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The Ultimate Moves To Zap Your Under-Eye Circles 

If those bags look like they carry the weight of the world … read on.

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Laurène Boglio
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You’ve used creams and moisturizers under your eyes like it was your job (same, girl, same). So why do we still have bags under our eyes? The Girlfriend asked dermatologists and other experts, who explained that we’ve basically misunderstood those dark circles our entire lives. Read on to learn why they’re there — and how to get rid of them for good.

Causes of under-eye circles

First, we’re going to start with the why. If you think you’ve got bags because you’re tired, you’re sorta wrong. You may be tired, but that’s not likely the reason why you’re carrying bags, says Emily Rockwell, a nurse practitioner and founder of the Emily Rockwell Skin Clinic in Delaware. “The number 1 culprit is genetics,” Rockwell says. “The other biggie is aging, and lucky for us, we do have some say in how we age.” As we get older, Rockwell says, the tissue around our eyes starts to thin, which allows blood vessels to show more easily, causing the area under your eye to look dark. Other causes are from hyperpigmentation from rubbing your eyes, from normal discoloration of the skin, from vascular congestion (hello, allergies!) or from hollowing and volume loss, says Heidi Prather, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas.

Start with this

To target under-eye circles, you need to counteract hollowing and puffiness in your eye area. One way to do this is to focus on building collagen, Rockwell says. Start by using an eye product containing retinol. Rockwell’s personal favorite is the Zo Skin Health Intense Eye Crème ($130).  It contains retinol and, as a bonus, has optical diffusers to reduce the look of dark circles and puffiness. It’s a two-in-one product that simultaneously treats and camouflages under-eye darkness. For a less-expensive option, you might also try CeraVe Eye Repair Cream starting at about $11.

Look for these ingredients in your eye cream

In addition to retinol, caffeine is another key ingredient, as it stimulates your skin and reduces puffiness, Rockwell says. Prather also looks for products with antioxidants (such as vitamin C) and skin brighteners (such as licorice extract). She recommends Skin Better Science Instant Effect Gel EYE ($100) for puffy eyes, and Revision D.E.J Eye Cream ($109) for improving skin texture. If you truly have brown discoloration under your eyes, Prather says, Instant Bright Eye Cream by SkinMedica ($92) is a great option that incorporates caffeine for puffiness as well as marine extracts and resorcinol for brightening without irritation. 

Add in these

Chemical peels and lasers are great for improving pigment, skin texture and skin laxity, Prather says. “This can address many causes of dark circles,” she says. Some of Prather’s favorite treatments are the TCA peel under the eye, which may be done monthly; or a laser, such as the LaseMD Ultra, a 1927 nm nonablative fractional thulium laser that gently treats the under-eye area.

Prevent future eye circles

Moisturizing is key, says Erum Ilyas, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group and CEO/founder of AmberNoon. “This can be accomplished with something as simple as vitamin E or white petroleum jelly,” Ilyas says. “By hydrating the skin, the turgor around the eyelid improves, reducing the appearance of dark circles.” 

Try some lifestyle changes

Alcohol and salt intake always create water retention, resulting in swelling, Prather says. Sleeping with your head slightly elevated and applying cool compresses can help reduce swelling. “I also love a good eye cream that promotes lymphatic massage and has caffeine to improve circulation and decrease swelling,” Prather says. Keep makeup to a minimum around your eye area by using lightly colored concealers instead of heavy foundation. Finally, apply sunscreen daily to reduce sun exposure damage. 

Aggressive treatments

If you have an ongoing puffiness concern, the best course of treatment will likely be surgical, such as a lower eyelid blepharoplasty. If hollowness is your biggest concern, you may want to seek out filler, Rockwell says. More aggressive treatments include PRP injections (platelet-rich plasma), which incite your body to produce more collagen. 

As always, talk with your doctor or dermatologist before considering treatments.