What causes eye bags and how can you reduce them?

Collagen, Skin

The eye area is generally the first area of the face to show signs of premature ageing. This is because the tissue here is so thin, with the epidermis being around 0.5mm compared to 1.5-2mm on the other areas of your face and body.


Due to the thinness of the epidermis in this area, it means that the dermal layer is that much more vulnerable, resulting in lines & wrinkles, dark circles, puffiness, dryness and slackened skin being among the issues that the delicate eye area is prone to.


Whilst lines & wrinkles are the number one concern, they’re also the most understood and therefore most easily treated. However, in this article I’m going to focus on dark circles and under eye bags / puffiness, as I feel these are the least understood and most difficult to treat. They’re also very closely linked when you look at the root cause.


What Causes Dark Circles?

There are various causes of dark circles and the first thing in establishing the cause is determining the colour of the under eye darkness (i.e. purple or brown) and also whether they’re permanent or temporary (i.e. do you have them all the time or do they come and go?).


The leading cause of dark circles is vascular damage, where the blood-carrying capillaries leak. This results in a blue / purple appearance in the skin, similar to a bruise, because essentially that what is!


The capillaries have weakened and Haemoglobin leaks close to the skin surface, which eventually degrades into Biliverdin and Bilirubin giving the purple darkness to the skin. However unlike a bruise that heals, because the capillaries are weak then continue to leak Haemoglogin resulting in a constant bruise-like appearance to the skin.


Lack of oxygen is another leading cause of blue / purple dark circles. Lack of sleep affects circulation and oxygen supply, which means that the skin is not getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Due to the thinness of tissue, the issue is more visible around the eye area. However the good thing is, these are generally temporary and improve with a few good nights sleep!


Localised inflammation is also a factor. Irritation from allergies and sensitivity, even inadequate makeup removal, can result in rubbing and pulling of the delicate tissue and weaken the capillaries making them prone to leakage.


Another causes is Melanocyte overexpression, where more pigment is produced around the eye area, resulting in brown dark circles i.e. hyper-pigmented areas around the eye. This is exasperated by how thin the tissue is in this area and it’s generally a genetic predisposition.


What Causes Under Eye Puffiness?

Similarly to dark circles, there are various factors and to understand the cause you must determine if they’re permanent or temporary.


The leading cause of permanent under eye bags / puffiness is also vascular damage, however this time it’s the lymphatic capillaries that are damaged not the blood capillaries. The process is essentially the same, however the difference is the material that is leaking. In the case of eye puffiness, lymph leaks from the capillaries and fills pockets to form eye bags.


Similar to dark circles, fatigue can also play a role in under eye bags because lack of sleep affects circulation and drainage of lymph fluid can’t occur without healthy circulation. Again, a few good nights sleep and the condition generally improves.


Allergies, tearing and sinus problems can also cause localised inflammation, temporary swelling and eye bags.


Irregular fat deposits can also be a cause of under eye bags. This is predominantly genetic, so looking to your parents and grandparents will be a good indicator. However carrying excess weight can also be a cause.


What causes Vascular Damage?

Now we understand that vascular damage is the leading cause of both dark circles and puffiness, let’s look at what causes vascular damage, what we can do to prevent it and what we can do to treat it.


Natural ageing – as we age the skin naturally becomes thinner and weaker, therefore capillaries are more prone to damage.


As already mention tugging and pulling can weaken the capillaries. The tissue is very delicate therefore must be treated with care, which is why it’s important to choose a suitable cleanser for the eye area (I find oils & balms work best).


Poor diet is also a factor. Without adequate nutrients the body is unable to repair itself, therefore the capillary walls will be become weak and prone to leakage.


  • UV damage disrupts cell regeneration and therefore weakens capillary walls leading to leakage.

Allergies and sinus problems also contribute to vascular damage. Through both localised inflammation that causes cellular destruction and physical damage, from rubbing the eyes.


To prevent vascular damage we can;

  • Get adequate beauty sleep (easily said than done)
  • Wear sunglasses to protect from UV exposure
  • Avoid rubbing / pulling the eye area
  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet

When it comes to treating dark circles and under eye bags caused by vascular damage we must use ingredients that can strengthen the capillaries, improve circulation and thicken the skin. These include;


  • Perfluorocarbons – Improves circulation and oxygen delivery
  • Peptides – Support production of collagen to strengthen the skin
  • Antioxidants – H3O Night Repair is packed with antioxidants and is perfect to support any treatment. Antioxidants protect from free radical damage & reinforce barrier function
  • Retinoids – Thickens the skin making it more resilient
  • Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone – Reinforces the capillary network

If under eye dark circles or puffiness are a concern for you, why not book in for a consultation or skin treatment to see how they can be improved with corrective facials and home care.

H3O Night Repair

H3O Night Repair supports skin health while you sleep by transporting antioxidants and promoting a healthy fluid balance.  Wake refreshed and renewed.