In the first season of 30 Rock, Jenna (played by Jane Krakowski) orders the NBC intern to buy her hemorrhoid cream because she thinks dabbing it under her eyes will reduce the puffiness. In pure sitcom style, the intern delivers it to her, announcing in a loud voice exactly what it is, while she’s flirting with someone. Jenna tries explaining that it’s for her face, and not for its usual purpose. But, that just leaves her potential date confused (and somewhat less interested).

If you have bags under your eyes, you, too, may find them so irksome and stubborn that you’d resort to trying something “unconventional” such as applying hemorrhoid cream. As far as I know, there’s been no convincing or high quality medical study on this “treatment.” However, it might actually work: hemorrhoid creams and ointments contain medications that constrict blood vessels; that’s how they help to shrink hemorrhoids. That same action could reduce the puffiness and darkness under the eyes; more on why later. Still, the safety and effectiveness of applying hemorrhoid cream under the eyes is unproven, so I would not be enthusiastic about this option.

Why do some people develop such prominent dark circles under their eyes? What can be done about them? Before I answer these questions, it might help to understand why darkened, puffy skin under the eyes develops in the first place.

The whys behind puffy eyes

Here are some reasons why your eyes might be darker and puffier than usual:

  • You’re getting older – As you age, the skin around the eye gets thinner and looser—and it’s thinner and looser than skin elsewhere on the body to begin with. This allows fluid to collect, causing a puffy appearance. Veins under the skin can create the dark appearance of the skin.
  • You’re lying down a lot – Lying horizontal makes fluid collect beneath the eyes. It also makes the veins under the eyes dilate, which darkens the appearance of the skin even more.
  • You have allergies or nasal congestion. The veins under the eyes drain into the nose. As a result, nasal congestion or seasonal allergies can cause the veins under the eyes to dilate. Dark circles are so common with allergies, they're sometimes called "allergic shiners."
  • You’re retaining fluid – Anything that causes fluid retention, such as pre-menstrual bloating or excessive salt intake could increase puffiness around the eyes. Fluid retention might also be the sign of a medical problem, such as kidney or liver disease. If you develop significant and persistent swelling around the eyes that’s new for you, contact your doctor, especially if you notice fluid retention elsewhere in the body, such as the legs.
  • Your mom or dad have bags under their eyes – Next time you’re with your parents, take a look at the area under their eyes - it may serve as a preview of how your eyes will age.
  • You have a side effect to a medication –If your puffy eyes started right after you began taking a new medication, the drug might be the cause. Check with your doctor to see if that may be the case.