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Bags under eyes - causes, and how you might get rid of them

Bags under the eyes are an inevitable part of ageing – and, given their physical prominence, one we can’t ignore.

They can change our appearance and can become increasingly difficult to hide with creams and concealers. However, there are things you can do to help get rid of the bags under your eyes.

What are bags under eyes – and what are the symptoms?

Bags under eyes affect the lower eyelid skin, making them appear swollen, puffy, and slightly darker in tone. The clinical term for these dark circles is ‘periorbital hyperpigmentation’, often known as POH.

  • As you get older, your eyelid muscles weaken – allowing fluid and fat to get into your eyelids. As this causes the eyelids to sag, the skin can – but not always – “shadow” to create darker areas under the eye.
  • They are rarely a sign of illness but if they cause you pain, and the swelling becomes overwhelming, see your doctor so they can check for things like infections or allergies.
Two smiling women with one woman covering the eye of the other woman

Why do I have bags under my eyes?

The simple answer? Bags under the eyes are a classic symptom of getting older, in much the same way skin develops wrinkles. But there are other issues that contribute to making these darker areas worse.

Smoking

Smoking starves your skin of oxygen and nutrients. Toxins, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, reduce blood flow and cause wrinkles. You may also lose collagen – the protein that keeps skin plump. A lack of collagen makes delicate eyelid skin even thinner, so blood vessels beneath show up more, which can create the shadowy look of eye bags.

Sleep

Experts recommend between six and nine hours of sleep every night to function, with your eyes one of the first indicators you’re not getting your full quota. Because lack of sleep makes your skin paler, dark circles can be even more noticeable.

Diet

Fast foods and soft drinks have consequences for the skin around your eyes, while eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges and kale, can boost hyaluronic acid levels, which helps to keep skin looking healthy and hydrated.

Allergies

You may generally associate hay fever and allergies with sneezing and a stuffy nose. But they can also cause dark bags under your eyes. The blocked sinuses you experience during pollen season clog up the veins beneath your eyelid, and because eyelid skin is so delicate, the blockage shows through it.

Genetics

Bags under the eyes can be hereditary – so you may have inherited them from your parents.

Two teabags representing bags under eyes

How to get rid of bags under eyes

Lifestyle changes

Your lifestyle can contribute significantly to the prominence of bags under your eyes. Some things you can do to potentially remove them include:

  • More sleep – aim for six to nine hours to make dark circles less prominent.
  • Use a cool compress – (clean flannel and cold water) to soothe tired eyes.
  • Monitor allergies – check in on the weather forecast and pollen counts and speak to a pharmacist about allergy medication.
  • Skincare – look for an eye cream with caffeine, retinol and hyaluronic acid to help hydrate and smooth the area.
  • Makeup – concealer helps make them look less dark temporarily. Opt for a lighter shade than your skin tone for a brightening look and apply moisturiser first to prevent it from settling into any creases.

Laser resurfacing

If you prefer the idea of a non-surgical option, laser skin resurfacing can be a good treatment for bags under eyes. Laser resurfacing generally costs less, is less painful, and can be done more quickly.

How it works?

A dermatologist will use lasers to remove the top layers of your skin (the epidermis) while also stimulating the lower layers (the dermis). The heat from the laser aims to boost the production of collagen – the protein that improves texture and elasticity of skin.

What should I know?

The treatment can be done in around one hour. You may feel slight discomfort during the treatment, and afterwards the skin around your eyes may be red and swollen. You’ll most likely be able to go home soon after treatment.

Blepharoplasty

Blepharoplasty is the medical term for eyelid surgery. As opposed to the non-surgical options, you’ll be operated on under anaesthetic.

How it works?

A surgeon will aim to remove the excess fat that has gathered in your lower or upper eyelid, or both. They’ll also try to remove tiny bits of excess baggy skin, with a small cut to the lower eyelid, which requires a few stitches.

What should I know?

The surgery can take a couple of hours. Bruising can remain visible for weeks, and you’ll likely need to take a week off work to recover. Sensitive, watery eyes are a common side effect but should go away after a few days.

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