Like many women, I go through phases of insecurities. Ten years ago, I thought my eyebrows were too thick, and now, I feel like they’re too thin (curse you, changing beauty trends!). I’ve had days where I dislike my thighs, want to hide my stomach, or feel like no amount of makeup is enough to cover a breakout. But the one insecurity I have always had every day for years? Dark circles under the eyes. Sometimes I swear it looks like I have a black eye, or I wake up with eyes so puffy, it looks more like an allergic reaction than a penalty of not getting enough sleep. My under-eye area is darker genetically (so it’s probably not possible to get rid of them completely), but not as dramatic or puffy as I’ve experienced off-and-on for years.
All this complaining is to say that I was ready to make some serious changes, do some research, and try out some fixes to brighten up and de-puff the area around my eyes once and for all. Spoiler alert: I saw some major changes (I mean, just check out the before and after pic below!). Since not all under-eye remedies are created equal, I gave each trick or product a ranking based on how quickly I noticed a difference, how effective the final results were, how much the price was, and most importantly, how much effort was required (I admittedly can get lazy AF). Read on for the eight products, tricks, and hacks that finally helped me reduce dark circles and under-eye bags.
1. Vitamin-C eye serum
Of all the different eye serums, lotions, and creams that I’ve tried, the most effective formulas contain vitamin C. So, why is the vitamin that we take when we’re getting a cold so beneficial for the skin? “One of the best ingredients to find in eye creams is vitamin C because it gets rid of free radicals and brightens the skin,” explained Shea Amiruddin, director of skincare education for Heyday, to CNN. Also, vitamin C can help boost collagen production, and collagen can thicken the delicate under-eye area (which helps conceal any discoloration).
After consistently using a vitamin C eye cream, the area looked brighter instead of that dreaded purple-ish tint, and I looked a little more well-rested (even when I wasn’t, TBH). The only reason I didn’t rank 10/10 is that it took a few weeks to start seeing results, but I’m in it for the long-haul; beating eye bags is a marathon, not a sprint, and vitamin-C eye serum will certainly help me get to the finish line.
2. Sleeping on my back
I am a die-hard stomach-sleeper, so this proves that I would do just about anything for flawless skin. I slept on my back for exactly three nights, and the position did help decrease puffiness and even some darkness under the eyes. “If dark, puffy bags seem to be a morning problem, consider sleeping on your back with an extra pillow so that fluid doesn’t pool overnight,” suggested Dr. Rebecca Tung, a dermatologist based in Florida, to Allure. All for the sake of my poor eye bags, I added an extra pillow and tried my best to stay asleep on my back.
Lo and behold, I woke up every morning with a slightly more contoured appearance and less intense bags. Yes, the tip works, and I vow to (eventually) become a back-sleeper. Until then, I’m ranking this hack a 6/10 since I can’t kick the stomach-sleeping habit completely—it’s not unsustainable. I’d much rather load up on expensive eye creams than forgo my preferred sleeping position, you know? Back sleeping is a great trick to keep in my back pocket but not something that changed my life.
3. Ice roller
Don’t have time for a marathon and looking for a quick fix instead? Enter: the ice roller. You might have seen this affordable and popular tool on social media (since it’s all over TikTok, does that make me cool?), and it’s well worth the hype. Massaging with an ice roller proved to be an instant de-puffer, plus it takes very little time or effort. Simply store the handy gadget in the freezer and roll it over your face for a quick and effective treatment (which is also the most refreshing part of my self-care routine).
Ice-rolling can reduce puffiness and redness in the skin (just like an ice-pack can reduce swelling on an injury), which really helps in the mornings when I wake up after a few hours of sleep with puffy eyes (and a bad hangover). As if you needed more reasoning, using an ice roller can help boost circulation for more radiant skin and optimum skin cell function. Not only did I notice a difference in my eye bags when I started ice-rolling, but I noticed a difference in my entire complexion. For me, the one and only con of ice-rolling is that yes, it significantly reduced puffiness, but it didn’t change the dark circles very much.
4. Drinking more water
You already know that water is crucial for overall health (including skin health), so it should be no surprise that dehydration can show up in the skin under the eyes. “Dehydration can make eye bags look worse by amplifying the effects of excess salt, high alcohol, or poor sleep,” said Dr. Chaneve Jeanniton, an oculofacial plastic surgeon, to Vogue. “Maintaining proper hydration enhances circulation, which helps remove excess fluid from the eye area.” In other words, better hydration can mean less puffiness.
While this tip is a hard one to track (I always pride myself on my water intake), I have noticed that when I drink less water than normal, the area under my eyes looks more pronounced. Plus, I feel overall better and glowier when I prioritize hydration. Therefore, drinking more water automatically gets 10 gold stars because I know it makes a huge difference in my health, skin, and under the eyes.
5. Eye patches
Eye patches have taken over the beauty world, thanks to their convenient shape and promised benefits. Think of them as individual sheet masks for your under-eye area (and a key component of bouncing back after a night out). They target all issues around the eyes like dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles. After trying dozens of eye patches, I’ve learned that their effectiveness depends on ingredients, just like any eye cream or serum. If the patches contain high-quality ingredients targeted to your concern (shoutout to vitamin C), it’s definitely worth trying. I love eye patches and immediately noticed an instant brightness, but since the good ones can get pricey, I’ll save them for special occasions or when I’m in dire need.
6. Facial massage
Facial massage is not just an add-on at the spa; it’s something that you can do daily for a wide range of benefits. Whether it’s with a jade roller, Gua Sha, or your hands, facial massage has many benefits, including decreased dark circles. “I find lymphatic drainage particularly effective for a patient who has significant under-eye bags (puffiness or darkness),” explained Dr. Kim Peirano, a doctor of Chinese medicine and licensed acupuncturist, to InStyle. “It is great at moving that fluid through the body more efficiently.”
Not to be dramatic, but facial massage is one of the best beauty hacks I’ve ever tried. Massaging makes my skin its glowiest, and that goes for the eye area too. Plus, you don’t have to spend half your paycheck on expensive treatments, luxurious skincare products, or even fancy tools. Grab your favorite oil to start massaging, and get ready for a lit-from-within glow. I took away one point from the rating because you need a few minutes, but it’s still a tip that can show immediate results. Click here to learn more about facial massage, or click here to give yourself a facial massage in under five minutes.
7. Eye masks
If you’re a wannabe mask connoisseur like me, you probably have a charcoal mask to clean out pores, a chemical exfoliant to brighten, and maybe even a peel-off because it’s so satisfying (even if they’re not great for the skin). But what about a mask specifically for under the eyes? As someone who has both under-eye bags and a deep love for face masks, I was so ready to hop on the eye mask bandwagon. An eye mask has become a key part of my nighttime routine and is always my favorite travel companion (or at least when traveling was a thing). In my experience, eye masks are so hydrating and feel luxurious without feeling too heavy. They’re the perfect moisturizer, but I don’t think they’re any better at improving dark circles or puffiness than a regular eye cream. 10/10 for hydration and reducing fine lines, but as for the dark circles? They’re still there.
8. Getting eight (or more) hours of sleep
I love sleep. If I could choose between a week’s worth of sleep and the best vacation ever, I would choose sleep every time. But since my workday starts at 6:30 a.m., sleep is a little more sparse during the weekdays. Even when I vow to be in bed by 10 p.m., life happens, and I end up getting more like six hours of sleep instead of the full eight. I know this is probably the biggest bummer yet, but sometimes the one thing you need to get rid of those dark circles and puffy bags really is more sleep. On the days where I get eight hours, I notice a major difference in my entire complexion. And when I sleep well for multiple nights in a row (though it’s a rarity)? My eye bags look so much better that I almost forget they’re problematic. Beauty sleep is real, people!