under eye circles

How I Came to Embrace My Dark Circles

If Lady Gaga can do it, then I can, too.

By: Kaitlyn McLintock

The beauty industry constantly reminds us that dark circles are unsightly. They make us look tired and run-down. They’re supposed to be covered up with concealer, treated with under-eye masks, and disguised by any number of other products. This implies that they’re a problem to be fixed, which makes them inherently bad.

Because of this, I used to hate my dark circles and under-eye bags. I tried what seemed like every at-home treatment and brightening product on the market. Some of them helped, at least temporarily, but none of them made a permanent difference, because dark circles and under-eye bags are part of my genetics. Both of my parents and my sister have them, but none as bad as me.

Still, I tried my best.

From freshman year of high school on, I wouldn’t even consider leaving the house without applying a thick layer of concealer. I would follow up with coats upon coats of mascara, doing my best to make my eyes appear bigger and brighter, thinking it would distract from the dark half-moons that sat stubbornly below. I was openly and admittedly jealous of people who could hop out of bed looking refreshed and ready for the day, while I envisioned myself waking up and looking something like a beatnik who had stayed up all night writing, smoking, and drinking whiskey neat.

It took me years to realize that there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s kind of (for lack of a better word) a look. In hindsight, I can trace my sudden change of heart back to when, as a teenager, I watched River Phoenix in Running on Empty. Like so many other girls my age, I was completely enamored by him and his tired and intense eyes. After that, I started to notice a number of other celebrities, from both past and present, who are likewise known for their dark circles. They made them more than a physical attribute—it became something of an accessory.

With the help of this newfound celebrity inspiration, I began to embrace my dark circles and under-eye bags. That’s not to say I threw out all my concealer, because I definitely didn’t. It’s just now I only wear it when I want to, not because I feel like I have to. I’m happy to report that most days I go completely bare, because I appreciate the way dark circles exude a certain type of effortlessness—an “I just rolled out of bed” kind of ease that’s rarely seen in the midst of the L.A. beauty scene, where glamorous, full-coverage makeup still thrives.

So here I am, trying to make a case for the acceptance of dark circles and under-eye bags. I think it’s time we acknowledge the fact that they can be (wait for it) sexy. The proof is in the stars.


James Dean

I can’t discuss dark circles without mentioning James Dean. He was known for his tired eyes, which made him look mysterious and intense, both on screen and off.

Photo: Getty

Jean Shrimpton

Shrimpton’s combination of dark circles and ’60s makeup taught me I don’t need to have flawless skin to wear bold makeup. If anything, dark circles make a look more interesting.

Photo: Getty

Françoise Dorléac

Dorléac is further proof that no one embraces tired eyes better than the French.

Photo: Getty

Clemence Poesy

Poesy was one of my first dark-circle icons outside River Phoenix. As she once told Vogue, “dark circles under the eyes can be one of the most moving things on a human face.”

Photo: Getty

Lea Seydoux

Seydoux is another French actress who looks effortlessly chic, dark circles and all. I delighted in seeing her dark circles and under-eye bags in Spectre.

Photo: Getty

Olivia Wilde

Kohl-rimmed eyes and dark circles are what constitute Wilde’s signature look (to me, at least).

Photo: Getty

Kristen Stewart

On days I don’t wear a concealer, I do my best to channel Kristen Stewart, who’s pretty much the epitome of millennial cool with her tired eyes.

Photo: Getty

Cole Sprouse

Dark circles are iconic for Cole Sprouse. They’re also iconic for his Riverdale character. Would Jughead be Jughead without his tired-looking eyes?

Photo: Getty

Selma Blair

Selma Blair has made dark circles and under-eye bags cool ever since the ’90s.

Photo: Getty

Lady Gaga

If dark circles are OK with Lady Gaga, then they’re totally OK with me, too.

Photo: Courtesy of Instagram/@ladygaga