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What Causes Under-Eye Circles, Bags and Puffiness?

Under-eye circles, bags and puffiness

Under-eye circles, bags and puffiness - we all dislike them when they are on our face. Even if you have healthy skin that's in fantastic shape, you can have under-eye problems like dark circles, bags and puffiness.

Under-eye problems can be genetic, or they can be a sign that you're tired, 'under the weather' or are retaining fluid.  Some causes of under-eye circles can be treated or reversed and others can’t.

Help for under-eye circles, bags and puffiness

Find out what you can do to improve your under-eye problems - there are some great tricks to help that don't require surgery. Plus, learn how to conceal under eye problems that can’t be fixed so that they're less noticeable.

Dark under-eye circles can be caused by congestion of your blood vessels, excess pigment and shadowing.

Here's what you can do about them:

What causes congestion of the circulation under your eyes?

Congestion of your under-eye circulation can be genetic or can occur because of:

  1. a lack of sleep
  2. illness
  3. being just generally 'run-down'.

Your under-eye circles are a great barometer of your body’s vitality. Take good care of yourself and watch the circles fade.

What are the lifestyle fixes for under eye problems caused by congestion?

  1. Eat well
  2. Exercise (to increase circulation)
  3. Get adequate rest
  4. Maintain a healthy balance in your life so that you're not easily 'run down'.

Skin care treatments that help improve under eye vascular congestion:

  1. under eye circles, bags and puffiness cream treatmentSkin care products can actually have a big impact on the delicate and permeable under eye area. Advanced Corrective Eye Repair Cream has ingredients to improve the circulatory issues that contribute to dark circles including arnica, vitamin K and peptides.

  2. Cool compresses (remember cool cucumber slices!) can help reduce swelling

  3. Cutting down on salt and MSG (monosodium glutamate, which is a salt-like food flavoring) will also help you reduce fluid build-up (edema) that can contribute to under eye bag swelling.

Why does the skin under your eyes become hyperpigmented and dark?

Hyperpigmentation happens when excessive skin pigment is present in the skin.  It can happen under your eyes where it causes a brown discoloration of the under-eye area.  Like blood vessel congestion, hyperpigmentation of the under-eye skin is often genetic.

Use broad spectrum sunscreen and mineral makeup to help fix under-eye circles due to excessive pigment:

  1. best sunscreen for under-eye skinUse a broad spectrum UVA/UVB mineral sunscreen every day.  In my opinion, products with 5% or more zinc oxide give the most complete protection and that's what I recommend.  My favorite under eye sunscreen product is hands down Sheer Strength Pure Physical Tinted Matte SPF 30+ Sunscreen. I wear it every day and my entire facial skin and under-eye area loves it. It also helps to prevent my makeup from smearing.  It provides amazing protection and has iron oxide tinting technology to also block visible light waves. These can contribute to skin pigment problems. The tinting blends into all skin tones and helps to hide dark circles.  It is a pure mineral product which does not contain any organic (aka chemical) sunscreen ingredients so it's also gentle to the eyes.  Citrix Sunscreen  is also great for use around the eye area when you need water resistant protection. Sheer Strength Pure Physical Water Resistant Spray SPF 50+ Sunscreen is untinted and also an excellent choice to protect under eye skin.
  2. Mineral makeup applied on top of your sunscreen will give you added sun protection because the mineral pigments actually deflect UV tanning rays.
best mineral makeup for under-eye circles

    Skin care treatments to help lighten under eye circles from hyperpigmentation:

    1. best product to lighten under-eye dark circlesUsing skin lighteners such as hydroquinone can help. My Pigment Fading Pads contain hydroquinone and botanical skin lighteners that help to reduce under-eye hyperpigmentation. Also creams with retinoids (such as prescription Retin A or non-prescription retinol as in my Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream) will also decrease skin pigment. These skin lighteners have the potential to be harsh and must be used with care under the eyes. My favorite eye cream, Advanced Corrective Eye Repair Cream has just the right amount of retinol for this delicate area and can help lighten under eye pigment. I use the Advanced Eye Cream during the day and Retinol at night. best professional retinol night cream for under-eye circles and wrinkles
    2. I’ve also seen some people get great results with light treatments (Intense Pulsed Light) which can lighten skin pigment.

    How does shadowing make under-eye circles worse?

    Shadowing happens when facial surface contours cast a shadow, accentuating the under-eye area.  Like hyperpigmentation and vascular congestion, this can be genetic; some people have more prominent eye bones, or their eye area is more recessed into the eye socket than other people's.  We also loose skin substance volume as we age, and this can cause more shadowing.

    What cosmetic procedures help fix under eye shadowing problems?

    If under eye shadowing is causing a big part of your under-eye problems there are cosmetic surgical procedures that can change the contour.  The easiest is injection of a filler under the skin in the under-eye groove to lift the skin and decrease the shadow.  There are more complex plastic surgery procedures for under eye shadowing too.

    What are the best skin care treatments to reduce the appearance of under eye shadows?

    1. Use eye creams such as Advanced Eye Repair Cream to ease congestion, lighten hyperpigmentation and brighten the skin and help light reflect off skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, crinkles and shadows.
    2. Apply concealers and makeup that diffuse light such as mineral makeup on top of your eye cream and tinted sunscreen. Use products that are a shade or two lighter than your general skin tone to lessen the color difference.


    Vrcek I, Ozgur O, Nakra T. Infraorbital Dark Circles: A Review of the Pathogenesis, Evaluation and Treatment. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2016;9(2):65–72. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.184046

    Nakra T. Biplanar contour-oriented approach to lower eyelid and midface rejuvenation. JAMA Facial Plast Surg. 2015;17:374–81.

    DeJohn A. Light Diffusing Technology To Mask Visible Signs Of Skin Aging. 2012. Jun 13, 

    Photo: Thanks and gratitude to Nordique for this very cute photo!