This article was originally posted in July 2014, and has been updated.
If you find that you’re spending more and more money for the perfect under-eye concealer, or treatments to combat puffiness in your face, you should look at the root causes. In my practice I’ve found that the culprit behind those dark circles and puffy eyes can range from thyroid problems to food allergies. Here are some solutions to the five most-common causes:
1. Check for food intolerances
You may think you have no food allergies, but have you checked for food intolerances? They cause less-severe physical reactions like inflammation under the eyes. One of the key signs is a swollen or puffy face and bloating or dark circles under the eyes. In fact, many of my patients are thrilled that this resolves itself once the culprit food is removed.
To determine if this is your beauty solution, simply remove the most common allergenic foods, including eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood, sulphites, sesame, soy, tree nuts, wheat and gluten-containing grains (spelt, wheat rye, kamut) from your diet for a two-week time period. After two weeks you can begin to add in one food item per day to test your reaction to it. If symptoms return, you know that particular food should be excluded from your daily diet.
2. Hit the sack
They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. Lack of sleep can have troublesome consequences on your body composition, ability to function and overall facial appearance. During sleep (or long periods of lying down), tissue fluid is drawn from our blood and enters our body tissues. As we start our morning activities, the tissue fluid is squeezed back into lymphatic vessels and into our blood circulation. That’s why your face may look a little puffy when you first wake up, but by the time you’re out of the shower the puffiness will have resided.
When we don’t get enough sleep, however, this process is stunted and fluid is stuck in the tissues – creating the puffy look. As well, a sleepless night can make the blood vessels under the eyelid skin dilate, giving the appearance of dark circles.
3. Check your thyroid
If you have puffy eyes and also experience lack of concentration, difficulty losing weight, hair loss and unwavering fatigue, you may want to check if your thyroid is at a healthy level. Patients with low thyroid levels often have puffy eyelids, either in the lower or in the upper area of their eyes.
According to thyroid disease expert Dr. John Lowe, the puffiness is caused by too little thyroid hormone suppression of connective tissue cells called “fibroblasts.” When thyroid hormones fail to suppress the cells normally, they release too many water-binding molecules into the ground substance of the skin and other connective tissues. The excess water expands the tissues, causing them to feel and appear puffy.
4. Your iron and B12 status
Another common cause of dark under-eye circles is low iron and/or B12. This deficiency can result in poor oxygenation of bodily tissues and the effects of this are shown mostly under the eyes where pronounced, bluish veins are more visible.You should talk to your doctor about getting your iron and B12 levels checked, and consider supplementing with vitamin C to help with iron absorption.
5. Beautify with vitamin K
Found in broccoli, brussels sprouts, green leafy vegetables, and spinach, vitamin K helps with blood coagulation and circulation. Since poor circulation can increase the appearance of dark circles, consuming enough K-friendly foods in your diet may lighten the circles under your eyes. Many eye creams also contain vitamin K and vitamin A for this reason.
Lastly, be sure that you select a high potency multi-vitamin that includes a daily dose of vitamin K for optimal health and to avoid any deficiencies.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.