A: I see you were too tired to ask me a question. You need to determine the cause of your dark circles before you can treat them. The main cause for shadows under the eyes is rubbing provoked by allergies—both seasonal and product induced, says Cheryl M. Burgess, MD, medical director at the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery in Washington, D.C. The second most common cause is excess pigment that may be hereditary, and the third is visible veins. If your problem is due to allergies (your eyes are itchy and watery; rubbing them causes shadows), you'll want to use a mild, soapless cleanser and a moisturizer for sensitive skin. You might also need a 0.5 percent hydrocortisone cream to relieve the itching. Dark circles due to excess pigment (press down on the discoloration—if it doesn't disappear, it's pigment) can sometimes be lightened by lotions or creams containing hydroquinone, arbutin, or kojic acid. Three or more treatments with the Fraxel re:store or Fraxel re:fine laser are also an option. And visible veins can be treated with the Nd:YAG 1064nm laser; several treatments are usually necessary.
Keep in mind: Judicious application of concealer can work very well to hide your discoloration. Use a creamy concealer the same shade as your complexion, lightly tapping it on and then blending over the dark areas.
Q: How can I avoid getting raccoon eyes when I wear black mascara?
A: If you're not being extra careful with the eye cream, start now. Using too much of it under your eyes can lead to smudged and smeared mascara. For daytime, try a hydrating eye cream formula—the primary ingredient will be water—rather than a very emollient one, says makeup artist Cynde Watson. A light dusting of translucent powder on your (closed) eyes before applying mascara can also eliminate smudging because the powder absorbs oils and moisture, she says. Watson recommends one of the new "tube" mascaras, which in her experience won't smudge, clump or flake, and will wash off more easily than waterproof formulas. (Try L'Oréal Paris Double Extend Beauty Tubes Mascara, $11; drugstores.)
Q: How can I make the whites of my eyes look brighter?
A: Before I tell you how, may I share some information about the sclera (the medical term for the white of your eye)? Humans are the only creatures with prominent sclera—which, when you think about it, is really interesting: First, who knew? And second, why? Michael Tomasello, co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, thinks our eyes might have evolved this way so that we could easily see where our companions are looking—which is helpful in acquiring skills like language.
Anyway, if your sclera isn't as bright as you'd like it to be, here are some suggestions from makeup artist Mally Roncal. With a bone-colored pencil (not white, she admonishes), outline the inner corner of your eyes. (Mally recommends her own Mattewand.) For a more dramatic look (and brighter-looking sclera), very carefully line the inner rims of both upper and lower lids with black pencil; use a waterproof formula that's creamy and glides easily (Mally suggests her Evercolor Starlight Waterproof Eyeliner).
Keep in mind: A dab of pink blush on the apples of the cheeks and on the lips, and a light dusting of blush over the highest point of your eyebrow, will also add sparkle to your eyes.
Keep reading: To match or not to match? (eyeshadow, that is)
Q: Is there a way to wear eye makeup that looks great under glasses?
A: Sure there is. But don't use a shortsighted approach, piling on the makeup to compensate for the fact that your eyes are taking a backseat to your specs. Instead, choose your makeup according to what kind of glasses you wear, says makeup artist Jillian Dempsey. Especially if you wear thick frames (or colorful ones), you don't want to overdo it. Line your upper and lower lids with a soft black eyeliner, curl your lashes, and apply a volumizing mascara, says Dempsey. Stick to a neutral palette—apricot or sand—if you must wear shadow. You can play up your eyes a bit more if your glasses are unframed. Try a metallic bronze shadow (which you can apply sheer or layered for more intensity), and follow that with a dark liner (smudge it slightly to add depth). Curl your lashes and give them a couple of coats of a volumizing mascara.
Bottom line: Contrary to what you might think, under eyeglasses, less makeup is more.
Q: Should my eyeshadow color match my eyes or my clothes?
A: That depends on what you like. There's matchy-matchy, and then there's harmony. Matchy-matchy: blue eyes, blue sweater, blue jeans, blue tote, blue loafers, blue eyeshadow. (I actually saw this look on the way to visit my mother in Florida...on JetBlue, naturally.) Harmony: eyeshadow colors that complement the eyes as well as the clothes. If you're picking up a color from your turquoise sweater, be sure that it's just a touch along the lashline, and give it a smudge with your finger or a brush, says makeup artist Pati Dubroff. Purple liner or shadow can make green and blue eyes more vibrant, and brown eyes more coppery or golden, says Dubroff. Most greens and blues complement every eye color, she says, but remember to wear colors on the lids only, and never above the crease.
Bottom line: Your eyeshadow can match either your clothes or your eyes, but whichever you choose, keep it subtle.
Q: Suddenly my lids have teeny pleats; eyeshadow seems to accentuate the issue. Please help.
A: You're right: Eyeshadow can make crepey lids appear...crepier, which contributes to that Miss Havisham look we prefer to avoid. Stick with medium to dark neutral eyeshadow colors, like camel and gray, says New York City makeup artist Susan Giordano. Stay away from shimmer (unless it's very subtle), and go for a matte, velvety texture. With a fluffy eyeshadow brush, apply a wash of color over the lid, starting at the lashline and blending up to slightly above the crease. Giordano recommends a cream eyeliner rather than a liquid. Use a fine-tipped brush to apply it close to the lashline, she says; if the line looks hard, blend it slightly with a Q-tip to soften it. My easier (or lazier) solution: Skip the eyeshadow. I find the less eye makeup I wear as I get older, the better. Curled lashes and two coats of black mascara seem to do the trick just fine.
Bottom line: If you're not already using a good eye cream, invest in one now. For day, there are lots of great, nonirritating ones that contain sunscreen. (I like Clarins Sun Wrinkle Control Eye Contour Care SPF 30, $25, and Neutrogena Healthy Defense SPF 30 Daily Eye Cream, $12.)
Keep reading: Get O's guide to gorgeous eyes