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Bye Eye Bags! Here’s How to Get Rid of Bags Under Your Eyes


Whether you're dealing with post-party puffiness or deep, dark circles that no amount of concealer can cover up, under-eye bags are a skin woe just about everyone faces. But just because it's a normal occurrence doesn't mean you're forced to go through life with under-eye bags. Lucky for you, we have some dermatologist and esthetician backed tips for treating puffiness and kicking the dark circles for good.

"We can attribute the appearance of under-eye bags to three main factors," explains New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon Anetta Reszko, MD. "First is the protrusion of fat pads of the lower eyelid, which can create a shelf-like appearance to the under-eye. Second is fluid accumulation around the eye area, giving the periorbital region a swollen appearance. And third is loss of volume, usually due to age-related fat loss or redistribution, which can make the eyelid more protruding by contrast." And as with many skin attributes, under-eye bags may be in your DNA. "There is also typically a genetic link which predisposes a person to have this feature," says Dr. Reszko. "Many times it has been present since childhood, and with time, it becomes more pronounced."

The question is, with all of these factors working against us (and our bags), how can we make them go away? While there are a number of invasive and non-invasive procedures to help with more severe under-eye bags, there are also several home remedies that avoid a trip to the doctor's office.  In some cases, the solution can really be as simple as a caffeinated eye cream! Read on for dermatologist and expert-approved tips and tricks to make your eyes look wide awake, even when you're feeling anything but.

About the Experts:

Anetta Reszko, MD, is a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon, as well as an assistant professor at Weill Cornell New York Presbyterian.
Bryan Cortes is an NYC-based licensed esthetician and skincare content creator.

1. Cool as a Cucumber

Close-up image of a woman holding a cucumber slice to cover her eye
Photo by Glowimages/Getty Images

Applying something cold—like chilled spoons, frozen cucumbers, cooling eye mask or even cooling eye ice globes—to bags relieves swelling almost instantly. Keep the compress on for up to five minutes, remove, and apply again if you need additional de-puffing. As for the benefits of cucumber, although clinical trials have not been conducted, the refreshing fruit does contain vitamin C and folic acid, which may help skin look brighter and more awake. More than anything, cucumber will likely just feel nice on the skin due to its high water content.

2. Take a Water Break

Photo of a woman drinking a bottle of water with a towel on her neck
Photo by Peopleimages/Getty Images

Puffy eyes could possibly be your body's way of telling you that you're dehydrated. Be sure you're drinking the recommended 64 ounces of water each day, and as a rule of thumb, a big glass of water right when you wake up is never a bad idea. If you're certain you're drinking enough water but still face puffiness, take stock of your salt intake (more on that in a minute).

3. Spill the Tea

A closeup photo of a woman holding a cup of tea with teabag
Photo by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

The tannins in tea—yes, the same chemicals in wine—help with both dark circles and swelling, while caffeine helps tighten skin's appearance. (Decaf tea will also work, but a caffeinated option like green tea is best to reap the full benefits.) To DIY your own tea bag remedy, make tea like you normally would, then chill the steeped tea bags in the refrigerator. Once they are cold, set the tea bags on your under eyes for up to 15 minutes. Talk about low tech, high impact!

4. Step Up Your Beauty Sleep

A photo of a model's legs wearing striped socks next to a sleeping tortoiseshell cat
Photo by Linda Raymond/Getty Images

Sleep deprivation is correlated with the one-two punch of bags and dark circles. "When you don't get enough restorative sleep at night, all the blood vessels dilate," explains Dr. Reszko. "This, in turn, leads to an increase in blood flow, and because the skin under your eyes is thinner, the purple tint caused by the increased volume of blood is more noticeable." And as if that wasn't bad enough, bags are also accentuated by lack of sleep. "With less sleep, fluid tends to leak into the skin, causing further stretching of the skin, making the bags worse," she explains.

If lack of sleep isn't your problem, don't write off your alarm clock just yet. Generally, oversleeping on its own should not lead to puffiness. However, if you sleep too long with your head flat or sleep too long after a night of drinking alcohol, you may still wake up with unexpected under-eye bags.

5. Double Up on the Pillows

A closeup photo of stacked pillows on a bed
Photo by Anna Petrova Ilieva-Alikaj/Getty Images

Gravity is to blame for this one. "The skin of the eyelids is super delicate and easily stretchable. When the space below your eyes accumulates fluid, the under-eye area can appear puffy or swollen," explains Dr. Reszko. Luckily, there's an easy fix. Simply add an extra pillow to raise your head, which allows the fluid to drain away from your eyes as you sleep.

6. Don't Be So Salty

A photo of sea salt in bowl and rosemary on a blue background
Photo by Didecs/Getty Images

An excess of sodium in the body causes us to retain extra fluid (hence the term "water weight"). Because the skin around our eyes is so thin, it tends to show every little bit of that fluid retention. If you recently went hard on the potato chips and hot dogs, keep hydrating and cut down on the salty foods to flush your system. “Puffiness under the eyes can be a result of water retention, due to high sodium levels and other similar factors. In this case, the skillful use of massage, gua sha, and cryotherapy can reduce the puffiness and improve the appearance of skin around the eyes,” says Bryan Cortes, NYC-based licensed esthetician and skincare content creator.

7. Pick Your Products Wisely

Close-up image of model with white mani putting on eye cream on clean skin

You've heard time and time again that using an eye cream is essential for everything from moisturizing the skin around your eyes to preventing signs of aging. And the good news is that using an eye cream can help with bags too. The best eye creams for puffiness have ingredients like caffeine (for tightening), hyaluronic acid (for hydration), and vitamin C (for brightening). As for anti-aging retinol: "Topical retinoids and retinols are okay to use on the eyelid; however, they should be used as a mask—i.e., apply to the periorbital region for 10-15 mins and rinse off before going to sleep," advises Dr. Reszko. 

Cortes notes that it is important to keep the skin under the eyes well protected. “Using occlusives, such as aquaphor or vaseline, throughout the day can help protect your skin from irritants that cause darkness or bags,” he adds. He also advocates for vitamin c and retinol eye creams as both ingredients will help target actual hyperpigmentation and brighten your complexion. 

8. Spring Into Action

A photo of colorful flowers overlooking the meadow
Photo by borchee/Getty Images

As obvious as it sounds, puffy eyes may be the result of an allergic reaction to environmental factors like pollen and dust. “Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) can occur as a result of trauma or irritation. For example, people with eczema under the eyes or even irritation from seasonal allergies can develop darkness in the under-eye,” says Cortes. 

Springtime is a common factor in allergy flare-ups. If you have other allergy symptoms like sneezing (and you've already consulted a physician), try taking an over-the-counter antihistamine. And if you feel pressure around your eyes, "Do not rub your skin, as it will stretch collagen fibers," warns Dr. Reszko. "Instead, press firmly from the [inner corner] to the periphery."

9. Take a Break From Cigarettes

A photo of a non-smoking sign in front of a garden
Photo by Paisan Areepongsa/Getty Images

Add puffy eyes to the many risks associated with smoking cigarettes. "Smoking causes decreased blood supply to the skin essential to keep the skin tissue looking supple and healthy," explains Dr. Reszko. The risks are beyond the superficial, too. "Toxic chemicals in smoke lead to direct DNA damage," the dermatologist adds.

10. Skip the Cosmos

A closeup photo of different kinds of tropical blended fruit margaritas
Photo by CabecaDeMarmore/Getty Images

Anyone who has spent a night out drinking probably already had a feeling that alcohol leads to puffiness, but Dr. Reszko makes it official. "Alcohol dehydrates the skin, making loose skin sometimes associated with the bags more noticeable," explains the derm. To help combat the alcohol's effects, be sure to drink plenty of water along with your mixed drinks (and, as always, get plenty of sleep).

11. Call in Reinforcements

A photo of a woman getting her face analyzed by a nurse at a beauty clinic
Photo by Charday Penn/Getty Images

When all else fails, it's possible you could be suffering from a genetically induced under-eye condition. While cold spoons and the perfect amount of sleep may not relieve puffiness, there's still hope. An appointment for a laser resurfacing, chemical peel, or fillers can tighten the skin, lighten dark circles and rejuvenate the under-eye area. If you're looking for something with more significant results, eyelid surgery (also known as a blepharoplasty) may be a treatment option. The surgery is tailored to your unique anatomy and needs, but in general, it involves removing excess fat through an incision inside the lower lid. 

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated June 7, 2023 12:00 AM