What Causes Under Eye Circles, Bags and Puffiness?

Cynthia Bailey, MD|April 25, 2011

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. 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 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:

Congestion of your blood vessel 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. The lifestyle fix for under eye problems:

  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 you can do to help improve under eye vascular congestion:

  1. Skin care products can actually have a big impact on the delicate and permeable under eye area. Replenix Eye Repair Cream (my absolute favorite under eye product bar none!) has ingredients to improve the circulatory issues that contribute to dark circles including arnica, vitamin K and peptides. buy Replenix eye repair cream online
  2. Cool compresses (remember cool cucumber slices!) can help reduce swelling

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. Hyperpigmentation is excessive skin pigment.  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. The sun protection fix for under eye circles due to excessive pigment of the under eye skin:

  1. Use a broad spectrum UVA/UVB mineral sunscreen everyday.  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 Suntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream with very natural skin tinting and 20% zinc oxide, or Glycolix Elite Sunscreen with a 17% micro zinc oxide for amazing protection.  Both off these do not contain any organic (aka chemical) sunscreen ingredients it's also gentle to the eyes.  Citrix Sunscreen and Solbar Zinc Sunscreens are also great for use around the eye area.
  2. Makeup applied on top of your sunscreen will give you added sun protection because the mineral pigments actually deflect UV tanning rays too.

Skin care treatments that you can do to help lighten under eye circles from hyperpigmentation:

  1. Using skin lighteners such as hydroquinone cream, Retin A, AHA’s or retinol can help decrease pigment too. These skin lighteners have the potential to be harsh and must be used with care under the eyes. My favorite eye cream, Replenix Eye Repair Cream has just the right amount of retinol for this delicate area and can help lighten under eye pigment.
  2. I’ve also seen some people get great results with light treatments (Intense Pulsed Light) which can lighten skin pigment.

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. The cosmetic procedure fix for 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. Skin care treatments you can do to lessen the appearance of under eye shadows:

  1. Use eye creams (like Replenix Eye Repair Cream) that contain ingredients which layer on the skin in a way that fills in wrinkles and crinkles to brighten the appearance of the skin so that it throws more light.  This will help reduce the appearance of shadows.
  2. Apply concealers and makeup on top of your eye cream and sunscreen that are a shade or two lighter than your general skin tone to lessen the color difference.

Want more makeup and concealer tricks for under eye problems? Doctor and beauty blogger extraordinaire Christine has the most comprehensive post on concealer tricks at 15 Minute Beauty Fanatic! Her post is complete with an explanation of how to use opposing colors from the color wheel to neutralize color irregularities under the eye.  Hop on over for Makeup Lesson 101: Under Eye Concealers.   She is also reviewing a new concealer product each week.  Check back with her until you find the concealer product that's right for you. Want to tackle your under eye problems with skin care?  My favorite product for tough under eye problems: Replenix Eye Repair Cream Glycolix Elite Sunscreen Photo: Thanks and gratitude to Nordique for this very cute photo!

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