Dermatologists weigh in on viral skincare hack that claims to determine cause of dark circles

·5-min read
 (TikTok / @chooseyourglow)
(TikTok / @chooseyourglow)

With countless ingredients, serums and creams out there, choosing the skincare to treat your specific concern can seem a daunting endeavour, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to target.

The question of whether your eye bags or dark circles are from tiredness, discolouration or genetics is another dilemma - one that a recent viral TikTok hack suggested can be easily determined by focusing on your under-eye skin.

According to one video describing the tactic created by Madi Prettyman, all it requires is gently pulling up your under-eye skin, with the clip claiming that the results will help you find out what type of eye cream would be most suitable for addressing your concerns.

Describing the hack as the “coolest skincare trick ever,” the video encourages people to “slightly pull the under-eyes up a little bit to see if the darkness disappears or not”.

The clip then alleges that, if the darkness disappears, it “means your skin is thin and the purple veins are showing through, so you want something to help with building collagen, like vitamin C”.

Alternatively, the hack claims that “if the colour stays, that means your skin is discoloured and you want an ingredient like retinol to help resurface and brighten the skin”.

To find out if the hack is reliable or not, we asked dermatologists, who informed us that the trick is only partially accurate.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, confirmed that “pulling the skin under your eye can be a useful tool to help you decide what ingredients you need in your eye cream,” but that the results may indicate other needs.

First acknowledging that “not all under-eye issues are the same and it is important to choose an eye cream with the right ingredient for your skin need,” Dr Zeichner told us that our under-eye skin can determine concerns such as under-eye thinness, discolouration, or weak skin - and that there are ingredients that can help address each.

If you are experiencing hollows under your eye which appear blue, and lifting the skin up briefly gets rid of the blue colour, your under-eye skin is likely thin, meaning the blood vessels underneath are showing through.

To address the concern, Dr Zeichner recommended looking for an eye cream with hyaluronic acid, which is “like a sponge that pulls in hydration to the skin and gives a plumping effect, putting more volume between your skin and the underlying blood vessels”.

He specifically suggested Simple Soothing Eye Balm, as it contains “a form of hyaluronic acid along with vitamin E and skin soothers like shea butter and jojoba oil”.

If you notice you have darkness under your eyes, and gently pulling up your under-eye skin does nothing to diminish it, Dr Zeichner told us that it’s likely caused by pigmentation, an extra amount of melanin in the skin.

“True pigmentation is an extra amount of melanin in the skin, giving a darker brown appearance,” he explained, adding that the “pigment will not improve as you pull up your skin”.

For those who want an under-eye cream that combats the darkness, Dr Zeichner advised looking for a product that contains vitamin C, a “potent antioxidant that blocks production of abnormal pigment to lighten darkness and even skin tone,” such as Rodan and Field Redefine Multi-function eye cream, which contains “stabilised vitamin C in a formula enriched with other soothing, firming, and brightening ingredients”.

The hack can also help identify whether the concern is weakened or damaged skin, with Dr Zeichner explaining that skin that is slow to bounce back after it is slightly pulled up is the result of weak skin.

“If you pull the skin under the eyes and it is slow to bounce back, that means that the skin itself is weak,” he told us.

According to Dr Zeichner, a weakened skin foundation is caused by “damaged collagen and elastin” and can contribute “to a crepey appearance of the skin along with lines and wrinkles”.

To best treat weakened skin, he recommends finding an eye cream with retinol as the main ingredient, explaining: “Retinol is perhaps the best studied ingredient we have over-the-counter to stimulate collagen and improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles.”

One eye cream he recommends for weak or wrinkled skin is RoC Retinol Correxion Eye cream, as it “contains a stabilised form of retinol in a formula gentle enough for the sensitive skin under the eyes”.

Unfortunately, although eye creams can help improve the appearance of certain under-eye concerns, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Dr Melanie Palm told us that topical lotions cannot fix all problems, such as some dark pigmentations or volume loss due to age.

Explaining that “individuals with richer skin tones can have a familial tendency to dark pigmentation in the undereye region,” and that “problems with circulation, or excess pigmentation can be at play in contributing to this,” Dr Palm said that creams containing retinol or brightening agents can help the issue but “certainly won’t eliminate it”.

However, she did note that “the use of lasers, fillers, or even surgical options” can improve the dark circles, as can makeup applied to the under-eye region.

When it comes to dark circles resulting from the loss of soft tissue over the “tight ligament around our under-eye region,” which occurs as we age, Dr Palm also said topical creams are not likely to improve the issue, as they need to be “addressed with injectable fillers, fat, surgery, or a combination of these approaches”.

Overall, if you have concerns about your under-eye skin and do not know which skincare or treatments to use, Dr Palm recommends asking a “board-certified dermatologist, ophthalmologist, or plastic surgeon that specialises in treating the eye region”.

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