Whether you’re dealing with stress, all-nighters for school or work, or you’re just a night owl, the constant “no sleep” situation is so real. You’ve probably googled “how to get rid of undereye bags and dark circles” on more than one occasion, and you’d do almost anything to get rid of them. And even after you’ve tried a million expensive treatments, they usually come back.
The truth is, your eye puffiness and darkness could be inherited. “The undereye area is one of the thinner areas and is easily neglected in basic skin care,” says Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. “There is a strong genetic component to dark circles, which is out of people’s control.” Womp, womp. Yes, much of the reason you have those circles is that of your parents’ own thin skin (thanks, Mom).
You might also have dark circles because of an increase in pigment in that area. But don’t run to the doctor asking for a pricey laser or needle treatment. Below are ways to minimize the appearance of those circles that won’t cost you an arm or a leg. These affordable tips go way beyond putting cucumbers on your eyes.
If you have dark circles from thin skin, use a retinoid.
“With repeated use, retinol can stimulate the production of collagen, making the skin less thin and improving the dark circles. They are easy to find at the drugstore,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Retinoids help rebuild dermal collagen and thereby contribute to vascular support in the area and the recovery of skin volume and firmness,” adds Patricia Ceballos, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Rochelle, New York.
Sleep on your back and use an extra pillow.
“If dark, puffy bags seem to be the morning problem, consider sleeping on your back with an extra pillow so that fluid doesn’t pool overnight. Keeping your pillow protected from allergens (dust and dust mites) with a protective encasement can also help when allergies are the culprit,” says Rebecca Tung, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Florida. As for pillow covers, it doesn’t get more luxurious than Slip’s soft, cooling silk pillowcases.
If you have dark circles because of increased pigment, use brightening products and sunscreen.
“Sometimes dark circles are caused by increased pigment, either from rubbing or from sun damage,” says Dr. Nazarian. “The best treatment for this includes topical lightening agents such as vitamin C, kojic acid, and licorice extract. These ingredients help decrease skin pigmentation over time, ultimately resulting in the lightening of the dark circles.” And you must wear sunscreen. “Invest in a broad-spectrum physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,” Dr. Tung says.
Take an antihistamine.
“Most people have darkness under the eyes due to allergies and don’t realize it. An antihistamine helps clear that up; I like to take a Zyrtec at night,” says Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in West Islip, New York.
Be gentle with your makeup remover.
“Consider your under-eyes as sensitive skin even if you may not necessarily have sensitive skin. Undereye skin is among the thinnest on the body, so any trauma or irritation can cause skin inflammation,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “If you are using a towelette, try one that is fragrance-free, like the Neutrogena Fragrance-Free Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, and take gentle strokes in a single direction rather than rubbing back and forth.”
And if you’d rather ditch single-use products, we suggest grabbing a cleansing oil to gently wash away makeup without excessive rubbing or pulling.
Sleep more, or at least get more restful sleep.
“The cheapest way to reduce the appearance of undereye bags is to get on a regular sleep routine of seven to eight hours per day. And don’t drink alcohol a few hours before bedtime,” advises Dr. Chiu.
Try tea bags.
“Caffeinated tea, which contains natural tannins, is a mild diuretic and has long been used by grandmothers and runway models for reducing eye puffiness,” says Karen Hammerman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist on Long Island, New York. “Soak two tea bags in warm water and chill the bags for a few minutes in the refrigerator — then, place one tea bag on each eye for five minutes, and your eyes will feel fresh and look brighter.”
When all else fails, you’ve still got makeup.
While you’re working on improving your under-eye bags and dark circles, you’ve got concealer, foundation, and even primer to fall back on in the fight against under-eye darkness and puffiness. Shop some of our favorite concealers for covering up dark circles.
The best products for undereye bags and dark circles
According to James Y. Wang, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles, the SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex is a must for tired-looking undereyes for its hydrating feel and exfoliative effects derived from blueberry extract. This ingredient is also rich in antioxidants, which fight skin-damaging free radicals, boost moisture, and induce collagen production.