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March 15, 2018

What You Can Really Do About Dark Circles & Under-Eye Bags

Panda eyes got you down? Those windows to your soul carrying a bit too much baggage? We’ve got bad news … and good news. What you can really do about dark circles and under-eye bags.



One of the questions that get sent to Beautytap all the time is: “What can I do about dark circles and bags under my eyes?” Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news? In most cases, there’s not a whole lot you can do and the things that can be done are somewhat invasive. The good news? About half the things you can do are extremely easy.


Dark Circles


So what causes dark circles? There are different reasons. That’s one of the main things that always makes me hesitant to answer, “What can I do about these dark circles?” because I can’t know exactly why you have them. There can be several factors, and I can’t tell without seeing you or asking about your background.


The first cause I’m going to talk about is the one that sucks the most: genetics. Sometimes we just get the crap end of the stick when it comes to dark circles and Grandma passed them on to us. It can be caused by genetic hyperpigmentation, which can be common in some Desi populations, or from skin being so pale that the capillaries underneath just sort of shine through.


dark circles


If genetics is the cause, there’s really not a whole lot we can do about it other than cosmetically cover them with a good concealer. There’s this awesome red concealer trick for darker skin tones, which works magic, but avoid this if you’re pale because you’re going to look insane. The pale pandas are going to want to stick with a lighter color correction like Skinfood’s Salmon Dark Circle Concealer, which is a pale peachy corrector that’s more in step with your natural skin tone. If you’re looking for more of a reflective deflection away from the dark circles, be sure to check out that Iope Easy Fitting Concealer or even Missha Eye Brightener if you’re on a strict budget. Both are great concealers that reflect the light, therefore minimizing the harshness of darkness.


Under-Eye Bags


As for bags, again if genetics are the cause, you’re really out of luck. In extreme cases you can have plastic surgery to remove the fatty pads that cause the bags, but if you’re young, why would you do this? Don’t you know that K-pop stars pay good money for those aegyosal eyes? 😉


If you’re older and have serious “baggage,” it’s because those fatty pads that once made your eyes look plump and youthful have slipped down and created a pocket. Again surgery is really the only true intervention that’s going to give results.


Invasive intervention is also the only thing that can help another common cause: your face shape. If you have naturally sunken eyes or if you’re older and have lost volume in the skin under your eyes, injectable fillers can help plump up the area and help those black and purple nightmares be less prominent (and in some cases get rid of them altogether). This is less hardcore than surgery, but it’s also temporary, lasting only about six to eleven months at a time.


Another option is seeking treatment with an IPL laser. These are commonly used for laser hair removal and even treatment of sun damage. They’re less commonly but increasingly used to also break down the dark pigment under the eyes and some people have gotten really excellent results from them. Of course, like any cosmetic procedure there are risks involved, so read up on this before jumping into it.


Lymphatic massage


After all this Debbie Downer, there is some hope. If your circles and bags are caused by allergies or illness, a lymphatic drainage massage can be a real booster here. Those prone to allergies will sometimes get puffy eyes as a result; the buildup of lymphatic fluids around the eyes can be “pushed” away and made to drain with a simple technique. This video is a really good tutorial on how to get things moving.



Just my own personal opinion here: She suggests adding coconut oil to your eye cream for slip. Unless you know for sure you’re OK with coconut oil, I’d avoid that. It can be highly comedogenic for some people and might contribute to milia (those tiny little seeds around the eyes some people get). But do use a facial oil that you know your skin plays nicely with, as adding slip to your massage is going to drastically cut down on any pulling or dragging, which is always our main goal when working with the eye area! As a matter of fact, I recommend only using your outer two fingers (ring and pinky) for this technique, as they’re your weakest fingers.




Another thing you can do is rest well. If you’re not sleeping, you’re making things so much worse than they have to be. You know exactly what your poor eyes look like if you don’t sleep well. We’ve all been there. Even the most bright-eyed and bushy tailed among us can look like a straight-up trash panda after an all-nighter. (Rummaging through garbage cans not included.)


graveyard shift beauty




Of course, a good eye cream is always something you can benefit from, and even if it doesn’t totally disappear those circles, it certainly can’t hurt. Look for something well formulated and light. Hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient to look for, as it plumps up the skin, which can help in cases of minor volume loss. It also has the added benefit of minimizing fine lines, which always helps when addressing the eye area.


You could go hardcore and seek out creams containing hydroquinone, which is a proven skin lightener, but I really don’t like the idea of using something like that in the delicate eye area. Some may disagree, but it kind of squicks me out because that is a mad harsh ingredient and ain’t nobody tryin’ to look like the current Sammy Sosa under their eyes.


dark circles


Arbutin is a much gentler alternative, and I would personally seek that out instead. My go-to under-eye cream ingredient is licorice root, which is found in my fav SanDaWha Intensive Eye Contour Cream. Licorice root contains an active compound called glabridin, which may also help diminish the appearance of dark under-eye circles, discoloration, and age spots. Out of all the eye creams I’ve tried, this one has been my favorite. I also like that it comes in a squeeze tube so that it’s not easily contaminated. You don’t want to mess around with contamination when it comes to your eyes! SanDaWha Intensive Eye Contour Cream is what I recommend to my friends the most when they ask me what I would suggest for them, and dear reader, it’s what I suggest for you.


So what have we learned? Mostly that those damn circles likely aren’t your fault, and that you do have options. My wish is that this article gives you some perspective and most importantly, some hope!


Do you suffer from dark circles, under-eye bags, or both? What have you found that helps diminish — or at least diminish the appearance of — those issue? Share your secrets with the K-beauty community in the comments below!



Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."




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Coco, thank you so much for this amazingly informative article!! I have been an Esthetician for 20 yrs, I have worked with I believe every beauty product on the market. Eye creams are always such a hit or miss. I completely agree with you about genetics. Some people just inherit the dark circles, and there is not a lot out there to help them yet. I also love the licorice root. Anyway, I was lucky and did not get the dark circle genes, unfortunately my daughter did. Thank you for the recommendations for the few I am going to have... Read more


So if we are parents of very small children we are DOOMED hahaha. I will forever be sleepless and baggy eyed! But I really appreciated the lymphatic drainage video and extra tips there. I had not heard of that and I think it will help a lot!


Coco I bought The Skins Food Salmon Concealer and love it!! Thank you also for introducing me to the wonders of SanDaWha. I’m layering with gusto and loving all the special ingredients I didn’t realise they had! My dry but now soft skin thanks you. 💕


Hey, I think putting cucumber slices really do work and can give positive results within some days. Along with this there are some other things that cause dark circles like sleeping habits, lifestyle, not wearing wholesale reading glasses while outing. So, wearing wholesale reading glasses after buying it from stores like City Sunglass (, eBay is not a better solution for protecting dark circles, but also prevent the eyes from getting in direct contact from the sun's harmful rays.


My problem is that I have blue circles under my eyes that come from allergies, too much caffeine, and pale skin (so my veins show through). For years I was using eye cream with caffeine that made my veins even worse. Now I throw as many peptides and ceramides on my eyes as possible, with a little retinol and hibiscus extract thrown in. I’m trying to thicken the skin under my eyes so the veins won’t show through, and I try to keep the area as hydrated as possible.


I have exactly the same issue!Blue circles due to allergies and pale skin. Do you have any product recommendations? Nothing has worked for me so far.


I've been using Swanicoco's fermentation eyecream and so far I've found my undereye area more supple and healthy - looking. My blueishness is also less visible .


Honestly just cutting caffeine out did wonders (I cut it out of my skincare products and my diet; I only have one cup of decaf coffee in the mornings).

I read an article saying Matrixyl increases collagen to hide blue circles. I have that in my Timeless vitamin c serum. I think the niacinamide from the Beauty of Joseon cream really helps. I use a non-Korean eye serum that has retinol, egf, and peptides in it. I won’t suggest that because it’s insanely pricy and I’m going to switch to my own concoction of products... Read more


That's really interesting about the caffeine cream making things worse as a vasodilator, I didn't even think of that!


Ya it works great for dark/brown circles, but make blue veins pop more. 🤷🏼‍♀️


I have a little dark circles underneath my eyes but without bags, naw i have Tha Seam Iceland hydrating eye stick ^^so exited to try it ..


I've been eying that one (haaaa, pun not intended) I'm curious about how well it works so let me know!


Does anyone know an eye cream with caffeine (that won't break the bank)? I've been using the caffeine serum from The Ordinary, which has really helped with lightening my dark circles, but tbh I'm lazy and would love to use a cream with that ingredient to see if I can get away with one step less in my routine :P


Ooo, what did you think of the caffeine serum from The Ordinary? I just got it and can't wait to try it!

This Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream is a favorite of so many people AND it has caffeine AND is reasonably priced:


Oh thanks, I had no idea there was caffeine in it! There's such a hype surrounding this eye cream, but I had some negative reactions to Innisfree products when I first got into K-beauty, so I actually never explored the brand much aside from their volvanic clay mask and sheet masks. Will add it to my ever growing wishlist though!

TO caffeine serum works really well for me! I used it both AM and PM for around 3 weeks until I saw the first results. Now I'm mostly using it it the mornings and my dark circles have really improved overall.... Read more


I had no idea that the Orchid Eye Cream had caffeine in it! More reasons to try it, I love the color purple and orchids!


I've been considering trying the Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream!! Glad to hear you like it :)


I always get questions from people about what they can do to "get rid of eye bags" and while externally I'm going through ways they can minimize them, my internal immediate answer is surgery lol. It's definitely not what people want to hear but I'm glad the whole undereye situation is addressed here because I think people have so many misconceptions about what an eye cream can realistically do.


That's so true. Minimize, blur, deflect, conceal, maybe even de-puff, but I learned a while back, nothing can flatten the fat pads underneath my eye pads short of surgery. 😩


underneath my eye "bags" — oops 😂


I totally agree