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dermatologist

Whether the cause is a few long days or too many restless nights, dark circles and puffy eyes can leave you looking and feeling like you’re in a slump. Splashing cold water on your face or grabbing concealer is not the answer. There are much more effective ways to unpack those undereye bags and prevent eye puffiness.

So what causes those annoying dark circles? It’s not solely (or even mostly) hard living staples like caffeine, tobacco, or a lack of sleep. Fat loss under the eye, broken blood vessels, and increased melanin -- or hyperpigmentation -- are the main culprits.

6 Solutions for Undereye Circles and Bags

Brighten your eyes with these tried and true expert remedies.

  • Get enough sleep. Sound sleeping is an inexpensive, easy way to help minimize dark undereye circles, no matter what the cause. Sleep not only helps keep eyes bright. It also aids your body in repairing cell damage to your skin.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Though they may perk you up in the short term, caffeine and alcohol don't do the same for your skin. They can cause mild dehydration, making dark circles more obvious.
  • Consider skin lighteners or bleaching agents. If the dark circles under your eyes are due to too much melanin, dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, says creams containing lightening agents such as retinol, hydroquinone, kojic acid, green tea, vitamin C, or soy can be helpful. To help skin-lightening products work their best, avoid the sun and use sunscreen daily. Badreshia-Bansal suggests a sunscreen with zinc and a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30.
  • Check out injectable fillers. A dermatologist may administer these if your dark eye circles are due to broken blood vessels, Badreshia-Bansal says. Fillers can also help if fat loss is the cause of bags under the eyes.
  • Look into laser treatments and vitamin K. Laser treatments may reduce the look of dark circles due to broken blood vessels. Skin care products containing vitamin K can also help.
  • Go a shade lighter in your concealer. A concealer one shade lighter than your skin tone can help disguise undereye circles. A concealer with an SPF of 15 or higher provides double benefits. If your skin tends to be oily or acne-prone, use an oil-free concealer.

Eye Puffiness Prevention

Lots of things can lead to puffy eyes -- from too much or too little sleep to eating poorly and getting older. The pros offer these suggestions to help reduce eye puffiness:

  • Sleep. It's as important to preventing puffy eyes as it is to diminishing dark circles. Start by getting 7 to 9 hours of good sleep a night.
  • Drink. Staying well-hydrated can help prevent puffy eyes. Chicago dermatologist Carolyn Jacob, MD, says drinking plenty of healthy liquids, especially water, helps keep overall skin tone firm and full looking.
  • Cut back on salt. Retaining body fluid can cause puffy, doughy looking skin. Reducing salt intake helps reduce the tendency to retain excess water. An easy way to cut back on salt? Reduce the processed foods in your diet.
  • Use cool compresses. Florida dermatologist Andrea Cambio, MD, advocates the de-puffing power of chilled, moist green tea bags. Elizabeth L. Tanzi, MD, a Washington, DC, dermatologist, suggests gently placing cool cucumber slices or a bag of frozen peas or carrots on the eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. A gel eye mask will also do the trick.
  • Consider fillers. These can help if collagen and elastin break down -- "causing surrounding skin to pooch out," dermatologist Fredric Brandt, MD, writes in his book 10 Minutes, 10 Years. Fillers can actually make puffiness look smaller.
  • Learn to accept the look of your eyes. Some people are just more prone to puffy eyes or dark eye circles, Brandt says. As we grow older, skin naturally weakens and becomes less resilient, so puffy eyes or dark circles naturally become more noticeable.

These tips may help you keep your eyes looking their best. But the most effective eye-brightening tip may also be the easiest one to implement: Smile.