Thursday, May 30, 2013

Makeup Tip #7: Neutralizing Dark Circles

It's a common misconception, not to mention very outdated I believe, that using a yellow or pink based concealer under the eyes to neutralize dark circles is the correct method.  Allow me to introduce you to a little color theory and see if we can't see why this misconception could be what's hampering your ability to look more fresh and awake!

The Color Wheel

First, let's learn a bit about the color wheel.  Did you ever learn about this in school as a kid?  I'm sure you're familiar with the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple.  When referenced as bands of light they are next to one another.  In the color wheel, they are in a circular shaped pattern that looks like this:

Making Colors

There are three primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue.  These are colors that cannot be "made".  The colors Orange, Green, and Purple are secondary colors, "made" by combining two primary colors together.  Each secondary color has a primary color directly across from it on the color wheel.  These two colors are now called "complementary" colors.


When you combine complementary colors, you create brown.  Therefore, in order to neutralize one of the colors on the color wheel, you need to mix it with it's complementary shade.  Here's a handy guide:

What Are Dark Circles?

Dark circles under your eyes are caused by a multitude of factors including capillary leakage, excess pigment, hormones, allergies, and dehydration.  The majority of dark circles that women are concerned with covering are due to a combination of these factors, but the coloration of them is what's really important for the sake of neutralizing.  The tiny capillaries under our eyes are from veins, which carry unoxygenated blood.  Blood with no oxygen is blue.  Therefore, the tint these veins give the undereye area is slightly bluish.

As we age, the walls of our capillaries naturally weaken, and microscopic bits of blood begin to leak into the surrounding tissue.  Excess alcohol, smoking, spicey foods, and dehydration can hasten this process and lead to chronic dark circles under our eyes.


The first step to correcting dark circles under the eyes caused by capillary leakage is to increase your hydration level both internally and externally.  This means loading up on water and eye cream.  Make sure that your eye creams contain ingredients like caffeine or chamomile which will help to flush the excess blood out of the tissues and back into your blood stream.  Vitamin K will also help to strengthen the capillary walls and reduce recurrences.

Now, since we want to neutralize the bluish dark circles, what on our handy color wheel would be the correct color to do so?  Orange!  Or more specifically when dealing with cosmetic colors, salmon.  The slightly more peach toned color will look more natural on the majority of skin tones, although darker skinned women can use a more true orange under their concealer or foundation to neutralize darkness.

Steps To Corrective Color

  1. Start with your eye cream to thoroughly hydrate your under eye area.  Make sure you let it sit for a few minutes to fully absorb.  Pat the area with a single ply tissue to remove any residue that can break down your concealer or corrective color.
  2. Apply your salmon colored corrector to the bluish tinted areas only.  There's no need to cover the entire under eye area.  For most people, this is the ridge on the lower quarter of their orbital bone, in an arc alongside their nose.  Use sparingly and pat the color into the skin with your ring finger.  
  3. Allow to sit for a few minutes and begin to warm up with your body heat.  Pat the area again with your ring finger and then dab any oils from the corrective color up with your single ply tissue again.  This helps the product adhere to the skin more effectively and not slide into fine lines.
  4. Top with your foundation.  When using corrective colors, you need to apply them before the rest of your foundation to ensure that the coverage is natural looking.  If you still feel that you need additional coverage, you can use a tiny bit of concealer over the area, but if you've effectively neutralized the dark circles and then evened out the skin tone with a foundation, this is usually overkill.
What If My Circles Aren't Blue?

Bluish dark circles aren't the only kind, but they are the most common.  Sometimes we also have capillary leakage from arteries, which gives us a reddish tint most people mislabel as rosacea.   If this occurs under your eyes combined with the bluish color, this can create a more purple tone to the area as a whole.  In this instance, yellow would be the more appropriate corrective color.  Other circles are caused by excess pigmentation in the skin, like giant freckles that cover the whole area or panda circles.  These are generally the result of hormone imbalances (like pregnancy) or allergies that cause the body to produce too much melanin (pigment) in a given area.  Since these are already brown, you can't really neutralize them with a corrective color.  In these instances, using a pinkish concealer is ok, given that the majority of them have a brightening agent added as well.  The pinkish hue will brighten up the area and help to reflect light and diminish the appearance of the darkened area.  However, keep in mind that using a much lighter colored concealer will work negatively against you!  Instead of reflecting light, it will give the skin a greyish cast and instead highlight the area you are looking to conceal.  Make sure that you are using a concealer that is the same darkness as the rest of your face for the most natural look.  I also caution you against over powdering the undereyes in any circumstance, as it has a tendency to make the eye area look dry and enhances fine lines.

Here's a handy video I filmed for my YouTube channel as well!  Enjoy!


  1. This is such a helpful post! I just found your blog, and I'm absolutely loving it :)

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful. I just popped over to your blog and saw that you were in DC recently! I'm so close by! :) Where are you living now? LOVE the photos on your blog BTW. Really pretty.

  2. Hi your video is very helpful in finding the right color corrector. I have discovered that orange, peach and pink work well to conceal my under eye circles. Afterwards i apply the concealer and my eyes look younger and brighter. Even my brother complimented me on my makeup. Only downside is creasing into fine lines around my eyes.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you found it helpful. Try putting an eyelid primer under your eyes to help grip the concealer so it doesn't settle. And set with a powder to double up the staying power.

  3. I like this post, but the part about blood being blue is incorrect. Blood is always red. Veins are blue because of the wavelengths of light and the way they travel through the skin.

    There are lots of science and health articles and websites that support that.


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