Your Stylist: Understanding those pesky under-eye bags

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Ever have a co-worker or friend tell you that you look tired? If you’re like me, you flash a fake smile and thank them for their keen observations, then slip into the bathroom to check out just how big the bags under your eyes are -- the unflattering florescent light in the bathroom helps to accentuate them, making the situation that much more annoying.

But what’s happening below your eyes is more than just puffy bags. Here’s a breakdown of what’s behind saggy or puffy under-eyes and how to effectively conceal and even out the area so the whole face looks brighter and, well, less tired.

Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon Dr. Davis Nguyen sheds some light on the situation.

‘There are three main things that happen around the eye area that make them start to look irregular or baggy.’ Says Dr. Nguyen.


  1. Gravity – ‘As skin starts to fall, that pull accentuates the eye bags that are already there from stress or allergies,’ he says.
  2. Loss of volume - ‘We all lose collagen as we get older,’ says Nguyen, adding that, as a result, any areas around the eyes with extra fluid will be accentuated. A loss of volume around the orbital bone (closest to the cheekbone) creates a recessed groove that can often look dark and draw more of a contrast to the puffed-out under-eye.
  3. Loose skin - ‘When skin looses elasticity and skin starts to sag, irregularities around the eye area are more noticeable,’ Nguyen says.

All of these factors exacerbate each other and Nguyen warns that addressing one thing and not the other two won’t effectively even out the under-eye area. Of course, there are cosmetic procedures like injectables and laser treatments or a slew of creams that can be slathered onto skin to help remedy the situation (due to the caffeine, steeped green tea bags applied to the area help reduce puffiness).
But if you’re as impatient or scared of needles (particularly being poked near my eye) as I am, then eliminating the issue with makeup might be your best bet.

Nguyen says that understanding contour, lighting and shadows certainly helps to effectively apply eye bag vanishing makeup. Rachel Herrera, makeup artist for on-camera talent at the Style Network, knows all about diminishing early morning under-eye issues and has these handy tips.

‘Moisture is very important,’ Herrera says, but the lotion doesn’t have to expensive. Herrera loves Oil of Olay. ‘It doesn’t have to be a separate under-eye cream, as long as the area is hydrated.’

Light-reflecting concealers like YSL Touche Eclat are her go-to and help to transform the under-eye into a more even and illuminated area, rather than being an uneven surface of dark, light, puffy and recessed.

‘YSL Touche Eclat No. 2 works on most skin tones,’ says Herrera. ‘It has some pink in it which counteracts blue and darkness in the skin.’

The makeup artist also uses Laura Mercier Eye Basics eye primer in peach on the network’s on-air hosts. It’s not technically a concealer, but as a primer it works to create a more even and smooth surface. She dusts some Illuminating powder, also from Laura Mercier, on top of the primer for that light-reflecting finish.

‘Be very gentle when applying concealer.’ She warns ‘People tend to put more on than needed. Just lightly tap it on and blend. Dust some powder over that to set it and if you need more, tap a little more on over the powder.’

As far as counteracting the shadowy area caused by loss of volume near the orbital bone, she advises using a color of under-eye concealer that’s two shades lighter than your foundation and carefully applying it onto the area with a very precise, pointed concealer brush. ‘This takes a lot of practice.’ says Herrera, but adds that it can be very effective as far as counteracting the shadow that can off set the puffed-out area above it.

‘Stay away from heavy concealers,’ she says. ‘That can really go wrong, look cakey and actually start to accentuate the bags. Plus, the light-reflecting products are generally easier to use.’

Here’s to looking ‘less tired.’

-- Melissa Magsaysay


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Photos, from top: YSL Touche Eclat, $40 (Credit: YSL); Laura Mercier Eye Basics in peach, $24 (Laura Mercier); Laura Mercier illuminating powder, $32 (Laura Mercier).