Even if you sleep like a log or have the privilege of never experiencing allergies (lucky you!), you may still suffer from swelling underneath your eyes, commonly known as “under-eye bags.” Why does that area blow up? Can you do anything about it? Here, we break down all of the baggage that comes with under-eye bags, and how you can send them packing.
What are under-eye bags?
Quite simply: The puffiness or swelling that forms under your eyes is either fat or fluid (lymphedema) — or both. As you age, the muscles and tissues surrounding your eyes weakens. This causes the fat that helps support your eyes to migrate into the lower eyelid area, and there it takes on the appearance of a bulging bag. Fluid can also build up in this area due to a multitude of reasons, causing unsightly swelling. And, thanks to muscle loss, swelling and/or the weight of the migrated fat, the delicate skin in this area can also begin to sag.
Other than age, what causes under-eye bags?
Like many things in life, your lifestyle could be to blame for why your eyes are inflamed. Eating salty foods, drinking alcohol, not getting enough beauty sleep, and even sleeping with your head flat can be contributing factors. And it sounds obvious, but rubbing your eyes also makes the area swell. Check out this scenario: If you slather your delicate eye area with skin care salves containing ingredients like retinol, salicylic acid and/or glycolic acid, these ingredients can cause irritation to this sensitive area. When you rub your eyes to relieve the pain, you can inflame the area and cause blood vessels to leak fluid (which can cause dark circles, too!). Or this scenario: You haven’t rinsed your face well enough, and the residue of shampoo, conditioner or facial cleanser takes up residence in your eyelid folds, causing dermatitis — which you’ll rub, because it’s itchy. Presto, swelling!
And that’s not the end of where skin care collides with under-eye bags: If you’re devoted to facial cleansing brushes, these can exasperate the problem if used too close to your eyes as well. (Think of them as overly aggressive eye rubbers.)
Sadly, that’s where your control of ends. Most reasons for under-eye bags are unfortunately entirely out of our hands: heredity, hormone levels, changes in weather, and allergies. In extremely rare cases, thyroid disease, infection or a more serious allergy can contribute to under-eye swelling. If you notice that your bags are severe and unchanging, occur with redness, itching or pain, and coincide with swelling in other areas of your body, such as your legs, visit a doctor to rule out anything serious.
Can I get rid of my under-eye bags? How?
In some cases, under-eye bags can be sent packing… with a few lifestyle tweaks. Aim for eight hours of sleep, catch your zzz’s on your back with your head slightly elevated, and ditch salty foods and alcohol that can cause fluid retention. Keep skin care ingredients (and devices) that can irritate sensitive skin clear of your delicate eye area. Always be sure to wash away any last bits of shampoo, conditioner and cleanser to the fullest extent you can. If you find your eyes are easily irritated, opt for hypoallergenic personal care items; again, the less reasons to rub your eyes, the better. And lastly, avoid makeup wipes containing methylisothiazolinone, which has been linked to causing allergy-like skin reactions.
Wow: That’s a lot of “don’t do this, don’t do that.”
Yes, we know, but banishing under-eye bags isn’t all about avoidance; you’ll want to stock up on certain types of skin care that contain ingredients that de-puff, such as caffeine and thymol (derived from arnica), which work to help constrict blood vessels. Hyaluronic acid, which plumps skin with moisture, also helps to reduce the appearance of puffiness. Two of our favorite at home remedies: caffeinated tea bags and ice cubes!
If allergies are the bane of your existence, talk to your doctor about allergy medication to help stymy your symptoms. For temporary relief, apply a cold compress or chilled mask to the eye area to help tamp down swelling.
Finally, if your bags continue to bother you but lifestyle changes and topical remedies don’t provide the relief you seek, talk to your dermatologist about laser resurfacing, chemical peels and fillers, all of which can help tighten and rejuvenate the eye area. If plastic surgery is a route you’re willing to go, speak with a board-certified surgeon about eyelid surgery (known as blepharoplasty), which can eradicate under-eye bags as well as baggy upper eyelids, excess upper and lower eyelid drooping, and any excess skin on the lower eyelids.
We hope you can send those eye bags packing!