The Surprising Reasons You Get Puffy Eyes & Dark Circles (And 5 Quick Fixes)

Physician By Bindiya Gandhi, M.D.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who completed her family medicine training at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia.

One of the most common questions I get asked by many patients is what they can do about the dark, puffy circles and bags under their eyes. Women spend more time and money buying concealers than they do acknowledging why they have these imperfections to begin with. Well, I'm here to tell you to look a little closer because there's always a reason, and many of those reasons are easily avoidable!

Here are four common culprits of those pesky eye problems and a few natural remedies you should try before your next (probably unnecessary) skin care product splurge:

1. If you don't snooze, you definitely lose!

First things first, ask yourself: Am I getting enough sleep? If not, keep on snoozing. "Beauty sleep" isn't just a Disney-themed phrase; it's a necessary part of any skin care routine. Just look at what can happen to your body if you don't get enough sleep!

2. Do you have an unknown allergy?

Allergies don't just present themselves in the form of pollen. Yes, environmental sensitivities can definitely show up on your skin via puffy, watery eyes, but food allergies could also be the culprit behind those puffy eyes.

The symptoms of a food allergy or sensitivity can occur anywhere in your body, not just the digestive system. Obviously symptoms vary from person to person and food to food, but many times, physical manifestations of food allergies include watery eyes, itchy skin, or puffy face/eyes. Sounds unpleasant, right?

If you find that your face is experiencing anything like this after you eat a certain food, chances are your body is having an adverse reaction to the ingredient in question. For any severe reactions, I'm a big fan of allergy and food intolerance tests performed by a physician. This will tell you what, if any, foods and ingredients you're allergic to or intolerant of.

The cheaper, DIY version is to set yourself up on an elimination diet. Start by removing the most common allergens (gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, eggs, sugar) for 21 days, then slowly reintroduce one of the foods every three days. If your face puffs up after adding something back into your diet, chances are your body doesn't like it, and it could be the reason for those dark circles and itchy eyes!

3. Do you have a sluggish or underactive thyroid?

There's much more to hypothyroidism than puffy eyes, but it is a common symptom of an underactive thyroid. If you find that you're experiencing other symptoms that fit with the condition, make sure to talk to your health care provider and get tested. Often in my patients who have underactive thyroids, their puffy eyes get better once the condition is treated.

4. Do you eat a salt-heavy diet?

How much salt are you eating? A diet high in salt can encourage fluid retention, leading to puffy eyes (along with other parts of the body). Be sure to pay attention to sodium levels in your food, especially if you're eating anything processed. Here are five easy ways to reduce the amount of salt in your diet.

Now that you know the common triggers for puffy eyes and dark under-eye circles, here are five all-natural remedies you can easily keep on hand in your kitchen for a last-minute treatment:

  • Cucumbers: This cooling produce has been used as a skin treatment for centuries. Just cut a clean cucumber into slices, lay them on your eyes (make sure to remove makeup first), and let them go to work for 10 minutes. The cool flesh, along with vitamin C and caffeic acid in the cucumbers helps soothe irritated skin and reduce swelling.
  • Raw potatoes: Cut these legumes into slices, soak them in water, and then place them on your eyes to help decrease puffiness, under-eye dark circles and inflammation. Potatoes contain a natural bleaching enzyme that helps with discoloration, along with natural astringents that remove excess water from the skin.
  • Bananas: The high level of potassium in bananas helps counteract the salt that leads to fluid retention. You can either eat one straight up, or rub pureed banana under your eyes.
  • Green tea bags: Most eye creams contain caffeine, so why not place tea bags directly on your eyes! Not only does green tea have caffeine, it's also high in antioxidants. Try chilling two brewed tea bags, then leave them on your eyes for 20 minutes. Voilà!
  • Anything frozen: Seriously. Ice, frozen vegetables, cold spoons ... when you have some downtime, any of them will instantly decrease inflammation by cooling the blood cells, thereby shrinking them. If you have only five minutes and can place a couple of ice cubes or frozen bags of veggies or the back of spoons on your eyes. This instantly decreases inflammation.

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