Over the course of my beauty editing career, I’ve probably had more pleas for help with under-eye baggage and dark circles than any other beauty woes. And interestingly, despite gazillions spent on research, the active ingredients in most manufactured treatments that target these problems are mostly natural. So, not surprisingly, using straight-from-the-plant (or straight-from-the-veg-department-of-your-local-supermarket) ingredients can be pretty effective.
A few years ago I wrote a book called The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book (Kyle Cathie, £14.99), for which I concocted the following recipes, all of which I trialled on friends. (I have a long list of beauty woes but my eyes aren’t on them. And yes, I know how lucky I am.) The one eye treat here that I do swear by, though, is the eye bag: placed over tired eyes or when I’m stressed and need to decompress, the weighted bags relax not just the eye zone, but the whole body/mind, in my experience. If you’re handy with a needle (or a sewing machine) and fancy coming over all Cath Kidston, these lavender eye bags also make fantastic Christmas presents (well, that’s what my girlfriends tell me).
One last tip: silver teaspoons, kept in the fridge, are fantastic for tapping away eye bags. Use them really cold, with the outside of the spoon against the skin, and tap the orbital bone (the browbone, and where it continues under the eye), moving around the bone in tippy-tappy circles. This also feels really soothing and is a wonderful way to wake up in the event of a hangover, which (unless you mainline milk thistle) is slightly more statistically probable at this time of year.
So: here’s to unpacking some eye baggage…
CUCUMBER REFRESHING GEL
- A 2.5 cm./1 inch slice aloe vera leaf (or 15 ml./1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel, from a natural food store)
- A 2.5 cm. (1 inch) slice cucumber
- 1/2 gm. (1/4 teaspoon) cornstarch
- 15 ml. (1/2 fl. oz.) witch hazel
- 1 drop grapefruit seed extract
Place the peeled aloe vera leaf or the aloe juice with the cucumber in a pestle and mortar and pound (or whirr in a herb grinder) until they are smoothly blended. Then put in a double boiler with the cornstarch and heat until almost boiling. Allow to cool slightly and add the witch hazel and the grapefruit seed extract, then pour into a small, sterile glass jar and put in the fridge to cool thoroughly. The jelly-like result is very cooling, when dabbed lightly onto the ‘orbital bone’ around the eye (essentially, the eye socket area).
TIP: You can, of course, also slice off cucumber and place it over the eyes to help combat puffiness.
CHAMOMILE EYE BAG BLITZER
- 10 g. (1/2 oz.) dried chamomile flowers
- Mineral, purified tap or rainwater
Chamomile has a near-miraculous effect on tired and puffy eyes. If you know you’re heading for a morning-after-the-night-before, make this chamomile infusion before you go out and it’ll be ice-cold and ready for bag-blitzing, next day. (It keeps for just a few days in the fridge.) Place the flowers in the bottom of a mug and fill with boiling water; allow to cool and strain into a sterilised jar, which you should pop in the fridge. Soak cotton wool pads in the cold tea and place over the eyes. (Pads are better than cotton balls because they cover more of the eye zone.) Relax for 15-20 minutes. During this time, use the pads of your fingers to tap outwards along the ‘orbital bone’ above and below the eye, to help the de-puffing action. (At a pinch, you can also use a cold chamomile tea bag as an eye compress; stew and cool in the fridge before use.)
- 1/4 potato
Slice the potato in 5-10 very thin slices that can easily be moulded to the skin, rather than a couple of thick slices (which is the traditional advice). I’ve found the thin slices are much more effective because they’re in contact with the skin. Simply spritz the eye area with plain water and arrange the potato around the eyes; leave in place for 10-15 minutes – and see that puffiness disappear, thanks to the potato’s decongesting action.
TIP: If eyes are puffy in the morning, take a leaf out of supermodel Linda Evangelista’s book and reach for a cube of ice. Wrap it in Clingfilm and use it to ‘massage away’ eye bags, working in an outward direction. The cold will reduce the swelling.
HERBAL EYE PILLOWS
- 1/4 yard of silky or natural fabric (cotton or linen)
- 5 cups of dried lavender flowers or a mixture – half-and-half – of lavender
- and flaxseed
- 6 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
Cut two rectangles of fabric, around 22 cm. by 13 cm. With right sides together stitch a 11/4cm./ 1/2 inch seam around the two long sides and one end of the pillow, either by hand or using a sewing machine. Turn the right side out. Put the flaxseed and the lavender flowers in a bowl, add the lavender essential oil, drop-by-drop, swirl to mix – and (using a funnel) pour the mixture into the bag. With a hand stitch, neatly sew the remaining side closed. These eye bags are wonderfully relaxing – helpful for getting to sleep, during an at-home spa treatment or any time you need to relax; the weight of the grains seems to quiet the eyes – and in turn, the mind. These make wonderful gifts, too. Your herb pillow should last for about a year; when the next lavender harvest is in, renew it.