Can Swim Goggles Give You Bags Under Your Eyes?

As swimmers, at some point we have all experienced goggle eyes, also known as panda eyes or racoon eyes depending on where you are in the world.

Goggle eyes are markings on the skin around the eyes where the pressure of the goggles can still be seen for a little while after your swim.

As a regular swimmer, and someone who is now at an age where the elasticity of the skin is not as good as it used to be, should I be concerned about this? Can swimming goggles create permanent skin damage?

It appears that long-term wearing of tight goggles can lead to bruising and dark circles around the eyes. However, this has not yet been verified by medical studies. Many swimmers report damage to the soft area around their eyes from long-term goggle use, but again there is little medical research into the topic. 

Before I dive into this topic, I want to be clear that I am a swimmer, not a Doctor.

I have shared my research into this as I am a regular swimmer, with ageing skin and am concerned about this. From my genetics, I know I will have bags under my eyes as I age, but I certainly don’t want to speed up the process or cause unnecessary damage.

In this article I will cover:

  • What causes goggle eyes?
  • Do goggles give you eye bags?
  • What to do if you are concerned about goggle eyes?

What Causes Goggle Eyes?

Goggle eyes are markings on the skin around the eyes where the pressure of the goggles can still be seen for a little while after your swim.

If you are a regular swimmer, or particularly if you swim in the morning, you may still see the imprint of the goggle rims on your face many hours after your swim.

Typically, goggle eyes occur for the following reasons:

1. The Goggle Straps Are Too Tight

It is important to understand that when it comes to swimming goggles; the straps are only there to help support the goggles on your face.

Tight goggle straps do not keep water out of your eyes. If your goggles are leaking, tightening the straps is the wrong thing to do. It is the suction that the rim of the goggles has on your face that creates the watertight seal.

Many swimmers have a tight goggle strap to help reduce goggle leakage but this just clamps the goggles onto the face, resulting in deep marks on the skin after a swim showing where the goggles were pressing too tightly.

2. The Goggle Rim Plastic Is Too Hard

If you suffer from goggle eyes, ensuring that your goggles are a good brand with soft seals around the rims will greatly help to reduce goggle eyes.

I have found that the Speedo Futura Biofuse Flexiseal Swimming Goggles, have a nice soft seal that is good on the skin and does not leave me with goggle eyes for hours after a morning swim.

With these goggles, the seal is so good you may find you have goggle eyes for the first few days, but as the seal gets broken in; they become very comfortable and work really well.

Even with expensive and soft seal goggles such as the Biofuse Flexiseal Swimming Goggles from Speedo, if you are a regular swimmer, after about three months, the goggles will get worn out, the watertight seal will diminish and the plastic will get hard.  

Chlorine will do this to all goggles, so to avoid goggle eyes, keep your goggles fresh.

Do Goggles Give You Eye Bags?

I spend a lot of time on online swimming forums, as I am obsessed with the beautiful art that is swimming.

The following quotes from two different forums terrified me which talked about permanent damage caused to the eyes by swim goggles.

I wore a new pair of swim goggles with suction to prevent leaking I’d estimate about 25-30 times this summer, 20-40 minutes per swim.  I noticed at the end of August I was developing these marked “troughs” under my eyes and I stopped using the goggles. now have deep dark circles with discoloration under my eyes that is marked. I’m very concerned that I have done permanent damage to the skin under my eyes by wearing these suction type goggles.

Bruising under eyes from tight swimming goggles?

I have terrible bags under my eyes from wearing AquaSphere Kaiman Goggles this past summer. They did not leak so I thought they were great, but they did leave the red marks and swelling under my eyes. had I known what they would do to my general appearance several months later, I would have NEVER worn these. I’m VERY worried and was told by a RN/esthestician today that I would need plastic surgery/blepharoplasty to correct the problem.

Permanent bags under the eyes from goggles?

Following on these threads, this seems to be a problem that concerns and has happened to many swimmers.

If you are like me, and at an age where the skin is not as elastic as it used to be, this may also cause you a little panic.

I am not terribly concerned with my looks as I have an introverted job where I can go weeks seeing no one. When I have to go into the office, I see my morning swim goggle eyes as a badge of honour as it tells the world I was up and in the pool at 6am. (Perhaps I am a little vain 😊)

Although I am not currently concerned about my goggle eyes, the thought of long-term damage is not good.

I have found lots of medical research on the impact of goggle suction on the eyeball, but little to no official medical research on the effects of goggle suction on the soft tissue around the eye.

Although I cannot find published research which investigates the impact of swimming goggles on dark circles and eye bags, I think it is logical to assume that constant pressure applied to delicate skin is going to take its toll.

The most concrete quote I can find to back up the claim that swim goggles can cause dark circles or eye bags over time is the following quote from this article. [source]

According to Dr. Darrell Rigel, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at New York University Medical Center and team dermatologist for the New York Yankees, “Chronic use of goggles is going to add up over time,” he said, comparing the effects of pressure from goggles and chlorine exposure to the gradual “drip, drip, drip” of a leaky faucet.

What To Do If You Are Concerned About Goggle Eyes

If this is a concern for you, there are some steps you can take to help to avoid this.

1. Visit A Dermatologist Or Doctor

Firstly, this is a medical condition. If you are very concerned, seek professional help and advice from a medical professional who can access your skin and advise accordingly.

2. Wear A Swim Mask

Unlike standard sized goggles that rely on suction on the soft skin around the eye, a swim mask is pressed on the area outside of the eye socket region.

This will reduce the risk of dark circles on the area immediately around the eye.

3. Wear Racing Goggles

Proper swimming racing goggles have a very small cup and sit on the eyeball itself.

In contrast to the swim mask, which sits very far outside the soft tissue around the eye, racing swim goggles sit on the eyeball itself and, typically, inside the soft tissue of the eye.

The downside of racing swim goggles is that they are really uncomfortable for the recreational swimmer. Plus, if you don’t get the right fit, you may still have goggle eyes.

4. Use Creams Which Reduce Bruising

There are creams on the market that can reduce the effect of bruising.

These are called Arnicare cream or Hirudoid cream.

Here is a link to an article which discusses these creams in greater detail.

I am not sure if this is just a temporary fix or a long term solution, but swimmers with bruising or dark circles around their eyes after swimming seem to swear by it.

5. Keep Hydrated

By keeping hydrated, your skin will have more elasticity and bounce, which will reduce the short-term effects of goggle eyes. [source]

When we are in and surrounded by water, it’s easy to forget to drink. You may not even realise how much you are sweating and losing water during your workout.

6. Experiment With Different Goggles

If you have goggles with a soft seal and keep your straps loose and still have goggle eyes, it is time to shop around.

Although there are no swimming goggle I can find which guarantees protection against dark circles or eye bags, you may simply have to try a few different brands and shapes to get a pair that are not too tight, work well and fit your face in a way that keeps your eyes looking bright and healthy.

Final Thoughts

From my research, this seems to be a very common problem amongst older swimmers. It makes me angry that there is not enough medical research published on this topic.

I feel that the big brands should take some time to complete a long-term study with medical professionals into the effects of goggle suction on the eye socket tissue.

I guess inevitably, tight goggle pressure is going to build up over years, but it is tragic that most swimmers only seem to realise this after they have dark circles or problems.

Prevention is better than cure, and if this is a concern for you, experiment with different goggles and goggle designs to really tackle the problem.

Emma Moore

Hi, I am Emma, and I am obsessed with all watersports, from swimming to surfing and everything in between. I spend my free time in the water or preparing for my next water travel adventure.

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