Treatments for Under-Eye Bags That Actually Work

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Under-eye bags? Here's how to really get rid of them.

I have spent most of my adult life trying to get rid of excess baggage. And no, I don’t mean figuratively. That’s a conversation for another day. I’m talking about these pesky under-eye bags!

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I have had them for as long as I can remember. And as I get older, it seems like they are becoming more noticeable. It was like I woke up one day and asked myself when I turned into an old lady!

While I do believe in letting myself age, I would like to age gracefully. And that includes not having big sunken circles with puffy under-eyes if I can help it.

I have spent many years fighting these bags under my eyes, and I have purchased more products than I can count. Let’s not even think about how much I’ve spent over the years. And while I saw some minor results from certain eye creams or serums, nothing quite banished them for good. That’s because those products are only effective temporarily, and only for certain causes.

Yep, not all under-eye bags are created equal. Any number of issues could cause them. Some are things we can control, while others, not so much. But knowing the underlying cause is important if you’re hoping to get rid of them.

What Causes Bags Under the Eyes?

woman looking at eyes, face in the mirror
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I wish there was a singular cause of bags under the eyes, but I guess we can’t be that lucky. There are several different reasons that might cause some extra under-eye baggage. Some we can control, and some we can’t.

  • Eating too much salt: All those salty foods could be showing on your face. Too much salt can cause you to retain water, leading to swelling – including under your eyes.
  • Not getting enough sleep: By now, I’m sure everyone knows that not getting enough beauty rest comes with added baggage. Aside from triggering puffiness, it also causes your blood vessels to dilate, which is more noticeable under your eyes where the skin is thinner.
  • Allergies and other medical conditions: Some health conditions, from allergies to thyroid problems, can cause puffiness under the eyes.
  • Natural aging: As you age, the skin and muscles around the eyes will weaken and lose firmness. This weakening can cause the fat under the eye to bulge out more, too.
  • Genetics: Sorry everyone, but sometimes under-eye bags are just in the cards you were dealt at birth.

Now that we know what’s causing the extra baggage, we can talk about how to get rid of it.

At-Home Treatments

If you are occasionally seeing puffiness, at-home treatments might be effective solutions for you. These normally won’t provide results for under-eye bags that are caused by things like genetics. After all, over-the-counter products can only do so much. These are easy, temporary solutions for fighting circles caused by swelling.

Close up of woman applying under eye cream
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Caffeine

Many eye creams contain caffeine to help reduce puffiness. That’s because caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it helps shrink the blood vessels around your eyes. It is also anti-inflammatory when used topically, which can help tighten and brighten the under-eye area.

There are plenty of skincare products on the market featuring caffeine, from eye creams, serums, and even infused oil. Just remember that how effective it will be at combating puffiness is directly tied to how concentrated it is!

If you are a regular coffee drinker, I’ve got an even better solution. While avoiding contact with your eyes, rub used coffee grounds on the skin of your under-eye area. Allow the grounds to sit for a while before rinsing with cold water.

Tea drinkers aren’t getting left out, either. After making a cup of green tea or black tea (no decaf here, folks), let the tea bags chill in the fridge for around 20 minutes. Apply the bags to your, well, bags, and leave them on for 15 to 30 minutes.

Cold Compresses

Cooling the under-eye area will reduce blood flow, which can help lessen inflammation and swelling. You can obviously pick up cooling facial globes, which are all the rage right now. But really, pretty much anything cold will do. Try a frozen bag of veggies, chilled cucumber slices, a cold washcloth, or refrigerated spoons. If it feels too cold for your delicate under-eye area, wrap the cold item with a soft cloth first to protect your skin.

Antihistamines

For puffiness that seems to pop up during allergy season, good ol’ allergy medication might do the trick. Allergies can cause redness or itchy eyes, but all that irritation can also lead to puffy eye bags.

Hemorrhoid Creams

This suggestion is iffy. Some hemorrhoid creams contain phenylephrine, which is the key ingredient here. It works by temporarily narrowing the blood vessels. Not all hemorrhoid creams contain phenylephrine, though, so read the active ingredients.

Unfortunately, these creams also sometimes come with hydrocortisone, which is a steroid to help relieve itching and inflammation. Prolonged use of topical steroids could cause skin thinning or enlarged blood vessels. Hemorrhoid creams also have that weird medicine smell, too.

Long-Term Habits

If your puffy eyes are being caused by too much salt, it’s time to cut back. All that extra salt in your diet will contribute to your body’s fluid retention, which will not only make your eyes puffy,  but can make you puffy overall. Too much salt is also linked to bigger health concerns like heart disease and stroke.

If you are not getting enough sleep at night, it could be the eye bags culprit. Make sure that you have a nightly routine to help you settle, and get that beauty rest each and every night. Need help with that? Check out these proven tips for sleeping better at night.

Medical Treatments

Some under-eye bags aren’t going to budge with temporary at-home treatments. For very prominent or permanent bags under the eyes – like the ones caused by genetics or natural aging – medical treatments will be far more effective. Some of these are considered temporary, but they last for much longer than at-home treatments. They can help smooth the under-eye area anywhere from six months to years.

woman getting cosmetic procedure, fillers
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Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing might be a good treatment option if your concern is primarily wrinkly or sagging skin under the eyes. It involves using a laser to improve the skin’s appearance by removing the thin outer layer and heating the underlying dermis.

Laser resurfacing won’t actually remove sagging skin, but it can lessen the appearance of fine wrinkles. As the outer layer heals, it appears smoother and tighter. Heating the dermis also stimulates the growth of collagen, improving firmness and texture. The results can last for years, depending on your skin type (and if you stay out of the sun).

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are also used to improve and smooth the texture of skin, by removing the outer layers of the skin. A chemical solution is applied topically, and it dissolves old skin cells to reveal tighter, smoother skin. While you can do chemical peels at home, this kind should be done by a professional in-office. We’re talking about sensitive skin, here!

Like laser resurfacing, results can last for years depending on your skin type and if you stay away from sun exposure.

Dermal Fillers

Developing bags under the eyes is part of natural aging for many people. As we get older, the fat pads in our faces change. Some areas lose fat, while others gain fat. Some fat pads just shift around. As they shift, they can create that hollow area between the under-eye and the cheek.

Filler can be used to plump up and smooth out that area. Hyaluronic acid, the same stuff used for lip injections, is usually used. The results will last anywhere from six months to a year. Because this area – like the rest of our face – can continue to change as we age, permanent fillers aren’t recommended.

Blepharoplasty

If your under-eye area is in need of the big guns, this is about as permanent as it gets. Blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery, is a plastic surgery procedure that improves the appearance of the eye region. This includes the under-eye area. It usually involves removing excess skin, and removing or repositioning the fatty deposits under the eye.

Like I said, this one is permanent. It is rare for people to need future touch-up procedures. If your under-eye bags were handed down as a family heirloom, this is the only way to actually get rid of them. As expected, the procedure will cost more than other treatments listed here. However, it only needs to be done once – while solutions like fillers will need to be redone every so often, eventually costing more in the long-run.

While it seems much more major than, say, tapping on some eye cream, it is pretty tame in terms of cosmetic surgery procedures. There should be minimal pain after the procedure, but there will likely be bruising and swelling. You’re looking at around two weeks for the bruising and swelling to go away, and one to two weeks before you can resume driving and going to work.

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