Hereditary Dark Circles Under the Eyes

Heredity can be a boon when you get your mom's long eyelashes or your dad's blue eyes, but it can be a pain when you inherit dark circles. Genes are the most common cause of dark circles, says New York City-based dermatologist Charlotte Clark in "Real Simple" magazine.

Woman looking at her under eyes in a small mirror. (Image: Henk Badenhorst/iStock/Getty Images)

Identification

Hereditary dark circles under your eyes look just like other dark circles -- they show up as round, uniform areas of darker skin underneath your eyes. The difference is that hereditary dark circles are determined by genetics, so while you can do things to make them look worse or better, you can't control whether or not you have them in the first place.

Types

A few different types of dark circles may be hereditary. Most dark circles are caused by allergies, which can be hereditary, says Cheryl M. Burgess, medical director at the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery in Washington, D.C., in "O, The Oprah Magazine." When you rub your eyes to soothe irritation, you may be causing dark circles. Some people may also have more pigment beneath the eyes or slower vascular movement, also hereditary traits, says Burgess. Thin skin and pale skin, both hereditary traits, can also cause dark circles.

Considerations

If you're prone to dark circles because of your genes, certain behaviors can exacerbate the problem and make your dark circles more noticeable. Sun damage can cause your skin to step up melanin production, increasing under-eye darkness. Drinking too much alcohol or consuming lots of caffeinated beverages can also make dark circles more noticeable. Smoking can significantly increase the appearance of dark circles. If you are genetically prone to dark circles, you may want to limit or avoid these behaviors.

Prevention/Solution

An over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine can help prevent dark circles caused by allergies. If you know your hereditary dark circles are caused in whole or in part by vascular issues, sleeping propped up on pillows and applying a cool compress in the morning may be all you need to reduce their appearance, says Jeannette Graf, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City, in "Real Simple" magazine. If thin skin runs in your family, a retinol or vitamin C cream helps stimulate collagen production to make skin thicker and the veins beneath less noticeable.

Expert Insight

If you can't fight your genes, you can hide the dark circles they cause with a little concealer. Choose a creamy concealer that matches your skin tone, and tap it onto your under-eye area with your fingertip, recommends beauty editor Valerie Monroe in "O, The Oprah Magazine." Then blend it in with your fingers until your dark circles fade away.

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