I never thought I would like Tarte’s Dark Circle Defense natural under eye corrector. Though Tarte is one of my favorite makeup brands (see my love affairs with Tarte’s Cheek Stain and Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Lashes!), Dark Circle Defense at first rubbed me the wrong way. The compact palette of concealer did not have the creamy consistency that I tend to prefer for my delicate under-eye skin. Its cakey texture did not lend itself to blending over and moistening the parched circles under my eyes. However, almost by accident, I discovered a creative way to use Dark Circle Defense that gave this neglected concealer a new lease on life.

When I first started testing PaloVia Skin Renewing laser on the crow’s feet in the corners of my eyes, I was blissfully unaware of the side effects that were in store for my skin. This handheld device uses narrowly spaced micro-beams of laser energy to inflict miniscule wounds and stimulate fresh collagen beneath the skin’s surface. After only a few minutes of zapping my fine lines with the laser before bedtime, the treated skin felt hot and slightly burned. By morning, the skin had rebelled with full-fledged inflammation, leaving bright red stamps and a cross-hatched pattern of tiny rough dots around my eyes.

It looked even worse than it sounds. I suffer from allergies and am no stranger to red-rimmed eyes, but the aftermath of my PaloVia experiment was far more dramatic.  It looked like I had been punched in the temples with a hot iron. I tried to soothe the inflammation with Nivea Visage Q10 Advanced Wrinkle Reducer Eye Creme, which sports co-enzyme Q10, an antioxidant known to boost skin rejuvenation and reduce skin roughness. If the eye cream had any effect at all on the redness, it was marginal. I needed to somehow cover the laser’s tracks if I was going to brave the outside world without being subjected to probing questions and stares.

My regular under-eye concealer was too thin to thoroughly hide the redness and roughness. The best it could do was to turn the lasered patches a light shade of pink, which looked unnatural and obvious that I was hiding something. My go-to concealer for camouflaging blemishes had a thicker consistency, but its inclusion of salicylic acid made me steer clear, since this anti-acne ingredient exfoliates and irritates - two actions for which my skin had reached its max. With no other recourse in my concealer arsenal, I returned to Tarte’s Dark Circle Defense to see if it could save my skin from itself.

As I used my finger (forgoing the enclosed makeup brush) to dab the thick concealer over the red patches, a magic act was performed before my very eyes. All signs of the laser’s damage disappeared! The concealer’s color was a perfect match for the skin around my eyes, whereas it was one shade too dark for the paler skin directly under and in the inside corners of my eyes. I was able to blend it in flawlessly so that there was no noticeable difference between the treated skin and the unscathed skin. In fact, after applying Dark Circle Defense, my skin looked brighter and smoother - a miraculous feat considering how it had looked before.

Because I was applying the concealer over wounded skin, I figured it would be all the more important to ensure that its ingredients were safe. After all my hard work with the laser, the last thing I wanted was to further damage my skin or impair the growth of new collagen.

Oddly enough, the base ingredient of Dark Circle Defense is canola oil, which is a moisturizing oil extracted from the rapeseed plant, though better known as a commonplace cooking oil. It is generally considered harmless and certainly a step above water for long-term hydration. Next up is Soybean extract, rich in all the amino acids, protein, minerals, and vitamins, especially E. Despite the beneficial components of this plant-derived emollient, it is accused of carcinogenic and endocrine disruptive behavior. It goes without saying that those with soy allergies should approach Dark Circle Defense with caution.

The clay-like texture of the concealer partly comes from silica, a mineral that naturally occurs in sandstone, clay, and granite. It is most often used in cosmetics for its absorbent qualities, thus making it a useful concealer ingredient for sponging up sweat and oil. At the same time, the formula includes skin-conditioning ingredients, such as Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate. Made from a naturally occurring fatty acid, (stearic acid), Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate slows water loss by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface. Another moisturizing agent is tribehenin, comprised of mixture of glycerin and behenic acid, a plant-derived fatty acid.

It’s no wonder that my skin not only looked, but felt, better after applying Dark Circle Defense. There are several components in the formula that provide temporary relief for mild skin irritations. Corn starch has been used for generations as method of soothing diaper rash and other skin conditions, from chicken pox to poison ivy. Vitamin E acts as both an anti-inflammatory and a natural preservative. Meanwhile, honey extract also soothes inflammation and aids in tissue healing.

I was pleasantly surprised to find tetrapeptide-14, used in cosmetic formulations to alleviate redness associated with rosacea-like skin conditions or mild sun exposure. Tetrapeptide-14, a specific peptide sequence designed by Helix Biomedix, acts by regulating interleukin-6 (IL-6) to prevent inflammation, which in turn reduces MMP-1 damage, thus resulting in a bright and even skin appearance. This ingredient, combined with the formula’s other anti-inflammatories, accounts for the de-puffing action of the concealer. Tarte’s own clinical studies found that 100% of test subjects reported a reduction in the appearance of under-eye puffiness after four weeks.

Dark Circle Defense was absolutely indispensable during my four-week PaloVia trial. The concealer soothed, smoothed, and shielded my inflamed skin so well that nobody ever batted an eye. I think it would work effectively as an under-eye concealer (combined with a dab of eye cream) on medium or tan skin tones, but the shade that I have is better suited for the rest of my face than under my eyes. Because it blends in easily, does not settle into lines, and lasts all day, Dark Circle Defense is a commendable under-eye concealer. But because it can double as a secret weapon for hiding red patches or balancing out an uneven skin tone, this concealer is a cut above the rest.

Ingredients:
Canola Oil, glycine soja (soybean) germ extract, zea mays (corn) starch, silica, bis-diglycerol polyacyladipate-2, octyldodecyl stearoyl stearate, methyl methacrylate crosspolymer, tribehenin, ozokerite, tocopheryl, lecithin, silica, aqua, honey extract, tetrapeptide-14, polysorbate 20, sorbitan laurate. (+/-): Mica, titanium dioxide (CI 77891), iron oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).