Why do I Have Dark Circles Under My Eyes?

Speak to a doctor for just $35 with our Telehealth service.Book now


Pyroluria – a Zinc and Vitamin B6 deficiency

Healthylife Pharmacy20 June 2016|4 min read

Allergy, Eczema, Nutrition | April 15, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

allergy, eczema, Digestion

Periorbital dark circles, also known as dark circles, infraorbital venous stasis or periorbital hyperpigmentation are dark blemishes under and around the eyes. There are a number of factors that contribute to causing the formation of dark circles underneath the eyes. The area around the eyes is covered by thin and delicate skin, which is filled with small blood vessels called capillaries. Blood sometimes leaks from these vessels, which degrades and discolours the overlying skin much like a bruise does.

Common causes of dark circles 

  • allergies
  • anaemia
  • eczema
  • dietary factors
  • tiredness - this may  accentuate dark circles as the lack of sleep makes the skin pale and may contribute to puffiness around the eyes.
  • hereditary

Heredity is a primary cause of dark circles because it dictates skin tone, including the degree of transparency, which can highlight the discoloration caused by the degradation of the haemoglobin within the leaked blood.

Genes are also related to weakened capillaries in the tissue around the eyes.

Some of the more common causes

Allergies, asthma and eczema

Nasal congestion can dilate the blood vessels that drain from the area around the eyes, causing them to darken. 

Any condition that causes the eyes to itch can contribute to darker circles due to rubbing or scratching the skin around them. Hay fever sufferers in particular can get under-eye "smudges" during the height of the allergy season.


Lack of nutrients in the diet, or the lack of a balanced diet, can contribute to the discoloration of the area under the eyes. It is believed that iron deficiency in particular can cause dark circles. Iron deficiency is the most common type of anaemia and this condition is a sign that not enough oxygen is getting to the body tissues including the eye tissue.

The skin can also become paler during pregnancy and menstruation (due to lack of iron), allowing the underlying veins under the eyes to become more visible and as a result this area appears darkened.

Fatigue and stress

A lack of sleep can cause paleness of the skin, allowing the blood underneath the skin to become more visible and appear more blue or darker.

Chronic stress can affect sleep. 

Additionally, when the body is under stress more blood is sent to the vital organs, which can leave the face looking pale—pronouncing the appearance of dark circles. High stress can also damage the capillaries surrounding the eyes, causing them to leak blood. As the blood oxidizes, it will appear dark purple

Food Intolerances

Food intolerances and food allergies can cause physical reactions like inflammation under the eyes which can lead to the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.

Supplements to help with Dark Circles


Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that stabilizes the release of histamines and helps to naturally control allergy symptoms. A recent study found evidence that quercetin is effective at reducing allergies because it helps calm down hyperactivity of the airways. People prone to seasonal allergies should start to take quercetin a few weeks before spring begins.

Vitamin C

When blood vessels under the eyes become weak and dilated, dark circles can appear. Loss of collagen under the eyes, which leads to thinner skin, also increases the appearance of under-eye shadows.

Taking vitamin C may help to combat this by strengthening the blood vessels and supporting healthy collagen. Additionally, vitamin C helps with the absorption of quercetin and iron and helps to reduce histamine release and therefore provides allergy relief. Vitamin C is also depleted during times of stress as it is used by the adrenal glands to help the body cope.


It’s now becoming common knowledge that a strong immune system starts with a healthy gut.  The reason for this is that more than eighty percent of the immune function is stored in the gastrointestinal tract. Research shows again and again that probiotic supplementation should be used to reduce the risk of allergies.

In addition, a study published in the journal Paediatrics discovered that women who regularly take probiotics during pregnancy significantly reduce their child’s risk of developing allergies. Probiotics can also be added to the diet in the form of fermented foods and drinks.

B vitamin complex

B vitamins help with so many different functions of the human body. In the case of dark circles they can be used to balance vitamin levels and reduce allergies. They contain folic acid which helps with the production of red blood cells so are needed in cases of anaemia and they help to reduce stress and fatigue which are all contributing factors towards dark circles under the eyes.

Vitamin B2 specifically helps to improve oxygenation of the eye tissues.

Vitamin B12 specifically helps to make red blood cells in the bone marrow. A deficiency of B12 can leads to anaemia, or lack of red cells, and reduced metabolic function, among other problems. Red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen to bodily tissues and metabolism is necessary for energy production.


A deficiency in folic acid presents the same symptom picture as anaemia so it is important that the iron supplement that is chose contains folic acid. High quality supplements will also contain B12. Check the label for the amount of "elemental" iron, not the total iron content. Elemental (iron in the salt form) is the only type that humans can absorb.

Diet to help with Dark Circles

Begin by removing the most common allergenic foods, including eggs, milk, peanuts, seafood, sulphites, sesame, soy, tree nuts, wheat and gluten-containing grains (spelt, wheat rye, kamut) from the diet for a two to four week time period. After four weeks these foods can be added back in to the diet one food item every few day to test if there is any type of reaction to it. If symptoms return, then that particular food should be excluded from the daily diet.

As well as taking a quercetin supplement, it can also be added to the diet. It is naturally found in plant foods such as cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or cauliflower), onions/shallots, green tea and citrus fruits. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that stabilizes the release of histamines and helps to naturally control allergy symptoms.

Consume Iron-Rich Foods

Consuming iron-rich foods can be done in order to prevent anaemia or help with diagnosed anaemia or both. The richest sources of heme iron (the more absorbable form) in the diet includes lean meat and seafood. Dietary sources of non-heme iron include nuts, beans, vegetables and fortified grain products.

Some of the best iron food sources include beef liver and chicken liver as it’s very high in iron. For other iron-rich foods, look toward organic, grass-fed meats like beef, bison and lamb. Also, eat spinach, kale and chard.



Periorbital Hyperpigmentation: A Study of its Prevalence, Common Causative Factors and its Association with Personal Habits and Other Disorders https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969674



Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27187333

Role of quercetin (a natural herbal compound) in allergy and inflammation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18187018

Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808895/

Vitamin C in Disease Prevention and Cure: An Overview https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3783921/

The impact of probiotic on gut health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19149514

Probiotics and allergy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16313688