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How To Get Rid of Dark Circles and Bags Under Eyes Naturally

Focus on getting the right amount of sleep for you to improve the look of dark circles and bags under your eyes.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
Our Editorial Standards
We bring sleep research out of the lab and into your life. Every post begins with peer-reviewed studies — not third-party sources — to make sure we only share advice that can be defended to a room full of sleep scientists. Learn more.
Updated Regularly
We regularly update our articles to explain the latest research and shifts in scientific consensus in a simple and actionable way.
Published
2023-01-10
Updated
12 MINS
Man looking at face in mirror concerned about dark circles and bags under eyes

Tired (pun intended) of piling on make-up to cover under-eye dark circles? Or fed up of trying product after product in an attempt to shrink under-eye bags? There’s an easier, cheaper, more natural way of improving the look of your under-eye area. It works for every skin type and involves solving one of the major root causes of the problems. That method? Getting enough sleep for you. 

Below, we’ll cover what causes dark circles and eye bags and how getting enough sleep is the underrated beauty hack you need in your routine. Plus, we’ll share how the RISE app can help you get that sleep each night. 

What Causes Dark Circles Under Eyes?

Dark under-eye circles, or in science-speak periorbital dark circles or periorbital hyperpigmentation, are exactly what they sound like: dark shadowy patches of skin under the eye. 

They can be caused by blood pooling under your eyes and showing through the skin as discoloration and darkness, or simply your veins or blood vessels showing through the thin skin in this area.

The main causes of dark circles are: 

  • Sleep deprivation: Your skin looks duller and paler when sleep deprived, allowing blood underneath the skin to show through even more. Sleep deprivation also reduces your blood flow, meaning more blood may pool in the area, darkening circles further. Blood vessels can also dilate when you’re sleep deprived causing more discoloration. 
  • Genetics: Your genes determine the color and thickness of your skin. The lighter and thinner your skin, the more dark circles will show. But those with darker skin tones are more prone to skin discoloration. If your veins are closer to the surface of your skin, this will also make the area look darker, and dark circles are also hereditary. 
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This is when your skin creates more melanin, which gives your skin its color, and becomes darker and discolored after irritation or injury. This might happen under the eyes if you have allergies, eczema, dermatitis, or scratch or rub the area. 
  • Swelling or puffiness: Periorbital edema — or as the rest of us call it, puffy eyes — can make the appearance of dark circles look worse. Sometimes dark circles aren’t there at all, and what you’re seeing are instead shadows caused by puffy eyelids. Puffiness can be caused by things like sleep loss, salty meals, alcohol, smoking, or allergies.
  • Lifestyle factors: Alcohol consumption, smoking, stress, dehydration, and excess sun exposure may also lead to dark circles.  
  • Age: Your skin gets thinner with age, so may show the blood under your eyes more, and the under-eye area sinks in more with age, making it look darker. 
  • Medical conditions: For example, iron-deficiency anemia can cause you to look pale, making dark circles more prominent.

What Causes Bags Under Eyes?

Under-eye bags range from a small amount of puffiness to full-on under-eye swelling — and they’re often much harder to cover up than dark circles. 

They can be due to fluid building up in the under-eye area, making it look swollen, or fat deposits moving into the area. 

Common causes of under-eye bags include: 

  • Sleep deprivation: Sleep deprivation can cause blood and fluid to pool around the eyes, making them look puffy and swollen.   
  • Age: Muscles and tissues around your eyes weaken with age, allowing fat deposits to fall into your under-eye area. Aging can cause the fat around your eyes to shrink and fall, causing a swollen look. Skin also loses collagen and elasticity with age, adding to the sagging look (and sleep loss damages collagen production, too). Plus, thinning skin shows darkness more, which makes eye bags look more prominent.
  • Genetics: Eye bags are also hereditary.
  • Lifestyle factors: Smoking, salty meals, alcohol, dehydration, and too much sun can all contribute to eye bags, puffiness, and fluid retention.
  • Medical conditions: Thyroid problems or dermatitis, for example, can cause under-eye swelling. Even simple irritation from your make-up or allergies can cause puffiness.

How to Get Rid of Dark Circles and Bags Under Eyes?

Tired of always looking tired? While you can’t stop the aging process, change your genes, or do much about certain health conditions, there are some things you can do to brighten dark eye circles and shrink under-eye bags.

Keep Sleep Debt Low 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

Sleep debt is the measure of how much sleep you owe your body. It’s compared against your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night. 

Most of us don’t actually know how much sleep we should be getting each night — it’s not simply eight hours for everyone. In fact, one study suggests the average sleep need is 8 hours 40 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes or so, but 13.5% of the population may need 9 hours or more sleep a night.

To find out your sleep need down to the minute, turn to the RISE app. RISE uses a year’s worth of phone use behavior and proprietary sleep-science-based models to work out your sleep need. 

RISE then works out how much sleep debt you’re carrying. We recommend keeping this below five hours to look, feel, and perform your best. 

Got more than five hours of sleep debt? You can pay it back by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this. 
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Keep this to an hour or two to avoid messing up your body clock. 
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Good sleep hygiene will help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night, helping you get more sleep overall. More on what to do next. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

Need more motivation to keep your sleep debt low? It’s not just you who notices your dark circles, one study found the faces of sleep deprived people were perceived as having: 

  • Darker circles under the eyes 
  • More swollen eyes
  • More hanging eyelids 
  • Redder eyes  
  • Paler skin
  • More wrinkles and fine lines 
  • More droopy corners of the mouth 

And beyond your eyes, sleep deprivation can lead to acne, an uneven complexion, hair loss, and premature aging. You can learn more about beauty sleep here, how to prevent wrinkles here, and how to get clear skin here. 

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene 

RISE app screenshot showing when to have your last large meal of the day
The RISE app can guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day.

Sleep hygiene is the name for the healthy sleep habits you can do daily to improve your sleep. They’ll make it easier to keep your sleep debt low. 

Sleep hygiene includes: 

  • Get bright light first thing: This will reset your body clock, helping you feel sleepy at the right time later that evening. Aim for at least 10 minutes of light as soon as possible after waking up, or 30 minutes if it's overcast or you’re getting light through a window.
  • Avoid bright light close to bedtime: Light suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin and makes it harder to fall asleep. About 90 minutes before bed, dim the lights and put on blue-light blocking glasses
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals, intense exercise, and alcohol too late in the day: All four can keep you up or wake you up during the night. Remember, salty meals can add to under-eye puffiness and alcohol can make eye bags and dark circles worse. 
  • Do a relaxing bedtime routine: This will slow your body and brain down for sleep and help to lower your stress levels. High stress levels can both keep you awake and cause skin problems such as acne and dermatitis. Audio guides in the RISE app will walk you through four science-backed relaxation techniques for better sleep
  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet: Aim for 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, wear earplugs and an eye mask, and use blackout curtains to make sure nothing in your environment keeps or wakes you up. 

To stay on top of your sleep hygiene, the RISE app can remind you to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day and tell you the ideal time to do each one to make them more effective.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their 20+ in-app habit notifications.

Other Recommendations to Reduce Dark Circles and Eye Bags 

Beyond keeping your sleep debt low, there are a few other hacks you can try to lighten dark circles and reduce the appearance of under-eye bags: 

  • Elevate your head while sleeping: Grab an extra pillow and elevate your head. This will stop blood and fluid from building up under your eyes. 
  • Use a cold compress: A cold compress doesn’t just feel good on swollen eyes, it can help calm inflammation, shrink swelling, and make your blood vessels constrict, lightening darkness. Grab some cucumber slices or cooled black or green tea bags for a home remedy option. Tea bags come with the added bonus of containing caffeine and antioxidants to brighten the eye area. 
  • Stay hydrated: Don’t let a lack of water make your skin look pale, sunken, and sallow (or let it hurt your sleep). Keep hydrated throughout the day. 
  • Limit salty meals: Salt can cause fluid build-up and puffiness and a 2019 study even found a high-salt diet may cause fragmented sleep (you may wake up more often during the night). This can lead to sleep loss, which can, of course, make eye bags and dark circles worse.  
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Gaining and losing weight can cause changes to the fat distribution around your eyes. 
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol: These two things can also disrupt sleep, so it’s a win-win quitting or cutting down. We’ve covered how long before bed you should stop drinking alcohol here. The RISE app can also tell you the best time to stop drinking based on your body clock. 
  • Moisturize and use the right skincare products: Over-the-counter topical creams can help in some cases. Gently apply moisturizer to the under-eye area daily to keep the skin’s barrier healthy and hydrated. This will not only make the skin look better, it’ll ensure your skin can protect itself from irritants. Look out for eye creams with brightening ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, kojic acid, and caffeine, or hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. And don’t forget SPF — broad-spectrum sunscreen is best to protect your skin from damage and discoloration.
  • Avoid scratching or rubbing: Treat itchy eyes from seasonal allergies with antihistamine and remember to avoid rubbing or pulling too much when using make-up remover or washing your face with a washcloth.
  • Cover up with make-up: Under-eye concealer or foundation may not solve the problem entirely, but they can be a useful cover-up while you’re working on lowering your sleep debt. 
  • Consider medical treatments or plastic surgery: Speak to a dermatologist or healthcare professional about laser therapy resurfacing and chemical peels to target dark under-eye pigmentation and botox, filler, and lower eyelid lifts (blepharoplasty) to address bags.  

Sleep Your Way to Brighter Eyes 

Most of us know dark circles and under-eye bags are tell-tale signs of a lack of sleep, so why not treat the root cause of the problem? 

And spotting the visible signs of sleep debt — those pesky dark circles and eye bags — can be the perfect reminder of just how important a good night’s sleep is to your overall health and wellness.

With the RISE app, you can find out your individual sleep need, so you know what to aim for, and how much sleep debt you have, so you know whether you need to pay any back. RISE can also guide you through 20+ sleep hygiene habits each day to help you get the beauty sleep you need each night. 

Keeping sleep debt low is a free, natural, and side-effect-free way to improve your under-eye appearance, but it can help you do more than just that. Lowering sleep debt will also boost everything from your energy levels to your productivity to your mental health. 

Summary FAQs

What causes under-eye bags and dark circles?

Under-eye bags and dark circles can be caused by a lack of sleep, age, genetics, and lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking, a high-salt diet, sun damage, and dehydration. They can happen when blood or fluid pools around your eyes, making them look dark and swollen.

How do you get rid of eye bags and dark circles naturally?

Get rid of eye bags and dark circles naturally by getting enough sleep for you each night. This will ensure everything from your complexion to your blood flow is working as it should, minimizing the look of dark circles and eye bags.

How to get rid of eye bags and dark circles overnight?

Get rid of eye bags and dark circles overnight by getting enough sleep that night. This will minimize blood and fluid build-up around your eyes. It’ll also make your complexion look better, reducing how much dark circles show.

How much sleep do you need to get rid of eye bags and dark circles?

How much sleep you need to get rid of eye bags and dark circles is different for everyone. This is because we all have a different genetically determined sleep need. You can use the RISE app to find out your individual sleep need down to the minute.

Are dark circles from lack of sleep permanent?

If dark circles are caused by a lack of sleep, they shouldn’t be permanent. Getting enough sleep for you each night should help to reduce blood and fluid build-up and reduce how much blood vessels show through your skin.

Why do I have bags under my eyes even though I get enough sleep?

You may have bags under your eyes even though you get enough sleep due to aging, genetics, salty foods, smoking, or dehydration. You may also be not getting enough sleep for you, or think you’re getting more sleep than you are (something that’s unfortunately very easy to do!).

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Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

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