Confession. I haven't covered up my dark under-eye circles for months, but I still wear eyeliner and mascara. If you think that seems counterintuitive, I've come to a philosophy behind leaving them in their natural state. First off, covering up the pigmentation beneath the eye flattens out my face. Secondly, I find there's something that looks too doll-like with under-eye concealer. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I'm much more concerned with looking after the delicate skin around my eyes than masking it with cover-up.
I spoke to Britta Plug — the holistic esthetician whose inside-out outside-in approach to skin care has earned her cult status — about her philosophy on dark circles. "We need to treat our skin from within. Working at an acupuncture practice for four years (Treatment by Lanshin), I've come to learn that dark, purple, and bluish under-eye circles often signal a kidney-related problem or signal blood stagnation. I see it with chronic exhaustion, too — clients will have a bruise-like mark under their eyes, and it's usually a sign of anemia. I love prescribing a lymphatic drainage protocol to release the delicate tissue around the eyes and get everything moving — but remember, you have to address the root, too."
Britta's Lymph Drainage Eye Technique
- Using light pressure, glide your middle fingers from the inner corners of the eye all the way out to the hairline.
- Repeat 15 times in a row.
- Do this technique over dry skin gently, morning and evening.
Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Leslie Carr thinks that women feel inclined to cover up dark under-eye circles and bags because doing so makes them look healthier. "I don't think that that's conscious, per se, but a major theory of beauty and attraction is that things that human beings find attractive are signs of health and fertility, and that the things we do to make ourselves more attractive are meant to mimic those indicators. If you think that people often get under-eye circles and bags when they're underslept, undernourished, or having an allergic reaction to something, it seems intuitive to think that dark circles or bags are a sign of ill health, so a person's intention is always to look healthier and cover them up."
The thing about concealing wizardry is that I feel like I'm not embracing something so essential on my face, the very windows to my soul. Plus, I've always been of the opinion that dark circles look romantic in a sort of Jane Austen way (anyone else agree?). In an age of high-definition and social-media blurring, eye bags are interesting. They may not cause the same anxiety as acne or a body part that flips an insecurity switch, but they're clearly something we're still hiding.
Alissa Vitti, a functional nutritionist and founder of FLOLiving.com, is particularly passionate about the subject of self-doubt and body image, having suffered from body dysmorphia. "Body image issues as a whole are the penultimate expression of our culture's devaluing everything biologically feminine. We aren't taught from childhood to feel positively about our cycles, our many physical transformations over our lifetime, or even taught to name our body parts properly or have adequate language to express the elegant complexity of our feminine experience. As a result, in the absence of being shown a positive road map, we only rely on our observations, which can be devastating to self-perception."
With this in mind, here's my simple guide designed to help you make the most of your beautiful eyes. Whether you want to eliminate puffiness, try a new cooling herbal remedy, or straight up just want a good concealer, there's little that these eye formulas can't do — find what suits you and reap the rewards! If nothing else, all are lovely self-care rituals for what used to seem like a complicated problem.
- A corrector is an improbable shade of pigment designed specifically to counteract the tones in dark circles, much like a colored filter. If your circles are brownish, you need peach or orange; if they’re more bluish-gray, you'll need salmon pink. Bobbi Brown Corrector in Light Peach (there are an unheard-of-elsewhere 21 shades, so they cater to everyone) is a best-seller in this category, as is the organic brand RMS's "un" cover-up, which is formulated to enhance healthy skin, and at a lowish price point.
- The skin around the eyes is thinner and has fewer oil glands than the rest of the face, so always remember to hydrate the area and give it some TLC with something unctuous but not clogging. I love good old-fashioned coconut oil lightly tapped on from the inner corners of the eye to the outer. I also use Weleda Pomegranate Firming Eye Cream and Honey Girl Face & Eye Cream with honey sourced from holistically managed hives.
- If you need a little extra somethin' somethin' to help with puffiness, leave two spoons in the freezer overnight, and in the morning gently cup them over both eyes — instantaneous cooling sensation and seriously perkier peepers in a flash! I also keep Boiron Homeopathic Arnica Gel in my fridge — my ocular version of a minty morning teeth brush that takes down swollen eyes within a few minutes.
- The Surprising Reasons You Get Puffy Eyes & Dark Circles (And 5 Quick Fixes)
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