What Deficiency Causes Dark Circles?


Our eyes can tell someone so much about how we are currently feeling. Sad, angry, happy, tired… the eyes are the most expressive part of our faces, and they can convey depths of meaning without saying very much, or rather without saying anything at all! As Tyra Banks would famously say: “Smize!”

So if our eyes tell so much about us, why don’t we pay more attention to them? We spend so much time damaging our eyes by staring at the blue light of our mobile devices, reading without sufficient light, and the number of people who have myopia and short-sightedness should already be a big hint that we don’t take care of our eyes!

And it isn’t just our vision that we damage, the skin around our eyes is another important part that we don’t pay enough attention to. This super delicate part of the skin is so prone to wrinkling, dryness, redness, dark circles, and eye bags! The skin conditions near the eye area might not be as attention-grabbing as a melasma definition and distinctness, but your eyes are the first things people look at. 

People often complain that they have dark under eyes (or panda eyes), bags, creases, crows’ feet… but we often don’t realize that we are doing a lot of damage to the skin around our eyes without realizing or being aware of! And one of the biggest ways that we do this is by not giving sufficient nutrients to our bodies, and the effects of it show in our skin and especially around our eyes. You might commonly associate dark eye circles with having a lack of sleep or unfortunate genetics, but actually dark eye circles could be due to a lack of nutrition and vitamins too!

In this article, we will go through some of the nutrients and vitamins that are crucial to maintaining a healthy body, and how a deficiency in these key elements can lead to dark under-eye circles.

Why is the skin under our eyes so delicate?

The skin around our eyes is very thin, delicate, and vulnerable to environmental or internal stressors. This is due to the fact that the skin doesn’t have a lot of the functions and structures that the rest of our faces have. These include the features that provide moisture, elasticity, and firmness to the skin.

The dermis and epidermis of the skin around our eyes don’t have sebaceous glands that produce sebum, which is the oil that helps to keep our skin smooth and moisturized. The skin under the eyes is hence a lot more prone to wrinkling and becoming dry since there is no oil to moisturize it. Now you must be thinking, which is it, fine lines vs wrinkles? It is both, which demands attention nonetheless.

There is also a lack of collagen and elastin in this area which contributes to the thinness. Collagen and elastin are proteins that give our skin structure and support and are what give our skin that bouncy property. This thinness of the skin is what makes the under-eye area so susceptible and prone to dark circles.

The darkness of the area can be either due to excess melanin in this area caused by overexposure to the sun, or genetics. Furthermore, the nature of thin skin and lack of fats in this area make the color of blood vessels more pronounced. The lack of collagen, fats, and oil glands will cause the skin to look more translucent and hence make the subdermal parts of the skin like blood vessels more obvious.

Nutrition and the skin

Our skin needs a lot of hydration and moisture to function. A good diet also maintains the elasticity and firmness of our skin. Foods that are high in antioxidants and hydration can help to boost blood circulation and oxygenation. Well-oxygenated blood will not appear as dark under the eyes, as oxygenated is blood as opposed to deoxygenated blood which is dark blue. Maintaining a good balance of fluids in the body will keep your skin well-hydrated and hence lessen the look of dark circles. It is, in part, the same thing with how to remove dark spots on face aside from managing environmental factors.

Overconsumption of underconsumption of food can manifest in our physical appearance. You might have heard the common adage that you are what you eat — what you put inside your body will show up on the outside. Dark circles can occur when you are not properly giving your body the right nutrients. As a general rule, sugary foods and drinks, salty snacks, packaged meals, and fast foods are not good for your body and will cause dry, sallow, and dull-looking skin. The best foods for nutrition are dark, leafy vegetables, grains, legumes, and lean protein sources.

What are some diet-related concerns that can cause dark circles?

Iron deficiency

Dark under-eye circles could be a sign of an iron deficiency. Iron deficiency is also known as anemia, and it causes the skin to look paler, hence the darkness around the eyes is pronounced. Anemia is usually caused by a lack of iron in one’s diet. Iron is necessary for the red blood cells to function properly. Some of the best sources of iron include red meat, beans, whole-grain bread, eggs, and milk. Children sometimes develop anemia because they did not get enough breast milk from their mothers. Breast milk is full of iron, unlike cow’s milk which does not have much iron.


Being dehydrated is another common cause of dark eye circles. The daily recommended minimum of water is 8 glasses a day, although that is the absolute bare minimum and you should strive to drink at least 1 to 2 liters of water a day. Water is essential for our body to function and carry out its functions. Water flushes out the toxins and sodium in our diets so it is essential that you drink enough. The skin in particular needs a lot of water for the skin cells to plump up and look very hydrated. That glowing glass skin only comes with drinking plenty of water. So what is a skin that’s adequately hydrated meaning to tell you? A lot, be it on your face or your eyes. 


If you are someone who needs that cup of joe every morning but your dark circles haunt you chronically, we’re sorry but that daily cup of coffee might be the cause of your dark circles. Caffeine is very dehydrating and can add to the hollow, sallow look of your under eyes. Furthermore, caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands which can cause fatigue and exhaustion if you overdrink coffee. You might want to start switching to alternatives like matcha which has lower levels of caffeine or improve your diet through more nutritious, energy-boosting choices like greens and grains.

Need more information on what deficiencies might be causing your dark circles? Read this article.


Having a healthy diet goes without saying, but if you think about how much of your physical appearance is affected by your diet, you will start to rethink your food choices. Remember to eat lots of leafy vegetables and drink plenty of water as a rule and your under eyes will thank you! Pair it with a korean mask for best results so you’re targeting both internal and external factors.

Additionally, you can also consult a professional who specializes in clinical and aesthetic dermatology. Dermatologists will be able to provide you with medical advice on the best ways to get rid of the circle under the eyes and certain physiological and lifestyle factors that might be causing your circles under the eyes and under-eye skin to sag or change to a dark brown color. The medical treatments they recommend may also help to get rid of infraorbital dark circles, lighten the blood vessels beneath your eyes and reduce the chances of you developing dark circles repeatedly.

Last but not least, always remember that eye bags and saggy skin are all part of the natural aging process! The important thing is that you remember to get enough sleep each night (the golden rule is to sleep at least seven to eight hours) and limit sun exposure! All these lifestyle habits go a long way in reducing the appearance of dark circles and reddish blue blood vessels.

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