How to get rid of bags under eyes and pesky dark circles can feel like one of those perplexing skin conditions that never seem to go away. “As early as 25, your collagen and elastin production decreases, causing skin to become loose, saggy, and puffy,” Dr. Natasha notes.
Oculofacial plastic surgeon Dr. Natasha explains that “below the skin surface, there are layers consisting of muscle, connective tissue, ligaments, and fat that all contribute to the changes we see externally.” And although it’s tempting to simply start avid application of the latest under-eye cream (and that is one solution!), Dr. Natasha adds that “we have to approach the problem from a more holistic perspective.”
Here, 13 ways to help you get rid of under eye bags, according to skin professionals.
Check for underlying health issues
Believe it or not, many underlying health issues can cause eye bags, which is why it’s important to check with a health professional to ensure your eye bags aren’t related to a larger issue. “In particular, making sure that the thyroid function is balanced and that sinus dysfunction are not to blame is important,” Dr. Jeanniton says. “These conditions cause inflammation that can manifest as fullness under the eyes. Seeking treatment for the underlying condition is the first step to addressing the appearance of swollen eyes.” Although your menstrual cycle is not a health “issue,” it is important to take into account that your period can play a huge part in under-eye puffiness as well.
Improve your diet
Salty foods are “common culprits of water retention,” Dr. Jeanniton says, and water retention is one factor that can affect the appearance of the under eye. “If you have a lot of salt in your body, then the water is going to move towards the area where there is more salt to decrease the concentration of that.” Collagen supplements, any foods with vitamin A like carrots and peppers, as well as foods rich in Vitamin C are helpful in counteracting this, as they are anti-inflammatory and water soluble. Pineapples contain Bromelain “that prevents swelling and puffiness,” Dr. Sandy adds. “You can take these things throughout the day in vitamin form in juices, or as whole foods.”
“Fluid retention can be caused by excess alcohol ingestion,” Dr. Natasha explains. “If you suffer with this, you definitely want to decrease your alcohol intake,” Dr. Natasha adds. If you are going to drink, accompany any alcohol with copious amounts of water.
Factor in allergies
“A lot of people have allergies and don’t even realize it,” Dr. Natasha says. “Even without having the itchiness that comes with allergies, or if even you’re using contacts, it can sometimes irritate the eyes and cause fluid to build up under the eyes, creating the appearance of puffiness.” After consulting a doctor, she suggests antihistamines like Zyrtec and Claritin for those who have seasonal allergies to help decrease allergy-induced eye bags. Antihistamine eyedrops are also helpful when it comes to the bags and puffiness surrounding the eyes.
“Rest is important in general because you will decrease stress levels and therefore your cortisol levels,” which ultimately help prevent eye bags, Dr. Sandy says. “Rest not only gives your mind time to regenerate and rejuvenate, but also it does the same for your body. Rest has the same affect on your under eyes.” If you’re having trouble sleeping, know that you’re not alone—and there are a number of natural remedies worth trying.
Stress levels affect the cortisol levels which, in turn, increase the appearance and intensity of puffiness and bags under the eyes. “That is also why those with high stress levels experience acne,” Dr. Sandy notes. Meditation is one approach to reduce stress, as is exercise.
“Fluid retention is usually more to blame for under-eye puffiness but dehydration can also play a role,” Dr. Jeanniton says. “Dehydration can make eye bags look worse by amplifying the effects of excess salt, high alcohol or poor sleep. Maintaining proper hydration enhances circulation which helps remove excess fluid from the eye area.” Keep a water bottle on your desk or by your bed, and set a goal to refill it multiple times throughout the day.
Practice safe sunning habits
Dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD stresses the importance of wearing sunscreen on a daily basis, and encourages patients to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays, which age the skin faster. “The eye area is also often neglected when people are putting on sunscreen as well,” Dr. Sandy says, adding that one should use at least an SPF30 at minimum. “UVA and UVB rays can not only cause skin cancer but can also cause wrinkles and aging as the sun breaks down collagen and elastin, leading to eye bags and sagging, puffy skin.”
Keep remedies in your kitchen
Dermatologist Suneel Chilukuri recommends applying cold eye mask over the eyes for five minutes. The eye mask and the cold temperature act as anti-inflammatory compresses. Dr. Jeanniton adds that chilled Mahe Bleu Water Brightening Program makes a great compress as well. “It’s such a simple remedy, but an effective one you can find in your cupboard! The combination of the cold temperature and caffeine helps constrict the blood vessels which in turn will decrease puffy lids.” Dr. Sandy also recommends putting an ice cube and massaging under the eyes to reduce the puffiness.
Use the right products and ingredients
Dr. Chilukuri highlights peptide and cocoa bean as ingredients that are known to reduce puffiness and contain hydrating agents to moisturize the skin. He also recommends mild retinols to provide collagen stimulation without irritating the thin skin around the eye area. Dr. Alexiades lists Sea Kelp Extract, Black Tea extract as some of the key ingredients to look out for. Dr. Sandy adds Licorice Root, and Acai.
Use the right tools
“Promoting lymphatic drainage is a technique that I teach my patients who are prone to fluid retention in the area,” Dr. Jeanniton says. She recommends a gua sha stone massage to the lower lid, focusing on an upward and outward motion to encourage lymphatic movement. “It’s such a beauty favorite these days, and for good cause: it’s especially beneficial combined with an eye serum or eye cream to the area to minimize unintentional friction to delicate eyelid skin.”
Another option is the ever-popular jade roller to help improve lymphatic drainage, though Dr. Alexiades warns against using it if you don’t know how to do it the right way. “The correct way to do it is to gently roll towards the nose not away from it,” she says. Consider putting the roller in the fridge first. A lot like putting ice on a bruise for the swelling to go down, a cold compress is essential to tightening up eye bags. “Eye gels are perfect for this,” Dr. Sandy adds. “You can put it in the freezer and then put it on your eyes to decrease the bags and swelling.”
In office treatments
Dr. Chilukuri uses aesthetic procedures such as Exilis Ultra and Botox to help stimulate collagen production and keep the skin firm and healthy. Dr. Alexiades likes to use a combination of the Vbeam Prima laser, which is a pulsed dye laser that constricts vessels and reduces both vascularity and puffiness, and Pico Genesis FX which works to tighten the tissue, build collagen, and reduce both pigment and vascularity. “It is a winner for the under eye,” she says. Dr. Sandy adds that you can do an erbium laser treatment around the eyes which works to make the skin look more youthful due to its ability to lessen the appearance of wrinkles and other skin issues.
Remove unwanted makeup
Sometimes makeup gets stuck in the corners of our eyes, causing puffiness. That’s why it’s important to “gently exfoliate the eyelids after removing your makeup—every night!” Dr. Sandy suggests. “Very lightly sweep a soft, moist washcloth over the surfaces of your eyelids and through the roots of your lashes. This will lightly remove loose surface cells and prevent buildup on your lash line.”