How to Get Rid of Bags Under the Eyes

Many people develop bags under their eyes. While it is not a serious medical condition, it can be bothersome and make some self-conscious. Many people dislike them and feel uncomfortable because they make their faces appear older and more tired. Bags under the eyes have various causes, many of which can be prevented.

Key takeaways:
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    Bags under the eyes are usually not a serious medical condition.
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    If you develop bags under the eyes, see your doctor right away to determine the cause.
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    Bags under the eyes are caused by genetics, age, certain medical problems, and poor lifestyle choices.
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    At-home treatments can help mild cases of bags under the eyes.
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    If at-home treatments are not helping, see a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon for professional options.

There are also several treatment options available to help alleviate them.

What are bags under the eyes?

Bags under the eyes appear of puffiness or swelling of the skin under the eyes. It is mostly a cosmetic concern and rarely affects vision. Patients rarely complain of any symptoms associated with this swelling. Sometimes the issue is compounded if there is also a darkening of the skin in the area.

What causes bags under the eyes?

There are controllable and uncontrollable factors causing bags under the eyes. The uncontrollable factors include genetics, aging, and certain medical conditions. Unfortunately, we cannot control our genetics or stop aging. If having bags under the eyes runs in your family, then you will probably develop them. Aging causes our muscles to weaken around the eyes and fat to herniate, creating puffiness. The skin in the area also sags and gets wrinkled because of decreased collagen production. We simply cannot control certain medical conditions, such as thyroid issues, dermatomyositis, kidney disease, skin infections around the eyes, rashes that develop around the eyes, and allergies. These are also pre-programmed into our genetic code. These conditions cause inflammation and fluid to build up around the eyes giving the area a puffy appearance. The best we can do is seek treatment quickly to lessen the effects and prevent worsening.

The good news is that some causes of bags under the eyes are preventable. These controllable causes include lack of sleep, excess salt intake, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and sun exposure. Additionally, lack of sleep — less than eight hours/night — can interrupt blood flow and tissue repair leading to the build-up of fluid and toxins. This can cause premature aging and, ultimately, bags under the eyes. For example, excess salt intake causes fluid retention, especially under the eyes leading to puffiness. Furthermore, alcohol causes bloating and inflammation, both of which cause puffiness under the eyes. Finally, smoking and sun exposure causes premature aging by breaking down collagen and elastin. This weakens the skin and causes wrinkles. As a result, fat pushes through when the skin is weak to create puffiness under the eyes.

Can you prevent developing bags under the eyes?

There are some preventable causes of bags under the eyes, many related to lifestyle choices. Lifestyle modification may treat or prevent bags from developing. Elevate the head of your bed or sleep on a couple of pillows. This maneuver will stop fluid from collecting and help it drain from around your eyes. Wear sunscreen daily and reapply throughout the day to protect your skin from premature aging from the sun's damaging UV rays. You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to help protect your skin. Since smoking also damages your skin and causes premature aging, you should avoid it. Additionally, limit salt and alcohol intake, which can cause bloating and fluid retention. Furthermore, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night gives your body time to repair itself.

Can you treat bags under the eyes at home?

At-home treatments can help alleviate bags under the eyes, but some are just temporary fixes and may require more permanent professional intervention. For example, cool compresses can help decrease swelling in the area around the eyes — some people have found success using chilled teaspoons. Chilled tea bags will also reduce swelling; plus, using tea bags that contain caffeine will also help constrict blood vessels. These are helpful if you have bags due to lack of sleep or consuming too much salt and alcohol.

If environmental allergies are causing bags under your eyes, a neti pot and antihistamines may help. Neti pots help clean out your sinuses and alleviate congestion. This may help reduce swelling under your eyes. Over-the-counter antihistamines can also help temporarily alleviate allergy attacks to prevent or treat the swelling around the eyes. Discuss these with your doctor before beginning.

It is critical to take care of the skin around your eyes. It is delicate and requires special treatment. Using products with retinol can help rebuild collagen destroyed by premature aging. Creams that contain caffeine will constrict the blood vessels and help decrease swelling in the area. Additionally, vitamin C cream will help brighten the skin in the area, help build collagen, and protect the skin from damage because it is an antioxidant. Ingredients such as licorice, kojic acid, and niacinamide will help brighten the skin, too. Other antioxidant ingredients such as vitamin E, ferulic acid, and niacinamide can also protect the skin. Finally, it's most important to use sunscreen around your eyes to protect them from UV rays.

Professional treatments for bags under the eyes

If at-home treatments are not working or you want longer-lasting results, ask your dermatologist or plastic surgeon for their recommendations. Several professional treatments can help. Prescription-strength creams, such as retinoids, can rebuild collagen. While they will not fix your problem entirely, they are a great adjunct to help your skin.

More invasive treatment options are available, including Botox, chemical peels, fillers, microneedling, and surgery. For example, Botox will help relax the muscles around the eyes, which helps prevent wrinkles. In addition, if your bags are caused by extra skin bunching up under your eyes, this may make the bags under your eyes less apparent. Chemical peels are another option and can help remove layers of skin to help tighten up the skin under the eyes. Tighter skin will prevent fat from herniating through and creating bags under the eyes. While fillers will not remove the bags under the eyes, they can help improve their appearance in some patients. However, this treatment is not for everyone because it could worsen bags in some patients. Additionally, microneedling and lasers can help rebuild the collagen in the area, making the skin tighter and stronger to prevent fat herniation.

Surgery and liposuction are extremely helpful if the bags under the eyes are caused by the fat herniation. Liposuction uses surgical tools to suck the fat out and fix the puffiness around the eyes. Blepharoplasty, a plastic surgery to alter the eyelids, is the most permanent way to get rid of bags under the eyes. During this procedure, the fat and extra skin are surgically removed.

Bags under the eyes are a common problem and mostly a cosmetic concern. If you notice bags forming, see your doctor to find out the cause. Some causes are due to medical issues and are treatable. Do not wait; seek treatment right away to prevent your condition from worsening. If it is not due to a medical problem and at-home treatments have not helped, search for treatment from a qualified board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

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