We’ve all been there. Maybe it happens a bit too often—maybe it’s just the norm at this point. Either way, under-eye bags are so much more than a nuisance; they can have a real effect on our self-confidence. But how do they get there? What can we do about them? Let’s discuss—so the next time someone gives you the dreaded “You look tired today,” you can hit ‘em with the facts. Or better yet, make it so no one says that ever again.
What causes bags under eyes?
Before we can break down the solutions, we have to understand the condition. Eye bags, more technically referred to as periorbital edema, can be attributed to both inevitable natural causes and things we can control. Let’s explore.
- Genetics. The delicate area around the eyes is universally prone to accumulating fluid, giving it a naturally puffy appearance. How obvious that is, though, varies based on your anatomy and genetic makeup. In other words, sometimes it’s just what your mama gave ya.
- Aging. As we age, the skin produces less collagen, resulting in less bounce and elasticity. Then, over time, as the tissue and muscle structures that support our eyelids lose strength, the skin begins to droop, and the fat that surrounds our eyes can slide down, creating a not-so-cute sagging effect below the eyes.
- Health conditions. According to Dr. Ryan Nakamura, O.D., far less common causes include health concerns such as thyroid issues, kidney problems, and hormonal imbalances. Talk to your doctor about addressing any symptoms associated with these conditions.
The Things We Can Control:
- Lack of sleep. When we’re tired, our blood vessels dilate, often resulting in puffiness. Morning eye bags are a normal result of gravity and slower circulation during sleep, but if they persist through the end of the day, chances are you need to be getting some more Zs.
- Fluid retention. We all experience it after lying down for long enough—but it also goes hand-in-hand with eating salty food, flying on a plane, taking certain medications, and even hormonal cycles or pregnancy.
- Allergies. Pollen, dust, chemicals, perfume… the list goes on. Okay, so you can’t control whether or not you have allergies, but you can usually treat the allergic response. Histamine provoked by allergens and congestion in the sinus area can manifest as puffiness under the eyes. So see an allergist, take an antihistamine, and avoid the triggers if you can.
- Smoking cigarettes. As if you didn’t already have a million reasons to quit smoking, nicotine can affect sleep patterns and contribute to premature skin aging, which results in—you guessed it—eye bags.
- Drinking alcohol and caffeine. We know, we know. But in addition to interfering with our sleep schedules, those delicious lattes and ice-cold martinis are both highly dehydrating, which translates into fluid retention and unwanted puffiness all over, including below the eyes.
- Sun exposure. It’s no secret that the sun has a negative effect on our skin, but did you know that UV rays can be attributed to 80% of the visible signs of skin aging? To decelerate the aging process that contributes to under-eye bags, wear a hat and sunglasses—and don’t forget, SPF is your BFF
Treatments for Under-Eye Bags
Let’s be real: as long as there have been mirrors, there have been humans asking how to get rid of under-eye bags. There is a slew of time-tested, natural treatments out there, and today we’re privileged enough to live in the age of beauty, where there’s a solution for everything. Here are some of our favorite ways to control those baggy eyes.
Patch It Up
SiO Super EyeLift patches are doctor-approved, medical-grade silicone patches that target the area from the brow to the inner crease of the eye, creating a moisture-rich microclimate that rejuvenates the skin and supports its natural ability to stay firm and hydrated. They’re great for calming puffy skin and even smoothing out crow’s feet and fine lines. Sneak in a quick session before a big night out, or wear them overnight for some serious glow. You’ll see a difference after just one use, but even better—one set of patches lasts up to two weeks. Hello, youthful and refreshed under eyes. We’ve missed you!
Creams, Serums, and Gels, Oh My
Keeping the area under the eyes hydrated makes for a smoother, more vibrant appearance. Use moisturizers specially formulated for the eye area, as they won’t be as heavy or rich as face creams. For added rejuvenation, look for products with active ingredients like caffeine, vitamin C, antioxidants, peptides, retinol, and/or ferulic acid. Remember, when applying anything topical to the eye region, use your ring finger to avoid using too much pressure (it’s weaker than your other fingers), and dab rather than rub, so you don’t stretch or tug on the delicate skin.
Roll It Out
Facial massage has been used for thousands of years as a form of skincare, and it’s especially effective when it comes to reducing inflammation. Dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, M.D. explains, “Whenever there’s stagnant circulation or swelling at all in the face, massage can help that lymph fluid drain into the [proper] channels and away from around your eyes and certain areas where it tends to settle.” If you’re not familiar with the hyper-trendy jade roller or gua sha crystal, it might be time to get on board. These ancient tools dating back to the empresses of the Chinese Qing and Ming Dynasties respectively. And not just for a pretty face… Chinese tradition says that jade crystals promote growth and prosperity. We’ll take it! To use a jade roller or gua sha crystal, apply gentle pressure while moving the tool upward and outward. And for extra oomph, keep it in the fridge.
Cool It Down
Low temperatures cause blood vessels to contract, which reduces inflammation. That’s why we reach for the ice when we stub a toe or bump our heads. In this case, cold compresses can decrease swelling under the eyes, too. Traditional ice packs will do the trick, as will chilled spoons, cucumber slices, and cooled, wet tea bags placed under the eyes. Black and green tea have the added effect of vasoconstriction from both tannins and caffeine, which can tighten and compress puffy skin.
Leave It to the Pros
Want to get serious? For long-lasting results, there is a wide range of treatments—generally not for the needle-averse—that can be performed by the professionals to smooth the skin and reduce under-eye circles. Microneedling (also known as collagen induction therapy) involves tiny needles that penetrate the skin, causing “controlled injuries” that trigger the cells to turn over and repair, revealing firm, new, baby skin under the eyes. Fillers such as Restylane or Juvederm can also be used to smooth and contour skin in the eye region. And for a next-level fix, blepharoplasty is a form of plastic surgery in which excess fat and/or skin under the eyes can be removed permanently.
How to Prevent Eye Bags in the First Place
Sure, there are plenty of steps you can take to treat those pesky under-eye bags. But better yet, take the necessary measures to avoid them from the get-go. By working from the inside out, we can address some of the root causes that are within our control—and enjoy some side benefits for the rest of the body, too.
Sound like a broken record? Sorry, but it’s real. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults ages 26-64 should get 7-9 hours of sleep a night for optimal functioning. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try limiting screen time before bed, taking a natural sleep aid like melatonin, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and talking to your doctor about supplements and medications you’re taking that could be interfering with your sleep cycle.
Nourish and Replenish
A diet low in sodium and high in fresh fruits and vegetables is crucial for preventing inflammation and fluid retention in the body. Incorporate foods high in vitamin C (i.e. strawberries, bell peppers), collagen (i.e. bone broth, salmon), and potassium (i.e. bananas, potatoes) for added benefits. And don’t slack on that H2O! Staying hydrated will prevent the body from retaining water. It might sound counterintuitive, but dehydration causes the body to hold onto extra fluids in order to make up for the lack of incoming water.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Studies have shown that stress and anxiety can contribute to inflammation in the body, which, along with many negative health effects, can also materialize as swelling under the eyes. Effective ways to support our everyday mental health and cope with stress include meditation, exercise, therapy, and even natural supplements like adaptogenic herbs and medicinal mushrooms. Take care of your mind, and your face and body will thank you!
The Bottom Line
It’s pretty simple. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and drinking plenty of water is key to keeping under-eye bags at bay (not to mention keeping the body and mind in tip-top shape, too). Throw in some boosts like a great set of under-eye patches, a concentrated eye cream, and some sun protection… and say hello to bright eyes.