If you suffer from puffy or discoloured undereyes, you’re definitely not alone. This sometimes troublesome and unsightly condition can be caused by many factors, and finding out the main cause of your "raccoon eyes" is the first step to solving it. And yes, there are solutions!

The skin underneath your eye is extremely thin, so the mechanisms going on beneath the surface are very visible. As we age this skin thins even more, and the dark veins and pigment beneath can look like they’re on the surface. Diet, age, and genetics are just some of the factors that can influence the appearance of your undereyes. Finding out what’s causing the problem is the first step to finding the solution.

Most Likely Causes:

Sleep. Fluids can pool while you sleep, so be careful of your nightly position. If you sleep on your stomach, you may notice you have really puffy eyes in the morning; if you’re a side sleeper, you may notice one eye is puffier than the other when you wake up. A lack of sleep can also leave you with dark bags under your eyes. When fatigued, blood vessels under the eyes dilate and look bluish through the skin. Rubbing your eyes because you’re tired can also aggravate this.

Allergies. One of the main causes of dark and puffy eyes is allergies. Seasonal allergies (hay fever) or chronic ones (gluten intolerance) can both cause blood vessels underneath your eyes to dilate and look discoloured beneath the skin. Congestion due to allergies can also cause eyes to puff up.

Vitamin Deficiency. Many people who are iron-deficient develop dark circles under their eyes, along with other problems like pale skin, fatigue, and dizziness.

Genetics. Many pigment problems run in families. Although more common in those of Asian or African descent, this hereditary trait can affect anyone. If you’re from a long line of dark-ringed eyes, there’s a good chance your condition was simply inherited.

Age. Age is a huge factor in discoloured undereyes. As we age our skin loses collagen and begins to thin, making what’s underneath more visible. Dark circles due to age are generally not pigment related -- rather volume is lost and the skin shows the veins underneath. Collagen loss can also lead to “sunken” eyes, where the brow casts a shadow below the eye creating the illusion of darker skin.

Other Causes:

Sinus Infections. When our sinuses get infected, the veins that drain from the eyes to the nose become blocked, causing them to dilate. This creates a dark bluish appearance from the surface.

Alcohol and Smoking. Alcohol dehydrates us and causes the delicate undereye skin to sink, creating a hollow. Smoking causes blood vessel damage, causing them to dilate and appear blue.

Salt. Due to osmosis, water travels to wherever there’s most salt. You’ve probably noticed that after a good cry session your eyes get really puffy; this is because the salt from our tears accumulates in the skin under our eyes, causing them to retain water. Eating a high-sodium meal can also leave you with puffy eyes.

Serious Illness. Although rare, illnesses such as thyroid or kidney problems can cause dark undereye circles. If you’ve noticed a sudden and dramatic appearance of puffy and dark undereyes that don’t lessen with the below remedies, make an appointment with your doctor for assessment.

Most Likely Treatments:

Change Your Sleep Pattern. If you wake up with puffy eyes, consider changing your sleeping position. Try sleeping on your back, and prop your head up with pillows. The elevation will keep fluid from pooling under your eyes. Also, try to get a steady amount of sleep every night. Specialists say we need around 8 hours nightly, so try to regulate your sleeping pattern to incorporate as much quality shut-eye as you can.

Allergy Medications. Get over-the-counter medications for seasonal allergies, and consult a doctor if you think you may have more serious allergies such as a gluten intolerance.

Get More Vitamins. If you suspect you’re iron deficient, eat iron-rich foods such as spinach, lentils, oatmeal, brown rice, and seeds. We need Vitamin C to absorb iron, so make sure you also eat a lot of foods with Vitamin C like citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables. A good multivitamin will also help.

Change Your Genetics. Haha, just kidding. Unfortunately, if dark eyes run in your family and you’ve inherited it, there’s not much you can do to reverse the condition. You can, however, cover it up. Invest in a quality concealer that properly matches your skin tone; don’t try choosing one lighter than your skin, you’ll only end up highlighting the problem! Instead, choose a hue that will help mask the discolouration: green hues cover redness, yellow hues cover purple, and orange hues cover blues. Try Jane Iredale's or Enlighten Concealer .

Age Backwards. Again, kidding. If only, right? As we age our skin loses collagen, and it thins. You can’t reverse this process, but you can slow it down. Find a good eye cream that contains caffine, lightening agents, collagen-boosters and retinoic acid. These ingredients will help lighten pigment and thicken your skin.Try PCA EyeXcellence or SwissTec

Sinus Irrigation. If your condition is due to a sinus infection, try a sinus irrigation technique such as a Neti Pot. Using distilled water, create a saline solution to flush out mucous and debris from the nasal cavity. Removing blockage will allow fluids to flow unimpeded, and your blood vessels will shrink and become less visible.

Cut Down on Alcohol and Tobacco. Instead, drink a lot of water; hydrating from the inside will help keep your skin plump and healthy. Put that cigarette out for good, and stay away from smokey environments - even second-hand smoke can affect your skin.

Stay Away From Salt. Eating a low-sodium diet will help reduce puffiness both under your eyes and around you waist. When we eat a lot of salt we bloat, and this can fool us into shying away from water rather than salt. So cut salt from your diet or choose low-sodium options instead and watch the deflation begin!

Home Remedies:

  • Cucumber. Placing cold slices of cucumber on your eyes will help lighten dark circles and reduce puffiness, because the coldness of the vegetable helps to constrict blood vessels. Thin potato slices will have the same effect.
  • Tea Bags. Green tea, black tea, and chamomile tea all have known anti-inflammatory qualities. Steep the tea bags in hot water for a few minutes, then allow them to cool in the fridge. Squeeze out excess liquid and place over eyes for 10-15 minutes.
  • Cold Spoons or Cold Compress. Chill two metal spoons in the fridge, and place them (scoop side down) over your eyes. Alternatively soak a washcloth in cold water and place over eyes. The temperature will cause blood vessels to constrict, making them less visible from the surface.
  • Reduce Stress. When we get stressed our body knows it, and this can lead to unpredictable sleep cycles and dilated blood vessels. So remember to take a break (and may we suggest you take a break with cucumber slices or tea bags over your eyes?)
  • Drink Water. Staying hydrated is very important because water keeps your skin cells healthy and plump. This will help keep your epidermis thick and youthful.
  • Wear Sunglasses. Although getting a good tan may temporarily hide the appearance of your dark circles, sun damage can accumulate and alter the melanin in your skin. This can cause permanent pigment changes that are much harder to reverse.

Professional Treatments:

  • IPL. If your dark circles are a result of pigment problems, then an IPL may be a good option for you. An IPL (Intense Pulse Light) targets the dark melanin in your skin, causing it to flake off to reveal lighter and healthier skin underneath.
  • Dermal Fillers. If your dark circles are due to the natural collagen loss that comes with age, dermal fillers might be able to help. Fillers work to ‘plump up’ the skin where injected, restoring lost volume. Injecting fillers around the eyes is a very delicate procedure however, and one that takes immense skill. Be sure to find an injector with a lot of experience in injecting this area.
  • Eyelid Surgery. As a ‘last resort’, eyelid surgery can significantly improve the look of dark and puffy undereyes. If thin skin is the issue, facial fat can be moved and relocated to add volume to the skin. If you have large undereyes bags, the excess skin can be removed.

Dark and puffy undereyes are a very common concern, and affect most people at some point in their lives. Generally, the solution to the problem is fast and easy. Whether it’s getting medication for your allergies, changing your sleeping position, or quitting smoking, the fix is usually at your fingertips.

Remember that the skin below your eyes is extremely thin, and therefore very fragile. Fluid pooling in this area can accumulate and permanently stretch the skin out, so it’s best to diagnose and solve the problem as soon as possible. If the problem persists in spite of these remedies, consult a doctor as it may be a sign of a more serious illness. But most likely you have nothing to worry about, and hopefully these tips will help you fix the problem at home.