If you’ve ever stayed up a few hours after your bedtime on a school night, are guilty for regularly letting your daily water intake drop, consider yourself more allergy-prone than the next person, or you’re just a regular person that experiences the occasional beauty woe, we can almost guarantee you’ve seen bags pop up under your eyes at least once (and we do mean at the very least).
Not unlike the dreaded breakout, the under eye bag can pop up when you least expect it. But not dissimilar from the aforementioned breakout, you can usually pinpoint the inception point of the dreaded puffy under eye and track it back to some not-so-ideal dietary and lifestyle choices—or, a relative did you something bad by giving you under eye bags via genetics.
If you make up part of the group that is well aware of the cause of your under eye bags, but just need a few great puffiness-nixing product recommendations, or, if you’re struggling to get to the bottom of your own case of bags under the eyes, we’ve enlisted the expertise of skin expert and general manager at Australian skincare brand Aesthetics Rx, Nicola Kropach.
Thankfully, she’s here to help you with any and all queries, questions, concerns and confusions you’ve ever had about the much-dreaded under eye bag. We even arm you with a number of de-puffing products from the skin-saving likes of Sephora, who have long dealt in bringing us the best tools and creams to perfect the eye area.
What causes under eye bags?
While we tend to put under eye bags down to poor sleep, the truth is that there are a number of factors that could be contributing to puffiness. As for how an under eye bag actually biologically comes to be? “The puffiness itself is fluid retention in the delicate tissue surrounding the eyes, or a redistribution of adipose tissue (fat) as we age, or it could be a combination of both,” Kropach tells Vogue.
As for why bags under our eyes tend to be more noticeable in the morning, Kropach explains that this is because “fluid pools during the night when the body is at rest,” adding that “the lymphatic system responsible for the transportation of excess fluid away from the tissues requires skeletal and muscular movement to activate it since the lymphatic system does not have its own pump.” So movement and exercise first thing is key to reducing under eye bags.
Below, we break down the most likely causes behind your under eye bags and how to address them.
You might not have the healthiest of lifestyles
Just like inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, under eye bags can come as a result of certain lifestyle choices. “The functions of the skin can down regulate with an unhealthy lifestyle or environment, so anyone with puffy eyes and/or dark circles needs to take a close look at whether they are receiving adequate nutrition from their diet, getting enough sleep (seven to eight hours uninterrupted each night), sufficient water intake and protection from pollution. Smoking [also] causes accelerated skin ageing and depletes the body of vitamin C, one of the main collagen supporting vitamins,” explains Kropach.
Kropack also notes that a lack of collagen structural support under the skin sees the tissue become “thin, weak and [makes] eye bags look worse,” and that “when the elastic walls of the tiny network of capillaries around the eyes is weakened, fluid can leak into the tissue, causing puffiness.” Of course, ensuring you maintain a healthy, balanced diet will keep your collagen stores high, but adding a collagen supplement on top of it definitely won’t go astray.
Here, Vogue recommends products for upping your collagen intake.
You’re likely a little stressed
Put simply, “tiredness, stress, and anxiety can all cause under eye puffiness,” as Kropach explains—so basically, none of us are really immune. “Each of these indicators can be responsible for the release of the stress/adrenal hormones, in particular cortisol. When an oversupply of inflammation-producing cortisol is triggered, the fine balance of minerals and fluids in the body can alter which may lead to puffiness around the eyes.”
Kropach explains that other hormone imbalances, like the decline of oestrogen around perimenopause and menopause, can also see a rise in fluid retention leading to puffy eyes. If this is the category that’s most applicable to you, she recommends trying mindful breathing, yoga, exercise, or meditation. “[It’s] so important for our mind and body, many people are surprised that radiant, healthy, firm skin is often a wonderful side effect!”
Allergies could be manifesting unexpected side-effects
If you have particularly sensitive skin, you may have an intolerance or even an allergy in response to certain ingredients, which may cause puffiness when applied to the eye area. “Artificial fragrances and colours are amongst the most common irritants in skincare, but there could be other allergens present if you have a history,” warns Kropach, adding you should be equally wary of natural, botanical-based skincare (they don’t guarantee safety from allergy). On a slightly different note, you should too be conscious of the expiration dates of products—“about 12 months after opening for most products is a good guide on expiration.”
You’re letting the sun get to your eyes
Considering that collagen breakdown (AKA the weakening of your skin’s structural support) can be accelerated by external factors, seeing the loss of skin elasticity, fat can sometimes redistribute as a result, which, in the case of the eye area, can create a “pouch” appearance.
As we now know all too well, the sun is a big perpetrator of premature ageing, so it’s a no-brainer that protecting the eye area from it will help keep under eye bags at bay. Aside from a great zinc-based SPF to safeguard the area, Kropach also recommends working an eye cream containing the all-round skin saver, vitamin C—upping your oral intake of the vitamin also wouldn’t go astray.
Here, Vogue recommends products for protecting the eye area.
Genetic factors may be at play
Unfortunately, sometimes your under eye bags have nothing to do with what you’re actually doing. “Genetics can play a part in whether or not you will get eye bags due to the characteristics that run in families. Skin colour and darker pigment, a genetic trait, can often worsen the appearance of bags,” Kropach explains. She also notes that “the blueish type of dark circles associated with thin, fine skin, and the transparency it gives through to capillaries and pigmented blood waste products, can be linked to our genetic code too.”
No, you can’t alter your genetics, but you can work on improving their external manifestations. Kropach recommends applying hyaluronic acid to the area to plump and add moisture to the thin skin that can give the appearance of dark and puffy eyes, as well as slowing down the thinning of the skin all together. Bonus points for upping your actives, amino acids and peptides too.
Here, Vogue recommends products for combating genetic-driven eye bags.
So, how do you get rid of bags under your eyes?
First of all, we want to reassure you that under eye bags aren’t permanent. “Eye bags can come and go depending on the cause, especially where fluid is the underlying issue,” says Kropach. But don’t get too confident here, because, as mentioned above, a loss of skin elasticity as a result of premature or chronologically regular ageing means the chances of bags appearing under your eyes become greater.
As for what we can do to decrease the chances of puffy under eyes popping up, Kropach has a few suggestions which we’ve listed below.
Massage the eye area
“Gentle massage can be useful to alleviate puffiness caused by fluid,” explains Kropach. If your eye cream doesn’t come with a cooling rollerball applicator, gently use a facial tool gentle enough for the eye area to “drain the appearance of excess fluid away from under the eyes.” Bonus points for something that’s cold to the touch.
Here, Vogue recommends de-puffing eye massage tools to try.
Use the right products
In addition to the products mentioned above, here are a number of eye-specific products geared towards de-puffing and brightening that you can work into your skincare routine.
Seek out de-puffing products, treatments and procedures
As far as ‘removing’ under eye bags goes, you can’t technically do that, but you can create an optical illusion with minimally-invasive procedures to make it look as if you did. “Dermal fillers are often used to fill out the area surrounding eye bags, and are commonly referred to as tear trough fillers—this treatment lasts around 12 to 18 months,” explains Kropach.
On the note of in-clinic treatments, she says that “collagen induction dermal therapy treatments that can be performed gently around the eyes,” such as microneedling also works well for de-puffing. Or, if you want to take that particular treatment into your own hands, you can invest in a dermaroller that’s safe for at-home use.
If you’re not averse to a little more invasion, Kropach says “there are also cosmetic surgical procedures like Blepharoplasty that corrects loose, baggy skin around the eyes.”