Why Do We Get Bags and Dark Circles Under Our Eyes?

(Last Updated On: February 6, 2022)

If you’ve ever under or overslept before, you’ve definitely ended up with some hefty bags under your eyes before. Maybe it was the dark circles or maybe it was because you were shuffling around like a zombie, but someone might have asked about it too. Anyway, you’re probably wondering how this all works. Why do we get bags and dark circles under our eyes?

The Simple Stuff

There are a lot of things that can cause those dark circles under your eyes, though the mechanism is largely the same. Let’s go over some of the boilerplate stuff first.

There’s just being tired for starters. It actually doesn’t matter if you’re fatigued because you haven’t been sleeping or if you’re fatigued because you slept too much. Eye strain and aging fall under this banner as well, at least when you’re thinking of having dark circles right under your eyes.

You can also develop bags under your eyes as a result of allergies or being dehydrated–which is actually way more common than you might initially think it is.17%-28% of older adults are chronically dehydrated, over half of Americans also just don’t drink enough. No, the third coffee or soda doesn’t count. 

But what makes it happen, though?

One of the key things that’s often cited for your eye bags is… Probably a lot more anticlimactic than you might first think. It’s just straight up gravity. At least within the context of aging, eye bags are probably caused in part by gravity just pulling the tissues around your eyeballs downwards. It’s also because as you age, the muscles keeping everything tightly in place don’t do as good of a job anymore. Collagen, the main component of the connective tissues in your skin, also degrades over time. This makes your skin less elastic and contributes to both wrinkles and sagging over time. 

There’s also a lot of fat under your eyes. It serves a functional purpose–it’s like a little cushion for your eyeballs. Which is good because eyeballs are a pretty nice thing to have. But over time, the body starts putting more fat under your eyes, which doesn’t mesh too well with the degradation of tissues keeping that fat in place. 

Those are the eye bags though. What about when your eyes just look super dark because you were burning that midnight oil? Well the fatty tissue under your eyes that we mentioned earlier can fill with fluid, which can contribute to a bit of sag–but also the skin under your eyes is relatively thin. The muscle and blood vessels under that tissue are more visible as a result. It doesn’t help that being fatigued can make you pale and eye strain will have more blood going right under your eyeballs. Altogether, that’s going to highlight it more. It does mean some home remedies like a cold compress can help dilate the blood vessels near your eyes and clear them up. 


See if you know what’s in your eyeball here.

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About Kyler 728 Articles
Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.