Given the plethora of skin-care products promising to deflate under-eye bags, it’s safe to say that plenty of people experience puffiness under their peepers. Despite the culturally-created notion that the skin under our eyes is to be nothing but bright and taut, there are plenty of natural reasons why that’s not always the case. For starters, our skin loses elasticity as we age, which can lead to some sagging of the very fragile skin under our eyes, explains naturopath Kiera Lane, N.M.D., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., director of Arizona Natural Medicine. “In women especially, low estrogen, which is associated with aging, can reduce the elasticity of underlying tissue and cause sagging of the skin,” she explains. “Reduced circulation can also cause pooling of fluids in those tissues—and baggy eyes are born.”
Aging aside, there are cases in which puffy under-eyes reflect that something’s not quite right. If the skin under your eyes suddenly seems puffier than usual, one of the following health or lifestyle issues might be to blame.
1. Your diet is loaded with salt
If you’ve been eating a lot of salty (a.k.a. high-sodium) foods—think deli meats, canned soups and vegetables, cottage cheese, processed snacks, and premade meals—puffy under-eyes may be a side effect. You see, increased salt consumption causes your body to retain excess water, some of which may show up underneath your eyes, explains Lane. Reduce your salt intake by opting for low-sodium products and whole foods as much as possible. Stick to less than 2,300 milligrams total each day, as recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA).
2. You Have eczema
Those who have eczema near their eyes may be more likely to rub or scratch their under eyes, according to New York City-based dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. “This can contribute to increased inflammation and puffiness that can be seen in the under-eye,” she says.
Read More: 5 Possible Reasons Why Your Skin Is So Dry
For this reason, if you have eczema, managing your underlying condition is your first step to managing baggy eyes. “This may involve oral medications like antihistamines, topical creams including moisturizers and topical steroids,” she notes. Talk to a dermatologist about your symptoms, what might be causing the inflammation to crop up on your skin, and how you can soothe it.
In some cases, even having super dry skin can make you rub your delicate eye area more and contribute to puffiness, Garshick says. In this case, make sure you’re following these tips for nourishing dry skin.
3. You skimp on sunscreen
Skin health and beauty experts are probably tired of telling you to wear sunscreen, but keeping the skin under your eyes strong is just another reason to step up your SPF game. The reason: Wearing sunscreen helps protect your skin, including the skin around your eyes, from UV damage. “If we don’t wear sunscreen around our eyes, we leave the skin susceptible to UV damage, which can contribute to the weakening of the skin and loss of collagen, which can then contribute to baggy eyes,” Garshick explains. She recommends wearing an SPF of at least 30 and applying it daily, regardless of whether it’s sunny out, rainy, or the middle of winter.
4. You need more sleep
You’ve probably heard that seven to nine hours per night seems to be the sweet spot for sleep. Getting enough shut-eye is important for about a million reasons, and falling short contributes to just as many issues, including increased risk for high blood pressure, obesity, and even depression. Missing out on sleep can also leave you looking less than your best, thanks to (you guessed it!) puffiness under your eyes. This likely occurs because of reduced blood circulation and the stagnation of fluids under the eyes, explains Lane.
In addition to aiming for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, try keeping your head elevated overnight, which can help prevent the pooling of lymphatic fluid that can contribute to eyelid swelling, suggests Manhattan-based dermatologist Brendan Camp, M.D., of MDCS Dermatology.
5. Your kidneys need some Attention
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), fluid retention and dark circles under the eyes is a reflection of kidney “qi” (pronounced “chee”) or energy deficiency, notes Lane. “The kidney qi is important for vitality, anti-aging, longevity, and stable energy but can decline with age, long-term stress and worry, long-term illness, lack of sleep, and a consistently poor diet,” she says. Her recommendation for building your kidney qi? Support the health of the important organ with foods that support its function. “Try drinking bone broth and adding walnuts, black beans, kidney beans, avocado, blueberries, blackberries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds to your diet,” she suggests.
6. You’ve got unchecked allergies
More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). When allergies are at play, they cause the body’s immune system to increase its production of histamines, which may increase fluid retention under the eyes and create puffiness, explains Lane. “This could include allergies from airborne allergens like pollens and trees or environmental allergens, such as pets or certain foods,” she says. Addressing your allergies is key, which may involve getting tested for airborne and/or food allergies or, if you already have allergies, talking to your doctor about proper management of your allergy symptoms.
Two ways to reduce under-eye Bags
If you can’t seem to reduce the bagginess below your peepers, despite trying to correct some of these lifestyle factors, Lane suggests incorporating a collagen supplement, like Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder, into your routine. Since collagen is the protein that makes up our skin, hair, and nails (among countless other tissues in the body), getting more of it in your diet may help support skin elasticity and thus reduce bagginess.
Garshick also recommends trying out an eye cream that contains caffeine as an ingredient. “Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, limiting the amount of fluid accumulation in the eyelid skin and reducing swelling,” she says. It may not address the underlying causes of puffy eyes, but it sure is a good quick fix after a night of tossing and turning. Derma E’s Vitamin C No Dark Circles Perfecting Eye Cream contains caffeine (as well as turmeric and vitamin C) to support a more well-rested, bright-eyed look.