Color Your Complexion for Summer: Blush is Back

If you enjoyed the highlighter phase, but never quite caught on to contouring, I have great news. Blush is back! Blush goes in the same spot as contouring, making your face look fresh and bright instead of sunken. (Is there a reason why skeletal looks were trending?)

The light caught her highlighting in an unflattering manner, so remember, keep highlighting to a minimum. Make yourself up in bright sunlight or a makeup mirror to avoid applying too much. This way you look healthy and colorful. -Photo by Sakshi Patwa

Now that we’ve gotten past (most of) the pandemic, it’s time to show off your healthy state. Hopefully, you’re enjoying it! The sun is out, and it’s time for some color. How to apply blush?

Grab a mirror. When you have no makeup on, look at your cheeks carefully from the front. They will actually tell you where to apply blusher and highlight, if you’d like to add a little shine to your color. Under your eyes rest the tops of your cheekbones. If you notice, they are lighter in color. This is where you add your highlighter, sparingly, if you choose to.

Facial structures differ! If you look closely, you’ll see she has a darker triangle under the eye and, of course, under the cheekbones. She would apply her blush in these two areas. But she needs to bring the blush up a little on top of her cheekbones to avoid a sunken look. The lighter areas of her cheekbones under the eyes and on the side of the face could use a silvery highlighter to match her cool undertones. Photo by Keanen Geego Kilian

The area below this is significantly darker and might be spread closer to your ears than the center of your face. This dark area is where your blusher goes. But obviously it needs to be darker or more popp-ier than the skin in that area for it to work.

This lady can use her natural blushing area and add a slightly more intense color in rose or peach. You also might see a slightly darker area on the side of her cheekbones in a vertical pattern. She can use blush here too. Then she can use a bit of highlighter on the outside of the face under the eyes where the skin is lighter. Photo by Lerike Lazyr.

Very dark, black skin can use bright red colors that pop. Very light, European skin gets away with peach and rose colors. Medium skin tones work well with rust and darker pinks. Tones between black and medium look awesome with a raisin color blush. Again, you can choose any color, as long its just darker than the skin there.

It’s so hard to find pictures with absolutely no makeup. Sorry this is in black and white. This lady has a very clear delineation of light and dark on her cheeks. A red or violet pop of blush, blended in well with highlighter subtly placed in gold on the upper cheekbones will look so beautiful on her. Photo by David Iloba.

If your skin is dark and you can’t find an appropriate color, go for one that pops instead. If you have a European light, skin tone, colors that pop won’t work for you! Look instead for a highlighter to give you some shimmer. A little glitter in the highlight area when it’s hot outside looks lovely on everyone, too.

Blush and highlighter properly applied for a natural summertime look. Lovely. Photo by cottonbro.

Happy summer!  

4C Hot Oil Treatment Vs. Pre-Shampoo Treatment

Pre-shampoo treatments and hot oil treatments are pretty much the same. Hot oil treatments came out first, many decades ago, and involve heating the oil in a double burner before applying it to dry hair.

You can heat a pre- poo oil treatment, but the modern way is to drench your hair in oil then use steam to help it penetrate.

This is a more relaxing treatment with a bonus: you’re less likely to burn yourself with that hot oil.

Many thanks to Sophie O’Kelley at Vegamour for including my insight about hot oil treatments in her article on the same. Pre-shampoo treatments are optional additions for type 2 hair routines. But ohhhh they are indispensable for type 4 hair.

Why is that? Check out my natural 4C hair care guide to find out.

It’s Spring! Try a Temporary Hair Color- No Damage

A big thank you to Merrell Readman of SheFinds and M. Davis-McAfee over on Suggest for quoting me about hair dyes. Being a hair expert is part of my work at The Right Hairstyles.

Davis-McAfee’s article talks about what hair experts wish you knew about hair dye. I mentioned temporary colors, but I’d like to add that if you have dry hair, don’t use semi-permanent or permanent dye. Just don’t. Both penetrate the hair shaft and cause changes to the hair structure that dry or damaged hair might not be able to handle.

Solution? Temporary hair color that sits on top of the hair structure only.

How can I temporarily dye my hair without dying it

There are a few ways you can dye your hair without semi-permanent, demi-permanent or permanent dyes and bleach:


You can use henna. The henna market has come a long way in the past several years but is still restricted to shades of brown, red and black. Henna penetrates the cuticle layer of the hair only and dyes it. It’s still a semi-permanent color as it fades some over a six-month period, and you have the option to retouch the roots.

Your hair might feel a little dry after you use henna, but that is normally due to residual henna left on the hair. After a few washes, the dryness decreases and moisture can still get in and out of the hair shaft. Plus, henna strengthens the hair. If you’re interested, have a look at these three companies. 

Henna Color Lab

The Henna Guys


Temporary hair colors

If you want to express yourself with pastels or a rich purple, say, go for temporary hair colors. These have also evolved. They started out as temporary hair color sprays and chalks. Those are still around. But now a lot of women with natural hair are using temporary colors, which means they are non-drying. There are temporary hair color wax, gel and cream to suit your application tastes and hair texture and all are moisturizing right out of the jar. 

Does temporary hair dye damage your hair?

Temporary hair dye can damage your hair if it’s drying, like hair spray color that’s temporary and colored chalk. There are some people who can’t do with anything drying at all or their hair become brittle and snaps right off. So if you’re one of those people, check out some of the new creams, gels and waxes on offer that can have you colored up for spring without dryness.

Unlike natural henna, these temporary dyes contain chemicals. But they don’t adhere firmly to the hair cuticle, they only coat it. They wash right out in your next wash, as long as your hair isn’t too porous or dyed previously. They’re not designed to enter the hair shaft or re-color the protein inside your hair. But again, if you’ve had another dye job or your hair is overly porous due to chemical processing, a temporary hair color might actually get inside your hair and do some staining.

Can I oil my hair after I colour it (or what does aftercare look like)

You can’t oil your hair or the product will slide off. What you can do is apply gel to seal it and cause less color transfer. If the weather is hot or you work out, don’t apply the color close to your roots, or you’ll be a sweaty purple or pink mess. Sleep with a bonnet so there is no color transfer to your sheets. If it gets on your clothes, wash them immediately.

Best temporary hair color that pops on dry hair

Ready? All these work on dark hair, so there is no need for bleached hair or blonde hair before you get started. Why do I make an assumption that the better the product is packaged the more thought went into the formulation? I don’t know, and that’s probably not fair. But here we go in order of best packaging. 

Gemini Naturals Get Hued

Gemini carries 13 colors and a Curl Awaken Primer, that is a lightweight leave-in conditioner with an aloe vera base. Each color contains aloe vera, avocado oil, glycerin and castor oil. The dyes are gel-based, so there might be a little crunch after it dries, but that fades. It vegan, can be applied to wet or dry hair. The company says you can use a gel or jojoba oil to seal the color, but it starts to fade after three days. They are all vibrant colors. 

Check them out:

As I Am Curl Colors

As I Am also has 13 colors added to their original line of haircare products. These are gel colors also and give medium hold and good definition. The formulas are boosted with black castor oil and ceramides. These colors improve moisture levels by 83%. 

Check them out:

Curl Fit

Curl Fit are gel colors that the brand says works well to cover even jet black hair. There are 13 shades. (What?) It contains beeswax, which can make it look a little chalky if you don’t use regular gel over it. It also has glycerin, jojoba oil and castor oil. If you have straight hair instead of textured hair, the brand recommends you try the colors for highlighting instead of an all over ‘do.

Check them out:

ORS Curls Unleashed Color Blast

Curls Unleashed Color Blast comes in 21 colors, and they have a try on feature on their website so you can get an idea how the colors will look on your skin tone. The colors are hair waxes and contain beeswax and glycerin. At $10 for 6 oz., they are also the cheapest on this list.

Check them out:

Crown Paint Colors Hair Shadows

There are over 80 shades, neon, metallic…take your pic! The brand says these are not waxes or gels but creams. They contains cocoa butter and shea butter. Crown Paint Hair Shadows work best on hair that’s already light, so you will need two coats to get a vibrant color. If you blow dry your hair, the shades will not come off on your fingers afterwards.

Check them out:

Mysteek Naturals Color Pop

Mysteek has 12 different colors to their hair waxes and the recipe is super simple — beeswax, petroleum jelly and pigment. It’s kid-safe. The color is vibrant even on dark hair and there’s no need to blow dry to set the color as it only sticks to the hair. It’s recommended with this color and most of the colors on this list to use a hair bonnet at night to keep it from staining  your bedding.

Check them out:

DIY your own temporary hair color

Looking at the ingredients of all these, it didn’t look like rocket science to do a DIY. So I mixed a little pastry color powder in a curl pudding. Did it dye? Yes, but it was too dark. A lighter color probably shows up better on dark hair.

The next surprising thing is that it didn’t feel dry at all. It’s an edible color, so maybe that’s why. It gave the pudding a lighter texture that transfers to the hair, making it softer. 

Enjoy your new temporary hair color, however you decide to do it. And let me know how it goes!

Jada, Alopecia and Getting Slapped

Growing up in Chicago, I was a typical kid. Being a typical kid meant that you made fun of others. We called it tripping. One day, tripping on someone got me a slap and landed me in the snow. I felt the slap. Then I felt my friends waking me up. The person was more than half a block away, and I was still in shock.

That must be how Chris Rock felt. He went a little too far and got what he deserved. I feel the urge to defend Will Smith, because, yes, Chris Rock really did cross the line.

Why? Demi Moore cut her hair for G.I. Jane. Where’s the huge insult in calling Jada Pinkett-Smith G.I. Jane 2? Well, it’s like this.

Leave the hair out of it

Chris Rock has done a little tripping on Jada before, but not about her hair. Hair is a touchy subject with black women, and when she rolled her eyes about that joke, well, we know the rest. But why did she get angry, when she’d been on Instagram explaining why she cut her hair due to alopecia?

Because even though she tried to de-sensitize the issue, it’s still very sensitive and personal. I think we’ve all seen black women over 50, black women over 40, 30, 20 and even over 10 lose their hair. Everyone has a neighbor, a friend, or someone in the family or at school who has super-thin hair or bald spots. So we take note and say we won’t do what they did, but the reality is that most people do it, anyway.

“Fried, dyed and laid to the side!” Ever heard that? Hair loss is at the end of that saying, and as a result of styling practices, it’s almost inevitable. I don’t mean for Demi.

Our hair follicles are not straight

Those who have straight hair also have straight hair follicles. This type of hair can be manipulated into many different styles without causing too much stress to the hair follicles underneath. For people who have naturally curly hair, their hair follicles are curved.

For people with coily hair, though, the hair follicles are curved even more, and this helps produce the little springs that make up black women’s hair, the majority that is. This curvature also makes many styling practices detrimental for our hair and scalp, and maybe not even in ways that you think.

“Fried, Dyed…

When our hair is straightened with heat or chemicals, the coils that make up our hair are pulled all the way out. You can imagine the damage this causes to the hair. The chemicals or heat also fries our scalps, which have hardly any sebum to protect them. This makes for weak hair follicles. Hair coloring makes hair more porous, so hair that was already dry from a lack of sebum becomes brittle and breaks.

…And Laid to the Side.”

This is an issue that causes hair loss but isn’t often considered. Like everyone else, our hair grows in a swirl from the center. But when we style it, we tend to go against that swirl by creating updos, ponytails and the like. This causes thinning in everyone, regardless of curl structure.

But what about when the hair follicles are curved? The hair is issuing at a curve, to the side, and then being swept against its natural growth pattern. This puts major pressure on the hair follicles.


What happens when the hair is pulled tightly? Inflammation in the scalp which leads to different forms of scarring alopecia.


What happens when you start losing your hair and reach for extensions? The weight of the extensions causes more inflammation and accelerates the alopecia.

So what does all this mean?

Hair loss in black women is all too common, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. It’s a constant struggle to fit in with societal norms, express your own individuality and keep your hair healthy. So if I see a black woman with pink extensions piled on top, that’s her business, not mine. Everyone has a struggle.

Hair loss is an issue we don’t usually laugh about or even talk about. But I have one for Chris, who is wearing some sort of texturizer to get those curls on top. “What goes around comes around!” Slap me later.

If you’re losing your hair and are ready to get it back, check out this article:

Grow Your Hair From Thinning to Thick

Grow your hair from thinning to thick

A big thank you to Brigitt Earley at Oprah Daily for including me in her piece 17 Best Shampoos for Thinning Hair as part of my work for The Right Hairstyles.

Not my prime pick, but I’m grateful to be included, nevertheless.

Shampoos can help, but if you really want to make the switch from thin hair to thick, you need hair growth shampoo and a good scalp serum, plus a few other tips and tricks. Changing a few habits to stop mechanical damage won’t hurt, either. It’s all about how serious you are.

I bet your hair was thicker as a teenager than it is now. But what happens later to thin it out? High heat and chemicals for years and years leave the hair follicles suffering. They stop producing great quality hair regularly. Then the hair starts to thin.

Amazing. To maintain her beautiful hair, she’ll need to stop those blowouts after a while.

Get thicker hair growth from the scalp

If you’re determined to have thicker hair, ditch the chemicals and heat for a while. You need a higher percentage of active hair follicles on your head. That means having good scalp care and not punishing your scalp with… chemicals and high heat.

Most people think that once hair thinning starts, it’s bound to continue. Well, that’s true, if you don’t do anything about it. Here’s a routine that can stop hair thinning and promote growth:

  1. Exfoliate your scalp weekly.
  2. Use a scalp brush daily to encourage blood circulation.
  3. Use a hair growth oil or serum.
  4. Take a biotin supplement or make sure biotin is in your multivitamins.
  5. Use a biotin shampoo, so that your scalp is getting this important hair growth vitamin from your bodily nutrition and directly into your hair follicles, as well.

All of this means more blood circulation to the hair follicles. Increased circulation is the principle behind drugs like minoxidil. More circulation can help some of the dormant hair follicles will wake up and can help the active ones keep up their business for longer. That way, you can have longer, thicker hair. Here are a few examples of products that can help you in the search for thicker hair:

1. Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Treatment Serum

If your skin and scalp are sensitive, you probably need an exfoliant that works without the scratching of ingredients that have jagged edges. I prefer chemical exfoliants. Sunday Riley is the queen of scalp exfoliants in this category. Using a scalp exfoliant weekly can help make sure there’s no product buildup or skin cells blocking the hair follicles and impeding growth. Chemical exfoliants create new scalp cells, too, which is a real plus. It’s great for dandruff and helps regulate sebum production, in case your hair is too oily or too dry.

2. Tangle Teezer Scalp Exfoliator and Massager

It would seem like you could just do this with any plastic-pronged brush. But it won’t feel as good, and it won’t stimulate your scalp as much. You actually need a scalp massage tool, and this is a pretty good one. And, by the way, scalp massage tools work lovely to eliminate the precursor pain or stress headaches. Just give a little scratch in the area that’s affecting you.

3. Camille Rose Coconut Nibs & Honey Ultimate Growth Serum

Bonus! This scalp serum contains biotin. Otherwise, it’s pretty much an Ayurvedic formula, so I know they won’t mind my adding a few drops of clove oil, an Ayurvedic hair growth oil that’s supposed to give you crazy long hair. This is a winter practice only, because clove oil on the scalp can make you pretty hot, and who needs that in the summer? When summer gets here, I’ll exchange the clove for peppermint.

4. SugarBearHair Women’s Multivitamins

Instead of buying biotin supplements, sometimes it’s better to just get a multi that contains biotin. After all, a balanced diet grows better quality hair strands, not just biotin. So a well-rounded daily vitamin can help. Yes, it grows facial hair, too, brows and lashes–not mustaches.

5. Hairtamin Biotin Botanical Blend Shampoo

This is a mild shampoo. It contains biotin to increase blood flow to the scalp. The myriad other scalp stimulants in the formula, like lavender oil and rosemary oil, work together with the biotin to grow your hair thicker.

So if you’re really serious about having thicker hair, it’s definitely a process. One or two things from this list will help, but all five will get your hair growing and leave you surprised at the results.

Does Cream to Powder Foundation Look Good on Dark Skin?

We host different colors and depths of color on one face. If you look closely, she has at least seven colors on that one cutie-pie face.

Cream to powder makes beautiful and innovative products. There’s cream to powder blush from which you can apply just what you need for a natural finish. There’s even cream to powder lipstick, like this one from Peripera in coco-cola can red. It’s matte, but bright. Very classic, very nice. Plushy and soft. There is no need for a lip liner, and it stays well. Weird. But cream to powder foundation? It’s usually way too matte. Still pondering whether you should go dewy or matte with your foundation? Read on.

It’s the color of the bottle, not the applicator.

There were certain black magazines I avoided as a youth and others I looked at over and over. The ones I avoided had models with flat faces–matte makeup. The others had fresh, dewy makeup, even though highlighting wasn’t a thing back then.

Dark skin is typically dry, not oily. So what were they mattifying? Even for those with oily skin, matte makeup flattens the many contours of brown faces. I get that it lasts longer and is great for full coverage, but it makes us look ashy. Even with highlighter and contouring, it looks ashy. It’s just fine when only used on the T-zone, or only where it’s needed. A dewy foundation can then be used for the rest of the face. I’m a dewy fan.

Matte looks lovely on lighter skin tones, though. To see examples, scroll down on this page for an Urban Decay medium coverage, matte finish foundation. Check the faces. All is fine until you get to the medium dark range. From there on, everyone looks flat.

So like the picture of the little girl in this article, we host different colors and depths of color on one face. If you look closely, she has at least seven colors on that one cutie-pie face. Because of this shading and depth, matte makeup makes our noses, chins and cheekbones recede. If you have large eyes, matte can be just what you need to bring out a baby-doll look. Otherwise, it just looks imbalanced.

Recall the last time you wore a nude, matte lipstick. Did it look good on you or did it make your mouth recede into the background. Kinda funny looking? That’s my point. 

Challenge: I was looking at some of the astounding makeup on Can you tell me which of these women are using matte foundation and which are using dewy foundation? Dewy foundation is amazing on dark skin, but if you’re still on the fence, maybe Black Opal’s Instagram can help you choose.

Below are some cream to powder tryouts, so you can get a more in depth look:

She has other makeup on in the intro, so see the middle of the video.
Cream to powder and matte foundation was made for those with lighter skin. Just putting color in it doesn’t make it appropriate for those with dark skin.

In the nearby future, hopefully I’ll write something up about how to bring out the beauty of dewy makeup on dark skin. Thanks for reading. 😉

Why are pH balancing shampoos important for your hair and scalp?

A big thanks to Emily Beyda at Vegamour for quoting me on the importance of using a pH balanced shampoo: “pH makes a big difference when it comes to closing the hair cuticle. Heat from a warm water shampoo is going to open the cuticle, but you need it closed to minimize frizz and keep the hair moisturized.” She quoted me as part of my work with The Right Hairstyles.

What non-pH balanced shampoo can do to hair cuticles

There are a few other reasons why pH is important when it comes to shampoo formulas and hair products in general, so I wanted to elaborate on that and show more ways shampoo pH can affect the hair. Research published in the International Journal of Trichology talks about how alkaline shampoos increase friction between hair fibers and how these electrostatic charges could lead to cuticle damage, tangling and hair breakage. Frizz is only the immediate concern that shows up when using high-alkaline shampoos for cleansing. But what high pH shampoo can lead to is actually something more serious: damaged hair.

The study goes on to say that less than 40% of shampoos in the consumer market are considered pH-balanced shampoos. That’s downright frightening. Of the shampoos you might find in a hair salon, 70% fall into the ideal range of ph level for hair, between 4.5 and 5.5.

Hair conditioner and harsh shampoos

Using hair conditioner after shampooing with an alkaline solution can decrease some of the electrical charge on the hair fiber surface. A leave-in conditioner works even better in this scenario because presumably it has more time to do its job. But who wants to sort out a matted mane after the hair washing routine in the conditioner phase? Many of us have come to expect a great deal of hard tangles after shampooing, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

An active ingredient that can make alkaline shampoos less irritating

Cationic ingredients added to the shampoo can also help make the alkaline solution less damaging, the Journal says. This is why many shampoos that are made for curly hair contain cationic agents like behentrimonium methosulfate, behentrimonium chloride and cetrimonium chloride. Curly and afro hair have twists and turns, so their tangles are not the same as straight hair tangles. Cationic actives ease the friction from the electrostatic charges between the hair strands that’s caused by the alkalinity of the shampoo. This way the hair detangles easier and isn’t as matted by the time you reach for a conditioner.

Alkaline shampoos and scalp disorders

Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels

pH balancing can help protect the scalp from fungal infections like seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly called dandruff. Shampoo that has a pH above 5.5 can cause scalp irritations and an imbalancing of the scalp. This is part of the reason why so many women with straight hair also have excessively oily hair. Maybe it’s also the reason why those with curly, afro hair have dry scalps. Who knows. 

Alkaline chemical treatments and pH levels

Extremely alkaline products, apart from shampoo, also play a role here. It probably won’t matter much if your shampoo has a pH of 6 if your hair pH level ( looks like this:

  • bleached hair (pH 10-11)
  • color-treated hair (pH 7-10.5) relaxed hair (pH 11-13)
  • permed hair (pH 8-9)
  • hair to which you’ve applied baking soda (pH 8)  

A shampoo with a low pH of 4 might help chemically-processed hair, though… a little.

Examples of pH-balancing shampoos

pH balancing shampoos hydrate hair strands by trapping moisture inside the hair shaft. They therefore encourage healthy hair growth by discouraging breakage due to brittleness. Most product labels do not reveal the pH, but the company is required to list it on their material safety data sheets. Camelia Smith at Salon Worthy Hair did an extensive amount of research into what shampoos have pH balancing. Here are some of the popular brand shampoos that feature themselves on her list by virtue of caring about hair health and pH levels in their formulas.

  • AG
  • Acure
  • Alterna
  • Davines
  • Fekkai
  • Joico
  • Olaplex
  • Paul Mitchell
  • GK Hair pH+

Naturally, the list isn’t exhaustive because there are thousands of shampoo brands. Every product produced by these companies isn’t ph-balanced or low pH, only most. Olaplex, in particular is used to help prevent damage from chemical processing like bleaching, so it isn’t surprising that the brand is pH balanced.

How a volumizing shampoo works on the hair shaft

There are times when a high pH or alkaline solution works well as a hair-volumizing shampoo. That’s for those whose tresses are fine and limp. For them, alkaline shampoos cause the hair cuticle to lift so they can have more volume. Still it’s a less than ideal situation for the hair cuticle to be opened by alkaline ingredients. For all hair types, alkaline shampoos can result in poor results with continued use. 

Should you trash your non pH-balanced shampoo?

There are a few things you can try if you want to use the last of an alkaline shampoo and not waste money. If you must use alkaline products, don’t try detangling immediately after using one. Instead, apply hair conditioner and let it sit before detangling with the product in your hair. This will help, but if your hair already has stiff tangles, there will probably still be breakage.

An acidic solution can neutralize the effect of an alkaline shampoo

Probably the best way to neutralize the alkaline level of your shampoo is with an acid like apple cider vinegar. An apple cider vinegar rinse, when used in a solution of 1:3, is an excellent detangler and can also help keep the scalp healthy. It’s cleansing and clarifying, removes excess sebum and can be used as a natural shampoo substitute. Pour it through your tresses and leave it in for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Then use conditioner and detangle with the product still in your hair.

Lemon juice is very drying, so unless you have oily hair, it isn’t ideal to use after shampooing. Coffee has an acidic pH level and the caffeine in it is great for hair growth, but it’s better when restricted to scalp use because coffee residue can also cause friction between the hair fibers, even though it’s an acidic solution.

Basically, ditch the alkaline shampoo as soon as you can and find a low pH or pH-balanced shampoo. Pass this article along, if you can, because the more people that understand ph levels in shampoo, the more the haircare industry is likely to cater to our needs.

Is there anything that’s appropriate for under eye area skin besides a $100 under eye cream?

So many times I’ve purchased a face cream or other product that specifically says, “Avoid under-eye area.” Like, why? This feels like the mattress tag I absolutely cannot cut off until I read the fine print and it actually says I can cut it when I get home. 

So what’s the fine print here? I understand that the under-eye area has sensitive skin and sometimes dry skin too. I also get that a lot of beauty products aren’t tested in that area. But for real? Are you suggesting the only solution is a $100 under-eye cream made just for the purpose, like under-eye under-eye cream cream cream. Ugh! I’m not paying $100. 

Assuming you aren’t either, here are some things you can do if your under-eye area is puffy, dark or wrinkled. I’ve included an ingredient or two that can actually can go under the eye and, oh, eye products that are inexpensive.


Dark undereye circles and multi-vitamins

I’ve struggled with dark circles for probably a decade now. While caffeine and vitamin C serums seem to bleach the area temporarily, and in a way that’s not totally desirable, the dark circles come right back the following day. In recent years, I started getting that morning puffiness that was turning into bags. If you didn’t know, a dark or puffy undereye area is one of the first indicators that something might be going wrong with your health, kind of how your hair quality can also tell on your health. 

For whatever reason, I’ve avoided taking a multivitamin, but once I started, both problems went away. Just taking iron alone was not cutting it. My eye area now looks fresh and young. So, yeah, we can chalk that up to malnutrition. I could go into how our soil no longer contains the vitamins and minerals we used to get from our food when we were kids–well, at least when I was a kid. But to save you that lecture, I’ll just tell you which multi I ended up with. 

NOW being a brand from Illinois, and me being from Chicago, I actually remember my mother purchasing NOW brand products when I was a kid. I’ve purchased several as an adult and I like the quality and the price. Of course, you can go with your own brand, but this is one that I trust. Take a look at the back label on these.

Yes, it has everything but the kitchen sink, plus biotin, which is great for the hair. More later on that. I started with only one tablet a day and worked my way up, assuming my body wasn’t going to assimilate all of those heavy percentages at once. Bang! No dark circles. Oh, okay, yeah, here’s the front picture:

Now let’s list the alternatives, in case this doesn’t work for you:

Hyaluronic acid serums

As long as you find a product with a simple formula with glycerin, water and hyaluronic acid, it should be safe for the under-eye area. I would stay away from drying alcohols in the formula, that’s mostly for people who are trying to apply it and run out the door without a greasy or wet under eye. Just apply your natural serum at night, and you won’t have to worry about that.

Hyaluronic acid, as an active ingredient, is going to increase hydration and plump the area which could lead to a lighter appearance. As it so happens, this NOW formula fits the bill. It also contains aloe vera for more moisture, green tea extract for reduced wrinkles and soluble collagen as an emollient that also smooths the area. Soluble collagen is from animals, though, so I haven’t used this product.

Vitamin C creams

Vitamin C is known to be irritating and also unstable. There are plenty of companies that use vitamin C, but it should contain vitamin E and ferulic acid to make low (non-irritating) concentrations more effective. The vitamin C lotion I use for my face is from Pixi. I smooth it right over my eye area with no problem at all. In fact, it was my dark circle lightening cream before I started taking my multivit. As far as serums are concerned, the vitamin C concentration is probably going to be too high for the eye area. I make my own, courtesy of Lab Muffin, but I would never put it on my eye area.

In-office dermatological treatments

Sometimes nothing else works for dark circles under and around the eye, or the issue is simply too far-gone. Your local dermatologist’s office might be able to deal with it. Fillers under the eyes and in the upper cheek area can help bring back the padding that sometimes gets lost with age. When the padding is gone, the under-eye area sinks and becomes darker. 


Puffy undereyes and dark circles

If you have a puffy under-eye, it could be a circulation or nutritional issue, similar to dark circles. As mentioned above, a multivitamin got rid of my dark circles and puffiness, but that’s not going to work for everyone, although it might help most people! Vitamin C and caffeine can increase circulation in the tiny blood vessels in the area to remove excess fluid. 

Green or black tea bags

Instead of spending on an under-eye cream with caffeine, you can just take a steeped tea bag and place the warm, moist bag over your under eyes. Press gently for a few minutes and your eye puffiness should be reduced. This works well if you’re puffy because of a lack of sleep.

Eye patches that reduce the appearance of puffiness

These are relatively new products. I have seen a few clips of girls with weird looking things under their eyes while they do their hair. Turns out they were eye patches. I haven’t tried any of these, but some common ingredients to many of them are aloe vera to decrease fluid retention and vitamin C to improve circulation and brighten. Obviously, these are not going to work on the eyelids because they just go under the eyes.

This one from Derma E has the ingredients mentioned above and also caffeine, cucumber extract (always good, right?) and vitamin B3 to brighten.

In-office dermatological treatments

If you’ve got puffiness that has turned into bags and you want a semi-permanent solution for it, check with your dermatologist. She might recommend a gentle chemical peel or laser resurfacing. Both of these will remove the outer layers of skin around the eyes and stimulate collagen so that your new skin is firmer and brighter. Of course, this happens over time. If you want to try a gentler exfoliation, look for an eye patch or cream that contains a very low concentration of retinol, somewhere around 0.05%. 

Wrinkles and collagen

Many eye wrinkle formulas contain soluble collagen, but according to EWG, soluble collagen is animal-based. Sorry vegans. Regular collagen does not absorb into the skin, but soluble collagen does. What the deal with collagen anyway? Well, as we age, actually after we hit the ripe old age of 20 or 25, collagen production starts to slow in the body. This means that, over time, skin elasticity degrades and the appearance of wrinkles begins. For most people, this starts with eye wrinkles. 

The vegetarian version of collagen is marine collagen, and there are a few skincare products that contain marine collagen, but the results of these products are inconclusive. It’s way better to just ingest it. Still, because I love skincare, and the delivery method of Maryann’s marine collagen cream is pretty cool, not to mention high reviews, I’ll probably try it someday soon. Maybe it works!

For right now, though, since my production of collagen is probably pretty low, I’ve beat my undereye wrinkles by ingesting marine collagen. My choice, below, also contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin C within the formula. If you work at a desk all day, as I do, and have developed back problems, as I have, this product can also be indispensable for pain-relief:

In-office dermatological treatments

If the wrinkles keep coming despite all that you’re taking and doing, you can consult a dermatologist. She will probably recommend a laser treatment to increase cell turnover. This combats wrinkles in the delicate skin of the area and can also stimulate collagen. Or maybe he will combine laser therapy with radio-frequency treatment to tighten the skin. 

Sunscreen and skin protection

Although us melanated (melaninated?) folks might be able to get away with only using vitamin C, which helps heal sun damage to a degree, if you are low on melanin, please use a sunscreen. The best wrinkle treatments are preventative. This will help prevent wrinkles in the eye area and everywhere else. I don’t have any suggestions in this area, because vitamin C has been working for me, along with all the other stuff you see here, even though I live in a very sunny climate, the Dominican Republic. I’ve seen what the sun can do to people with lighter skin, though. And harmful UV rays are around wherever you live, so consider a sunscreen regardless of your skin type or color.

Who is iHerb?

I have refrained thus far from doing product ecommerce articles. That’s because I don’t trust some of the affiliate programs out there when it comes to beauty products. I’ve worked in ecommerce before, and I can tell you that many reviews on larger sites are fake and some of the products are fake, too. If I’m going to recommend something, I want to make sure it’s legit before people go slathering it on their skin or putting it in their hair.

I actually first started trying skincare products via and their trial products. That was years ago, but I’ve never received a fake or questionable product from them. During pandemic times, they ship to my door here in the Dominican Republic for less than the normal courier costs to bring shipments from the US. I like iHerb. If you shop with them, I hope you will, too. The links in this article are affiliate links from them, so I’ll earn a small percentage. Many are my personal favorites, but if I haven’t tried the product myself, I mentioned it, so you know.