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Under-Eye Bags: The Main Cause & 21 Ways To Get Rid of Them (Naturally)

If only eye bags could be designer…

All jokes aside, under-eye bags are something that nearly 80% of women experience at some point in their life.

 

With stress, hectic lives, disrupted sleep, and a processed-food diet becoming the norm, under-eye creams are dominating the “anti-fatigue cosmetics” market (at a whopping $15.2 billion) (1).

 

The chase for youthful-looking under-eyes isn’t coming to an end any time soon. Learn the main causes of eye bags, along with 21 ways to reduce their appearance.

What Causes Under Eye Bags?

Eye bags can be caused by a variety of internal and external factors. The most common include (2, 3):

 

  • Aging
  • Allergies
  • Crying
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive caffeine
  • Fluid retention
  • Genetics
  • Iron deficiency
  • Kidney problems
  • Lack of sleep
  • Pigmentation issues
  • Salty foods
  • Sleeping with your contact lenses in
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Too much sun exposure
  • Thyroid disease

 

Ultimately, as you age, the tissue and muscles that support your eyelids weaken. This causes your skin to sag and the fat around your eyes to move into the area below your eyes. In addition to this, your under-eye may begin to accumulate fluid, making it look puffier than normal.

21 Ways to Naturally Get Rid of Eye Bags

Sure, you can drop a few hundred dollars on serums that “de-puff” or lighten those dark circles under your eyes, but the truth is, they won’t do much unless you make a few lifestyle changes first.

 

With that being said, here are 21 different ways to naturally get rid of undereye bags.

1. Drink More Water

Without water, your body can only survive a few days. As an infant, your body is comprised of 75% water. And as an elder, it’s made up of 55% (4).

 

Water is essential for cellular homeostasis, life, and skin.

 

Your skin contains nearly 30% water—contributing to its plumpness, elasticity, and resiliency. Thus, drinking water can improve skin thickness, density, and hydration (4, 5).

 

How much is enough, you ask?

 

Although there are varying opinions regarding how much water you should drink each day, Dr. Chad recommends drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water.

 

Thus, if you weigh 130 pounds, you should drink approximately 65 ounces of water daily.

2. Cut Out Sugary Foods

Eating packaged, processed, sugary foods can lead to quite an array of skin problems like eczema, acne, and worst of all—the deterioration of collagen and elastin in your skin.

 

Collagen makes up 70-80% of the protein in your skin (6). So when collagen declines, your skin loses the firmness and elasticity it once had—leading to sagging, wrinkles, and in theory, under-eye bags.

 

In addition to this, sugar causes inflammation (7). And inflammation can lead to under-eye bags (8).

3. Cut the Sodium

Too much sodium can make your body retain water. Which, in turn, can lead to puffiness in your face and/or body. In particular, the thin skin around your eyes.

 

Now let me be clear here, sodium (<500 milligrams) is essential for cellular homeostasis and physiological function. However, if you consume too much (>3,200 milligrams), then your blood pressure elevates, your heart, kidneys, brain, and blood vessels take a toll, and your skin can become puffy and inflamed (9).

4. Get More High-Quality Sleep

Did you know that when you sleep, fluids settle in the tissue beneath your eyes?

 

This means that if you get too little sleep (less than 7 hours), your blood vessels may leak and mix with those fluids, causing eye bags and dark circles (10, 11, 12).

 

However, there’s something more important than the number of hours you sleep each night…

 

The quality of your sleep. To ensure you’re getting the highest quality sleep, invest in blackout curtains, an eye mask, or earplugs if you need them.

 

Want to learn more about this topic? Check out this article: Finally Get the Sleep You Need to Live Your Best Life

5. Elevate Your Head While Sleeping, Too

In addition to getting more high-quality sleep (and at least 7 hours a night), elevate your head while sleeping.

 

As stated in the previous point, fluid settles in the tissue underneath your eyes while you sleep. To prevent this from happening—and to wake up without puffy eye bags—prop yourself up with a few pillows (or a wedge pillow) before you fall asleep.

 

If propping your head up feels too uncomfortable (or is decreasing the quality of your sleep), another option is to elevate the entire top-end of your bed by a few inches. You can do this by putting a brick underneath each front bedpost or buying bed risers that are made specifically for this purpose.

6. Add Collagen to Your Diet

Collagen makes up 70-80% of the protein in your skin. As it diminishes (1.0% to 1.5% with each passing year), the tissue structures and muscles supporting your eyelids weaken, collagen diminishes, and the loss of fat padding occurs (13, 14, 15).

 

To ensure you’re giving your body and skin what it needs to stay plump, elastic, and glowing, add a collagen supplement to your beauty regimen. It’s recommended that you take at least 20 grams per day to maintain skin health.

For more information on collagen and skin health, check out the following article: Aging Skin? Do These 6 Things to Naturally Restore Its Youthful Glow

7. Cut Back on Alcohol

In one internet survey, 3,267 women—aged 18 to 75 years—self-reported their facial aging. Smoking and alcohol consumption was reviewed as well.

 

Results showed that heavy alcohol use (8 or more drinks per week) was associated with increased upper facial lines, under-eye puffiness, lines around the corners of the mouth, volume loss below the eyes, and increased blood vessels (16).

 

Alcohol consumption impairs the skin’s antioxidant defense system by decreasing its amount of skin carotenoids—antioxidants that protect the skin against UV radiation from the sun.

 

With that being said, alcohol should be limited to no more than 8 drinks per week.

8. Avoid Smoking

In the study stated above, smoking was reviewed against facial aging as well.

 

Results showed that smoking was associated with increased forehead wrinkles, crow’s feet, vertical creases between your eyebrows (also called “eleven” lines), under-eye puffiness, hollow tear troughs (sunken under eyes), nasolabial folds, lines around the corners and border of the mouth, and reduced lip fullness (16).


When you smoke, free radicals damage your repair mechanisms and reduce the turnover of collagen and elastin. This—along with the constriction of blood flow in the skin—is what leads to premature signs of aging (17).

9. Check Your Iron Levels

It may be time to get a blood test.

 

Iron plays a critical role in fighting off oxidative stress and photodamage (skin changes like wrinkles, roughness, freckles, and pigmentation changes). In addition to this, it helps metabolize collagen (18).

 

Iron deficiency can lead to an array of ailments including:

  • Paleness of the skin
  • Itchy, irritated skin
  • Skin infection
  • Swollen tongue
  • Red, inflamed patches in the corners of your mouth
  • Fragile nails
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Delayed wound healing

 

How much iron is enough?

 

According to the National Health Service, this is how much iron you should consume daily (19):

  • 8.7mg a day for men over 18
  • 14.8mg a day for women aged 19 to 50
  • 8.7mg a day for women over 50

 

Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before beginning any new supplement or dietary change.

10. Incorporate Tea Bags into Your Beauty Ritual

Tea bags, in particular—green tea bags—are extraordinary at reducing the bags under your eyes.

 

This is due to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of flavonoids and tannins—two plant-based antioxidants found in green tea. In addition to this, the caffeine in green tea bags (approximately 30 to 40 grams per tea bag) may tighten the blood vessels in the tissue around your eyes, further reducing inflammation (20, 21).

 

Here’s what to do:

  • Steep two tea bags in hot water
  • Squeeze excess water from the bags (be careful not to burn yourself!)
  • To use as a warm compress, allow them to cool down enough to be applied to the skin
  • To use as a cold compress, chill them in the refrigerator for 10 to 20 minutes
  • Apply the tea bags to closed eyes for up to 15 minutes

11. Freeze Your Spoons

This may be the quickest, most cost-effective way to reduce under-eye puffiness.

 

Here’s what to do:

  • Grab two metal spoons
  • Put them in the freezer overnight
  • In the morning, place them under your eyes
  • Now, apply a slight pressure and slowly glide the spoons toward the outer corners of your eyes. This gliding movement—along with the coolness of the spoon—will enhance lymphatic drainage of excess fluid underneath your eyes.
  • Repeat for 60 seconds and voila—de-puffed eyes!

12. Use a Jade Roller

Something a bit fancier than a cold spoon—a jade roller.

 

Used for thousands of years—and originating in East Asia—jade rollers have been used as a massage treatment for the skin (also known as gua sha).

 

Gua sha involves a repeated, unidirectional press-stroke on moisturized skin. This has been shown to increase immune functions of the skin and may play a beneficial role in the blood flow and oxygen delivery of the skin (22, 23).

13. Add Electrolytes to Your Water

Preventing fluid retention can be as simple as adding electrolytes to your water.

 

Fluid and electrolyte balance is key for maintaining homeostasis. A lack of electrolytes—sodium, potassium, and chloride—can lead to hydration deficiencies, hormone imbalances, and a disruption in the flow of fluids throughout the body (24).

 

Rachel Roff—a licensed aesthetician—explains that “if your body is dehydrated, it could retain excess fluid in certain areas of the body, which is why you might have puffiness under your eyes. Help balance fluid levels by increasing your intake of electrolytes by eating fruits and vegetables such as bananas, asparagus, celery, or collard greens.”

14. Clear Your Sinuses

Sinus congestion can lead to puffy eyes, facial pain or pressure, headaches, and more.

 

This nasal blockage results in inflammation and fluid retention—two things that will dramatically increase the puffiness of your eyes.

 

A tried and true way of combating sinuses is with a neti pot—an Ayurvedic saline nasal irrigation technique (25). Saline is poured into one nostril and drained out of the other.

 

What you will need: A neti pot.

 

How to do it (in just 5 simple steps):

  1. Mix the solution.
  2. Lean over your sink, slightly rotate your head, and position the neti pot like the image above.
  3. While breathing from your mouth, allow the solution to enter your nostril.
  4. When the neti pot is empty, gently exhale through both nostrils to clear the excess solution. Gently blow your nose in a tissue.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the other nostril.

15. Take an Antihistamine

Common allergens like pollen, dust mites, and pet hair are yet another thing that can cause puffy eyes and dark circles—with over 600 million people affected worldwide. Additional symptoms can include watery eyes, itching, swelling, sneezing, and a runny nose (26, 27).

 

If you believe your puffy eyes are allergy-related, consider taking a natural antihistamine product.

16. Add Retinol to Your Skincare Routine

One of the most important supplements for skin health: Collagen.

 

Collagen is a protein that makes up 70-80% of your skin. It can be credited to keeping your skin smooth, elastic, and glowing. However, as you age, your body’s natural collagen production begins to decline—which means that your skin’s natural rejuvenation process drastically slows. This, in turn, can magnify the appearance of undereye bags (28).

 

Two supplements that can combat collagen deficiency: Collagen itself (duh) and retinol (aka vitamin A).

 

Retinol—specifically tretinoin—positively influences photoaging (the damaging effect of UV rays) by preventing the deterioration of collagen.

 

In one animal study, tretinoin was applied to photoaged mouse skin. Within just 10 weeks, there was a significant repair of new collagen in the skin—which resulted in a vast decrease in wrinkles (28).

17. Wear (Natural) Sunscreen

Ultraviolet radiation (UV), in particular—UVA and UVB rays—is the primary reason we need to wear sunscreen.

 

UVA is strongly associated with skin aging while UVB is associated with sunburns (29). When skin is left unprotected, UV radiation can damage the DNA in skin cells—leading to skin cancers like basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma.

 

Thus, wearing a natural, broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection is essential in maintaining skin health and may in turn help with under-eye bags and dark circles.

 

Don’t just buy any old sunscreen, though. Check out this article to steer clear of harmful sunscreen ingredients.

18. Get Acupuncture

Acupuncture—originating from traditional Chinese medicine—is a treatment that applies small needles to specific pressure points on the body (30).

 

This balancing of the qi (energy) has quite the array of anti-aging benefits—ranging from the elimination of fine lines to minimizing dark circles, puffy eyes, sagging skin, and drooping eyelids.

 

Find certified acupuncturists here.

19. Consider Microneedling

Licensed aesthetician performing microneedling on woman's skin

Microneedling is a non-invasive procedure in which miniature fine needles (i.e. a dermaroller) are rolled over the skin. This puncturing of the skin breaks up old collagen strands which, in turn, stimulates the production of elastin (the “elastic” protein in your skin) (31).

 

One study analyzed the wrinkles, elasticity, and skin texture of 48 participants aged 35 to 75. Each underwent four microneedling sessions 30 days apart. Within just 150 days, there was a significant improvement in the lines, wrinkles, elasticity, and texture of the skin (32).

 

With that being said, this stimulation of elastin may improve under-eye bags and dark circles.

Collagen Induction Therapy Before and After

Dermatologists highly recommend avoiding at-home microneedling kits. Instead, consult a dermatologist or licensed aesthetician.

20. Take Your Makeup Off Every Night

Sleeping in makeup exposes your skin to free radicals, which can then create oxidative stress—a phenomenon that speeds up the aging process (33).

 

According to ophthalmologist Yuna Rapoport, leftover makeup residue can lead to inflammation and redness around the eyes, resulting in puffiness. However, it’s crucial to not rub your makeup off, as it causes additional red, itchy inflammation of the skin (34).

 

Instead, Rapoport recommends using an oil-free makeup remover—which helps prevent blepharitis (inflamed eyelids), dry eye, and under-eye bags. Gently wipe around the eye area, or better yet—put the cleanser on a Q-Tip and go right over the lash line to remove mascara.

21. Consult a Licensed Aesthetician

When in doubt, consult a licensed aesthetician.

 

An aesthetician will be your guide to healthy, youthful, glowing skin. They will dedicate their process to your specific skin care needs. Whether you want to reduce puffiness, even out your pigmentation, or combat aging, they have you covered.

 

Keep in mind that it’s important to find the right aesthetician. You can do this by first knowing what result you want to achieve, and then researching specialized aestheticians in your area.

The Bottom Line

Under-eye bags are a nuisance that can be caused by allergies, fluid retention, lack of sleep, and more.

 

Luckily, their appearance can be easily reduced in one of 21 ways.

 

From drinking more water to getting more high-quality sleep to incorporating tea bags or chilled spoons into your beauty ritual, you’ll be one step closer to smooth, de-puffed skin.

Certified Health Coach and Head of Content at NativePath (aka I’m the gal responsible for ensuring that every blog we publish helps you live life a little more #OnThePath).

Sources

  1. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/anti-fatigue-cosmetics-market
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15809605/ 
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bags-under-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20369927 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/ 
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6850077/ 
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8043384/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7284805/ 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6927230/ 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5098396/ 
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4434546/ 
  11. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/bags-under-eyes 
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738045/ 
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8043384/ 
  14. https://parjournal.net/article/view/3863 
  15. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bags-under-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20369927#:~:text=As%20you%20age%2C%20the%20tissue,area%20appear%20puffy%20or%20swollen.
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715121/ 
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4958544/ 
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769024/ 
  19. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/iron/ 
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6462167/ 
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4300604/ 
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5028785/ 
  23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30477852/ 
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129840/ 
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2778074/ 
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447112/ 
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5183790/ 
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699641/ 
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304366/ 
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532287/ 
  31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4976400/ 
  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122507/ 
  33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4496685/
  34. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33040474/

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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