I have no idea who coined the term “bags” as a catchall for eye puffiness and dark circles, but boy are they prevalent. Most of us suffer from occasional bags, whether from genetic, environmental or lifestyle causes. The under eye area is the thinnest of skin, about .5mm thick compared to the 2mm normal fare we are sporting on the rest of our body. And as we age, the skin loses its ability to regenerate and becomes thinner. Double whammy. Bags under eyes are largely genetic, and also very much tied to sleep, but there are some easy at-home remedies to combat both puffiness and dark circles.
But first, a quick anatomy lesson:
Dark circles are a preview of the dark blood vessels underneath the skin. Since the skin is quite thin, if you have more transparent or fair skin, it will be easier to see the dark vessels pumped up with blood underneath.
A swollen or puffy appearance is attributed to a pile up of fluid accumulating beneath the eyes. The most obvious culprit here is sleep, but can also be caused by allergies, water retention, eczema, or sleeping in the wrong position.
Our ranking of home remedies for bags under eyes, from the cheapest and easiest to priciest and hardest to get your hands on
The cheapest home remedy out there, sleep will help reduce any morning puffiness, especially if you clock above the recommended 8.5 hours per night. But don’t go belly flopping into bed just yet. Sleeping face-down increases water retention, transforming your eyes into mini preorbital swamps. The granddaddy of all beauty hacks, back sleeping, helps with both bags under eyes and wrinkles but is my personal mission-impossible. If you can, sleep on your back, and level your pillow, which should increase circulation so that fluid doesnt pool underneath your eyes overnight.
Additionally, a lack of sleep raises our internal flags of the stress hormone cortisol, which then pumps extra blood through one’s system to stay awake. This extra influx widens the vein load, bringing blood vessels to the surface of our skin, and voila, dark circles. If you can live with dark circles, beware that cortisol promotes fat accumulation. And not on your eyes.
2. Cut back on Salt
Too much salt will dehydrate you, sapping youthful plumpness and producing a swollen eye area, aka bags under eyes. According to the American Heart Association, Americans, on average, eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. That is well above the ideal limit of of no more than 1,500 mg (roughly 0.75 teaspoons/ day). Excessive salt consumption causes the body to retain more fluid than usual, adding to eye bags and overall puffiness. Drink more water to flush sodium out of your system, and avoid processed, packaged and restaurant food. More than 75 percent of the sodium Americans eat comes from the aforementioned culprits—not from the salt shaker.
Get cool as a cucumber with some chilled cucumber slices. That oh-so refreshing stereotype of a spa treatment with a face mask and cucumbers set at the eyes actually actually stems from the age-old go-to treatment of soothing skin and bringing back your natural glow. Plus, this one is an easy home remedy. The trick here is having cold cucumber which has natural antioxidants that reduce irritations.
4. Cold Spoons
Similar to cucs and tea bags, place two spoons in the fridge and gently lay the round backside of the spoon on eyelids for a quick way to combat bags under eyes. Remember the tongue and ski pole scene from Dumb & Dumber? We don’t want that, so don’t overdo it freezing spoons, just get them cool. And don’t keep the spoons at your eyes for too long. When you start to feel like you can’t handle the cold anymore, listen to your body and remove those spoons.
5. Tea Bags
This one is particularly helpful after a sob session; soak two caffeinated tea bags in warm water, refrigerate for a couple of minutes and then place one tea bag per eye for five or so minutes. Add a drop of lavender essential oil for added relaxation. Similar to Preparation H, caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, aiding in decongestion to reduce redness and swelling. What that means is the feeling that caffeine gives your body when you drink some coffee is the same feeling your eyes will feel when you give them a caffeinated treatment: revived and alive.
Exercise counteracts stress (and cortisol), helping with blood circulation and releasing endorphins. Too much stress can have one looking scary, with breakage of capillaries around the eyes, which adds to a puff pool of blood.
7. Preparation H
You… uhh.. might want to use a fresh tube here. Just like how it works where the sun don’t shine, Prep H causes blood vessels on the muscle walls to constrict. If you need a short-term decrease in puffiness and want to take it up a notch from cucumbers, try Prep H. Just be warned that this can cause irritation for some.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a steak, iron deficiency might be attributing to dark circles.
Load up your plate with Popeye approved iron-rich foods such as red meat, seafood, pork, poultry, spinach, dark leafy greens and beans. To aid with iron-absorption, consume vitamin-c rich foods like citrus, broccoli, kiwi, melons, and strawberries. To all you vegetarians and vegans out there, the iron thing might be a tough one, but trust me, it is important. Your eyes and your insides will thank you for a dark leafy iron boost.
9. Neti Pot
The stealth culprit to bags under eyes could very well be allergies. A neti pot is an ancient technique to flush out sinuses and extra moisture trapped from a cold, allergies and sinus congestion. If you notice an exacerbation of under-eye issues around allergy season, contact your doctor about getting antihistamines and take care to not rub at your eyes.
Collagen is golden. Increasing collagen intake can help make skin appear smoother, firmer, and regenerate production of skin cells. As we age, the fragile tissues and muscles around the eyes are the first to break down, causing sagging and wrinkles. Drink grass-fed bone broth or add in a collagen powder to your smoothie for extra love.
If you’re a fan of natural beauty hacks, you probably have a bottle of pure aloe vera gel somewhere in your wellness stash. Or if you’re even more on board with the trend, you might even grow your own aloe vera plant to double as a beauty product little home decor addition. And if you don’t keep either, run to Amazon immediately to complete your beauty cabinet. Aloe can work miracles on many ailments; you might be familiar with the rapid healing effect the natural plant has on burns, but that same soothing and inflammation reduction works just as well on under-eye circles. If you’re suffering from major bags under eyes, rub a smidge of pure aloe gel under your eyes before bed, and be careful not to get any into your eyes.
12. Jade Roller
An ancient practice of lymphatic drainage, jade rolling increases blood circulation which will work to ease up any dark circles. Pro tip: place it in the fridge ahead of a “facial massage” for a cool compress.
13. Ice Roller
Like a blend of the cold spoon trick and the jade roller cure, an ice roller is perfect for those pesky bags under eyes because the cold brings down inflammation and swelling while the rolling effect aids your circulation. If you do this home remedy over a sheet mask, you’ve just found yourself your perfect home face mask and facial massage combo.
14. Micro Needling
Alright this is a little more of an advanced home remedy, but micro-needling has been stated to help with dark circles. The tiny needles prick the skin around the very delicate eye area to stimulate collagen production. Over time, this will literally thicken the skin. Tread carefully, and use a derma-roller with 0.25 mm needles and only roll after you’ve applied some type of serum first and limit eye rolling in a single session to only a few times in the same place.
The takeaway you need to keep in mind
If you find that you’re a frequent sufferer of bags under eyes, it would be wise to undertake preventative measures to mediate any issues in the first place. The first one is an obvious one, sunscreen. We want those eyes as taut and muscular as possible, and the sun is a first class ticket to eye sagging and dehydration. Use sunscreen daily, and wear polarized sunglasses when outside. This will also help in preventing any squinting, which can cause wrinkles over time. Secondly, put down the booze. Alcohol dehydrates, interferes with sleep and is toxic to your body. If you want to indulge in a drink, make sure to have it a full 3-4 hours before hitting the hay. Thirdly, use a gentle cleanser and remove makeup delicately. The skin around your eyes is the first to show aging, and eye makeup is coincidentally the hardest to remove, so go slow, use the right stuff, and try not to tug or pull on the skin. Lastly, don’t even think about smoking. Inhaling toxic chemicals is not only dumb (you can quote me on that) but also causes irritation around the eyes and is a surefire way to bags.
Before you call your mom to complain about your genetics, try giving a few of these at home tricks for a whirl and incorporate some good ‘ol fashioned beauty sleep.