What Are Undereye Bags?
What Are Undereye Bags—and What Causes Them?
Undereye bags are a stubborn, visible bulge beneath one or both eyes. They tend to feel “squishy” when touched and look worse if you habitually rub your eyes.
For most people, undereye bags are the same as occasional bulgy-looking eyes, but research on what causes these concerns shows they differ. Bloated undereyes can occur at any age and are typically caused by allergies, diet (too much salt or alcohol, for example), or sleeping position. For this type of undereye bags, cream may help minimize the look.
In contrast, true undereye bags tend to occur as we age. The fat pads beneath the eyes shift downward, dropping beneath and protruding from the immediate undereye area. The result is puffiness that won’t go away no matter what eye bag remedy or treatment you try.
How do Undereye Bags Happen?
When we’re young, the fat pads beneath the eyes are held securely in place. The passage of time, sun damage, and gravity cause the ligaments that normally anchor the fat pads in place to push outward, similar to a hernia beneath the skin.
This shift of the fat pads usually happens gradually, but some people experience a sudden onset. In some cases, the undereye bags become larger, often bulging out over the top of the cheekbones (a type of eye bag known as a festoon or malar bag) before shrinking back to their normal size. This change in size and appearance is due to fluid retention, such as from allergies, sinus issues, or bad habits like smoking—but heredity can play a role.
Undereye bags can look worse when skin begins to sag and become thinner from sun damage--one more reason to protect eye-area skin with sunscreen and sunglasses all year long.
Undereye Bags Treatment
You’ve likely tried undereye bag home remedies or store-bought eye creams claiming to eliminate the issue, only to find they didn’t work well, if at all, no matter how much they cost (talk about disappointing!). Sadly, remedies for undereye bags are not to be found in stores, on infomercials or home shopping channels, or in any DIY recipe.
Some undereye bag remedies might temporarily tighten the skin or make it feel tighter (or constricted, which isn’t good for skin), but their effects are entirely superficial and short-lived. That’s because, despite the tempting claims, topical products cannot address what’s happening beneath the skin to cause the undereye bags—only cosmetic surgery can do that.
The specific surgical procedure to fix undeye bags is known as blepharoplasty. It's among the most common surgeries performed today because it literally removes undereye bags Blepharoplasty can be performed on both the upper and lower eyelid areas. If your only concern is bags under the eyes, you would have a lower blepharoplasty. In this procedure, a surgeon uses one of two primary methods to access the drooping fat pads and supportive tissue; both methods leave only tiny, discrete scars.
In some cases, excess fat and skin are removed before the remaining fat pad is secured back into its original place. For younger patients, it’s typically a much simpler process of repositioning and securing the fat pad to keep it from pouching beneath the eye. After a brief recovery period, the undereye bags are gone. We repeat: Gone!
References for this information:
Seminars in Plastic Surgery, February 2017, pages 46–50
Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America, May 2016, pages 129–138
Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, April-June 2016, pages 61–64
BioMed Research International, February 2015, ePublication
Aesthetic Surgery Journal, February 2014, pages 235–238
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, September 2013, pages 221–232
Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, April 2013, pages e8–e15
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!