8 Reasons Your Eyes Look Tired That Have Nothing to Do With Sleep
No, I got plenty of sleep last night, thankyouverymuch.
We’ve all been there. You’re face to face with a coworker in the break room when they tilt their head sympathetically and observe, “You look tired.” It’s bad enough when you actually did spend the night tossing and turning. But when you got in a solid seven to nine hours of sleep and feel perfectly rested, it’s even more frustrating to hear someone’s concerned commentary that basically translates to, “Hey, you look like crap.” Thanks, coworker, what a helpful comment!
The truth is, a lot of people have dark circles or puffy eyes. And though there’s nothing wrong with that, many of us are looking for ways to minimize them. While they are often hallmarks of a lack of sleep, there are other causes that have nothing to do with how many zzz’s we catch (or don’t catch) each night. In fact, you might have another health concern or lifestyle habit causing your tired-looking eyes that you may want to address.
Here are eight things other than lack of sleep that can make your eyes look tired.
“Allergies release a chemical—histamine—that can dilate blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow under the eyes,” Christopher Sanders, M.D., plastic surgeon at Geisinger in Danville, Pennsylvania, tells SELF. “Histamine also causes itchiness, which can also cause swelling, inflammation and fluid accumulation under the eyes, leading to dark circles and a tired appearance of the eyes, particularly after rubbing or scratching your eyes.” This puffiness associated with allergies can be treated fairly easily with over-the-counter antihistamine meds, as well as nightly cold compresses to reduce swelling.
2. Eye strain
If you stare at a computer screen all day—or if you’re resisting getting glasses, and find yourself squinting to see far-away signs or while reading—you might be straining your eyes, and, surprisingly, that could actually show on your face. “The increase in eye strain causes the blood vessels around the eye to dilate,” explains Dr. Sanders. “This increase in blood flow can exacerbate the appearance of dark circles and tired eyes.” Try giving your eyes a break from the computer screen by following the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And it may be time for a pair of glasses.
Many of us have a goal to drink more water every day—a goal that seems shockingly hard to meet. Dehydration is not only dangerous for our health and a total productivity killer, but it can also make us feel tired and lead to tired-looking eyes, even after eight hours of sleep. “Dehydration decreases your blood volume and makes your heart work less efficiently, leading to exhaustion,” warns Rebecca Lee, R.N., a nurse based in New York City. “The skin around the eyes is very sensitive to hydration and the environment.”
4. Excessive under-eye pigment
“Some people just have more pigment genetically (more melanin) which can lead to darker circles under the eye,” Tania Elliott, M.D., allergist and chief medical officer of EHE, tells SELF. To determine if you’re looking at darkness from pigment or something else, dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., recommends using your index finger to lightly press below your eye. “If, when you lift your finger, you see that the circle has lessened and then it becomes dark again, this means that the circle is made up of blood vessels,” she explains. “If light pressure doesn’t make an improvement in the dark circles, the problem is excess pigment.” To lighten dark circles caused by excess pigment, she recommends using a product like Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Bright Dark Circle Minimizer, $46, which contains the brightening agent vitamin C. Too much sun exposure can exacerbate hyperpigmentation, warns Lee, so be sure to wear sunscreen every day. Some formulas are made to be gentle on the sensitive eye area, like SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense
5. Bone structure
Some people simply have a genetic predisposition to forming dark circles under the eyes, which are often present as early as childhood, explains Dr. Sanders. That may be a result of the contour of your skull and how your skin and the fat underneath it interact with it. A deep tear trough—a groove extending from the inner corner of the eye out along the cheek—can create a noticeable semicircle under the eye. Some people have eye sockets that are further sunken in, and the shadow of their bone structure makes it appear as though their dark circles are worse, adds Dr. Elliott.