- Essential oils are not well studied but have potential uses for treating dark circles.
- They may improve skin quality, hydrate skin and lighten hyperpigmentation.
- Essential oils must be used regularly for months in order to see results.
An essential oil is an extract containing distilled natural compounds from a single plant. They are used in many traditional medicinal systems as natural remedies for certain ailments.
Essential oils are becoming increasingly popular, both on their own and as ingredients in cosmeceuticals. They are also recommended as a treatment for dark circles under the eyes.
Can Essential Oils Treat Dark Circles?
It’s possible that some essential oils can treat dark circles, however, their efficacy has not been studied and their proponents often make unfounded claims. On the other hand, their historic and traditional use is an indication of their potential usefulness.
There are two basic mechanisms by which essential oils purport to treat dark circles. They may either improve skin quality to increase skin thickness and reduce visible veins, or lighten hyperpigmentation resulting from sun damage.
Essential Oils to Improve Skin Quality
Essential oils may work in several ways to improve skin quality, thereby reducing the appearance of dark circles due to visible veins and thinning skin.
Increase collagen production
Collagen is a protein that provides the skin with strength and structure. As we age, collagen production drops and the veins beneath the eyes become increasingly visible.
The following oils may help the body produce certain collagens.
- Japanese camellia
- Asian ginseng
While these extracts have been linked to collagen production in studies on human skin cells, they’ve never been proven in clinical trials.
Increase firmness and elasticity
Loose, sagging or wrinkled skin can exacerbate the appearance of dark circles by creating depressions and casting shadows around the eyes.
Geranium essential oil and lavender essential oil are said to firm and tighten the skin beneath the eyes. However, there are no studies that have linked these oils to skin health.
Other extracts purport to improve the skin’s elasticity; again, these claims are unproven.
- Kigelia africana extract
- Aloe vera
Dark circles often go hand in hand with under-eye puffiness. If you experience puffy eyes with your dark circles, these oils are said to help:
- Almond (has anti-inflammatory properties)
Of the three, only almond oil has studies to support its efficacy. It also has high levels of vitamin E, which is beneficial for skin.
Although cypress oil has antimicrobial properties and lavender oil may be an antioxidant, neither will necessarily reduce puffy eyes.
When the skin beneath the eyes is dehydrated, not only is it thinner and more transparent, but it is also closer to the underlying veins. This combination leads to the appearance of dark purple circles under the eyes. Several oils can rehydrate this skin and protect against future dehydration.
- Aloe vera
- Japanese camellia
Applying oil to the skin does help form a barrier against losing further moisture. However, the secondary properties of the oils are not well studied.
Essential Oils to Treat Hyperpigmentation
If your dark circles are a result of hyperpigmentation, a different approach is required to break up existing clusters of melanin (the source of the hyperpigmentation) and protect against further sun damage.
It may be possible to lighten the color of the under-eye area and any dark spots through the application of oils that break up or inhibit the formation of melanin.
Additional essential oils to treat hyperpigmentation are:
- Licorice root extract
Licorice root shows the most potential: it contains glabridin, which has been demonstrated to break up melanin clusters.
Protect against UV rays
Excessive exposure to sunlight can trigger an overproduction of melanin and progressively damage the delicate skin below the eyes. As a result, the increased melanin can cluster and heavily darken at a much faster rate than the rest of the body.
These oils may protect skin from UV-induced damage and prevent excess melanin production:
A Word About Carrier Oils
Essential oils are generally too concentrated to apply directly to the skin; to use them, it is necessary to add a carrier oil.
A carrier oil dilutes the oil and helps “carry” the oil into the skin. Use only a few drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.
As a bonus, some carrier oils may have their own beneficial properties, such as rosehip oil which is high in vitamin C.
Common carrier oils are:
- Rosehip seed
It’s difficult to determine whether essential oils can actually treat dark circles. If you do choose to use them, understand the reasons behind the dark circles before applying an extract. Different essential oils are intended to address specific root causes, although some extracts can be used to treat various causes.
Finally, even advocates of essential oils say that the extracts work slowly and require regular application as part of a daily skin care routine. Thankfully, essential oils represent only a small segment of the available solutions used to treat dark circles, some of which are more fast acting.
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