Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


What Causes Under-Eye Bags?

(And How To Banish Them)

The other day I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I was passing by…and woah. The bags stopped me in my tracks. And I’m not talking Coach here.

I know I’m not alone in this. We’ve all been there, right? So...what causes under-eye bags? And, more importantly, how do we get rid of them?

The tissues around the eyes are tissue-thin and fragile, and sadly, get thinner as you age. Anything that increases fluid around the eyes will cause puffiness. Also, when you retain fluid, in general, the evidence often shows up under your eyes first.

Your first step is to identify the reasons for your bag-lady appearance. Because if you can identify the cause, you can start to work on treatment.

Here are the common culprits for under-eye puffiness, and what to do:


The eyes have mucus membrane that becomes inflamed with allergies like hay fever or dust allergies. All that inflammation (and irritation created by rubbing and scratching) causes—you guessed it—fluid accumulation. If you think you have allergies, get tested, and then start treatment, like antihistamines and eye drops.

Sinus infection

Again, it’s all about the local inflammation. A sinus infection is typically one-sided, and comes with a fever and head or facial pressure. Sinus infections can be successfully treated, but you may need some testing or imaging first.

Inadequate sleep

This is a biggie, especially for moms. Not getting enough sleep is hard on many body systems, it just shows up most obviously underneath our eyes. If you have an infant, this one is going to be tough to solve...only time will help with that. If insomnia is a problem for you for other reasons, read this. So what can you do the morning after a rough night of crummy sleep? Try these home remedies: cucumber slices, cooled tea bags, a gel eye mask, cold spoons. And a nap.

Too many cocktails

Heavy alcohol intake causes dehydration, as I’m sure you know. Dehydrated tissues are weak and flabby tissues, including the skin under the eyes. For some people, that means paradoxical under-eye puffiness. Plus, you probably didn’t have your best night’s sleep after a night of boozing. If you did overindulge, just make sure you rehydrate as much as you can before going to bed.

Side or stomach sleeping

Here, it’s a matter of gravity. After several hours sleeping face-down (or, half-face down if you’re a side-sleeper) fluid will pool in the easiest place. Which just so happens to be the loosely-connected, thin-fleshed area under your eyes. Try changing your sleeping position. Not easy, but the reward of a brighter-looking you in the mirror each morning might provide some motivation.

Salty food

It’s all about osmosis—remember that, from high school science? Water will move from an area of low salt concentration to an area of high salt concentration, in effort to create balance. If your tissues are all salty from too much soy sauce with your spicy tuna rolls, your body will try to balance that. To prevent that, cut back on dietary sodium, or make sure to counteract with plenty of clear fluids, like water.

Going to bed without removing makeup

I have to confess, I am guilty of this one from time to time. And it’s a bad, bad habit. Makeup and other grimy particles cause irritation when they sit there all night. Irritation leads to inflammation, and voila...not your best look in the morning.

Next up, that miserable bedfellow of under-eye bags: dark circles.

Now, your turn: what remedies for under-eye bags do you swear by?