By Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN
Whether you are in your 20s or are a more mature adult, the last thing you want are bags under your eyes, aka puffy eyes. While they typically are not cause for any alarm, dark circles around the eyes simply make you feel and look older — something no one wants.
More common as you age is under-eye puffiness — also referred to as bags under the eyes, puffy eyes and dark circles under the eyes. It’s usually not a problem that requires medical attention, but the question is, how to get rid of bags under eyes?
What Are Bags Under the Eyes?
To answer that question, you first have to ask how do we get these unsightly bags in the first place? There are many causes, but generally skin tissues around the eyes and eyelids weaken and sag, causing fluid to accumulate beneath the eyes, which creates puffiness under the eyes and a swollen appearance.
Dark circles are a form of hyperpigmentation (discoloration) that affects the delicate skin under the eyes. They’re often related to loss of skin’s volume and sometimes aging, fatigue and dehydration, too. These factors can all cause the under-eye area to appear purple, blue, brown, or black and often puffy and/or inflamed.
The soft tissue under the eyes is called the suborbicularis oculi. The under-eyes are made of collagen, elastin and even some body fat. When you’re young and healthy, the under-eye area usually appears bright, firm and evenly toned. But as you age or experience stressors, such as sleep and a diet lacking key nutrients, the under-eye area can change in appearance in several ways.
To describe what happens a bit more, normal fat that helps support the eye sometimes moves into the lower eyelid, which causes the lid to appear puffy. Additionally, fluid may accumulate in the area below your eyes, which adds to the swelling.
Fortunately, by changing certain habits and taking certain lifestyle and dietary steps, you can get rid of those bags under the eyes for good. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Bags under eyes can include mild swelling, saggy or loose skin and/or dark circles. While you may not like the way these bags look, they are usually harmless and do not require medical attention; however, if you experience severe and persistent bags accompanied by redness, itching or pain, you may want to see your doctor.
Also, if you notice redness, itching or pain on other parts of your body, such as your legs, you could be having an allergic reaction and need medical attention. Your doctor will want to rule out other possible causes that can contribute to the swelling, such as thyroid disease or an infection.
What causes dark circles under the eyes? Some of the most common causes of puffy eyes include:
- Aging: As we get older, we experience loss of volume in the facial area, including around the eyes. This occurs when our bodies make less collagen, a type of structural protein, and elastin that keeps skin firm. As our skin thins and loses volume, our under eyes can sag and also appear darker. Capillaries (small blood vessels) can also become visible, contributing to a darker under-eye color.
- Not getting enough quality sleep: Sleep deprivation can cause water retention and puffiness near the eyes, along with sleeping on your stomach.
- Dehydration: This causes tissues to shrink and affects blood flow. Not consuming enough water and/or drinking too much caffeine, alcohol and other diuretics can contribute to dehydration.
- Irritation: Many personal care products, such as soaps and serums, contain ingredients that irritate the sensitive eye area. You can also become irritated if you rub your eyes, such as if they feel itchy or inflamed.
- Sun damage: Too much sun exposure damages skin cells and contributes to discoloration, sometimes which appears as dark circles plus wrinkles and fine lines.
Other causes can include:
- Seasonal allergies
- Not removing makeup
- Being overly stressed
- Poor circulation
- Being too sedentary
- Eating a poor diet
1. Use Specific Skin Care Products
Since aging typically causes dehydration of the skin due to lack of collagen, moisturizing is essential. You don’t necessarily have to pay a lot of money or undergo medical treatments to get rid of dark circles.
Instead, try over-the-counter skin care products that can help reduce discoloration when used consistently. The best skin care ingredients for brightening circles under the eyes include:
- Sunscreen, to help protect against sun damage
- Vitamin C, an antioxidant that defends against cellular damage
- Retinol (as long as it doesn’t irritate your skin), which promotes cell turnover to help decrease hyperpigmentation and fine lines
- Caffeine (often found in eye creams), which helps to reduce puffiness
- Hyaluronic acid, a hydrating ingredient that can help plump skin
- Vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide, which helps even out and brighten your skin tone
- Antioxidant ingredients such as algae and green tea, which help protect skin from environmental damage
- Glycerin, a moisturizing agent that prevents dryness
You can also make your own homemade eye cream. You can try this at night, in the morning or both.
You can also try a baggy eye solution in the evening right before bed. Containing rosehip oil, lavender and lemon essential oils, and aloe vera, it will help lower inflammation and regenerate your skin.
2. Eat a High-Antioxidant Diet
By upping your fruit and veggie consumption, you’ll boost your intake of antioxidants, which defend against free radical damage and support healthy inflammation levels. Foods with healthy fats, such as fish and nuts, are also great for keeping skin hydrated and smooth. Among the best foods for healthy skin include:
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
- Herbs and spices
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Oily fish, such as salmon
3. Take Care of Your Allergies
You are probably well aware of when your allergies flame up, as allergy season and watery, puffy eyes are inevitable for many. Try natural remedies for allergies to help manage them and catch them before they start.
4. Use a Face Roller
Using a face roller helps promote lymphatic drainage and reduce water retention in the skin that leads to puffiness. You can use a roller to improve bags under your eyes and puffiness in your cheeks.
5. Take It Easy on the Salt
Salt is most often linked to high blood pressure, but did you know that all that sodium can cause fluid retention and lead to puffiness under the eyes? If you use salt, use pure Himalayan sea salt, but only a little bit. Avoid high salty foods, like pizza and some soups. Opt for fresh vegetables, in particular celery, which can help curb your desire for salt.
6. Exercise Those Bags Away
Exercise is a natural way to reduce the signs of aging and can promote a youthful glow to the skin, but the area around your eyes will benefit from special facial exercises. Licensed aesthetician and author of The Yoga Facelift, Marie-Veronique Nadeau explains that yoga for the face involves slow exercises of the facial muscles to help tone and tighten them. Using light pressure from your fingers as resistance, the exercises involve various facial expressions and pressure.
Let’s not forget “regular” yoga and how it can benefit you as well. The inverted poses, such as shoulder stands and back bends, can help increase circulation to the face, which carries away excess fluid and helps relieve swelling.
7. What Is Your Sleep Position?
Sleeping on your back can prevent gravity from causing fluid buildup around the eyes, so your sleep position may be contributing to the problem. Consider adding an extra pillow under your head as well, but make sure it is a pillow that is effective for good sleep — for if you can’t sleep, that can add to the problem of dark circles under the eyes.
8. Try a Neti Pot
Have you heard of a neti pot? This is an ancient remedy that you can do as part of your daily routine to help combat those puffy eyes. Originating in India in Ayurvedic medicine, a neti pot looks like a small teapot and can be found at most health food stores or online. It can help flush out all that extra moisture in your sinuses from seasonal allergies, colds or infections.
Simply pour salt water into one nostril and let it drain out the other. I usually just do this over the bathroom sink. It feels odd at first, but it is actually very cleansing and refreshing.
9. Remove Your Makeup Before Going to Bed
Leaving your eye makeup on can irritate your eyes, causing them to water and and get puffy. Make sure to gently remove your eye makeup before hitting the hay to help eliminate any added irritation around the eyes.
10. Limit or Eliminate Alcohol
Alcohol dehydrates your body and skin. This dehydration can cause the delicate area around your eyes to appear sunken and dark. Also, alcohol can cause bloodshot, tired eyes. Take it easy on the alcohol by having no more than one glass per day.
I would suggest drinking lots of water instead. You will feel fresher, your eyes will be wide open and the skin around your eyes will glow because it’s more hydrated.
11. Put Down Those Cigarettes for Good
Did you know that smoking cigarettes dries out and weakens the skin on your face as well as your whole body? It also causes premature aging around the eyes in particular.
The chemicals found in cigarettes are toxic and can cause irritation around the eyes, which could result in dark circles or undereye bags in addition to a wrinkled, droopy appearance. If addiction has got you in its grips, you may want to try some natural approaches to quitting smoking.
12. Try a Cold Compress … and Cucumbers
If your eyes are swollen and puffy, try a cold compress. Not only can this help reduce puffy eyes, it can be very relaxing which adds to a youthful appearance.
You can achieve this by using chilled spoons on top of your eyes, slices of cucumbers, or even chilled, dampened tea bags with a drop of lavender essential oil added. The cool temperature is what makes this home remedy effective.
13. Watch Out for That Sunshine
Overdoing it in the sun can make the skin around your eyes sag and wrinkle as well as cause dehydration of the skin. A mineral-based sunscreen, a good pair of UV-protected sunglasses, and a hat can do wonders to help protect your face from those harmful rays, ultimately keeping the skin around the eyes from wrinkling and darkening due to the effects of the sun.
14. Have Your Cover Up Handy
While you can’t necessarily remove dark circles, you can often hide them by lightening the area with a concealer. There are some mineral-based options available, but you can also make your own right at home.
You can choose options that match your skin tone and then simply apply it by lightly patting it onto the skin around the eyes. Do not rub it into the skin as this may cause further irritation. Also, do not use too much. You want a natural appearance to the skin. Too much can make dark circles, wrinkles and crepey skin more prominent.
15. Get More Collagen into Your Diet
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It’s found in our muscles, bones, skin and tendons. It gives our skin strength and elasticity, and helps replace dead skin cells. Our body’s collagen production naturally begins to slow down as we age. You can thank this process for undereye bags.
Increasing collagen levels can help your skin look firmer, increase smoothness, and help your skin cells keep renewing and repairing normally. Try a chicken bone broth or collagen supplements, like collagen protein powder, to increase your collagen intake.
The skin around the eyes is very delicate. Make sure to take special care when applying anything around or near your eyes. Most natural methods as described above shouldn’t cause any problems. But if the puffiness worsens or you notice any irritation, see your doctor.
Depending on the cause of your baggy eyelids, “unnatural” or conventional treatment methods might include over-the-counter or prescription creams or procedures such as Botox injections. Allergic reactions might occur, so contact your doctor if you experience any further discoloration or irritation.
A plastic surgery procedure known as blepharoplasty is another conventional treatment option that might be suggested by your dermatologist if other methods don’t seem to help. But keep in mind that any surgery can be risky, and cosmetic surgery might not be covered by your health insurance. Discuss the risks and benefits and any concerns you might have with your dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
Containing four skin-healing ingredients, this DIY recipe for bags under the eyes will address those puffy eyes in a much more natural fashion than chemical-laden creams.
- ½ ounce rosehip seed oil
- ½ ounce pure aloe vera gel
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 drops lemon essential oil
- In a glass spray bottle, combine all ingredients and shake well.
- Before bed, gently cleanse the face and remove all make-up.
- Spray the solution onto the face making sure the eyes are closed.
- Gently massage the solution under and around your eyes. Allow it to dry.
- Sleep with your head well supported by quality pillows.
- Prep Time: 5 min
- Category: Facial skin care
Keywords: puffy eyes solution, DIY baggy eyes solution, dark circles under eyes