A good concealer is just a small part of the equation.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way — there is no miracle cure for dark under eye circles. “Even the most expensive eye creams and procedures can’t completely eliminate them,” says Paula Begoun, founder of the skincare line Paula’s Choice. The good news: You can minimize their appearance.
So, we asked Begoun and Sabina Wizemann, senior chemist at the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab, for their best advice about minimizing, covering up, and preventing dark under eye circles.
1. Determine the underlying cause.
For the best plan of action, you first have to understand what’s causing your dark circles. “Lack of sleep, an allergic reaction, or the consumption of salty foods can be factors,” says Wizemann, “but dark circles can also be hereditary.” Indeed, “genetics can play a major role,” adds Begoun. “Some people are just born having a predisposition to dark circles.”
2. Prioritize on sun protection.
As with many skin issues, the solution starts with SPF. “Sun damage from years of unprotected sun exposure leads to excess pigmentation showing through the thin skin underneath the eyes,” Begoun says. “There is no question that using sunscreen around your eyes is vitally important.” She recommends Paula’s Choice RESIST Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($33, nordstrom.com), “a fan-favorite for its ultra-gentle formula that works beautifully for the eye area and preps skin for makeup,” she says.
3. Know which skincare ingredients to look for — and which to avoid.
In addition to a good sunscreen, consider adding a serum with “skin-brightening ingredients that improve skin’s natural vibrancy, such as niacinamide, bearberry extract, and vitamin C,” Begoun says. Two top picks: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension ($6, sephora.com) is affordable and contains 23% vitamin C. Glossier Super Pure ($28, glossier.com) is a splurge but contains a blend of niacinamide and vitamin B3.
You may also want to upgrade your eye cream for one with a harder-working formula. Wizemann recommends looking for a product containing hyaluronic acid or glycerin to moisturize the area. Burt’s Bees Renewal Smoothing Eye Cream ($20, ulta.com) earned high ratings by the GHI Beauty Lab for moisturization. Also consider RoC Multi Correxion 5-in-1 Eye Cream with HEXINOL ($27, ulta.com), which the GHI Beauty Lab “rated best for minimizing dark circles, puffiness, and signs of aging after a month of consistent use,” says Wizemann.
Above all, avoid irritants when building your skincare routine. “Products loaded with soothing ingredients and that don’t contain any kind of fragrance can make a huge difference, as irritation can make matters worse,” Begoun says.
4. Find the right concealer.
If you’ve got dark circles, you’re likely slapping loads of concealer on in the morning. But it might be time to trade your go-to for a better model. “A moisturizing concealer with a satin or soft matte finish works best,” Begoun says. “The goal is to find one that has enough slip to make blending easy, but not so much slip that it quickly creases into lines under the eyes.”
Begoun recommends Clinique Beyond Perfecting Super Concealer ($20, ulta.com), which comes in 18 shades, one of which is an apricot color corrector specifically designed to balance out discoloration. Another solid choice is the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circle Treatment Concealer ($9, ulta.com), which the GHI Beauty Lab rated highly for its ability to — you guessed it — minimize the appearance of dark circles.
5. Choose eye makeup wisely.
Make sure you’re using eye products that won’t slide around and make dark circles appear worse. “Lots of eye pencils are exceptionally greasy and move around the eye during the day,” says Begoun. “Even if you don’t have dark circles, you will look like you do.” Opt for a waterproof eyeliner like CoverGirl Liquiline Blast Eyeliner ($7, walmart.com) which holds the Good Housekeeping Seal for its ability to glide on easily and stay in place all day.
Another way to avoid smudges: Lay down a primer like Too Faced Shadow Insurance ($20, sephora.com) before you apply your shadow, liner, and mascara.
6. Be careful when removing your makeup.
It’s not just how you apply makeup that can affect dark circles, but how you remove it. “That constant tugging and pulling at the delicate skin around the eye increases sagging and, as a result, can look darker than the skin around it,” says Begoun. “Pulling as little as possible around the eyes can make a big difference over time.” Consider using a cleansing oil like the Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil ($10, amazon.com) or balm like Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm ($29, ulta.com) to remove mascara and eyeshadow with minimal tugging.