- Some natural at-home remedies can quickly and effectively reduce puffiness.
- The amount of time required for a treatment to take effect will depend on the underlying cause of the swelling.
- Certain factors causing puffy eyes can only be addressed with professional care and lifestyle changes.
- Chilled cucumber slices, black or green tea bags and cold water and ice can all offer fast-acting relief from puffy eyes.
A variety of commercial remedies are available to treat puffy eyes, including eye masks, creams and serums. For those seeking a different approach, several at-home remedies can also be used to quickly reduce puffiness.
Swelling of the under-eye tissue can be caused by a number of factors. The amount of time necessary for an at-home treatment to take effect will depend on how well it addresses the underlying issue and how severe the puffiness is.
Puffy Eye Causes
- Lack of sleep
- Allergic reactions
- Rubbing and abrasion in the eye area
Other puffy eye triggers are not as easily treatable with simple remedies and are best addressed with long-term lifestyle changes or professional attention, including:
- Diet, particularly the overconsumption of salty foods or alcohol
- Smoking cigarettes, which can cause veins to constrict and lead to capillary leakage under the eyes
- Thyroid and kidney disorders, which cause fluid retention throughout the body, including the eye area
Lack of sleep
Inadequate sleep causes the blood vessels in the tissues under the eyes to dilate. This increases the amount of blood flow in the under-eye area, resulting in a buildup of fluid that causes swelling.
As the skin under the eyes is thinner and more translucent than skin elsewhere on the body, these dilated blood vessels can also show through the skin, causing the area to darken and leading to the formation of dark circles.
Some of the water released from your tear ducts when you cry can flow back into your under- eye tissue. This causes fluid to build up in the area, which can make the tissue under your eyes appear swollen. The abrasion caused by physically rubbing away tears can further irritate the area, worsening the swelling.
During allergic reactions, the body releases histamine, a chemical compound that triggers a response in the immune system.
Histamine increases mucus production and blood flow to the affected area of the body. These effects are intended to expel allergens and irritants, but they can also lead to the tissue in the eye area becoming swollen.
Common allergens that affect the eyes include dust, air pollutants, animal dander and pollen. Skin care and makeup products may also contain ingredients that trigger allergic reactions.
Quick Puffy Eye Treatments
Several fast-acting at-home remedies are available to reduce the appearance of puffy eyes. The speed and effectiveness of these remedies will depend on the underlying cause and severity of your puffy eyes.
Under 15 minutes
For puffy eyes brought on by a lack of sleep and minor allergic reactions, these easy at-home solutions can provide fast and effective relief in 15 minutes or less.
Cold therapy can quickly bring down swelling, as it constricts blood vessels in only a few minutes. A cold compress can effectively reduce fluid retention and swelling caused by dilated capillaries and increased blood flow in the under-eye tissue.
Applying cold spoons, small bags of frozen peas or ice cubes wrapped in a washcloth to the eye area for 5 to 10 minutes can significantly reduce puffiness.
Lightly massaging the tissue surrounding the eye can reduce swelling in blood vessels and drain accumulated lymphatic fluid.
An effective massage of the eye area can take as little as a few minutes. It should always be performed delicately as the skin under the eye is thin, very responsive to touch and easily damaged.
Under 30 Minutes
Mild puffiness caused by lack of sleep, allergic reactions and crying can be resolved in under 30 minutes using at-home remedies.
Green tea or black tea bags
Green and black tea bags contain caffeine, which is said to constrict dilated blood vessels when applied topically. They also contain flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Using chilled, wet tea bags can offer ideal results, as the cold also works to constrict blood vessels.
Cucumbers have antioxidant properties, and when applied to the skin, they can be used to ease swelling and soothe irritation.
The cucumber’s soothing qualities should begin to take effect on puffy eyes after about 15 minutes. Up to 30 minutes may be necessary for them to take full effect.
Under 2 Hours
Eye puffiness caused by more severe allergies may take more time to address, but can still be significantly reduced within 2 hours.
Oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadine (Allegra) and loratadine (Claritin) effectively combat eye puffiness due to serious allergic reactions.
They do so by interfering with histamine receptors throughout the body, reducing symptoms such as dilated blood vessels, itching and sneezing, and any irritation or swelling caused by these symptoms.
Some antihistamines are fast-acting, requiring as little as 15 minutes to take effect. Others require up to 30 minutes to begin taking effect, and peak in effectiveness within 1–2 hours. While the effects of some antihistamines only last a few hours, long-lasting options can provide 12–24 hours of relief.
Long Term Lifestyle Changes
While puffy eyes can sometimes be addressed quickly through simple solutions, lifestyle changes may be needed to treat puffy eyes caused by exhaustion and dehydration.
If a lack of sleep is the cause of your puffy eyes, simply getting a few more hours of sleep may help. Sleep will reduce the dilation of the blood vessels under your eyes, easing any swelling that has occurred. Most healthy adults require 7–9 hours of sleep each night.
Moderate dehydration can result in fluid retention, leading to a buildup of fluids beneath the eyes. To alleviate eye puffiness brought on by lack of hydration, be sure to increase your water intake over the course of the day.
While the exact amount of water that your body needs will vary, most experts recommend that adults drink about half a gallon of water per day. This water should be consumed slowly over the course of the day for optimal hydration.
Certain liquids, such as caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, can also impede proper hydration. Both caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics and can suppress the body’s antidiuretic hormones. These liquids should be avoided when possible to prevent dehydration and fluid retention.
Smoking and other forms of nicotine consumption can cause blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure and potentially causing trauma to the capillaries. This can result in capillary leakage, which may lead to a buildup of fluid in the body’s tissues, causing puffy eyes as well as swelling elsewhere in the body.
Making the choice to quit smoking can significantly reduce fluid retention in the body and lessen your chances of experiencing puffy eyes. Though quitting can be difficult, many resources are available to assist with the process including phone apps and non-profit organizations.
Tips and Tricks to Prevent Puffy Eyes
In order to effectively reduce your chances of experiencing puffy eyes, you will need to identify the potential triggers responsible for your puffy eyes and work to avoid them.
Seasonal allergies causing swollen eyes can be addressed with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. However, you can also take measures to reduce the presence of allergens in your immediate environment.
Use vacuums equipped with HEPA filters to combat indoor allergens such as pet dander and dust mites. Be sure to avoid cosmetic products with ingredients that cause eye irritation, such as nickel, cobalt and preservatives like parabens.
Puffy eyes are a common and irritating cosmetic issue. Fortunately, they can often be safely and quickly treated with simple at-home remedies.
Puffiness caused by a lack of sleep, allergic reactions, crying and mild abrasion can typically be effectively reduced in under 2 hours.
Cold compresses and gentle eye massages can temporarily alleviate swelling, and offer results within 15 minutes. Chilled tea bags and cucumber slices can provide relief in as little as 30 minutes. Those suffering from allergies may be able to treat puffy eyes through the use of OTC allergy medications.
In some cases, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, regularly getting more sleep and limiting salt, alcohol and caffeine intake may be necessary to keep puffy eyes to a minimum.
- Mukherjee PK, Nema NK, Maity N, Sarkar BK. Phytochemical and therapeutic potential of cucumber. Fitoterapia. 2013 Jan;84:227-36. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2012.10.003
- Hahn, R. G., Grankvist, N., & Krizhanovskii, C. (2016). Urinary Analysis of Fluid Retention in the General Population: A Cross-Sectional Study. PloS one, 11(10), e0164152. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0164152
- Didilescu AC, Hanganu SC, Galie N, Greabu M, Totan A, Stratul SI, Puiu L. [The role of smoking in changing essential parameters in body homeostasis]. Pneumologia. 2009 Apr-Jun;58(2):89-94. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19637760