Dark Circles & Puffy Eyes Explained
There are many possible factors leading to dark circles. They generally fall into two
categories, inherited and lifestyle-related. Inherited factors can include
pigmentation (dark discoloration of skin) and allergies. Some people may also have
very thin skin under their eyes, so blood and blood vessels show more clearly.
Another inherited factor may simply be having deeply set eyes, which leads to shadows
that may appear to be dark circles. Factors related to lifestyle include lack of
sleep and the damage caused by sun exposure.
Puffy eyes are a condition where the eyes begin swelling due to different factors,
including fluid retention, stress, allergies, hormone changes, too much sodium in
the diet, and more. The skin around your eyes is very thin and full of blood
vessels, making this area very sensitive.
Does Diet Affect Puffy Eyes?
Studies show that diets high in salt (sodium chloride) contribute to fluid retention,
which can cause under-eye puffiness.1,2 Even if you don't regularly add salt
to your food, by consuming a high quantity of processed foods, your diet may still be
too high in sodium, especially if you snack on potato chips, eat frozen dinners, or use
prepared lunchmeats in your sandwiches.
While your body needs sodium to maintain fluid balance, send out nerve impulses, and
keep your muscles functioning smoothly, the National Academy of Sciences Institute
of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume between 1,500 and 2,400 milligrams
a day. Alarmingly, the average American consumes more than twice that amount daily.
What can you do to reduce your sodium intake and the edema (swelling) it
- Choose fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, over processed foods like lunchmeats, hot dogs, sausage, and bacon.
- Be selective in your purchases of processed foods. Canned soup, for example, is very high in sodium. Look for healthier alternatives, such as "reduced-sodium" soups and "low-sodium" prepared entrees.
- When cooking, skip the salt in recipes, except those for baked goods. (Eliminating the salt in baking recipes could compromise quality and taste.)
- Conserve on condiments. Mustard, ketchup, relish, certain dips, and bottled salad dressings are all high in sodium.
- Spice your food with fresh herbs and dried spices.
- Be careful when using a salt substitute. The lighter flavor may tempt you to use more than is healthy.
While mild puffiness under your eyes is common and shouldn't be cause for concern,
reducing your sodium intake overall can also help reduce water retention for a more
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/under-eye-puffiness/AN00664
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN00350