Many people believe that dark eyelids make them look tired. Although this symptom is not dangerous, it can sometimes affect a person’s well-being and self-esteem.
Depending on the cause of dark eyelids, a doctor may be able to suggest ways in which a person can reduce their appearance. Some preventive remedies can also help people who have risk factors for dark eyelids.
Keep reading to learn more about the different causes of dark eyelids and the treatments and remedies. We also cover some prevention methods.
There are several possible causes of dark eyelids. Knowing the cause can help a doctor recommend the most appropriate treatments.
During pregnancy, women may notice changes to their skin. One of the most common skin conditions that occurs during pregnancy is melasma. Pregnant women with melasma will notice brown or gray-brown hyperpigmented patches on their face.
When these patches appear on the eyelids, they may cause dark eyelids.
The dark spots are patches of skin with increased melanin, which is a pigment that the skin cells produce to give the skin color. In hyperpigmented areas, the cells produce too much melanin.
Some doctors think that melasma may appear during pregnancy because of changes in hormone levels, but the exact cause is still unclear.
Some researchers have suggested that our genes may influence the development of dark eyelids. This symptom may affect some members of the family more than others.
These researchers also note that people have reported noticing dark eyelids during childhood that darkened further with age. Some individuals also reported that the darkening worsened when they were stressed, while rest and good health lessened the dark color.
3. Hyperpigmentation due to inflammation
Chronic eczema and allergic inflammation of the eyes can cause hyperpigmentation and dark eyelids.
Some people can develop dark eyelids from rubbing and scratching the skin around the eyes. Fluid accumulation from allergies can result in dark eyelids as well.
4. Dermal melanocytosis
Melanocytes are skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin. People with dermal melanocytosis may have melanocytes within the dermis of the skin, which can cause dark eyelids. Typically, people with dermal melanocytosis have gray or blue-gray patches on their eyelids.
Dermal melanocytosis can result from acquired or congenital causes. Some acquired causes of dermal melanocytosis include:
- sun exposure
- hormonal changes in pregnancy
- chronic eczema
5. Increased number of blood vessels
Another common cause of dark eyelids is the thinning of the skin and the presence of blood vessels around the eyelids. People may notice a darkening of the skin around the eyes during menstruation. Usually, increased vascularity causes darkening under the eyes.
Doctors can confirm the diagnosis of increased vascularity under the skin around the eyes by manually stretching the skin. If the cause is an increased number of blood vessels, the color will not fade or blanch when the doctor stretches the skin.
Some medications can cause dark eyelids. Prostaglandin analogs that doctors use to treat glaucoma, such as latanoprost (Xalatan) and bimatoprost (Lumigan), can cause dark eyelids after about 3–6 months of use. Doctors have noticed that when people stop using bimatoprost, the darkening can fade completely.
7. Tear trough with aging
With age, people can develop tear troughs, which are depressions in the area under the eyes and near the nose. Tear troughs develop as a result of the loss of fat and thinning of the skin in the area.
These age-related changes appear to hollow out the rim around the eyes, and shadowing can highlight the appearance of dark circles.
8. Swelling around the eyes
Both systemic and local causes can increase swelling around the eyelids. A person with dark eyelids that appear worse in the morning or after eating a salty meal may have swelling around the eyes that decreases throughout the day.
9. Environmental causes
Ultraviolet radiation can aggravate dark eyelids.
Although clinical studies have not yet confirmed them, doctors suggest that other environmental factors may also cause or worsen dark eyelids. These factors include:
- poor sleep
- alcohol misuse
Although there are no official treatment guidelines for dark eyelids, dermatologists recommend using existing treatments for melasma to treat dark eyelids. However, before choosing a specific treatment option, doctors need to determine what is causing the appearance of dark eyelids.
Depending on the cause, certain lifestyle changes can improve the appearance of dark eyelids. Some lifestyle changes and home remedies that may help include:
- getting enough sleep, if darkening worsens with poor sleep
- reducing salt intake, if darkening becomes more apparent after eating a salty meal
- wearing sunscreen, if the eyelids look darker after sun exposure
- applying cold compresses, if swelling from allergies or other causes worsens dark eyelids
- elevating the head during sleep, if darkening seems worse in the morning
Many of these lifestyle changes can not only improve the appearance of dark eyelids but also improve overall health.
Doctors may also suggest different topical agents, depending on the cause of dark eyelids.
Some people may wish to try bleaching agents or depigmenting creams to reduce the appearance of dark eyelids. These include:
- kojic acid
- azelaic acid
- topical retinoic acid
These agents work by blocking the conversion of dopa to melanin in the skin cells. Reduced production of melanin can improve the appearance of dark eyelids. People may need to use depigmenting agents for a few months to notice a significant effect on the color of their eyelids.
Some natural treatments that people can try include topical vitamin C and arbutin. Arbutin comes from the leaves of the bearberry shrub and the cranberry, pear, and blueberry plants. Its effects are similar to those of hydroquinone, but high dosages can cause hyperpigmentation.
Some experts suggest that vitamin C can improve the appearance of dark circles because it promotes collagen production and conceals the color of blood that is flowing poorly in the vessels at the skin’s surface.
Physical therapies, such as chemical peels, surgical corrections, and laser therapy, can also help reduce the appearance of dark eyelids.
Pregnant women may not be able to prevent melasma. The spots can fade or disappear after giving birth, but some women may have spots that last for years. Dermatologists suggest that pregnant women can prevent melasma from worsening by wearing sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat when spending time outside.
Avoiding direct sun exposure is a standard recommendation for everyone to promote healthy skin. People should apply sunscreen or moisturizers containing sunscreen to their face and eyelids daily. Although some people have risk factors for the development of dark eyelids, limiting sun exposure may help minimize the darkening.
Noticing when dark eyelids appear can help people determine their cause and which factors may have contributed. Limiting salty foods and avoiding rubbing the eyes during allergy season may also help prevent their development.
Some people may also use makeup to conceal dark eyelids. Concealing dark eyelids does not prevent or treat them, though.
Doctors have classified dark eyelids into four categories, depending on their appearance:
- pigmented (brown)
- vascular (blue/pink/purple)
- structural (skin color)
Before attempting to treat dark eyelids, people should consult a doctor. Some treatments may be inappropriate for some people, and other treatments may not work, depending on the cause and type of hyperpigmentation.
Some medications may cause dark eyelids. People should continue taking their medications and consult a doctor first before stopping.
Dark eyelids are usually a cosmetic problem, and people may not always need to consult a doctor. People who feel as though dark eyelids are affecting their quality of life or causing poor self-esteem should speak with a doctor before trying to resolve dark eyelids on their own.
Dark eyelids are a common cosmetic problem that dermatologists treat. They have many possible causes, including poor sleep, salty foods, allergies, pregnancy, genes, and others. Some people are more prone than others to developing dark eyelids.
Depending on the cause of dark eyelids, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, or physical treatments, such as chemical peels and laser treatment. People often need to use treatments for several months before seeing a significant effect.
Some lifestyle habits can help prevent or reduce the appearance of dark circles. These include regularly getting better quality sleep and applying sunscreen daily.