I thought it would be fun to address a reader question today! In this post I’ll be talking about strategies and application.
I am really struggling with under eye puffiness and how to disguise it (inexpensively). Do you have any suggestions? Thank you! -Lisa
What Causes It and How Can I Prevent Undereye Bags?
There are quite a few reasons to have puffiness under your eyes, and I love Dr. Bailey’s post on what causes undereye circles, bags and puffiness for more details. The undereye area has very thin skin. This means that the fat pad under the skin can more easily affect the outward appearance, when it accumulates extra fluid this will create that bag we all hate.
There are a few big culprits behind the undereye bags and puffiness. The swelling can be associated with allergies, too much salt intake, or just have some circulatory issues in the area.
For allergies, try talking to your doctor about an anti-histamine. Track your food intake with a food dairy, watching for patterns with salty foods. I have undereye swelling the next day if I eat a lot of french fries or potato chips, so I’ve cut back and eat the “lightly salted” chips in my home. If neither of these seem to help, you can try sleeping slightly elevated to discourage the swelling from forming.
How Can I Treat Undereye Bags?
When your undereye area is swollen you’ll want to target treatments that mobilize the fluid and get it out of the region while promoting circulation (again, to help move that extra fluid out of there).
There are a lot of good old fashioned treatments that will help with this. Tea bags on your eyes will introduce caffeine, which is an anti-inflammatory, constricts blood vessels to shrink the area and is dehydrating to help get rid of excess fluid. Caffeine can also be found in most eye creams. Cold items like spoons or a cold eye mask will also help to constrict the blood vessels. Massaging the undereye area will help to mobilize the excess fluid from the fat pad as well.
Have you ever heard the one about using Preparation H for undereye bags? You can read more about why you shouldn’t use Preparation H under your eyes, but this is one to avoid. The main ingredient in Preparation H is Phenylephrine, which is also the main ingredient in Afrin. Phenylephrine acts through the alpha-1 adrenergic receptor to constrict the blood vessels (this is the main reason I usually use phenylephrine in the ICU, it helps raise blood pressure as a 3rd or 4th line vasoconstricting agent). Long term this isn’t a great idea, the body can actually ramp up the opposing beta receptors and make the swelling worse! I won’t even mention the moisturizing agents in the Preparation H, which aren’t formulated for use on the face.
Instead, you are better off checking out what to look for in an eye cream. When treating bags I absolutely must have caffeine in my eye cream! I also like nice hydration to help my concealer blend easily and if the cream fights aging as well, that’s an added bonus! You can find a good eye cream here: The Best Eye Creams: Dermatologists and their Favorite Products!
How Can I Hide or Camouflage Undereye Puffiness?
Hiding your undereye bags, or at least camouflaging them, isn’t hard once you know the tricks. Hiding a bag is the opposite of concealing an undereye circle. You want the bag to recede, so you’ll use darker colors and avoid highlighters.
I always start with my eye cream, giving it a few minutes to full sink into the undereye area. Once the cream has sunk into my skin, I color correct any issues (I have a more complete post on how to color correct). Just because you have bags, doesn’t mean you don’t also have circles! Take a look at the circles, and decide what color they really are. Most circles are blue or purple toned, though mine frequently have some red mixed in just for fun. You’ll want to use a corrector that is directly opposite the main color on the color wheel. So, peach for a blue/purple circle, green will cancel out redness. Apply a very small amount of the color corrector only on the discoloration.
After you have color corrected it is time to conceal! Try one of my favorite undereye concealers for over 40. For undereye bags you need a concealer that is the same shade as your skin tone, not lighter. Apply a small amount to the undereye area. I think of the application area as a triangle, I concentrate the concealer closer to my eye but do blend it outward. Depending on who you talk to you’ll be told to only use a brush, your fingertip or a sponge like a BeautyBlender. Experiment to see what works best for you. I do best with my fingertip and then I pounce a dry BeautyBlender over the area to thin out my concealer a bit.
This next step will seem very strange, but it really does work! In makeup, dark colors make things recede, light and shimmer makes things come out. If your puffiness is directly under your eye you can extend a bit of a mid-tone matte eye shadow down onto the puffy area to make it less noticeable. If the puffiness is lower down, a little bit of matte bronzer on your face extended onto the puffy area will help. This needs to be pretty subtle, especially if you’re pulling bronzer up for undereye bags. Go for a light application of a matte shade, you can always add more product. You should notice the bag recede a bit, you don’t want to really notice that the area is darker.
Once you are happy with how everything looks, set the products with a fine translucent powder.