A Personal Journey to Eye Bag Acceptance

There are some problem areas that seem to love being problems. We’ve seen this type of situation before: the distance runner with cellulite. The 40-year-old with acne. And then there's the woman who just got 12 hours of sleep and had the most productive morning of her life… with dark, puffy, giant circles under her eyes.

As an eye bag carrier myself, I’ve gotten plenty of "You look so tired!" comments. I've dealt with my family's favorite gene my entire life, which put me quickly on the path to dark circle obliteration. In every childhood photo, I'm the freckle-faced redhead who looks like her parents made her memorize the digits of pi into the late hours of the night. (They didn't; the one gene I definitely didn't get is the math gene). I began to worry that my future friends and employers would think I looked eternally unenthusiastic.

Obsessed with the glamorous life of celebrities from a young age, I felt inadequate in comparison. How did Oprah's circles magically disappear every day at 3 PM? Why couldn't I have a team of people fixing my "flaws?" So, I took a crash course in mastering my angles.

The first time I visited Sephora for a dark circle remedy, I was told to always "illuminate." From browsing the “cooling illuminator gel” to the “magic illumination pen” to the “instant under-eye illuminator,” I was quickly introduced to the wonderful world of makeup buzzwords. I walked through the fluorescent-lit aisles, lost. Should there be a glittery sheen, or just a glossy shine? Why are some illuminators in color? Do I use a finger or a brush? Won’t this just make my bags more obvious?

To the last question, yes. I gave up on the art of illumination, despite finally finding my shade of pale in the magic wands.

Next up, I tried all forms of concealer ­— from liquid to creamy to basically solid. Some contain caffeine, which sounds promising until you read that it’s just as effective to put coffee grounds on your eyes. Or cold spoons. Or hemorrhoid cream. I even followed the journey of comedian Ali Wentworth, who blogged about the before and after processes of surgical eye-bag removal (but no, that was not a route I'd travel).

I asked my friend her thoughts on puffy eyes one day and her response was "I feel like that's one of those things that really only you notice on yourself." What? You're actually looking at my eyes when we're making eye contact? I figured she was probably just used to my bags by now, and one look in the mirror immediately trumped her opinion.

Still, I kept soldiering on. I even attempted the organic DIY phase. But relaxing for 15 minutes with a new ingredient or object on my face each morning led to too many questions from my roommate. ("I hope you don't mind but I moved your green drink to the fridge" ... "Oh, no, that's just my eye mask.")

After some trial and error, I went back to makeup, and wound up with Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer. I gave up on trying every single brand and compared all the "Best Under-Eye Concealers" posts online. Cream ones seemed to show the least amount of creases, and Tarte's had a good thickness to it. Soon after, I read that it isn’t just about the concealer you use, but how you apply it. So apparently I was now supposed to become my own makeup artist. Thank you, glossy concealer packaging, for making me think you did it all.

Women at the Nordstrom's makeup counter taught me to make an inverted triangle under my eye with the concealer and to “Never use a brush. Dab, just dab, with the non-dominant ring finger” (obviously the gentlest of fingers). I would look in the mirror to find a darker, exposed triangle inside of a creasing, concealer colored triangle. Do I fill in the rest and become yet another victim of the Clearly Wearing Makeup epidemic? Or do I stop everything and put my dabbing finger down?

It’s safe to say I now take a minimalist approach to concealing. I can't compare myself to people who can just call their people when their fake fatigue begins to show. Eye bags are accessories millions of women share. There comes a point when we have to stop being ashamed, and start showing them off. Makeup is a beautiful thing. And when it can accentuate your assets, it's even better. A red lip or a rosy cheek gives brings you to a new level of style. Covering your circles? That just erases beautiful traces of your family lineage.

Like many other devoted makeup video viewers, the number of products and methods in the market overwhelmed me, and my budget. And at some point I had to stop stealing real spoons from the dining hall.

So bag ladies, I’m here to tell you to flaunt your Pradas and Fendis. Here’s why you should let out your secret bag of tricks:

  1. With beautiful, bodacious eye bags, you can blame your crabby mood on your "fatigue."
  2. The days your bags go into hiding, you’re tricked into thinking you actually are more refreshed and awake.
  3. You look like you really take advantage of your weekend nights. Whether that means studying all night or partying hard, nobody has to know.
  4. The bags make you look mature, intellectual, and all around more experienced in life.

True beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or at least, in its vicinity.

Image: Ashley Batz/Bustle