While many people are no strangers to dark circles under the eyes, it’s not always apparent what the cause is and how to get rid of them. Dark circles are often accompanied by eye bags, which is why many people experience both. As the name suggests, dark circles reflect discoloration around the eyes, whereas eye bags represent puffiness in that area.
Dark circles are often attributed to stress, fatigue, and the natural aging process. However, other factors may be at play, including genetics, diet, smoking, and alcohol. We’ve researched the most common culprits, and below are 18 tips to get rid of unwanted under-eye circles and bags.
How to Get Rid of Dark Circles and Under-Eye Bags
1. Retinoid for Removing Under-Eye Circles
A retinol cream containing retinoids helps rebuild the skin’s outer layer of collagen, thickening it in the process. You can spend significant money on creams at local drug stores, or you can get a high-strength prescription from your dermatologist. However, many top dermatologists claim that some drugstore brands work just as well at minimizing under-eye circles.
2. Lightening Products and Sunscreen to Treat Dark Circles
Sometimes, the darkness is above and on the skin, rather than coming from beneath it. A lightening product containing Vitamin C, licorice extract, and kojic acid could help alleviate some of the darkness because they inhibit melanin production, which is known to cause darker skin. We also suggest wearing sunscreen designed for the face to prevent further sun damage and pigmentation.
3. Sleep More
This piece of advice works wonders for a variety of beauty ailments. They don’t call it “beauty sleep” for nothing. The sweet spot is often between seven and nine hours. Making sleep a top priority could be the difference between tired and rejuvenated skin.
4. Tea Bags & Caffeine
Drinking caffeine may be bad for under-eye circles, but putting it on your skin could help. Caffeine’s diuretic properties allow it to naturally draw fluid away from the face. For best results, steep two tea bags in warm water for a few minutes. Then allow them to chill in the refrigerator for about five to ten minutes. Finally, lay back and place one bag over each eyelid. Rest and relax for another five minutes or so.
An iron deficiency can lead to dark circles because it causes the hemoglobin in the blood to break down, resulting in a lack of oxygen and the appearance of dark bruises under the eyes. An iron supplement could help, similarly to consuming grass-fed or pasture-raised beef and poultry.
However, a Vitamin K, D, or B12 deficiency could also be to blame. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then Vitamin B-12 supplements should be just as effective. Other recommended foods include beans, spinach, peas, apricots, and raisins.
6. Tomatoes & Lemon Juice
Eating tomatoes for their Vitamin C content is helpful, but you can also put them on your skin. Mix equal parts tomato juice with lemon juice and soak some cotton pads with it. Then place them over your eyelids for about 10 minutes. If this doesn’t sound enjoyable, you might try it as a beverage with a few mint leaves.
7. Sleep on Your Back to Reduce Puffy Eyes
When you lie down, fluid3 can pool around your eyes, resulting in puffiness. However, sleeping on your back with your head slightly propped up could help reduce this occurrence. Keeping the head elevated can help keep the fluid from pooling, and sleeping on your back also prevents any friction between your eyes and the pillow, which could occur if you’re a side or stomach sleeper. Just be careful that you don’t prop up your pillow too much that it throws your spine and neck out of alignment.
View Our Guide: Top Rated Pillows for Back Sleepers
8. Rose Water
Rosewater may be an old wive’s tale, but it’s been known to work.
If you habitually have puffy eyes, grab some cotton balls and soak them in rose water. Place the cotton over your eyelids and relax for 15 minutes, and for best results, do this once a day for 30 days.
9. Reduce Excess Salt
Salt causes the body to retain water. We all retain water differently, but the region under the eyes is a common area to store it. That extra fluid retention can then result in puffiness around the eyes.
10. Be Gentle with Your Makeup Remover
A lot of us are beyond exhausted when it’s time for bed, and we would rather avoid an elaborate routine. So when it comes to removing makeup, we may just rub it off with whatever remover we’ve got handy without a second thought.
If you can afford the time, treat the delicate skin around your eyes with extra care. Use a soft cotton pad and rub very gently. Coconut oil tends to feel smooth and allows makeup to come off with ease. Also, when you’re taking off your makeup, don’t rub back and forth. Instead, wipe gently in one direction to prevent excess friction and pressure.
11. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol dehydrates your body and dilates the blood vessels. As you might guess, this is not an attractive combination. However, cutting down your beer, wine, or liquor consumption may help.
Allergic reactions often lead to individuals overly-rubbing their eyes in search of relief. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help when you’re trying to avoid puffiness and under-eye circles. An over-the-counter antihistamine may do the trick to prevent itching.
Cucumber slices are known to help hydrate skin due to their vitamin K content, alleviating dark circles and puffiness. The cool temperature, the vitamin K, and the caffeic acid work as natural anti-inflammatories.
14. Essential Oils
Essential oils have been hailed as miracles for just about whatever ails us and for good reason. Depending on the exact result you’re after, you may prefer one type of essential oil over another. Here are the ones we recommend for dark circles and puffiness:
- Rose geranium essential oil: This oil reduces water retention, eliminating puffy pockets.
- Fennel essential oil: Fennel oil tightens the skin, reducing bags.
- Lavender essential oil: Not only is lavender calming, but it’s also a natural diuretic.
- Rosemary essential oil: Like cucumbers, rosemary also contains caffeic acid.
Don’t apply the undiluted oils directly to the skin around your eyes. Instead, dilute the oils with a carrier oil like almond oil, aloe vera, or witch hazel. Depending on the concentration you purchase, the label should provide dilution ratios.
15. Stay Hydrated to Increase Facial Vibrance
More liquid may seem counterintuitive, but when we’re dehydrated, the body adapts by retaining water, especially around the eyes. Therefore, to reduce the amount of excess fluid in the body, drink plenty of water.
The “eight glasses of water a day” rule is outdated, so you don’t have to be chugging water all day. Experts today recommend about 11.5 cups of fluids a day for women and 15.5 cups for men.
16. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production, which is one key factor to maintaining healthy skin. By eating foods that are plentiful sources of this nutrient, you can help prevent puffiness and unwanted circles before they’re a problem.
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, pineapples, and limes are obvious choices, but a lot of other foods are great sources, too. Vitamin C heavy-hitters include kale, cauliflower, berries, broccoli, mango, tomatoes, and papaya, to name a few.
Collagen is beneficial for strong and healthy skin, and as we age, the amount of collagen6 we produce decreases. Supplements containing collagen can help stimulate collagen production, though some nutritionists argue that the body doesn’t convert it to usable collagen. To ensure you get the full benefit, try taking supplements that allow your body to create its own collagen, like Vitamin C, amino acids, and copper.
18. Cold Milk
Milk has been known to be calming and soothing to the skin, but we suggest skipping the milk and opting for an ice pack instead. This option is cleaner and won’t curdle, yet it has the same cooling and soothing effect.
Can dark eye circles be removed instantly?
Certain techniques use ingredients you have lying around the house and could provide nearly instant results. Here are a few favorites:
- Put a frozen spoon over each eye for five minutes.
- Grate a chilled potato, squeeze the juice, and mix it with a teaspoon of raw honey and two teaspoons of lemon juice. Apply it to the affected area and leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing.
- Make ice cubes out of water and lemon juice. Place the ice cubes over your eyes for two minutes, gently rubbing.
- Try our tea bag trick from earlier but allow the bags to stay in the freezer for 15 minutes and keep them on your eyes for at least ten minutes.
What Causes Dark Circles and Bags Under Your Eyes?
When vessels become damaged, blood can leak out causing that familiar dark hue. When blood leakage is combined with fluid buildup, darkness often becomes more visible along with puffiness.
Many issues can cause under-eye circles and puffy eyes, and even if you’re genetically predisposed to them, there are ways to diminish and potentially eliminate them without going under the knife.
Lack of Sleep
While a lack of sleep won’t cause the skin under your eyes to wither away, it is still a primary culprit. The reason is that when the body is sleep-deprived, it increases its production of cortisol, a stress hormone.
When cortisol levels rise, the amount of blood in your body does, too. When this happens, blood vessels are forced to expand to accommodate the excess blood, making dark circles more visible.
Smoking can wreak havoc on your skin, robbing it of vital nutrients and causing damage that might exacerbate the appearance of dark circles. Nicotine also contributes to excess baggage under the eyes because smokers often have nicotine withdrawals during the night, which interrupts their sleep, resulting in under-eye discoloration.
We discussed earlier that salt causes the body to retain fluid, and fluid can collect under the eyes as well. Fluid retention can also promote the appearance of dark circles because the pressure from the excess fluid can push the blood vessels closer to the skin, making the purplish-blue hue more visible. Therefore, reducing your sodium intake could help reduce the appearance of under-eye darkness.
Alcohol can cause dark circles because it dilates the blood vessels, which can cause them to break, allowing blood to pool beneath the eyes. Further, alcohol causes more disturbed sleep, poor circulation, water retention, and it negatively affects overall health— including our appearance.
Sleeping on Your Stomach
Sleeping face down can cause fluid to collect in the front of your face and friction between your eyes and the pillow, leading to puffiness. However, resting on your back with your head slightly elevated could prevent any friction or fluid retention around the eyes.
Learn More: Reasons Why Sleeping on Your Stomach is Bad
Medication can be helpful in many circumstances, but it may also cause some undesirable side effects as well, including dilated blood vessels, dehydration, or fluid retention. To anyone taking any prescription medications, we recommend talking to your doctor about potential side effects.
Rubbing your eyes repeatedly or vigorously can lead to damaged skin because all that pressure may be harming blood vessels, encouraging the blood to pool near the surface of the skin.
The skin around your eyes is delicate, it’s wise to be gentle when touching your eyes to preserve form. Even when you’re applying moisturizer or removing makeup, we recommend using your ring finger for any contact with this thin skin. The ring finger is the weakest of your fingers, so it’s less likely to exert as much damaging pressure.
As we get older, our skin loses elasticity, and the regeneration process slows. When this happens to the skin, it also becomes thinner, enhancing the appearance of under-eye circles. Products known for reversing or working against this process include hyaluronic acid, retinol, and basic sunscreen.
Some people are predisposed to have thin skin that leads to unsightly bags and dark circles, no matter what they do. Genetics plays a key role in our appearance, and this feature is no exception.
We want to look and feel our best, so it’s understandable that dark and baggy eyes can feel frustrating. Many of the tips and techniques we covered can easily be applied to your daily lives, and in some cases, such as cutting back on smoking and drinking, could improve your overall health and well-being too.
We recommend starting with one or several techniques that work for you. With these tips for dark circles and eye bags, you should find some helpful results that can have you feeling better and ready to take on the day.
Sources and References:
-  “CAN A DERMATOLOGIST ELIMINATE DARK CIRCLES UNDER THE EYES?” Mayoral Dermatology. Webpage accessed October 17, 2023.
-  Sarkar, Rashmi., et. al. “Cosmeceuticals for Hyperpigmentation: What Is Available?”. Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery. 2013.
-  “How to Get Rid of Bags Under Your Eyes”. Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
-  “Antihistamines for allergies”. Medline Plus. Last modified April 10, 2023.
-  “How Much Water Do You Need to Stay Healthy?”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified October 12, 2023.
-  “Collagen”. Cleveland Clinic. Last modified May 23, 2023.
-  Leproult, R., Copinschi, G., Buxton, O., Van Cauter, E. “Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the next Evening”. National Library of Medicine. 1997.
-  “Smoking and the Skin: How Cigarettes Damage Your Appearance”. Forefront Dermatology. Webpage accessed October 17, 2023.
-  Spiller, Marilyn. “Sobriety Makes You Prettier – It's Better than Botox!”. Sanford Behavioral Health. 2020.
-  Price, Amy., Burls, Amanda. “Efficacy of Anti-Aging Products for Periorbital Wrinkles as Measured by 3-d Imaging”. National Library of Medicine. 2009.
Rachael is a content writer for Sleep Advisor who loves combining her enthusiasm for writing and wellness. She’s had a passion for writing since she was a kid when she wrote awful poetry. She’s honed her craft quite a bit since then and considers herself a lucky duck to get paid to do what she loves.
Embracing the remote work life, she occasionally takes her work on the road and lives out her travel writer pipe dream.
In her free time, she attempts to meditate regularly, rides her bike to Trader Joe’s, and enjoys trying every type of food that she can get her hands on.