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What Are the Main Causes of Under-Eye Bags?

By: Dan Ketchum , Reviewed By: Dr. Emmy Graber

woman with fingers near her eyes

Your face tells a story. Whether it's a touch of color that says "I've been at the beach all day," or under-eye bags that reflect late nights and high stress. While under-eye puffiness is largely hereditary, you can help deflate their appearance with healthful lifestyle changes and some simple additions to your skin care routine.

Core Issues


With time and age, the ligaments underneath your eyes begin to weaken. This causes fatty tissue behind the ligaments to fall forward, giving the area under your eyes a sagging, baggy or bulging appearance. While heredity certainly plays a role here, sleep and stress are also core contributors. Because your circulatory system works more slowly during sleep, excess fluid collects beneath the eyes. With less sleep, or more stress, the body doesn't flush out this extra fluid as efficiently as it normally does, leading to puffy eyes.

Lifestyle Causes


In addition to the big issues of sleep and stress, factors such as hormonal imbalances and irritating food or dust allergies can lead to puffy under-eye bags, as can smoking cigarettes or excessive caffeine intake. Health problems including sinus infections, kidney and thyroid issues, and iron deficiency may also cause bags under the eyes. Consult your doctor if these issues apply to you. When the root cause is treated, your eyes should return to normal.

Unexpected Culprits


Skipping shuteye isn't the only eye-bag offender. Staring at a computer all day and backlit mobile screen by night could be straining your eyes significantly. All this eye strain can lead to squinting and therefore under-eye wrinkling and puffiness. Creating better nighttime rituals should also include proper makeup removal. While waking up with perfect eyeliner sounds appealing, removing your eye-makeup is just as important as cleansing your face before bed. Hitting the hay with mascara and the like can make your eyes water and lead to morning-after puffiness. Sleeping in eye makeup repeatedly can also clog the tiny hair follicles and oil glands on your eyelids—resulting in bacteria buildup and inflammation.

Keys to Prevention


To encourage healthy circulation and reduce bag-causing fluid buildup, aim for eight hours of sleep each night. Sleeping with your head elevated helps the cause, as well. Avoid puffiness-inducing food and drinks such as alcohol and salt. Tasty as they may be, these foods encourage fluid retention, which in turn encourages under-eye bags. Similarly, cut back on the vices of smoking and rubbing your eyes if you want a smoother under-eye area.

Here's how to treat dark under-eye circles based on what's causing them.

This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.

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