What do bags under eyes mean?
Bags under the eyes can be a natural sign of ageing and appear as a mild swelling or puffiness. This is due to the weakening of tissue around your eyes and the muscles supporting your eyelids. The weakened skin relaxes and forms a pouch which then fills up with fat and excess fluids, giving the eyes a swollen appearance.
Shadows and the skin pigment beneath the eyes (dark circles) draw extra attention to the eye bags, causing them to stand out more. They usually look worse when you first wake up, as fluid has had a lengthy amount of time to settle in.
In most cases, eye bags are a harmless cosmetic issue, however, if you experience any pain, redness or itching and it does not go away then you should seek advice from your eyecare practitioner or GP.
What are puffy eyes a sign of?
Puffy eyes are most commonly a result of the ageing process which causes us to lose collagen and elasticity. Sagging around the eyes is more prominent than anywhere else on the body because the skin surrounding the eyes is thin and delicate. Puffy eyes should not be mistaken for swollen eyes, as swollen eyes are caused by a response to infection, injury or as an allergic response and may need medical attention.
What causes bags under eyes?
Bags under eyes can also be caused by the following factors:
- Fluid retention
- Chronic medical conditions such as thyroid disease
- Allergies - seasonal allergies and dust can trigger swollen eyes. If you find that you are prone to these allergies, it is recommended that you avoid triggers and take either prescription or over the counter (OTC) allergy medications.
- Stress - this can cause the salt balance in your body to be off, causing your eyes to retain water and resulting in swollen under eyes.
- Lack of sleep
- Eye fatigue
- Genetics - eye bags can be hereditary and run in the family.
- Excess salt consumption - salt causes fluid retention in the tissue around the eyes, causing swelling under the eyes.
- Drinking too much alcohol - alcohol can cause fluid retention in the eyes, resulting in eye bags.
- Conjunctivitis – allergic conjunctivitis can also cause puffy eyes along with redness, itchiness and discharge.
- Poor compliance with contact lens wear
If contact lenses are worn for longer than the recommended time, your eyes can get swollen or puffy. If you wear monthly lenses and don’t take proper care of them, then this can also lead to puffy eyes.
It is not recommended that you sleep in your contact lenses, unless you have been prescribed extended wear contact lenses and follow the wearing schedule recommended by your eye care professional or optician. If swelling becomes severe, painful, red, itchy, or persistent then please visit your eye care professional/optician or GP.
How to get rid of bags under eyes
Before attempting to get rid of bags under eyes, it’s best to determine their underlying cause. Home remedies and changes to your lifestyle can help to reduce or eliminate puffy eyes. However, some turn to therapies, cosmetic treatments and eyelid surgery to get rid of their eye bags.
Medical options for undereye bags
There are a variety of medical options which can improve the look of undereye bags, and in some cases even eliminate them altogether. These procedures can be surgical or non-surgical.
There are various anti-ageing non-surgical treatments that are being promoted to reduce puffy eyes. Laser resurfacing, chemical peels and fillers, all claim to eliminate sagging skin, improving skin tone, and reducing eye bags.
Laser resurfacing is a treatment used to brighten up the under-eye area and reduce the appearance of eye bags. It involves using a laser to remove excess wrinkly skin under the eye and stimulate collagen production for firmer skin.
Tear trough fillers
Tear trough filler can be used to restore volume and even out dark circles under the eyes. This procedure involves injecting filler (usually hyaluronic acid) between the cheek and lower eyelid to create a smooth transition. Results usually last between 6-12 months; however, this varies from person to person.
Chemical peels can be used when under-eye bags develop. The treatment removes the top layers of the skin and once the treatment has healed, the new skin is stronger and thicker, preventing the bags from coming back as easily.
Depending on the cause of your eye bags, eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) is sometimes advocated for eye bag removal or drooping eyelids. This is an outpatient procedure carried out under local anaesthesia with sedation. A surgeon will make an incision - usually inside the lower eyelid or under the eyelashes - to remove excess fat. This procedure is called a lower lid blepharoplasty. However, this type of procedure is more effective for upper lid excess skin.
In the case of lower lid blepharoplasty, unfortunately, the results of scarring afterwards can lead to the eyelids being pulled away, which can increase your risk of dry eyes.
What is the best home remedy for eye bags?
While some people advocate the following, there is a lack of strong evidence for home remedies. Instead, we would suggest prevention by making certain lifestyle changes.
Haemorrhoid cream for puffy eyes
A popular, but questionable home remedy is to use haemorrhoid cream under the eyes. The hydrocortisone in the cream works as an anti-inflammatory to reduce puffy eyes, however, prolonged use of this cream will cause thinner and more delicate skin in the eye area.
There’s also the risk of getting this cream in the eye, which can lead to glaucoma, all for just a temporary reduction in eye bags. We don’t recommend using haemorrhoid cream under the eyes. You should ask your GP or eye care professional before using such creams.
Alternatively, eye creams containing hyaluronic acid with vitamin A are available, which claim to reduce bags under eyes. Retinol or under eye serums with vitamin C also claim to work.
Drinking plenty of water
Staying hydrated throughout the day can reduce bags under eyes by helping your body to flush out toxins that cause swelling.
As an alternative to chilled spoons, you can also use cucumber slices. This refreshing remedy will de-puff the eyes by restricting blood vessels with its caffeic acid. The vitamin C in cucumber also helps to soothe the eye area.
Applying a cool compress to the eyes, can also provide you with a therapeutic treatment for eye bags, reducing eye puffiness.
Try Thera-Pearl Eye Mask
The Thera-Pearl Eye Mask is a compress for the eyes which can be used hot or cold to rejuvenate eyes and reduce puffiness and eye bags. Featuring pearl technology, this spa-like treatment can remain hot or cold for long periods of time and can also be used to relieve headaches, migraines and sinuses or dry eyes and styes when used hot.
Caffeinated tea bags can reduce swelling and dark circles due to its caffeine properties which carry antioxidants. These improve the blood circulation around the eyes.
After boiling two teabags, allow them to cool down or put them in the fridge before placing them over each eye to rest.
Getting enough sleep (8 hours daily on average) is the most natural way of reducing bags under the eyes. Propping your head up on extra pillows can also aid the process of reducing puffy eyes.
Keeping allergy symptoms under control
Allergies can irritate the eyes and cause fluid to build up under the eyes resulting in puffiness. Therefore, keeping allergy symptoms under control and taking antihistamines can help to reduce allergy induced bags under eyes. Antihistamine eye drops can also help to decrease puffiness under the eyes caused by allergens.
Cosmetics such as concealer won’t get rid of eyebags; however, they can help to hide the appearance of dark circles under the eyes.
Avoiding fluids before bedtime and salt throughout the day
Puffiness under the eyes can be caused by fluid retention which is why avoiding fluids before bed can help to reduce eye bags.
Consuming too much salt can also cause this; therefore, it’s best to cut down of foods containing a high level of salt.
Considering various lifestyle factors can help prevent you from getting dark circles and eye bags in the first place. Here are some factors worth addressing:
- Reducing stress and getting enough rest - stress and lack of sleep are two common factors that go hand in hand to increase dark circles and eye bags. Healthy lifestyle habits will help to prevent discoloration and puffy eyes.
- Wearing sunglasses - excess sun exposure can cause collagen to break down quicker than it does during the normal ageing process, so protecting your eyes from the sun with UV protection sunglasses can help to prevent eye bags.
- Stop smoking and drinking alcohol - cigarettes and alcohol are known to cause puffy eyes and can accelerate the ageing process, thus increasing your chances of bags under your eyes.