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Eye of Darkness

By Amalah

Dearest Amalah,
I have a problem so, duh, who better to answer it than you?
There are dark circles under my eyes. Huge, dark, purple circles that NEVER go away. I’ve had them since I was a kid (now 24) and I’m starting to get annoyed. Most of the products I’ve found are designed to reduce under eye puffiness but I’m not puffy, just purpley.
Otherwise my eyes are pretty awesome — super dark chocolate brown — but these dark circles make me look like a vampire who never gets no sleep and guuuuurl, that ain’t cool.
So my question is this: 1) How can I get rid of the dark circles or 2) If I can’t get rid, how can I cover the buggers so I look halfway decent when I go out in public?
Thanks a million!

First of all, let’s get science-y for a minute! According to this helpful little column from iVillage:

Most dark circles are caused by the veins beneath the thin skin under the eye. As we age and receive more sun damage to our facial skin, the thin skin under the eye can become thinner and wrinkled, which allows the veins in the fat pad under the eye to become more prominent. These veins also become more congested in people with allergies, and people with a history of eczema, hay fever or asthma often develop dark circles referred to as “allergic shiners.”

So basically: it’s not your fault! Your under-eye area is just TOO SKINNY. Here, eat some candy. That will help.
The article lists a couple temporary fixes, like cucumber slices and cold tea bags, but then completely loses me with all the talk of EYE SURGERY, ON YOUR EYES, AH AH AH NO NO, so I believe the best course of action is to find a really awesome concealer, and then learn to apply it correctly.
benefit.jpgLinda at SundryBuzz recently put out a distress call for concealer recommendations, and lo, she got a slew of them. (Man, I am all about passing the buck on this one, huh?) She chose to try Benefit’s Boi-ing concealer and reviewed it here. I’ve always heard tons of praise for Benefit’s concealers and eye bases, including their pencils (Eye Bright and the It Stick), which are especially good for brightening up the dark inner corners by the bridge of your nose. And for during the day touch-ups, there’s Lyin’ Eyes.
I’d also probably lose my standing as Philosophy’s Number One Fan if I didn’t mention their Dark Shadows cream, but I haven’t actually tried it. Yet. But don’t worry, I’m slowly making my way through their entire collection because OMG MARRY MEEEE PHILOSOPHY.
Dark circles aren’t a huge problem for me, so for now I stick with the cheaper options. I use Physician’s Formula Concealer Twins whenever I’m sleep-deprived or under the weather, which is when I get the bluish circles. Yellow is the natural enemy of blue and purple skin discoloration, so I like being able to slather the yellow on, then blend the skin-colored makeup on over that. Like Linda said in her review of the Benefit stuff, I’ve GOT to really moisturize the eye area first, and putting on too means the makeup just cakes into the fine lines. (OR WRINKLES. WHATEVER.)
Other concealer pitfalls: choosing a color that’s too light for your skin (the “reverse raccoon,” I once heard it called), or applying it ONLY under your eyes. For a more natural look, you want to take the concealer all around the eye area blah blah blaaah.
Oh, and for the whole “concealer-before-or-after-foundation” bitchfight? (No. Seriously. People ARGUE ABOUT THIS.) (I KNOW.) Here’s my take: if your circles are really dark and really permanent — the product of thinning skin and visible veins — then put your concealer on first. Next, apply foundation and set everything with some translucent powder. I think this makes the application process easier and helps your concealer last longer.
But if your circles are more of an occasional problem and you aren’t really sure if you need concealer, then put your foundation on first. In fact, I’d go a step farther and say wait until you’ve put your blush on too. You might find that the makeup has brightened your face up enough and the blush is pulling focus away from your under-eye area. If so, hooray! You’ve spared yourself another coat of junk on your face that you’ll have to touch up later. But if not, no big deal, just go ahead and apply some concealer.
Honestly, if more people would just listen to me, I bet we could acheive world peace too. But for now, I’ll settle for no more catfights in the Sephora aisles. God, I’m such a giver.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • wilddreemer

    February 12, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    So, I don’t generally wear makeup. Okay actually I don’t wear it ever unless it is a wedding or something equally as major. So although I have a ton of makeup (I had a friend who worked at MAC) I don’t use it. However on days when I do have those dark circles under my eyes I pull out my MAC Nylon eyeshadow, and put that right under my eyes and blend with my fingers and then put a little of that and a subtle color on top. It works so well for me. It is also a nice choice for people who don’t wear a lot of concealer or make up on a normal day. This is my first comment, hope I didn’t suck to bad at it.

  • J

    February 13, 2007 at 3:03 am

    The over/under foundation advice is really good. But if you notice little white dots forming, you’re getting milia–often because the very delicate under eye skin is getting clogged by too many products and/or products that aren’t specifically formulated for use near your eyes. So watch that.
    I just discovered and am loving the Dior Smoothing Concealer for my purple undereye circles. I am sooo not a person to spend a lot of money on any one product, but it was my tax refund gift to myself. Seriously, it has changed my life–I look like I slept! And it doesn’t crease and it stays on all day. Love. (It also looks great w/ the Bourjois Coup de Theatre Lash Illusion stuff, incidentally!)

  • Kookaloomoo

    February 13, 2007 at 9:02 am

    I am also cursed with the perpetual shiner thing, although I am glad to hear that ANY part of my body is “too skinny”, so, yay!
    Anyway, the one and only product that has ever actually worked to disguise my crack-ho eyes is Prescriptives Vibrant Instant Eye Brightener. Yes, it costs $40 for half an ounce, but my current little container has lasted nearly a year, so don’t be such a cheapskate! It’s an ever-so slightly tinted serum that has an iridescent quality to it. You apply it directly to the crack-ho areas and it temporarily puffs up the skinny-ness, but mostly, it continues to camouflage the darkness. It’s not a concealer, but rather some kind of magical potion. Composed of fairy dust. Or something… You can use it all by itself (like I do) or in conjunction with foundation (I’d put the serum over the foundation, I think). Magic! Miraculous! Get thee to Macy’s and ask the Prescriptives person for a sample. It’ll be the best 40 bucks you’ll ever spend. And if you don’t like it, you can mail the rest to me.

  • AmyM

    February 13, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I know all about The Dark Circles From Hell. Guess who, out of 25 other guests, was ‘chosen’ to model the effectiveness of the Facial Highlighting Pen at a Mary Kay party? And guess who bought the damn Facial Highlighting Pen after about half of the guests said “Wow!”? Yep, me. But it really does work. And for $18, it better.

  • Meredith

    February 13, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    I have the exact opposite problem (puffy, white half-moon circles – yes, the dreaded reverse racoon), and I second the call to make 2 separate products to de-puff and “brighten”!!!
    I’ve often wondered if I can use concealer to “darken” the white spots to match the rest of my face, but I’ve been too chicken to try it. So, if anyone out there has product recommendations for the de-puff, darken issue, I’m all ears!!!
    (Enough with the !!!!!)

  • portsmouthliz

    February 13, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Yay, someone like me! I’ve huge dark circles all my life, regardless of how much sleep I get. Things I’ve learned:
    – go with a good-quality concealer that has good reviews from a source like Allure or In my experience, high end is better because it’s a lot more pigemented and blends better (my favorites: Laura Mercier Secret and Aveda. But I’m going to try the Benefit). Don’t worry about the price because one pot will last ages.
    – Get a good concealer brush. The Sonia Kashuk brush at Target or the ones at Sephora are good.
    – To avoid the reverse racoon, or too much line-settling, put a small amount of concealer just in the corner of the eye next to the nose. Put a little on with the brush, and then pat with the brush or ring finger. Since that corner is the darkest, sometimes you don’t need to do the rest.
    – using an eyeshadow brush (cheap is totally fine) put a tiiiinnnny amount of powder over the concealer to set.

  • patchuga

    February 13, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I’ve had huge circles under my eyes since, i swear, birth. I love Burt’s Bees concealer–pats on nicely and lasts all day.

  • Vida

    February 13, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    I use Napoleon’s three-color concealer on my under-eye… things (really, there’s no appropriate word for them. They’re purple blotches. Like maybe if Gorbachev’s birthmark took up residency under my eyes). It’s the only concealer I’ve found that doesn’t leave a really caked look under my eyes, which makes me look like an old woman. Regular, untinted concealer just looks bizarre. I use just a teeny little layer of the yellow under my eyes, and it’s like magic. Beautiful normal-looking skin hues. The purple and green are good for other areas of my face that have other weird colors (like above my eyes, where I’m slightly yellow).