The space under your eyes is small -- an inch across, maybe. When it’s smooth and flat, no one notices it. But when it’s saggy or puffy and dark, it looks like a marquee that reads, “Now showing: Old and Tired Eyes.”
Bags can affect how you feel about your looks and cause others to make assumptions about the way you feel. Does this sound familiar: “Feeling tired? Long night? Stress getting to you?”
That small space carries a lot of power, but there are plenty of ways to bag eye bags. Here’s how they got there and how to get rid of them.
What Causes Under-Eye Bags?
Of all the skin on your body, the part around your eyes is the thinnest and most sensitive. As you age, the muscles around your eyes get weaker. This lets healthy fat and fluid move around and settle under your eyes.
Though it happens to everyone, some people have bigger bags than others. Under-eye bags may run in your family. They’re also a common side effect of smoking.
If they come and go, under-eye bags are usually the result of lack of sleep or allergies. You may notice them in the morning only, especially first thing or if you’ve eaten salty food the night before.
Is It a Sign of a Medical Condition?
Most of the time, bags are a cosmetic issue and not a symptom of something more.
If your eye bags are red or severely swollen, or if they itch or hurt, talk to your doctor to rule out:
How to Get Rid of Eye Bags
- Apply a cool compress. Dampen a clean washcloth with cool water. While sitting upright, press it to your eye gently for a few minutes. The coolness helps reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Give yourself props. When you sleep, fluid can collect under your eyes and cause puffiness. Prop yourself up with an additional pillow or elevate the head of your bed.
- Stop smoking. Everyone loses collagen as they age. That’s a protein that helps keep skin tight. But smoking makes you lose it faster, which can contribute to eye bags.
- Check your contacts. Though they help you see clearly, contacts can trap infections and small particles on your eye that cause inflammation. That can make eyes puffy.
- Halt the salt. If you’re a little heavy-handed with the salt shaker -- or enjoy high-sodium foods like pizza and potato chips -- switch to something less salty. Sodium makes your body retain fluid and can cause bags to form.
- Cut back on fluids at night. It’s important to hydrate. But when you drink fluids before bed, your body may store it up overnight in the form of bags.
- Catch up on Zs. A solid 7 to 9 hours may do the trick. Lack of sleep makes the muscles around your eye weaken. Sneak in a nap or string together a few good nights of sleep to give your body a chance to heal itself.
- Pinpoint your allergies. Allergies may cause you to rub your eyes. This makes them puff up. If you know what you’re allergic to, talk to your doctor about medication. If you don’t, explore your soaps, hair dyes, hair spray, cleansers, and cosmetics to see if eliminating anything makes your bags better.
If you have stubborn eye bags, the next-level approach includes therapies like laser resurfacing and chemical peels and fillers. They’re non-invasive and can tone and tighten your skin.
Though it depends on what causes your bags, blepharoplasty may be an option. In this outpatient procedure, a surgeon makes an incision to remove fat in your upper or lower eyelid. Blepharoplasty also corrects excess or droopy skin on upper and lower eyelids.
Scripps Health Foundation: “What Are the Best Ways to Remove Dark Circles Under the Eyes?”
US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: “Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation, and Treatment.”
Columbia University, Department of Ophthalmology: “Eyelid Cancer.”
Mayo Clinic: “Bags under eyes.”
American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Bags Under the Eyes.”
Cleveland Clinic: “Puffy Eyes: What Causes Them and What to Do About It.”
National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc.: “How to Get Rid of Puffy Eyes.”
University of Rochester Medical Center: “Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses for Pain.”
National Health Service: “Contact lens safety.”