If the relentless stress of the last several months has been keeping you up at night, you’re not alone. Sixty-eight percent of the more 1,000 people who participated in a survey in May reported feeling especially stressed and unable to sleep as well as they normally would because of it.
Even a single night spent tossing and turning can impact your appearance in the form of under-eye bags and dark circles. Not even a mask can hide those telltale signs of the sleep-deprived. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s nothing you can do about it. And, no, I’m not referring to the countless expensive treatments. These approaches are much more affordable—and more effective.
But first, it’s worth knowing that eye puffiness and dark circles aren’t purely the result of poor sleep. Lots of people who have them inherited them. Again, though, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about them.
Use a retinoid.
The skin in the under-eye area is among the thinnest on the body. Those who have persistent dark circles under their eyes likely have some combination of especially thin skin and an increase in pigment in that area. With repeated use, an over-the-counter retinoid can stimulate the production of collagen, making the skin less thin and improving the dark circles. Bonus: It will also firm up the skin under your eyes.
Sleep on your back.
If you’re sleeping relatively well and still waking up with eye puffiness and dark circles, fluid may be pooling there overnight. Try sleeping on your back and using an extra pillow.
Try a brightening product.
A topical lightening agent, such as vitamin C, kojic acid, and licorice extract, will help decrease skin pigmentation gradually, ultimately lightening your dark circles. Increased pigment can also be exacerbated by, or a result of, sun damage. So it’s important to also wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Apply a couple of tea bags.
Caffeinated tea, which contains natural tannins, is a mild diuretic. It’s a great secret for reducing eye puffiness shared by grandmothers and runway models around the world. Soak two tea bags in warm water, then stick them in the fridge for a few minutes to cool off. Place one on each eye for about five minutes. Your eyes will look and feel fresher.
I know Preparation H, the hemorrhoid cream, is also widely used by those desperate to shed their dark, under-eye bags. The science is legitimate: It causes blood vessels on muscle walls to constrict. But it can be irritating for some, so do a patch test. Even then, use it sparingly.
Also, dark circles can sometimes be an indication of seasonal allergies. If that’s a possibility for you, try taking an antihistamine at night, and it should clear them right up.