Put It to Rest: The True Culprits Behind Tired Eyes


“Are you ok? You look tired.”

Hearing this dreaded phrase can send a client running to your skin center for immediate help. Eyes are the window to the soul and the first feature most people notice on the human face. The expression, condition and movement of the eyes play a huge role in a person’s first impression. Unfortunately, the thin, translucent skin of the orbit area is the most fragile and vulnerable area of the face, quickly showing signs of fatigue and premature aging.

The tired look clients dread is the result of multiple causes. Before you instantly start recommending the newest eye product from your favorite skin care line, take some time to give your client a proper skin analysis focusing on the delicate eye area. Pay attention to texture, pigmentation and possible inflammation. You may even find congestion in the form of micro-comedones and milia from improper cleansing (oil build-up and product residue are often the culprits).

As a professional skin therapist, it is essential to recognize the array of factors potentially contributing to the tired eye effect including puffiness, dark circles and fine lines. Your analysis also will be crucial in helping the client develop and manage realistic expectations. For example, purplish or blue shadowing under the eyes is entirely hereditary in many people and is not significantly affected by hours of sleep. We often see this in a client who has naturally deep-set eyes due to bone structure. Additionally, this is common in people of Middle Eastern decent.

Start With Removal

Start by asking, what the client uses to remove her makeup, specifically her eye makeup. Clients may complain that eye makeup remover stings their eyes, so they just do not use it. On the other hand, some clients are too harsh on the delicate skin around the eyes when cleansing, pushing melted/dissolved makeup back into the eye area. Congestion in the skin around the eyes may suggest the client is not entirely removing her eye makeup or cleansing thoroughly before bed. “Sleeping with your mascara on can also cause the eyelashes to become brittle and break easily,” said dermatologist Jeannette Graf, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.1

A gel-based soothing cleanser for the eye area is a go-to for removing heavy eye makeup. Choose products that are alcohol free and contain silk amino acids to strengthen the lashes. If your client wears stubborn, long-wearing makeup, opt for an oil-based cleanser formulated with plant oils, which are safe for the eyes. This will help break down concealing primers, heavily pigmented eyeshadow and waterproof mascara.

Puffy Eyes

Puffiness can occur in the upper eyelids, lower eyelids or both. This is most likely caused by excess fluid retention in the surrounding tissues. In the case of early morning puffiness, fluids can accumulate from lack of blinking because blinking is like exercise for your eyelids. Lack of blinking during sleep is one of the reasons we wake up with puffy eyes. This type of puffiness usually subsides within an hour after waking, as the lymphatic and circulatory systems kick in.

A long day of staring at digital screens may also trigger puffiness. People normally blink about 12 to 15 times per minute, which naturally refreshes the eyes. Studies suggest computer users blink much less frequently, about four or five blinks per minute.

Of course, we can always count on hay fever to bring on the swollen lids as well. This is due to an increase in histamine, which triggers fluid retention. Natural eye irritants such as pollen and pet dander can produce itching, swelling and redness in a matter of minutes, and rubbing makes it worse and may invite conjunctivitis. Additionally, synthetic compounds used in home and office interiors may also trigger allergy-like responses.

Suggest an eye serum containing golden chamomile combined with algae to soothe irritation and reduce overall puffiness. Brown and red algae also help to inhibit inflammatory mediators, which contribute to swollen, puffy eyes due to allergies.

Dark Circles

Heredity is a leading cause of dark circles. If a client’s dark circles started as a child, you can bet it is a genetic trait. Thanks, mom and dad. Dilated capillaries are often a contributing factor; they may get leaky, and the blood pools below the lower lashes. Most clients are unaware of the structure and the nature of eye capillaries. These capillaries are so tiny in the delicate eye area, and there is not much room for red blood cells. Capillaries begin to dilate to make room, and sometimes the blood leaks out. The human body takes care of this with enzymes, but a dark purple or blue color is left behind from the hemoglobin. Certain medications can also cause the capillaries to dilate, resulting in the same effect and leaving clients with dark circles.

Another common culprit behind dark circles is allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies) due to seasonal allergies. People who suffer from nasal allergies may experience darkness underneath the eyes when the sinuses become congested. This congestion makes it more difficult for blood to flow, and the small veins under the eyes may enlarge with pooled blood. This is referred to as allergic shiners, as it can appear like a black eye.

With this in mind, always engage your client in a thorough consultation and pay attention to any medications or allergies the client has listed. Also note, changes in hormone levels (pregnancy and monthly periods) may cause an iron deficiency, which leads to paler skin. Additionally, menopause can cause an overall loss of general skin pigment as well—just as hair gets white or gray with age, skin surrenders some of its coloring. All of these conditions may make the blood that pools below the eye more noticeable.

Botanicals including butcher’s broom and red raspberry extract help to strengthen capillary walls. Eye treatments containing optical light diffusers like crushed pearl powder will reflect light and minimize the appearance of dark circles.

Fine Lines

An estimated 94% of people experience premature aging signs around the eyes, with unprotected UV exposure being a common cause.2 These signs of aging manifest as the fine lines we often refer to as dehydration lines. Also, muscles beneath an individual’s skin may grow weaker as they age. The muscle lifting the upper eyelid can become weak, causing the upper eyelid to droop. Fine wrinkle lines and creases then appear in the delicate skin around the lids. The result is a tired, sleepy or sad look.

A third reason for fine lines around the eyes is constant eye-strain—commonly called, “computer face.” Today’s culture is addicted to digital gazing, constantly looking at phones, tablets and monitors of every size and shape. Sedentary professionals who worked long hours in front of a screen end up with deep-set wrinkles on their forehead and around their eyes according to Michael Prager, M.D., a cosmetic surgeon.

Recommend incorporating an eye treatment to firm the delicate skin around the eye and help repair free radical damage from UV exposure. Look for vitamins A, C and E to improve skin elasticity and also work as antioxidants. Eye products with silicones can help prevent dehydration by creating a protective shield over vulnerable skin.

Since our body works on circadian rhythms for energy and rest/repair, we can take advantage and treat lines and wrinkles around the clock. Recommend a product for the day that contains a physical SPF such as titanium dioxide to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. To offset squinting at a computer screen for most of the day, suggest eye treatments that include firming peptides like hexapeptide-11 to improve skin elasticity.

Nighttime eye treatment products containing retinol will minimize lines and reverse photoaging.

Don’t Forget Application

After recommending the perfect eye treatment solution, make sure to teach each client the proper application. Show them how to dispense a small amount (about the size of a grain of rice) and distribute the product between both ring fingers. Then they should gently apply the product by patting around the eye orbit, moving from the outside corner in.

Professional Treatments

Professional skin treatments can also help to reduce the tired eye effect. Offer a 20-minute express treatment focused only on the eye area, which includes light exfoliation and anti-aging vitamins. Or offer an add-on service of microcurrent muscle re-education to lift and firm facial muscles around the eyes and brows. To optimize your professional results, follow up your treatments with a complete recommendation of home care products specific to your client’s needs.


  1. https://stylecaster.com/beauty/makeup/568169/sleeping-with-makeup/
  2. www.consumerhealthdigest.com/eye-skin-care/uv-rays-and-your-eyes.html

Tara Damiano is the global curriculum developer for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica, where she is responsible for postgraduate curriculum for the U.S. and international markets as well as integrating new research into the brand’s menu. She has over nine years of industry experience as a skin therapist in medical facilities and in instruction for the brand.

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