Nine causes of under-eye bags (and how to get rid of them)

A woman checks her under-eye bags in the mirror.

After a late night or a good cry, anyone can experience bags under their eyes. But for some of us, the bags last long after the tears have dried.

For some people, the bags appear puffy and swollen. For others, they are simply rolls of excess skin beneath the eyes.

Typically, under-eye bags are nothing to be concerned about, but they can make you feel self-conscious about your appearance. They can also be signs of some unhealthy habits that you should consider changing. See your doctor if you have swelling that’s severe, painful, itchy or won’t go away.1

Causes of bags under the eyes

If you have ever wondered what causes those unattractive bulges, you are not alone. Let’s review some of the common causes of under-eye bags, according to the Mayo Clinic and WebMD.

Sleep issues

When you sleep, fluids settle in the tissue beneath your eyes. Getting too little sleep can cause your blood vessels to leak and mix with those fluids, leading to dark circles.

Allergies/sinus problems

In addition to stuffing up your nose, allergies cause swelling in sinus tissue, which can appear as puffiness under your eyes.

Tobacco use

The nicotine in tobacco disrupts your natural sleep patterns, which can cause fluids to collect beneath your eyes. Smoking also produces substances that break down the elasticity of the skin and the collagen that helps keep skin firm.

Alcohol use

Although alcohol is a liquid, it dehydrates the body. When you are dehydrated, the skin under your eyes becomes flabby and weak, causing bags to form.

Aging

As you age, muscles and tissues weaken, and the fat that naturally supports the eyes can sink to the area beneath your eyes, making them appear swollen. Fluids can also collect in the area.

Eating salty foods

Your body retains fluid when you eat salty foods. One of the places these fluids collect is beneath your eyes.

Not removing makeup

If you don’t remove makeup before going to sleep, it can irritate the tissue beneath your eyes, causing it to swell.

Too much sun

Sun exposure can damage skin cells and the collagen that keeps the skin beneath your eyes firm.

Heredity

Some people are simply prone to having under-eye bags because it runs in the family. If your mom or dad had them, chances are you will too.

Ways to improve the look of bags under your eyes

While it’s not always possible to eliminate under-eye bags, the Mayo Clinic1 and WebMD2 have some suggestions:

  • Sleep well—Get the proper amount of sleep for your age. Your entire body may feel better as a result. Adding an extra pillow may help fluid drain away from your eyes.
  • Address allergies/sinus problems—Getting proper medical treatment for your allergies will go a long way toward reducing swelling in your sinuses and beneath your eyes. Plus, it will likely help lessen other symptoms like headache, sneezing and runny nose.
  • Stop smoking—It’s simple, but not easy: quit smoking.
  • Drink less alcohol—Reduce the look of under-eye bags by reducing the amount of alcohol you consume. Even better, drink water instead, which can help smooth the skin beneath your eyes.
  • Improve your diet—Try to lower your salt intake. It may help reduce the puffiness under your eyes, and it’s better for your heart.
  • Wash your face before bed—Remove any makeup and gently wash your face with the appropriate soap for your skin. Consider eye creams for overnight use.
  • Reduce sun exposure—Use sunscreen as directed. Use the right amount, as often as suggested, and limit the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight. You can also wear sunglasses and a hat to help protect the skin beneath your eyes.

Maintaining healthy habits like drinking water, quitting tobacco, reducing alcohol use, taking care of your skin and avoiding unnecessary exposure to the sun can make a noticeable difference in the appearance of under-eye bags.