They might be cute on panda bears on raccoons, but for the rest of us, dark circles are a most unwelcome guest.
Dark circles under eyes are often attributed to stress, being tired, and getting older, but there are other factors at play, including genetics.
We’ll share the most common culprits and give you our best 19 tips to get rid of any unwanted under eye bags. But first, it’s important to know what these dark circles are and why they look so ghastly.
The skin under the eyes is the thinnest and most delicate. In fact, the skin on the rest of your body is four times thicker. As a result, it’s easier to see the blood vessels underneath the surface, and some people have thinner skin than others.
When those blood vessels get damaged, the blood can leak out, causing that familiar dark hue that we all loathe. When that’s combined with fluid buildup, the problem becomes even more visible. Thankfully, even if you’re genetically predisposed to dark circles, there are ways to diminish and potentially eliminate them without going under the knife.
What Causes Bags Under Your Eyes?
Lack of Sleep
Even though a lack of sleep won’t thin out your skin, 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. Blood vessels are forced to expand to accommodate the excess blood, therefore making dark circles more visible.
You already know that smoking robs your skin of vital nutrients, causing damage that can exacerbate the appearance of bags and circles. It also contributes to excess baggage under the eyes because smokers often have nicotine withdrawals during the night, which interrupts their sleep. The result is baggy eyes.
Salt causes the body to retain fluid. As a result, more fluid is likely to collect under the eyes. The 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.
A bright red nose is often a telltale sign of a long-term alcoholic. And it turns out that alcohol can also cause those dark circles. It’s because alcohol dilates the blood vessels, which can cause them to break, allowing blood to pool beneath the eyes.
Sleeping on Your Stomach
Sleeping face down can cause fluid to drain and collect in the front of your face. That fluid can lead to puffiness under the eyes.
If you’re taking any prescription medications, talk to your doctor about potential side effects, including dilating blood vessels.
Rubbing your eyeballs repeatedly or vigorously can lead to this problem, too. That’s because all that pressure is damaging the blood vessels and encouraging the blood to pool near the surface of the skin.
Because this skin is so delicate, you must take care when touching your eyes, especially if you’re applying moisturizer or removing makeup. We recommend using your ring finger for any contact with this thin skin. It 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. No surprise there. When this happens to the skin, it also becomes thinner, enhancing the appearance of under eye circles.
Some people are predisposed to have thin skin that leads to unsightly bags and dark circles, no matter what they do. Genetics play a key role in our appearance, and this lovely feature is no exception.
How to Get Rid of Puffy / Baggy Eyes
A retinol cream containing retinoids helps to rebuild the skin’s outer layer of collagen, thickening it in the process. You can spend thousands on creams by buying the infamous Crème de La Mer, or you can get a super-strength prescription from your dermatologist. We’ll let you in on a secret, though. Many top dermatologists claim that some of the drugstore brands work just as well.
Sleep on Your Back
You’ve already learned that sleeping on your stomach causes fluid and blood to pool around your eyes, so it’s logical to conclude that sleeping on your back would help it drain. Bonus points if you add an extra pillow to further encourage the fluid to stay away. Just be careful that you don’t throw your spine and neck out of alignment (here's our list of top rated back sleeper pillows).
Lightening Products and Sunscreen
Sometimes, the darkness is above the skin, not below it. In cases like these, a lightening product that contains Vitamin C, licorice extract, and kojic acid can help alleviate some of the darkness because they inhibit the production of melanin (a brown or black skin pigment). We also suggest wearing a sunscreen designed for the face to prevent further sun damage and pigmentation.
If you have allergies, then you might be rubbing your eyes. That’s a big no-no when you’re trying to avoid puffy peepers and under eye circles. An over-the-counter antihistamine may do the trick to prevent the incessant itching.
Be Gentle with Your Makeup Remover
A lot of us are beyond exhausted when it’s time for bed, and we can’t be bothered with an elaborate routine. When it comes to removing makeup, we may just rub it off with whatever remover and tissue are at the ready and call it a night.
Instead, take extra care here to prevent damaging the delicate skin around your eyes. Use a soft cotton pad and rub very gently. Coconut oil tends to allow makeup to come off the most smoothly. Also, when you’re taking off your make up, don’t rub back and forth. Instead, swipe gently in one direction to prevent excess friction and pressure.
This piece of advice works wonders for a variety of beauty ailments. They don’t call it “beauty sleep” for nothing. Opt for at least seven hours, but no more than nine, per night.
Drinking caffeine may be bad for under eye circles, but putting 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.
It may seem like a scene from a movie, but cucumber slices really do help with dark circles and puffiness. The cool temperature, the vitamin C, and the caffeic acid work as natural anti-inflammatories.
Avoid Excess Salt
It’s simple: salt causes the body to retain water. We all retain water differently, but the region under the eyes is a common place to store it.
Essential oils have been hailed as miracles for just about whatever ails us, and for good reason. They actually work! 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: it reduces water retention, eliminating puffy pockets
- Fennel essential oil: it tightens the skin, reducing bags
- Lavender essential oil: not only is it calming, but it’s also a natural diuretic
- Rosemary essential oil: like cucumbers, rosemary also contains caffeic acid
Whatever you do, don’t apply the undiluted oils directly to the skin around your eyes. Instead, dilute the oils with a carrier oil like almond oil. Or use aloe vera or witch hazel. Depending on the concentration you purchase, the label will give instructions on dilution ratios.
It might 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. A general rule to live by is called the 8 x 8. It says to drink an eight-ounce glass of water eight times a day.
Or, to keep things simple, you could just fill a 64-ounce container (the equivalent of half a gallon), and then make sure you drink one per day.
Vitamin C is necessary for collagen production, which you already know is the key 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 even a problem.
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, pineapples, and limes are obvious choices, but a lot of other foods are great sources, too. These include kale, cauliflower, berries, broccoli, mango, tomatoes, and papaya, just to name a few.
Alcohol dehydrates your body and dilates the blood vessels. As you might guess, this is not an attractive combination.
Supplements containing collagen can help stimulate collagen production, though some nutritionists argue that the body doesn’t convert it to usable collagen. To make sure you get the full benefit, try taking supplements that allow your body to create its own collagen. These include Vitamin C, amino acids, and copper.
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 can help, as can consuming grass-fed, pasture-raised beef and poultry. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then Vitamin B-12 supplements are just as effective. Other recommended foods include beans, spinach, peas, apricots, and raisins.
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 sounds odd, then try it as a beverage with a few mint leaves.
Milk can be calming and soothing to the skin, but we suggest skipping the milk and opting for an ice pack instead. It’s cleaner and won’t curdle, yet it has the same cooling and soothing effect.
Crush the leaves into a paste by combining them with water. Gently rub the mixture around the eye area and be prepared for stunning results in about a week’s time.
It’s not an immediate fix, but if you’re a habitual puffy eye sufferer, then this tip is one you’ll want to try. Grab some cotton balls and soak them in rose water. Place the cotton over your eyelids and relax for fifteen minutes. For best results, do this once a day for 30 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can dark eye circles be removed instantly?
Surprisingly, yes. A few favorite techniques use ingredients you have lying around the house and 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 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 teabag 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.
Can they be permanently removed?
Nothing in life is permanent, but if you follow the general lifestyle habits and find one or more of the minimizing techniques that work for you, then you can achieve remarkable results.
Can baggy eyes be caused by a vitamin deficiency?
Yes, an iron deficiency is a top culprit because it affects the body’s ability to transfer oxygen, which could cause dark circles. When it comes to puffy eyes, a Vitamin K, D or B12 deficiency could also be to blame.
Dark circles and puffy eyes make us look tired, older and admittedly less attractive. While there are several ways to prevent them from appearing and reduce their severity, you might find that you need a faster and more dramatic solution.
If that’s the case, don’t forget about makeup! A high-quality concealer applied in several thin layers combined with dark mascara can work wonders. Not a makeup kind of guy or gal? Maybe a pair of sunglasses could save the day instead.
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.