Do You Listen to Music While Working? Here’s What It Does to Your Brain (and It’s Pretty Awesome

Music has enriched people’s personal lives pretty much since the beginning of time, but scientists today have uncovered how best to make music enrich your professional life, too.

 When the office is almost too much to stomach, music can deliver much-needed reliefon the job. Before you press “play”, however, have a handle on when your tunes will be most beneficial for you and your brain.

Learning = Stop

Learning requires your brain to analyze and remember instructions/facts. When music is on, however, your brain has to process auditory data on top of processing the instructions/facts. Because of this multitasking, the brain can interpret the instructions/facts improperly, either associating them in odd ways or making mistakes about what’s important enough to store. Thus, if you have to learn something at work, it’s best to turn off your music, especially if you’re learning verbally or through reading and the music has lyrics.

Noisy = Play

If your workspace is noisy, the brain will try to handle all the individual pieces of data in the noise. All that data processing takes energy you otherwise could use to focus on your job. It also increases levels of the stress-hormone cortisol and decreases levels of dopamine. Those hormonal changes negatively affect the prefrontal cortex, hinderingexecutive function. Thus, productivity can go down, even if doing your required task doesn’t require you to learn. In this scenario, listening to music actually can help, because it blocks out the other excessive input that could overwhelm you and keeps you calm.

Repetitive Job = Play

Various studies have indicated that, in general, people who listened to music while they worked on repetitive tasks performed faster and made fewer errors. These results occur because music you like triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which help you feel relaxed and happy and, therefore, focus better. This is true even when the task you’re doing is complex–surgeons routinely listen to music in the operating room specifically because it relieves the stress that could compromise their focus and performance. An improved mood from music also affects how you interact with your coworkers. If you feel better, you usually are more respectful, patient and cooperative, which can lead to better teamwork.

New Music = Stop

When you listen to music that’s new to you, the activity involves an element of surprise or novelty. Your body releases dopamine in response to this “newness”, causing you to feel some degree of pleasure. That ultimately can make the music more appealing than whatever other task you’re trying to do, drawing your attention to the tune and compromising your work focus.

The Chorus to Remember

Music can make a huge difference in your workday. Feel free to crank up the volume if noise has you working like a snail, you’ve got a case of the Monday’s, or you’ve got something mundane or familiar to do. Ideally, though, make your playlists out of songs you already know, and if your tasks involve any sort of linguistic processing, focus on lyric-free options. Lastly, if you have something to learn, pump up your mood with music before you get started.

Tattoos can cause cancer – with one colour potentially more toxic than others, study says.

Their ink is not currently regulated in the EU, with cheap Chinese imports causing concern

Tattoos can cause cancer and mutations – and one colour is potentially more toxic than others, according to scientists.


Research by the European Chemicals Agency to be published imminently is investigating possible risks associated with being inked.

The agency said: “Many reports show significant concerns for public health stemming from the composition of inks used for tattooing.

“The most severe concerns are allergies caused by the substances in the inks and possible carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductively toxic effects.”

Inks are not currently regulated in the EU. If any particular chemicals are found to be harmful as thought, they will be banned.

An agency spokesman said: “If it is found that a restriction is needed, a formal proposal to restrict the substances will be submitted within one year to initiate the process.”

Red ink has been linked to dermatitis – swelling and soreness – due to it containing mercury sulphide while.

Meanwhile red, blue, green and purple ones are more likely to cause granulomas – little ridges of bumps on the skin.

The public will be asked to contribute to the research. The NHS has also warned of the dangers of ‘black’ or ‘neutral’ henna.

Different to authentic henna, which is orange in colour, this darker substance it may contain levels of a chemical dye ‘so powerful and toxic that it is illegal to use it on the skin’.

The NHS warned: “If you see a shop or stall offering to paint black tattoos onto your skin, don’t be tempted to get one. It could leave you scarred for life and put you at risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction.”

Anyone suffering an allergic reaction should contact a doctor as soon as possible.

You Should NEVER Line The Toilet Seat With Paper. The Reason? SHOCKING!

Sometimes, public bathrooms are a necessary evil, especially during long car rides or when nature calls inconveniently.

Though most are pretty pristine, every once in a while, we run into some truly unsavory public bathroom situations.

We have no idea who has been in there before us, and sometimes, we just can’t help but feel wary of public toilets, considering all of the crazy things that have been found in them.

When these feelings of insecurity strike, we usually reach for the nearest available seat cover and — if one isn’t available — we then make one of our own out of toilet paper.

This lifehack may seem like a perfectly harmless, even safe, practice. But in truth, creating this protective paper barrier could be doing you way more harm than good.

Studies have found that where we perceive bacteria thriving in bathrooms can be completely backwards, and what we use to keep us clean could actually be spreading the problem around!

Read below to learn how bacteria is spread in all bathrooms, and what steps we should be taking to keep scary bathroom germs at bay!

There is a general misconception that covering toilet seats keeps you safe from germs.

But toilet seats are actually designed to keep as much bacteria off of you as possible.

According to, germs are not easily spreadable on toilet seats, since many different bacteria and viruses don’t survive long outside of a human body.

Their special shape and material were specifically designed to prevent bacteria from dwelling on their surface for very long.

Despite this, many people opt to line the seat with toilet paper — but really, this seemingly clean practice may actually be increasing your exposure to germs.

Toilet paper, unlike toilet seats, are not designed to ward off bacteria. In fact, they’re sponges for it.

With every flush, germs are sprayed up and out of the toilet — and often exposed right onto the toilet paper.

But toilet paper isn’t the only place where germs dwell more happily than toilet seats.

In fact, a study from the the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that hand dryers were among the largest distributors of bacteria, other than flushing toilets.

The powerful buffeting of dryers propels germs around the room and onto your hands, which can grow and increase, especially if you don’t dry them completely!

Though they are definitely more environmentally friendly, these dryers actually spread more germs than ordinary paper towels.

So what’s the best way to ensure you’re not spreading or picking up germs?

Closing the toilet seat lid before flushing!

If the toilet doesn’t have a lid, remember that bacteria thrives in warm, wet places, so keep any surface dry, including your hands, your body, and any of the bathroom appliances.

Washing your hands is extremely important after you use the restroom, but drying them thoroughly and disposing of your paper towels is just as important.

Our skin does a great job of blocking bacteria, so trust in its ability to do its job when sitting on a dry toilet seat.

As long as you remain aware of where bacteria is actually present, you can make smart decisions toward remaining healthy, happy, and free of more germs than are necessary!

Cockroach Milk Might Be The Hot New Superfood, According To Science

Hold on to your gag reflexes, folks! It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

New research published in the journal IUCrJ claims that milk from a species of lactating cockroaches might be the next big superfood.

 Now, we just used the term “lactating cockroaches,” so if you have a weak stomach, feel free to pause here for a breather. OK, ready? Let’s proceed.

The Pacific beetle cockroach (Diploptera punctata) is unique in that it births live young instead of laying eggs. This cockroach feeds its young a milky substance. The baby cockroaches ingest this milk, where it crystallizes in their stomachs. A team of scientists from India, France, Japan, Canada and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in America analyzed these crystals, estimating that a single cockroach milk crystal contains more than three times the energy of an equivalent amount of buffalo milk.

The milk is quite nutritious, containing all of the essential amino acids, plus carbohydrates and lipids. Even more impressive is the milk’s release mechanism, which allows the crystal to release protein at the same rate your body consumes it. Cockroach milk’s time-released nature and high protein and energy content could make it an ideal supplement for athletes looking to recover after a workout.

 Cockroach milk is not yet available for human consumption. Further examination is required to see if roach milk is toxic to humans. If roach milk is ever produced, it likely won’t even come from roaches themselves. The substance would probably come from bioengineered yeast, researcher Subramanian Ramaswamy told The Washington Post.
“I don’t think anyone is going to like it if you tell them, ‘We extracted crystals from a cockroach and that is going to be food,’” Ramaswamy told the Post. After gagging our way through this research, we can’t say we disagree.

15 Things You’re Doing That Are Ruining Your Health.

Looking after one’s health is of prime importance. But sadly, we’re so caught up in our daily lives that we tend to ignore something as important as our own bodies. On World Health Day, take a look at what all you’re doing wrong.

1. You’re glued to your office desk for long hours.



You need to get up from your seat to take short breaks.

2. You take the elevator instead of climbing the stairs.



The least you can do is climb the stairs to work.

3. You eat at your desk.



You don’t move to eat your lunch, and instead you eat at your desk. Part of your increasing waistline problems.

4. You choose outside food for lunch over ghar ka khana.



Ordering outside food everyday is very unhealthy.

5. You don’t drink enough water.



If you don’t finish your water bottle, you’re in danger!

6. You over-think.



Over-thinking leads to anxiety attacks and depression. Therefore, don’t worry, be happy.

7. You don’t get enough sunshine.



Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for your body. Step out in the sun more often!

8. You sleep with your make-up on.



Sleeping with your make-up on leads to skin diseases.

9. You don’t have a hobby.



Engaging in a hobby can make for some great improvement in your health.

10. You wear headphones for really long hours.



Keeping headphones on for a longer duration can cause hearing loss and vertigo.

11. You don’t take breaks.



Did you know travel can lower your risk of heart disease? Start booking!

12. You commute for long hours.



A longer commute leads to fatigue and exhaustion.

13. You smoke.



Or you’re constantly around someone who smokes. Kick the butt!

14. You sleep very late.



Your body needs at least 8 hours of sleep everyday.

15. You don’t include fruits in your diet.



Fruits have great health benefits, therefore you must include them in your diet.

Hyperglycemia associated with slowed brain matter growth in young children with type 1 diabetes

Continued exposure to hyperglycemia could be detrimental to brain development in young children with type 1 diabetes, with slower brain matter growth over time compared with children without the condition, according to research published in Diabetes.

Nelly Mauras, MD, of Nemours Children’s Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida, and colleagues from the multicenter Diabetes Research in Children Network (DirecNet), detected differences in total and regional growth in brain areas involved in complex sensorimotor processing and cognition.

Nelly Mauras

Nelly Mauras

“We have been keenly interested in the role of abnormal glucose levels on diabetes complications; the younger the children are when they get diabetes, the more we worry about their complications,” Mauras told Endocrine Today. “Hyperglycemia is potentially damaging to the developing brain.”

Changes in matter, not cognition

The researchers longitudinally assessed gray and white matter volume in children aged 4 to 9 years with type 1 diabetes (n=144; average duration, 2.5 years) and without (n=72); one-fourth of the control group were siblings of the patient group.

All children underwent unsedated high-resolution structural brain MRIs at baseline and 18 months, Mauras said. “Using state-of-the-art software, the imaging coordinating center at Stanford was able to compartmentalize the brain images into different gray and white matter regions..”

Comprehensive age-specific neurocognitive testing was done at the same time points, Mauras explained. “We performed tests on their IQ, memory, cognition and mental processing skill — basically their ability to reason.”

For patients with type 1 diabetes, continuous glucose monitoring (6 days, adding up to 1,440 blood glucose readings per patient per day) and HbA1C measurements were performed every 3 months over the course of the study, she said.

“We found the rate of brain growth, both for gray and white matter, was slower in children with diabetes than that of healthy age-matched controls,” Mauras said.

Gray matter areas, including left precuneus, right temporal, frontal and parietal lobes, and right medial-frontal cortex, showed less growth in patients with diabetes. White matter areas, including splenium of the corpus callosum, bilateral superior-parietal lobe, bilateral anterior forceps and inferior-frontal fasciculus, also showed slower growth in children with diabetes.

No between-group differences were observed in cognitive and executive functions scores at 18 months.

“These differences in the brain that affect a multiplicity of processing functions were not accompanied by changes in cognition, which is good news,” Mauras said. “But the fact that marked differences were seen gives us some concern.”

Unanticipated findings

The observed changes in brain matter were associated with higher cumulative hyperglycemia and glucose variability; they were not linked with hypoglycemia, which Mauras said could be due to the paucity of hypoglycemic events during the study.

Based on previous knowledge that brain development problems are more likely when children are diagnosed at younger ages and exposed to more hypoglycemia, a main concern until now has been avoiding low blood glucose.

“We often let the blood sugars run on the high end by decreasing the amount of insulin we give these youngsters or feeding them more, so we avoid hypoglycemia altogether,” Mauras said.

“We anticipated the greatest association was going to be with hypoglycemia incidence, but we found it was actually hyperglycemia that showed the greatest association with these brain findings.”

The DirecNet investigators called the findings “remarkable” because the patient age group was so young and the period with diabetes so short; Mauras said providers have generally believed, and told parents, it takes at least 10 years to develop diabetes complications.

“The study participants were just diagnosed within a 3-year timeframe, which is a relatively short duration for the disease to show structural brain changes,” Karen Winer, MD, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), an investigator on the study, told Endocrine Today.

Karen Winer

Karen Winer

With four papers published earlier in 2014 demonstrating detailed differences in brain structure between the cohorts with diabetes and controls, the DirecNet investigators  have received an NIH grant, through NICHD, to continue following the children longitudinally over the next 5 years.

“Is the brain ‘plastic?’ Does it recover? Does it get worse?” Mauras asked. “How do these cognitive tests change over time, now that these kids are getting older and progressing through puberty?” — by Allegra Tiver

Type 2 diabetes linked to cognitive decline in older adults

Type 2 diabetes can accelerate both a loss in cognitive function and impairment of cerebral vasoregulation in older adults, according to research in Neurology.

In a prospective study of older adults with and without type 2 diabetes, researchers found that global and regional cerebral vasoreactivity decreased by more than 50% during a 2-year period in the type 2 diabetes arm, and that vasoreactivity and vasodilation were positively associated with performance ondaily living activities and executive function tests.

“Type 2 diabetes alters the regulation of blood flow in the brain, accelerates brain aging, and impairs mental functions and memory,” Vera Novak, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told Endocrine Today. “Older adults with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of profound impairment of mental function at younger age.”

Vera Novak

Vera Novak

Novak and colleagues analyzed data from 65 adults aged 50 to 85 years (mean age, 66 years; 33 women) enrolled in a 2-year study. Within the cohort, 35 participants had type 2 diabetes for more than 5 years. Researchers used MRI to measure global and regional cerebral perfusion and vasoreactivity, and they conducted verbal learning, memory function, visual-spatial ability and visual memory function tests at baseline and again at completion of the study. Researchers also measured serum glucose, HbA1c and inflammation markers, including soluble intercellular adhesion molecule, soluble vascular adhesion molecule, cortisol, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Researchers used least-squares models to measure associations between serum inflammatory markers, regional cerebral vasoreactivity and cognitive function.

After 2 years of follow-up, researchers found that the type 2 diabetes arm had lower global gray matter volume and lower composite learning and memory compared with controls, as well as lower global and regional cerebral vasoreactivity and a decline in multiple cognitive tasks when compared with baseline (P < .0001-.012). In the control group, vasoreactivity declined in the insular cortex only, according to researchers.

In the type 2 diabetes arm, higher serum soluble intercellular and vascular adhesion molecules, higher cortisol, and higher C-reactive protein levels at baseline were linked to greater decreases in cerebral vasoreactivity and vasodilation, independent of diabetes control and 24-hour blood pressure.

Researchers found participants with a higher HbA1c at baseline showed a greater decline on Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores, composite executive function T-scores and overall composite T-scores independent of age, sex, education and baseline MMSE scores.

“Our results suggest that hyperglycemia imposes a chronic negative effect on cognitive functions in the [type 2 diabetes] population,” the researchers wrote. “These findings are consistent with previous studies that demonstrated that higher HbA1c levels are associated with faster cognitive decline.”

A study with a larger sample size and follow-up is needed to establish the time sequence of the relationship between blood flow and regulation and changes in cognition skills in older adults with type 2 diabetes, according to researchers.

“More studies are needed to find therapies protecting the brain in type 2 diabetes,” Novak said. “We are currently starting a research study that will evaluate whether intranasal insulin that is delivered directly to the brain can prevent cognitive decline in older adults with type 2 diabetes.” by Regina Schaffer

Type 2 diabetes appears linked to brain degeneration

Severity and duration of type 2 diabetes could contribute to brain degeneration, but not small vessel ischemic disease, according to research published in Radiology.

Patients from the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) study at the University of Minnesota, Wake Forest Medical School, Columbia University and Case Western Reserve University were invited to participate in the Memory in Diabetes substudy. Researchers looked at data from 614 patients (mean age, 62 years) to examine the association between type 2 diabetes and brain structure.

“As diabetes becomes more common, better understanding of the disease and its management becomes even more important in order to minimize its effect on patient health,” R. Nick Bryan, MD, PhD, professor of radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a press release.

R. Nick Bryan, MD, PhD

R. Nick Bryan

Bryan and colleagues evaluated baseline severity of diabetes in patients by testing fasting plasma glucose levels, HbA1c levels and duration of the condition (mean, 9.9 years). Through MRI with fluid-attenuated inversion recovery, proton-density, T2-weighted and T1-weighted sequences, post-processed with an automated computer algorithm, researchers classified brain tissue as gray or white matter and as normal or ischemic. Linear regression models were used to determine the relationship between diabetes measure and MRI outcomes.

Longer duration of diabetes and higher FPG levels were associated with lower normal (beta level=–0.431 and –0.053, respectively; P<.01) and total gray matter volumes (beta level=–0.428 and –0.053, respectively; P<.01). An inverse correlation was seen between FPG and ischemic lesion volume (beta level=–0.006; P<.04). HbA1c was not associated with any MRI measure.

“Our results suggested that, for every 10 years of diabetes duration, the brain of a patient with diabetes looks approximately 2 years older than that of a non-diabetic person, in terms of gray matter volume.” Bryan said. “They did not seem to have more vascular disease due to the direct effect of diabetes.”

These findings could have implications for decline of cognitive function in patients with diabetes, the researchers wrote, raising the possibility that cognitive changes are more related to  neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease than vascular dementia.

Disclosure: The study is from the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes project, funded through an interagency agreement between the National Institute on Aging and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Tamara L. Wexler, MD, PhD

Tamara L. Wexler

  • This study of brain images in adults with type 2 diabetes suggests that loss of gray matter volume may be another sequelae of poor glucose control over time; Bryan and colleagues found that long durations of diabetes and higher fasting plasma glucose levels (FPG) were associated with reduced brain (gray matter) volume in their subjects, though not with white matter lesions.

    The specific cohort and outcome measures are important in considering generalizability of study results. The cohort was drawn from a substudy of the ACCORD trial, using baseline data from 614 subjects deemed to have high risk for cardiovascular disease. Exclusion criteria included serum creatinine >1.5 mg/dL (133 mmol/L). The cohort was 55-69 years, largely white (68%), hypertensive (81%), and with a slight majority of males (56%).

    Diabetes severity was assessed by fasting plasma glucose level (FPG), HbA1c, and duration of disease (by recall). Brain volume was measured on MRI from four centers, using automated image analysis (and thus avoiding intra-reader variability).

    After controlling for covariates including prior cardiovascular disease and hypertension, the authors found that subjects with >15 years diabetes had a statistically significant lower volume of total gray matter than subjects with diabetes <4 years.

    Curiously, while FPG was inversely correlated with brain matter volume, HbA1c did not show a correlation. While FPG and HbA1c provide a sense of current diabetes control, they do not provide information regarding recent hypoglycemic (or hyperglycemic) excursions, nor glucose control over prior years. It is likely that control of diabetes figures prominently in any end-organ damage including brain volume (the average HbA1c of this cohort was 8.2).

    The clinical significance of the findings remains to be determined.  Of note, these results demonstrate differences in radiographic measures, and not direct measures of cognitive function.

    • Tamara L. Wexler, MD, PhD
    • Neuroendocrinologist
      Attending physician, Department of Medicine
      Clinical associate, Massachusetts General Hospital

Type 2 diabetes in children alters brain gray matter volume

Significant changes in total brain gray matter volume and in regions of gray matter involved in seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control are found in children with type 2 diabetes, according to study data presented here.

“Previous studies suggested that youth with type 2 diabetes have changes in brain structure and poorer cognitive function scores compared to their peers,” said Amy Sanghavi Shah, MD, a physician-scientist in the division of endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “Total and regional brain volume had not been assessed comprehensively until now. We also sought to determine if the findings we found here could explain poorer cognitive scores.”

Amy Shah

Amy Sanghavi Shah

Shah, Jacob M. Redel, MD, a fellow in the division of endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and colleagues evaluated 20 children with type 2 diabetes (mean duration, 2.8 years; mean HbA1c, 7.9%) and 20 race-, sex- and age-matched controls to determine differences in total and regional brain gray matter volumes.

No participant had prior abnormal MRI or neuropsychological disease, and high-resolution T1-weighted structural MRI scans and voxel-based morphometry analysis were used for comparison. Clusters with at least 100 contiguous voxels were the only ones reported.

Jacob Redel

Jacob M. Redel

Total gray matter volume was more decreased in participants with type 2 diabetes compared with controls (P = .012). Ten regions within the temporal lobe, occipital lobe, parietal lobe, cingulate gyrus and basal ganglia with significantly less gray matter volume and five regions within the frontal lobe and basal ganglia were found in participants with type 2 diabetes compared with controls.

“Our results do not show cause and effect,” Redel said. “We don’t know if the changes we found are the direct result of diabetes, but studies in adults with type 2 diabetes with longer duration of disease also show brain volume differences, brain vascular changes and cognitive decline. However, our findings suggest that preventing type 2 diabetes in adolescents is important to prevent possible complications in the future.” – by Amber Cox

What’s Behind Dark Circles Under Eyes?

At one time or another, most people are plagued with dark circles under their eyes. Whether you are overly tired, aging or suffering from allergies, you may be faced with dark circles in your mirror.

Dark Eye Circles

Story at-a-glance

  • Dark circles under your eyes may appear because of thin skin or because of hyperpigmentation around your eyes
  • In some cases, dark circles are accompanied by sagging skin, also known as bags, under your eyes
  • Both dark circles and sagging skin are related to environment factors and genetics, and both may be affected by the choices you make each day

However, while they are not dangerous to your health, the condition does have a psychological effect on how you see yourself and what others think when they meet you. Despite warnings not to make first impressions from the way others look, the reality is that virtually everyone does it.1

There are changes you can make that will reduce the appearance of dark circles under your eyes. Some are easy and others are a bit more challenging. However, the result will be that you’ll no longer look as tired and worn-out when you first get up in the morning.

Thin Skin and the Color of Your Blood

The reasons for dark circles are varied, but they all start with the difference in thickness of the skin around your eyes. This is called the periorbital area. In most areas of your body, the skin is between 2 and 3 millimeters (mm) thick. However, under the eyes the skin is normally 0.5 mm in thickness.

Thinner skin means the blood vessels under your skin are more visible to the naked eye and produce a different color to your skin. Here’s where what you see on the surface is a reflection of what’s directly below.

Your skin and the tissue directly below the outside layer of skin, called the subcutaneous tissue, only allow blue or violet wavelengths to pass through. This results in your veins appearing blue, because only the blue light is reflected back.2

This reflected color is different if you have darker or whiter (albino) skin. In the former case, the veins will appear green or brown and in the latter, dark purple or dark red.

This is just one of the reasons dark circles appear below your eyes. You are more likely to see the bluish hint of blood vessels below your eyes, compared to thicker skinned areas of your body. As you age, your skin also loses collagen and elasticity, making the skin thinner and your circles more prominent.

Not All Circles Are Created Equally

Not all circles are due to the visibility of your blood vessels beneath thin skin, though. While this is a common reason, and a higher probability if you are genetically more prone to thin skin under the eyes, it isn’t the only reason.

The second type of circle is caused from hyperpigmentation of the skin under the eyes and is more commonly brown in color.3 This hyperpigmentation, or higher amount of pigmentation in the skin, is the result of more melanin being produced in the skin under the eyes.

This particular condition is more noticeable in people whose skin is normally darker or has more pigmentation. In a study by the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Medical College in India, researchers found dark circles under the eyes was the most common condition found in a routine dermatology practice.4

This type of dark circles caused by hyperpigmentation can have either a primary or secondary cause. In a primary cause the increased pigmentation is found under both eyes and occurs spontaneously. In a secondary cause, the increased pigmentation is caused by a systemic or localized process.5

Some of the causes believed to contribute to hyperpigmentation around the periorbital area are temporary and resolve after the irritant has been removed. Possible temporary and permanent triggers for periorbital hyperpigmentation include:6

Sun exposure Genetic pigmentation Dermal melanocytosis
Allergic dermatitis Contact dermatitis Edema (swelling)
Drugs Aging Hormones

Dark circles under your eyes may also be triggered from the oxidation of blood leaking from the blood vessels around the eyes. The release of blood and oxidation leads to not only dark circles, but also swelling and bags under your eyes.7

This occurs when the body attempts to clear blood leakage from a thin-skinned area easily affected by gravity.

This condition is relatively harmless to your health, but can be a challenge to deal with. There are surgical and medical treatments available to stop the blood leaking, but it is best to start with lifestyle changes and nutrition to treat the condition and avoid other more invasive options.

Bags With Your Circles?

Another condition that can make your dark circles appear even darker and more noticeable is swelling under the eyes, commonly called bags. When you are young, this swelling may be caused by allergic reactions, illness or an excessive buildup of fluid in your body.8

As you age there are yet other reasons for developing puffiness and swelling under your eyes. The effect of gravity on tissue that is slowly losing collagen and elasticity can result in tissue sagging. This includes the fat under your eye tissue.9

Fat deposits around your eyes help protect them. As you age, fat may escape from the membrane normally containing it, resulting in the fat falling beneath the eye, causing bagging.

However, in recent research published in Clinical Neurophysiology, scientists discovered the possibility of another reason for the fat deposits beneath your eyes.

Plastic surgeons from California found that in study participants, it wasn’t the fat that escaped the membranes with age, but rather the body produced more fat in the eye area, creating the bags.10

The exact mechanism of the fat deposits beneath the eye may not be completely understood, but doctors recognize the increased risk of bags under your eyes as you age.

Although you might be tempted to point the finger at a lack of sleep and rest to the increasing size of the bags under your eyes, there is no scientific proof linking this cause and effect. However, lack of sleep does increase the severity of the puffiness under your eyes, especially first thing in the morning.

How to Lighten Your Dark Circles

Although they are usually relatively harmless, you may want to reduce the effect as much as possible. There are several choices you can make daily to help reduce both bagginess and discoloration under your eyes. Each of these options will work, but may not work for everyone, depending on your condition.

Before considering surgical choices, use these strategies to reduce the effects. If you choose surgery, be aware that inappropriate daily choices may cause your hyperpigmentation or puffiness around the eyes to quickly return.

Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

The skin under your eyes is thin, losing elasticity and collagen as you age and may be prone to blood leakage. All of these factors contribute to under eye circles and are worsened when you rub the skin. Do your best to stop rubbing your eyes.

Manage Your Allergies

Allergies can cause itchy, watery eyes. This may contribute to rubbing a sensitive area and can increase the puffiness around the eyes.

Switch the Way You Sleep

Are you a stomach sleeper? Gravity causes fluid to collect under your eyes and consistent pressure on your facial skin can lead to deepening wrinkles. Try sleeping on your back. Avoid sleeping on more than one pillow since it significantly alters your neck and back alignment.11,12

Remove Your Makeup — Gently

Leaving makeup on during the night can increase irritation to your sensitive eye tissue.13 But rubbing your eyes each night to remove your eye makeup can cause capillary damage and inflammation to the eye area, making your dark circles even worse.14

Instead, use a gentle eye makeup remover you can swipe on your eyes and leave for a minute and then wash off. A good moisturizer or virgin coconut oil are also good options.

Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is dehydrating, pulling the water out of your skin. This increases the risk of further damage to the area if you accidently start rubbing your eyes.15 If you drink alcohol, drink approximately 56 to 64 ounces of water before you go to bed. It might seem like a lot of fluid, but it will help to rehydrate your skin.

Wear Eye Protection

Wear quality sunglasses when you’re outside. They help protect both your eyes and the delicate skin around the eyes from the sun. Look for UV 400 or 99 to 100 percent UV absorption.

Choose larger lenses that wrap around and protect the skin on the side of your eyes. The color of the lens does not indicate the strength of the UV protection.

Reduce or Quit Smoking

Smoking speeds the loss of collagen from your skin, increasing the bags around your eyes. Smoking is a strong addiction. You may find the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can help reduce the cravings and increase your success rate. The process is easy to learn and use at home.

Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

Air pollution is a significant eye irritant and common both outdoors and indoors.16,17 Because most people who work and live in the U.S. spend approximately 98 percent of their time indoors, it’s important to reduce your indoor air pollution.18

Use a Soothing Eye Treatment

The area around your eye responds well to soothing treatments to help reduce puffiness. Experiment with different options to find the one you enjoy and works for your eyes.19,20 Several suggestions are listed below.


Honey has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits. Look for raw, locally sourced honey. Simply dab a small amount under your eyes just before bed and allow it to soak in overnight.

Cucumber Slices

Long used in spas and for eye treatments, these little slices of heaven help reduce puffiness because they have skin-lightening properties and anti-inflammatory effects.

Thick slices of cold cucumber over your eyes for 10 minutes at the end of a long day are rejuvenating.

Almond Oil

Dab some under your eyes before bed and allow it to work overnight. Wash off in the morning with a quick splash of water.

Buttermilk and Turmeric

Sprinkle some turmeric in a bit of buttermilk and soak two large cotton balls in it. Squeeze out the fluid and place over your eyes for 15 minutes five times per week. Buttermilk constricts the blood vessels and turmeric is an anti-inflammatory.


Rich in fat and emollients, avocados are wonderful to eat, but also make a great eye mask.

Place a slice of ripe avocado under each eye, or make a mask with a teaspoon of avocado and a couple drops of almond oil. Leave on for 15 minutes.

Mint Leaves

Mint is cool, tingling and just feels great. It’s a great pick-me-up at the end of a long day. Crush raw leaves and apply over the dark circles for 5 to 10 minutes. Wash off.

Black Tea Bags

Once you’ve brewed your tea, put the bags in the refrigerator and recycle them later in the day. Once cooled, they help reduce end-of-day puffiness around the eyes.

Apply one on each eye for 10 minutes and then discard the bags.

Potatoes or Tomatoes

If your dark circles are from too much pigment, then you’ll want to try lightening the skin with either the juice of a potato (grate to extract the juice) or a tomato (fresh).

Soak a cotton ball in the juice, squeeze out and rest them over your dark circles for 10 minutes; rinse your face.

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