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Bags Under Eyes: Causes & How to Get Rid of Them

Bags under the eyes are commonly caused by aging, genetics, allergies, fluid retention, lack of sleep, and underlying medical conditions. 

While many individuals are troubled by the looks of bags under the eyes, they usually do not require medical treatment and are generally not harmful. 

If you are concerned about bags under your eyes, you may find home remedies helpful. For persistent concerns, you may consider eyelid surgery as a more permanent option.

Signs & Symptoms of Bags Under the Eyes

Bags under the eyes can often show up with natural aging. 

Bags can also appear overnight, such as after a night of heavy drinking or eating extremely salty foods. You may notice swelling, irritation, or sagging of the skin underneath the eye.

General symptoms may also include loose skin, puffiness, accumulation of fluid, or dark circles under the eyes.

Causes of Undereye Bags

Several factors can contribute to the formation of bags under the eyes. 

The tissue surrounding the eyes may get weaker and skin can begin to sag with age. The natural fat around the eye can migrate lower under the eye. In addition, the area under the eye can accumulate fluid, creating puffiness and a swollen look. 

Many factors can be causing this, such as these:

  • Retaining fluid after eating salty foods
  • Natural aging
  • Poor sleep quality 
  • Insufficient sleep quantity
  • Allergic reactions
  • Smoking or being in a smoky environment
  • Family genetics

Some medical conditions can cause or contribute to bags under the eyes, including dermatitis, kidney problems, and thyroid eye disease.

Treatment Options for Bags Under the Eyes

Treatments for undereye bags include lifestyle modifications, home remedies, and medical approaches. 

Lifestyle & Home Remedies

The first line of defense to reduce or get rid of undereye bags is often home remedies

Cool Compress

To make a compress, wet a washcloth or clean, small towel with cold water. Sit up and gently place the compress on the skin under and around the eyes. Hold the compress with gentle pressure and dab the area. 

In addition, popular DIY compress-like remedies include soothing closed eyes with slices of cool cucumbers.

Hemorrhoid Creams

Some people use over-the-counter creams that narrow blood vessels to reduce undereye swelling. These may work, but caution is advised as these creams can sometimes cause irritation.

Caffeine

Caffeine may be useful as it is known to constrict blood vessels. Many cosmetics include caffeine to reduce eye puffiness. Some over-the-counter contain caffeine and vitamin K, which both may help reduce eye bags. 

A DIY caffeine-inspired home remedy is applying chilled black or green tea bags on closed eyes for relief.

Lifestyle Modifications

A more comprehensive approach is to make lifestyle modifications to support healthy eyes and reduce undereye bags. 

  • Limit salt in your diet. This can help your body to retain less fluid in the undereye area.
  • Drink more water. Aim to drink water earlier in the day to combat fluid retention.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking is linked with bags under the eyes.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking is linked with bags under the eyes.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Most adults require about eight hours of quality sleep each night. Fatigue can contribute to undereye bags.
  • Use an extra pillow. Raise your head a bit more to keep fluid from gathering under the eyes.

Medical Treatments

Medical treatments for bags under the eyes include medications, therapies, and surgery.

The eye area is delicate, so ask your dermatologist or cosmetic specialist which therapy may work best with your unique anatomy and condition.

Medications

If puffiness is caused by allergies, your doctor may prescribe allergy medication to resolve the problem. 

The first drug for blepharoptosis recently gained FDA approval. Talk with your doctor to evaluate medications that may help with your specific situation.

Cosmetic Therapies

If bags under the eyes pose a problem for appearance, several therapies may help resolve puffiness. These include laser resurfacing, chemical peels, and dermal fillers to rejuvenate the eye area. 

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing uses light beams to gently remove damaged or wrinkled skin. This procedure can stimulate new collagen growth and contribute to firmer skin. The results of laser resurfacing can last for years. 

Chemical Peels 

A chemical peel removes the top layers of skin, revealing brighter and tighter skin. This procedure is usually done in a doctor’s office. 

By stimulating collagen production, it can potentially reduce the appearance of undereye bags. The results may last for months to years, depending on your skin type and history of exposure to the sun.

Fillers

Dermal fillers are not permanent, and you will need regular treatments every six months or so to maintain results. 

Depending on the effect you want to achieve, your doctor may recommend hyaluronic acid to create a smooth transition from the undereye area to the cheek. In some cases, Botox may be used to create a youthful appearance.

Talk with a doctor who is trained in the application of dermal fillers and Botox to explore the most effective options to reduce the appearance of undereye bags.

Surgery for Bags Under the Eyes

Eyelid surgery is called blepharoplasty, and the procedure is tailored to resolve specific needs. Typically, the surgery removes excess fat from the area beneath the eye. 

The surgical incision is made inside the lower lid. It should not be visible after healing. 

Eyelid surgery corrects various problems, including these:

  • Excess skin on the lower lids
  • Drooping lower eyelids
  • Excess skin on the upper eyelids
  • Puffiness on the upper eyelids

Blepharoplasty is often done in an outpatient clinic, such as a plastic surgery center or office.

Prevention of Undereye Bags

The least invasive and easiest approaches are to drink more water earlier in the day and apply cold compresses. These two remedies can be effective in shrinking undereye bags.

Preventing bags under the eyes is closely linked to lifestyle modifications. These are the top recommendations include:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Skip fad diets.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Use a moisturizer every day.

These methods can also help:

  • Use cucumber slices as cool compresses under your eyes to lessen swelling.
  • Use cold green tea bags to firm undereye skin.
  • Pamper the undereye area with eye creams that can reduce swelling and fluid retention.

Dark Circles vs. Bags Under the Eyes

Dark circles are also called periorbital hyperpigmentation or periorbital dark circles.

While dark circles are characterized by a darkening of the area under the eye, bags under the eyes refer to puffiness or swelling under the eyes. The two conditions are distinctly different, though it is common for people to have both undereye circles and bags.

Start with home remedies and lifestyle changes to reduce both undereye bags and circles. Get more rest, drink more water, and exercise regularly.

If basic methods to reduce undereye bags and circles don’t work, talk to your dermatologist. They can help you identify the cause of either condition, so it can be more effectively treated. 

When to See a Doctor 

If you are experiencing persistent bags under your eyes, check with your doctor to evaluate possible medical options. Your doctor can help rule out medical conditions, skin rashes, and irritations, and they can identify contributing factors. 

As some bags under the eyes are caused by specific medical conditions, it is important to rule these out. Potential medical causes may include allergies, infections, and thyroid diseases. 

If you are bothered by bags under your eyes for vision reasons, talk with your ophthalmologist about the impact of this condition on your ability to see clearly. If you are concerned about cosmetic implications, you may want to discuss options with a plastic surgeon or oculoplastic surgeon. 

Undereye Bags FAQs

How do I get rid of the bags under my eyes?

Start by drinking more water, getting more sleep, and limiting alcohol, salt, and smoking. Regular exercise, cool compresses, and elevating your head at night can also help. 

Talk with your health care provider about other treatment options, including laser resurfacing and chemical peels. If this is an ongoing cosmetic concern, you may want to consider blepharoplasty. 

What is the main cause of eye bags?

Natural aging is the most common cause of undereye bags. Genetics, allergies, sinus issues, high salt intake, and dehydration can also contribute.

Is treatment for bags under the eyes covered by medical insurance?

If treatment is purely cosmetic to improve appearance, medical insurance will usually not cover it. Talk with your doctor and insurance carrier about what may potentially be covered.

Can I get rid of bags under my eyes naturally?

Lifestyle modifications, like sleeping more and drinking more water, can potentially reduce the appearance of undereye bags. 

References

  1. Eyelid Surgery: Blepharoplasty. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

  2. Bags Under the Eyes. American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  3. How to Get Rid of Bags Under Eyes. John Hopkins Medicine.

  4. Periocular Dermatitis. (December 2017). International Journal of Women’s Dermatology.

  5. Evaluation of the Clinical Efficacy and Safety of an Eye Counter Pad Containing Caffeine and Vitamin K in Emulsified Emu Oil Base. (April 2015). Advanced Biomedical Research.

  6. Smokefree. National Cancer Institute.

  7. Dermal Fillers. John Hopkins Medicine.

  8. How Does Botulinum Toxin (Botox) Work? American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  9. Eyelid Surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology. 

  10. What Is Blepharoplasty Surgery? Stanford Medicine. Stanford University.

  11. How to Get Rid of Bags Under Your Eyes. Cleveland Clinic.

  12. Assessment of Viscoelasticity and Hydration of Herbal Moisturizers Using Bioengineering Techniques. (October 2010). Pharmacognosy Magazine.

  13. Periorbital Hyperpigmentation: A Comprehensive Review. (January 2016). Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 

  14. Blepharoplasty: What to Expect. UCI Plastic Surgery.

  15. Blepharoplasty: Anatomy, Planning, Techniques, and Safety. (February 2018). Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

Last Updated June 14, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.