, in the hope of getting a good night’s sleep. However, the series you switched on “to help you fall asleep” was full of suspense and surprise, keeping you awake half the night. As a result, the next morning, your face is proudly displaying dark circles under your eyes.

To give them their proper name, periorbital hyperpigmentation, dark circles are nothing serious, at least from a medical point of view. If they appear, it is mainly due to the finer quality of skin just under the eyes. But according to dermatologist Carole Clinton, as she explains to LiveScience, their appearance is above all a matter of genetics and the environment, and they are more obvious in people with pale skin.

Fatigue and stress can lead to slower blood circulation around the eyes. Because of this slowing down, the capillaries – very fine blood vessels -situated at the peripheries of the eyes, swell up with blood and dilate. The area under the eyes thus takes on this famous darker colour.

However, another phenomenon can cause dark circles to appear, namely when a person’s skin elasticity starts to deteriorate. With age, the fat under the skin tends to disappear, which creates a sort of hollow in the skin. This creates a shadow that is visible to varying degrees, and can give the impression of having dark circles, even though this is not in fact what is going on.