If you have dark circles under your eyes, you'll find a huge number of products on store shelves claiming to solve that problem. However, there isn't much science behind the claims. Popular ingredients for treating dark circles include vitamin K, which is thought to repair blood vessels that create a bluish hue under the eyes, and kojic acid and hydroquinone, compounds that have some skin-lightening abilities. While you might see some lightening after regular use, no topical cream can get rid of dark circles completely.
Contrary to popular belief, dark circles aren't caused by lack of sleep. Instead, they can be triggered by myriad causes, including allergies that can lead to extra pressure in the sinuses, dark shadows caused by the depth of the eye socket, leaking capillaries that can lead to a bruised appearance and excess pigmentation under the eyes due to genetics. Experts at Dermatology Times, a monthly publication for dermatologists, say, "Under-eye circles are remarkably resistant to treatment."
Most skin-care professionals say cosmetic surgery and laser treatments are the best ways to eradicate chronic dark circles, since these procedures will reduce the prominence of visible veins. Several options are available, but most of these require multiple treatments that cost between $250 and $1,500 each, depending on where you live, the type of therapy you choose and your surgeon. If something like this is of interest, consult a doctor for more information on which procedure best suits your needs.
For more mild cases, reviewers say a treatment designed to disguise dark circles like our Best Reviewed Olay Professional Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex (Est. $30 for 0.5 oz.) might help somewhat. High on its ingredient list are two promising ingredients: De-puffing caffeine (helpful if your dark circles are actually shadows cast by under-eye bags) and niacinamide (which can lighten pigmentation without irritating skin).
At Elle magazine, dermatologist Jessica Wu recommends Olay Professional Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex for people whose dark circles are caused by over-pigmentation. Put your circles to the test: "If you gently pull down on your lower eyelid, and the dark circles move with the skin, then circles are likely caused by pigment in the top layers," Wu says.
Makeup expert Paula Begoun awards Olay Professional Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex her highest 5-star rating. "It feels lightweight yet substantial, makes skin feel incredibly smooth, and treats it to several cell-communicating ingredients as well as a respectable amount of antioxidants," as well as being free of irritating fragrances. Still, Begoun argues that "as with most eye creams, the claims of diminishing dark circles and puffiness are dubious at best," but plenty of users disagree: Olay Professional Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex is a customer favorite at Drugstore.com, and it earns high marks at Ulta.com and Amazon.com as well. Several users say it actually does lighten their dark under-eye circles, as well as just being a good overall eye moisturizer.
For half the price, Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum (Est. $14 for 0.5 oz.) shares some ingredients with its pricier sibling, but niacinamide falls farther down the list (indicating that there's less of it), and there's no caffeine. Begoun gives this fragrance-free, lightweight cream her highest 5-star rating, calling it "an excellent option for use around the eyes or anywhere on the face." It contains "silky-feel silicones, glycerin, niacinamide (which can increase skin's ceramide and free fatty acid content, among other benefits), a couple of notable antioxidants, and peptides," plus shimmery mica to reflect light and make dark circles less obvious. It's a customer favorite at Drugstore.com and Ulta.com. However, even users who like it often say it didn't do anything for their dark circles. Overall, dark-circle sufferers don't like it quite as much as the Olay Professional Pro-X Eye Restoration Complex.