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How Do I Get Rid of the Bags Under My Eyes?
Valerie Monroe
Photo: Jonathan Skow
Q: I've tried everything short of surgery, but I can't get rid of the bags under my eyes. Can you help?

A: If the swelling under your eyes is due to hereditary fat pads, you probably have them all the time (not just during allergy season or when you wake up in the morning). In that case, the fat can be dissolved with phosphatidylcholine injections (instead of extracting it through surgery), says Cheryl M. Burgess, MD, medical director at the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery in Washington, D.C. Do allergies bring on your puffiness? Try an antihistamine to reduce inflammation. Inadequate lymphatic drainage can also cause puffiness, most noticeable when you wake up, says Burgess. Try sleeping with your head elevated to discourage fluid pooling under your eyes. Never use a concealer lighter than your skin tone on undereye bags; you'll accentuate them, says Renato Almeida, makeup artist for Shiseido. Instead, try a concealer as close as possible to your skin tone, and dab a little highlighter on the inner corners of your eyes to brighten them and draw attention to your irises rather than your puffiness.

Bottom line: In order to treat undereye bags effectively, you first have to figure out what's causing them.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.

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    Real Causes of Dark Undereye Circles
    Valerie Monroe
    Photo: Patrik Andersson
    Q: Dark undereye circles make me feel exhausted.

    A: I see you were too tired to ask me a question. You need to determine the cause of your dark circles before you can treat them. The main cause for shadows under the eyes is rubbing provoked by allergies—both seasonal and product induced, says Cheryl M. Burgess, MD, medical director at the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery in Washington, D.C. The second most common cause is excess pigment that may be hereditary, and the third is visible veins. If your problem is due to allergies (your eyes are itchy and watery; rubbing them causes shadows), you'll want to use a mild, soapless cleanser and a moisturizer for sensitive skin. You might also need a .5 percent hydrocortisone cream to relieve the itching. Dark circles due to excess pigment (press down on the discoloration—if it doesn't disappear, it's pigment) can sometimes be lightened by lotions or creams containing hydroquinone, arbutin, or kojic acid. Three or more treatments with the Fraxel re:store or Fraxel re:fine laser are also an option. And visible veins can be treated with the Nd:YAG 1064nm laser; several treatments are usually necessary.

    Keep in mind: Judicious application of concealer can work very well to hide your discoloration. Use a creamy concealer the same shade as your complexion, lightly tapping it on and then blending over the dark areas.

    Ask Val a question or get another answer

    As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.

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      How to Conceal Dark Undereye Circles
      Makeup artist Derrick Rutledge—who has worked his magic on Michelle Obama and Oprah—shows us how to make the problem disappear.
      Most of us are dealing with them—maybe because these intractable shadows have many causes. Among the culprits: a sun-induced buildup of pigment, hereditary discoloration, and blood vessels close to the surface of the skin.
      dark circles makeover
      Photo: Fernando Milani
      To make the problem disappear…

      The Tool Kit


      Creamy Concealer: If your shadows are blue-tinged, choose a yellow-based concealer. If they're more brown or yellow, use a peachy color. The formula should be creamy so it glides over your skin and won't settle into fine lines.

      Translucent Powder: One with a slight sheen will not only set your concealer but also have an illuminating effect.

      Dark Brown Eye Pencil: A waterproof formula won't smear (adding more darkness).

      Directions


      1. Pat creamy concealer only on dark areas. Don't forget the innermost corners, where many of us have deep shadows.

      2. Dip a wedge sponge into translucent powder and pat it under your eyes to set the concealer.

      3. Blend a matte brown shadow into the creases of the lids to make your eyes look more open.

      4. Dot a dark brown pencil between lashes all along upper lashlines. It makes every eye color appear more vibrant, distracting from dark circles.

      5. Line the inner rims of your lower lids with the same brown pencil, from inner to outer corners.

      6. Layer creamy dark blue pencil over brown liner, focusing color on the outer third of upper lashlines. Blue makes the whites of the eyes look brighter.

      7. Apply two coats of mascara to the top lashes only. A waterproof formula prevents dark-circle-enhancing smudges.

      More Beauty Advice

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        How to Get Rid of Undereye Bags, Once and for All
        Makeup artist Derrick Rutledge—who has worked his magic on Michelle Obama and Oprah—shows us how to make the problem disappear.
        A late night (or two), dehydration, or allergies can cause the delicate blood vessels under your eyes to leak fluid and create swelling. And as we age, the fibrous bands underneath the eyes weaken, causing fat pads to protrude.
        Eyes
        Photo: Fernando Milani
        To Make The Problem Disappear...

        The Tool Kit


        Illuminating Liquid Concealer Pen (Try Sephora Collection Smoothing & Brightening Concealer, $14, Sephora.com): To make the hollow area beneath the bags look less deep (which will make puffiness appear less prominent), the color should be two shades brighter than your natural skin tone.

        Soft Brown Eyeshadow (likfe Illamasqua Powder Eye Shadow in Heroine, $20, Sephora.com): Look for matte shadows; shimmer can accentuate fine lines or crepiness.

        Volumizing Mascara (like CoverGirl LashPerfection Mascara, $6, drugstores): Lush lashes distract from swelling beneath the eyes.

        Directions


        1. Fill in gaps in your brows with short, feathery strokes of a pencil. Strong brows draw attention up and away from bags under the eyes.

        2. Pat an illuminating concealer on the shadowy line just under the puffiness. Blend the cream toward your nose, not upward.

        3. Blend a soft brown eyeshadow over your lids, from upper lashline to just above the crease. The color contours your lids, which helps offset the appearance of puffiness below the eyes.

        4. Dot a bronzy brown shadow along the upper and lower lashlines. This will help define the eyes, making swelling underneath less noticeable.

        5. Our model (above) is wearing false lashes. For a similar effect, apply two coats of black mascara to the upper lashes. Brush any excess along the lower ones.

        More Beauty Advice

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          4 Steps to Conceal Undereye Circles
          27-year-old Dhara Naik sits down with makeup artist Sonia Kashuk to get a concealer tutorial.
          1 of 6
          Dhara Naik before shot
          BEFORE
          In a quest to hide her dark undereye circles, 27-year-old Dhara Naik has spent hundreds of dollars on concealers. "But they're obviously not doing the job," she says. "I get eight hours of sleep every night, and I still look exhausted." Naik's problem is twofold, says makeup artist Sonia Kashuk: "She's using a pink-toned conceaaler that's both too sheer and too light for her complexion."

          Finding the Right Concealer: The shade should be slightly warmer, not lighter, than your natural skin tone. Swipe a few options under your eyes—the best match will disappear completely into your skin. A formula that comes in a pot gives the fullest coverage, a concealer stick more moderate coverage, and a sponge-tipped wand the least.

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            Val Answers Your Top 20 Skincare Questions
            You've consistently honored Ask Val with your most pressing beauty questions, from the straightforward (do I really need an SPF if I'm inside all day?) to the strange (though my skin is dry, my eyelids are oily—what's up with that?). Here are some of our favorite skincare dilemmas along with their bottom-line solutions.
            val monroe

            Q: What can I do about large pores and acne scars besides cover them up? I want to go barefaced in the summer.

            A: And by "barefaced" you mean wearing only sunscreen, right? The most effective treatment for large pores and acne scars, says Tina Alster, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University Medical Center, is fractionated laser skin resurfacing. The Fraxel re:pair and Dual lasers tighten pores and encourage collagen formation, which minimizes the divots of acne scars. You need a series of three to five monthly treatments; average cost is $750 to $2,000 each (but many doctors offer discounted packages).

            Keep in mind: Fraxel treatments work on a wide range of skin tones but shouldn't be performed after recent sun exposure.

            Q. Will I have better skin if I spring for regular facials?

            A: If by "better" you mean "moisturized with a subtle glow," then yes. But you won't get more dramatic changes like improved skin tone, fewer breakouts, or smaller pores. "A classic facial—which usually includes steam, cleansing, and, sometimes, extractions—is good for mild benefits like unclogged pores and hydration," says Anne Chapas, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. Be careful, though, about add-ons like a chemical peel, she says. A peel can improve the skin over four to six sessions, but Chapas has seen problems like scabbing from overly aggressive treatments.

            Keep in mind: If a spa facial isn't in your future, an at-home peel (like Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant, $37; dermalogica.com) and a supermoisturizing mask (like SkinCeuticals Biocellulose Restorative Masque, $144 for six; skinceuticals.com) can give you similar results.

            PAGE 1 of 6

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