Every single one of us is susceptible to eye bags, those puffy, sometimes darkened rings under our eyes that make us look older, more tired, and less alert than we really are.
That’s been the case throughout human history. For millennia, people have treated their eye bags with pressure and cold, usually with items at hand. Those approaches still suffice for simple, short-term cases of eye bags: droopy eyelids caused by lack of sleep, dehydration, or a night’s overindulgence in alcohol.
But other cases of eye bags are more stubborn. The most problematic cause of eye bags is the descent of fatty tissues from immediately beneath the eye to a pocket in the lower eyelid. This causes severely pronounced eye bags that resist traditional treatments.
Recently, surgical methods have been developed that allow doctors to directly remove severe eye bags. Not everyone is comfortable with voluntarily going under the knife, so surgical methods have been refined, and new, minimally- or non-invasive procedures have hit the market. This guide describes four of the newest, most popular approaches to eliminating stubborn eye bags once and for all.
Eye Bag Removal Surgery
When eye bags are caused by the descent of fatty tissues from immediately beneath the eye, surgery can resolve the problem immediately and without scarring. While this is in many ways a minor procedure, any surgery requires preparation and incurs downtime, and invites some risk.
The first step toward eye bag removal surgery is a consultation and full examination by a physician. Many people who suffer from severe eye bags are so eager to deal with the problem decisively and permanently that they overlook non-surgical alternatives that may best suit them. A physician is best-positioned to accurately diagnose eye bags and recommend the best possible courses of treatment.
If surgery is indicated, patients are typically required to abstain for a week before surgery from drinking alcohol, smoking, taking prescription or over-the-counter painkillers, or ingesting vitamin E supplements.
The procedure involves a small incision toward the bottom of the lower eyelid, through which the displaced fatty tissues are removed. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
Because the incision is so small, and because it need only be relatively shallow to reach the fatty tissue to be excised, eye bag removal surgery leaves no scars and within a few weeks no trace that it has been conducted.
After surgery, patients typically experience some redness or soreness. Full recovery takes one to three weeks, though patients can return to their usual schedules within a week or so. The results are dramatic and permanent.
These results aren’t inexpensive: eye bag removal surgery typically costs between $2,000 and $5,000. Location has a great effect on the price, as do the nature of the clinic at which the procedure is performed, and the nature of the surgeon’s practice.
Radio Frequency Eye Bag Removal
Radio frequency (RF) eye bag removal is a minimally invasive procedure that has gained popularity in recent years, especially among people who don’t relish the idea of traditional surgery. RF eye bag treatment reduces the amount of excess fatty tissue in the lower eyelid by heating it with radio waves, then replacing it with a compound that promotes the growth of collagen.
Before the procedure, the lower eyelid is numbed with a topical anesthetic. An extremely small, specially designed needle is then inserted to the precise depth of the fatty tissues to be removed.
This needle performs two functions. First, its tip emits a radio signal of the proper frequency to melt fat. This signal is deliberately weak: only the tissue immediately surrounding the needle is affected. Second, the needle injects a small amount of poly-L-lactic acid, a common dermal filler that promotes the development of collagen, the protein largely responsible for skin’s shape and firmness.
Most treatments involve several insertions of the needle, and generally take 30 to 60 minutes. Very little discomfort accompanies RF eye bag removal, since no incisions are made and the needles used are so small.
RF eye bag removal incurs almost no downtime and leaves no scars. Some redness and puffiness may be apparent immediately following the procedure, but these recede quickly. Results typically last for two years.
The procedure is recommended only for smaller or medium-sized eye bags. Large eye bags involve too much fatty tissue for the body to reliably remove after it has been heated, and are usually candidates for traditional eye bag removal surgery.
RF eye bag removal generally costs $3,500 to $4,500.
Laser Eye Bag Removal
Laser eye bag surgery represents a middle ground of sorts between traditional eye bag removal and the RF method. Like traditional surgery, laser eye bag removal involves making a small incision near the base of the lower eyelid, through which excess fatty tissues are removed. The difference lies in the way the incision is created, and the nature of post-procedure recovery.
Before considering laser eye bag removal, patients should consult a qualified physician. This consultation should include a thorough examination and a brief screening for possible complicating factors, including prior conditions that might slow recovery, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use. These factors do not necessarily disqualify patients from the procedure, but they should be discussed frankly.
The procedure itself begins with a topical numbing agent. The doctor then directs a carbon dioxide laser to the lower eyelid, much the same as a surgeon would use a scalpel for traditional eye bag removal. Unlike a scalpel, the laser cauterizes the incision site and prevents lymph from accumulating excessively after the fatty tissue has been excised. The result is a cleaner procedure, with full recovery taking roughly one week rather than two or three, depending on the extent of the surgery.
Along with its effectiveness against eye bags, laser surgery on the eyelids, or laser blepharoplasty, has other uses. Droopy upper eyelids, for instance, can be treated in much the same way as eye bags, and the resulting extra skin pulled upward to provide a fresher, more alert appearance. Patients with diminished or absent supratarsal eyelid creases—the “double eyelids” that gives eyes a look of extra depth—can use laser blepharoplasty to create such a crease.
Depending on the nature and extent of the procedure, laser blepharoplasty typically costs $3,000 to $5,500.
4D Laser Eye Treatment
Patients who don’t mind laser surgery but wish to avoid incisions may opt for a subtler approach in 4D laser treatment. This method is entirely noninvasive, making it the safest of the treatments listed here, but is also the least direct. Because it is so gentle, 4D laser eye therapy is recommended only for small and medium-sized eye bags.
4D laser treatment works beneath the skin’s surface without disrupting it. Instead, laser energy is focused on the skin’s collagen-producing layer, stimulating the production of more collagen. In this respect, it acts somewhat like RF treatment, without RF’s direct fat-disrupting properties. When new collagen is produced, it causes the lower eyelids to tighten, placing pressure on eye bags and reducing their size. To smooth any wrinkles that may result, another laser resurfaces the skin, evening its texture and adjusting its shape.
Each 4D laser treatment takes little more than half an hour and is painless. No bruising results after the procedure, and patients typically return to their normal routines immediately following treatment. Some cases are resolved with just one session of 4D laser treatment, but many doctors recommend two or three sessions to achieve the best results.
4D laser therapy can be combined with other procedures such as high-intensity focused ultrasound treatment to fine-tune the eyelid’s texture and shape, and to reduce any minor swelling that might have occurred in response to the original procedure.
Each 4d laser eye treatment typically costs $900 to $1,200, not including any complementary procedures.