Illustration Carmen Casado

Can you really reduce the bags under your eyes?

A few simple habits can help to keep them under control


Many a song talks about our eyes and how people see them. One Cuban song, for example, compares eyes opening to dawn breaking and eyes closing to nightfall. So is theway others see our eyes really that important?

Well, according to poetry it is and, at the other extreme, artificial intelligence, which is now applied to almost everything, tells us that it is, too: its algorithms reveal that the eyes, their proportions and relation to the rest of the face, are key to determining how attractive someone is. That’s why any small defect that affects the appearance of the eyes is seen as a bad thing.

“And now, with masks, as we only see people’s eyes, even more so. Also, during the months people have been working from home they have seen themselves in the foreground on the screen, and that is never very flattering. It has made them focus on things we don’t like about their eyes. So right now demand for cosmetic eye treatments and operations is booming,” said José Manuel Béjar, who is a plastic surgeon at the San Juan de Dios hospital.

We are all horrified when we see the dark circles that tiredness causes under our eyes, but what can we do about it?

“It’s not the same thing to have bags under your eyes because you’re going through a period of stress or not sleeping as it is through genetic causes or simply age. The former are easier to treat, but the others are complicated,” said Dr María Agustina Segurado, a cosmetics advisor to brands such as Nivea.

However, there are some things that can be done (and, especially, not done) to keep them under control. Avoid unprotected exposure to the sun and treat eye infections and atopic dermatitis quickly: this will help to minimise aesthetic problems around the eyes, an area comprising 22 muscles in constant movement (blinking, gestures, focusing the vision) which is easily distended. It is very delicate and is protected by a very thin layer of skin, low in sebaceous glands, collagen and elastin. Therefore it needs to be treated with great care. Habits that exacerbate the problem, such as some of those detailed here, should be avoided.

SOS quick solutions

  • The fastest way: Wipe an ice cube over your face, especially the area under the eyes.

  • 'Flash' capsules or patches: These will help because they fill and smooth the area. “Only for a few hours, though,” said Dr Béjar.

  • Raid the fridge: Keep cucumber, green tea bags or cool teaspoons in the fridge and apply them over the eyes for 15 to 20 minutes. Cold is great for reducing dark circles, because it activates the circulation and reduces swelling. You can keep the cream for around your eyes in the fridge, too.

  • Massage to decongest: It only takes a minute. When you get up, apply cream around the eyes and press gently from the end of the eyebrow to the tear duct. Then, in the opposite direction. Activate circulation by drumming the area with your fingers, stretch your fingers over the eyebrows. Below, just a few gentle taps will be enough.

1. Sleeping badly

Good news: in most people, bags under the eyes are related to a lack of sleep or excessive tiredness and they improve considerably when that cause is removed. When you find yourself in this situation, the blood vessels dilate and swell. Who hasn’t had a short or bad night at some time and woken up looking like Nosferatu the vampire? Or it could also be because you are sleeping in an unsuitable position, putting pressure on the face and stopping the blood reaching it correctly. Beauty experts advise sleeping between seven and nine hours a night and, if possible, face upwards. It also helps to have the head slightly raised.

2. Cigarettes and booze

Oh, those intense nights out that leave you with a pair of cosmic dark circles under the eyes to remember them by! Alcohol and tobacco contribute to dehydration of the skin and the loss of collagen, making the vascular network more visible. They also reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood, so dark circles beneath the eyes are more visible and can be seen through the skin.

3. Question of vitamins

If you have inexplicably noticeable bags under the eyes, you should check your diet because the area around the eyes can be very revealing of certain deficiencies. The lack of vitamin C, iron or zinc can result in pronounced dark circles beneath them. “It’s also necessary to have a good level of vitamin K, which is an essential nutrient for blood coagulation and is found naturally in green vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, spinach and broccoli,” said Dr Segurado.

4. Good hydration, but not before sleeping

For the blood to circulate correctly and the body to function propertly, it is important to stay hydrated. If there is a problem with circulation, this will be reflected by the blood vessels, in other words, by the formation of bags under the eyes, which are nothing more than hyperpigmentation (they can be covered up by makeup ). That’s why good hydration is important: don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water, and drink at least two litres of water or infusions a day. However, don’t drink a lot before going to bed, because it accumulates and you will wake up with bigger bags under the eyes than ever.