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My DIY Quest to Hack My ‘Raccoon Eyes’

The bane of my mother’s existence — who worried that my ‘periorbital hyperpigmentation’ was a sign of poor health — I wanted see if I could at least make them slightly less prominent than my beard

Five years ago, my Persian mother, loving but ever-concerned, started asking me about the dark circles under my eyes. “Darling,” she’d say, though she’d use a Persian term of endearment that directly translates to, “I will die/destroy myself for you,” “why are the circles under your eyes so dark?”

Initially, I brushed off the question and told her that it was likely because I was tired, which I may well have been. But the “I’m tired” shtick only worked for so long with my mother, who once spoon-fed my brother and I fish oil because we couldn’t swallow the capsules and she’d heard it would help lower our cholesterol. And so, the questions kept coming. Her concern was relentless, in fact. At one point, she may or may not have even implied that the dark circles under my eyes were, based on conversations she’d had with friends, a sign that I was addicted to a Schedule I substance. (I was not.) 

But there was no sense in arguing with her. She saw what she saw, and that was that. As such, I asked my girlfriend Sunny to apply a concealer to cover up my under-eye circles anytime I’d go to see my mom. It worked well enough, but it was hardly a long-term solution. 

My mother would tell you that my “raccoon eyes” were a result of me not eating enough meat, but numerous studies suggest that a lack of sleep and genetics are the main culprits. “Infraorbital dark circles” or “periorbital hyperpigmentation” are medical terms used to describe the condition, which is believed to affect people with higher levels of melanin in their skin than those with lighter pigmentation. That said, everyone “is susceptible to the four causes of dark circles: shadowing, increased pigmentation, blood staining and visible underlying muscle,” Tanuj Nakra, an oculofacial plastic surgeon and co-founder of AVYA Skincare, a melanin-focused product line, told InStyle in 2019. 

My raccoon eyes

The reason these circles appear under the eyes and not, say, in our cheeks is because our eyelid skin, already the thinnest on the body, becomes even thinner with age. Thus, it’s easier to see dark blood vessels lurking beneath the surface. Not to mention, as we get older, our facial structure changes — the bones around our eyes widen, giving the space beneath our eyes that haunting, sunken-in look. Booze doesn’t help either. It both dehydrates the skin and causes the blood vessels under the eyes to dilate, making dark circles look more prominent. 

In an attempt to solve my periorbital hyperpigmentation problem — or better put, to solve my mom’s problem with my periorbital hyperpigmentation problem — I first called the aesthetician’s office where I got a baby foreskin facial a few years ago (it was, in a word, miraculous; my skin had never been more radiant). There, I could get a facial with a focus on the area around my eyes for roughly $250 a session. The catch was, I’d need several sessions. And when I stopped going to those sessions, like a swamp monster, my raccoon eyes would return.

Alternatively, according to beauty guru Gregory Dylan, fillers are an option. But even hyaluronic acid soft-tissue filler — Juvederm is considered the gold standard — when injected around the caved-in area along the rim of the eye socket isn’t a silver bullet. That is, if under-eye circles are due to darker pigmentation and not shadows from loss of volume, fillers won’t do much. “One way to tell is to hold a light directly at the area under your eyes,” Dylan instructs. If the dark circles are still there, it’s likely a pigmentation issue, which, per Dylan’s guidance, mine most certainly are. (In fairness, fillers can help blend the colors so that the circles are less dramatic and the shadows are diminished.) 

All of which left me turning back to Sunny. Besides keeping a plastic container of skin-care products the size of a small child underneath our bathroom sink, she’s a hair stylist and cosmetologist by trade. To that end, she’d heard from her clients and numerous others in the salon where she works about Biologique Recherche, a French skin-care company that supposedly has a great cream for the eyes. 

For confirmation, I called around to a few different beauty bars, and everyone seemed to agree that Biologique Recherche’s Creme Contour Des Yeux VIP 02 is, for the price ($143 on Amazon), one of the better products for treating dark under-eye circles. No one knew for sure why, but they theorized that it’s because the cream is full of fatty acids, which is nourishing if you’re trying to plump up very thin skin. (Dylan also recommends products with Kojic acid, for lightening purposes, and Vitamin K, for fortifying the capillary wall.) 

I was told to apply the cream every day, but the first month, I had trouble remembering. For the first two weeks, I applied the serum three or four times in total — and rarely in the morning, which per the directions, per the woman who worked at the beauty bar who sold me the cream and per Dylan, is the best time of day to do so. “You’re most likely to see results when your eyes look the most tired,” Dylan advises. But he also stipulates that, as is the case with any skin-care product, it will take at least a month of consistent application before any judgment about its efficacy can be rendered.

After the initial two weeks of highly chaotic usage — I got stoned one night and applied the cream under my eyes like war paint — I managed to finally work it into a normal daily routine. By week three, I’d wake up in the morning, eager to exorcise the shadowy spirits under my eyes with a chilly metal applicator tip. Call it a placebo effect, but that coolness, despite any noticeable results, was already convincing me that the cream, in volumes that amounted to a grain of rice, was working. And so, morning after morning, I painted the hollowed-out skin beneath my eyes in Creme Contour. Even before bed sometimes, the mood would strike, and I’d color away until the white cream disappeared into my skin.

Then, kind of all of a sudden, it worked for real. Earlier this week, I took photos of my face to compare to the photos I took at the start of this experiment — same time of day, same lighting, same room, same everything. I still have raccoon eyes, but they’re less noticeable. 

My raccoon eyes post-cream treatment

The real test, however, was when I saw my mom for breakfast. Amazingly, she didn’t say a word about the dark circles under my eyes. I’d like to say it was because of the Creme Contour, but I’m pretty sure it was because she had become preoccupied with some fairly bulbous veins in my arms instead.