How to Get Rid of Eye Bags, According to a Dermatologist

Banish those bags for good, thanks to these expert-approved tips.

Bags under the eyes, which can include puffiness and discoloration, are a common skin problem. To better understand eye bags, we tapped Sarah Sawyer, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dermatology & Laser of Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama. Sawyer is here to help us demystify this tricky ailment by explaining what causes bags under the eyes—plus, how to get rid of bags under the eyes once and for all.

But First, What Causes Eye Bags?

Sawyer explained that bags under our eyes are increasingly common as we age, and skin begins to sag as collagen and elastin production slows. "Under-eye bags are often formed as the weakened and sagging skin relaxes and creates a pouch under our eyes. They may also be caused by a combination of genetics, lack of sleep, stress, poor diet, seasonal allergies or fatigue," said Sawyer.

a split frame portrait, one side the woman has eye bags and the other she doesn't
Adobe Stock / ladyalex

How to Get Rid of Eye Bags

In-Office Treatments for Under-Eye Bags

Sawyer's go-to treatments fall into the category of noninvasive skin-tightening measures, like microneedling with radiofrequency, Pellevé and Exilis Ultra. She said, "As the largest laser center in the Southeast, we offer several laser-resurfacing options such as our fractional CO2 laser to reveal a new, smoother skin layer. For severe cases, lower eyelid blepharoplasty surgery may be necessary." However, Sawyer cautioned that under-eye fillers, sometimes called "tear trough" fillers, are not an effective treatment for under-eye bags, as they work by adding volume. If under-eye hollows are the issue, this "tear trough" filler can work very well.

Over-the-Counter Products That Can Help Eye Bags and Dark Circles

Another issue with under-eye bags is discoloration, or when dark circles persist under the eyes. To learn more about this particular topic, we spoke to John Shaff, PA-C, DFAAPA, a physician assistant at Stockton Dermatology in Phoenix, Arizona. Shaff shared that common causes for dark circles under the eyes include lack of sleep, genetics and allergies (also known as allergic shiners). Additionally, "There are some medical conditions like anemia that cause dark circles, [so] it is always a good idea to see your PCP or dermatologist to be evaluated," he added.

Another factor when considering dark under-eye circles is age. Shaff explained that a breakdown in collagen can cause fat to shift to the lower eyelids, resulting in dark shadows and puffiness. Thankfully, over-the-counter products can help with dark circles and under-eye bags. For example, hyaluronic acid hydrates and plumps the skin, dimethicone locks in moisture and smooths skin, and caffeine constricts blood vessels and can help with inflammation and under-eye bags. Vitamin C serums can help lighten and brighten skin while providing antioxidants. Please note, your dermatologist can provide specific products for your skin type, as this is just a small sample of some helpful options.

Shaff also mentioned that, depending on the patient, over-the-counter options may not be enough, adding "I think that it takes a combination of OTC [treatments], natural remedies and medical care to get optimal results, but [it's] still not permanent. This usually requires continued home care, physician follow-up and lifestyle modifications." In terms of other options, from a medical standpoint, using chemical peels, lasers and fillers, specific lightening creams, kojic acid or azelaic acid may need to be added to address dark circles under the eyes.

Overall, it's clear that the common ailments of under-eye bags and under-eye dark circles affect countless patients across the globe and can't be solved with a "one-size-fits-all" solution. Be sure to consult with a medical professional before beginning any medical treatment.

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