- Puffy eyes develop due to excess fluid retention within connective tissue
- This puffiness can result from dehydration, excessive sodium and alcohol consumption, and fatigue
- Specially formulated eye serums, creams and gels contain active ingredients to reduce swelling and improve skin’s density and strength
- Several DIY methods are fast, easy and effective in reducing fluid buildup and irritation
Periorbital edema or simply puffy eyes, is the result of fluid retention in the upper and lower eyelids. They can be attributed to certain unhealthy lifestyle habits (lack of sleep, overconsumption of salt or alcohol) and environmental factors (seasonal or chronic allergies). Fortunately, there are several solutions available as to how to get rid of puffy eyes, and these include topical applications with active ingredients as well as simple home remedies.
What Are Puffy Eyes?
Puffy eyes are indicative of a fluid imbalance within the body and the eye area is most susceptible to revealing these imbalances.
This is because the eye contour has the thinnest and most fragile skin on the face as it has few sebaceous glands to moisturize, nor adequate levels of collagen and elastin to provide thickness and strength. This is especially true for the lower eyelid region which can appear hollow or sunken.
Water retention in the eye area causes not only swelling but uncomfortable symptoms of irritation, redness, itching and burning. These can present as mild to severe and affect one or both eyes.
Therefore, treatment takes a two-pronged approach by combatting the swelling and improving skin’s density and strength.
How to Treat Puffy Eyes
Effective over-the-counter (OTC) eye creams serums and gels work in multiple ways to target these symptoms by targeting swelling and strengthening the delicate, thin skin in the eye contour.
When making your choice, ensure you purchase a product that is specifically designed for the eye area. These contain the same active ingredients as those formulated for the face but in lower concentrations to avoid irritation; they’re also more hydrating as there are fewer oil-producing glands in this area.
Eye creams are formulated to be used above and below the eye, unless otherwise indicated.
Aloe vera has a large number of strong characteristics that, when combined, serve to relieve swelling, calm redness and irritation, and moisturize and heal damaged skin.
The vitamins have antioxidant qualities to protect tissue from damage and prevent inflammation from occurring. The fatty acids and enzymes provide anti-inflammatory benefits and the aloin boosts moisture and stimulates collagen production to strengthen skin. Amino acids hydrate by increasing water retention while zinc works as an astringent to tighten pores.
You can purchase a ready-made eye product or simply take the gel directly from an aloe vera plant; this treatment is suitable for all skin types.
Caffeine has been shown to easily penetrate the skin through hair follicles and enter blood capillaries to produce fast results. Once absorbed, caffeine goes to work to constrict the capillaries which reduces puffiness and redness, and lightens dark under-eye circles.
One study also demonstrated that caffeine can boost blood circulation. This results in an increased release of oxygen and nutrients to brighten skin tone, and greater collagen production to thicken skin. Thicker, healthier skin serves to minimize the look of the eye contour.
It has been proven that caffeine stimulates lipolysis – the process by which fats are broken down in the body through enzymes and water. One researcher has suggested that this same process could also contribute to improvements in lower eyelid sagging and puffiness.
As an antioxidant, caffeine can also protect against damage by scavenging free radicals which can cause unwanted pigmentation, collagen breakdown and interference with the body’s natural repair process.
Caffeine eye cream is suitable for all skin types except sensitive and fair skin as caffeine can cause flushing and worsen sensitivity.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that form proteins within the body, including collagen and elastin.
As a topical application they can trigger collagen and elastin production which increases skin firmness and thickness, and fills in the hollowness under the eye. This improves skin’s integrity, and renders it less prone to fluid buildup.
In addition, peptides provide anti-inflammatory and moisturizing benefits to calm red, irritated skin and leave skin smooth and supple.
These actions combine to not only treat puffy eyes but as an anti-aging ingredient to smooth skin and diminish lines and wrinkles.
Peptides are suitable for all skin types, even dry and sensitive.
Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that is well known for its many anti-aging benefits. As with peptides, it can boost collagen production, increase elasticity and deeply hydrate to smooth, firm and tighten skin, causing a lifting effect to the eye area.
As with peptides, it too can reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles in the eye area for a rejuvenated appearance.
Use sparingly until your skin becomes accustomed to the product, as first-time users often experience temporary redness, flakiness and peeling, as well as skin sensitivity.
DIY Cold Treatments for Your Eyes
Cold treatments are a long established therapy to alleviate swelling, discomfort and pain.
Cold therapy produces vasoconstriction which reduces blood flow to a specific particular area to calm inflammation and swelling. This is the guiding principle behind several common DIY remedies for puffy eyes.
Quick and easy, slices of chilled cucumber placed over your eyes can provide several benefits: the high water content rehydrates skin and the low temperature reduces blood flow and soothes irritation.
In addition, cucumber has been demonstrated to have antioxidant properties to protect against damaging free radicals and can also nourish the skin.
Chill two spoons in the freezer, place over your eyes and allow to rest for 5 minutes. The temperature constricts blood capillaries and the pressure from the spoons encourages lymphatic drainage of the excess fluids. This will alleviate discomfort and puffiness.
There is no need to limit yourself to spoons; you can use commercial gel packs, cloth-covered ice cubes, iced towels or a bag of frozen peas. As well, beauty retailers carry eye masks meant to be frozen and applied as a puffy eye treatment. All of these will produce the same results.
Both black and green tea have anti-inflammatory properties due to the tannins and catechins which provide a strong antioxidant effect; tannins also have astringent properties to shrink blood capillaries and tighten the skin, as can caffeine. Polyphenols boost circulation to drain excess fluids away from the eye area.
Steep two tea bags as you normally would, allow to cool in the refrigerator, then place them over your eyes for 5–10 minutes; while the active ingredients work, the cool temperature will aid in reducing discomfort.
Watermelon is very high in water content and as such can provide deep hydration. It also has vitamin B1, to reduce redness and improve tone; vitamin B6 to promote moisture and help repair skin; and vitamin C which boosts collagen to firm skin and provides both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
To use, place two wedges of refrigerated watermelon over your eyes for 5–10 minutes.
Many under-eye serums, gel and creams are designed to be applied via a rollerball mechanism. Not only do they deliver a wide range of active ingredients to tighten, moisturize and strengthen skin, the gliding action of the rollerball over the eye area stimulates the release of pooled fluids.
For an added benefit, refrigerate your eye roller first to benefit from the cooling sensation.
Small-sized jade rollers are available for use specifically on the eye area—both top and bottom—and are designed to boost circulation and reduce swelling by draining the lymphatic glands. As well, a roller made of jade or rose quartz naturally provides a cooling effect.
However, not all dermatologists recommend the use of eye rollers for treating puffy eyes. “Eye rollers can easily slip while you’re massaging the area and injure the eye,” says Dr. Downie. “Too much pressure with application could cause bruising or abrasions.”
With this in mind, use caution if you do decide to use this device.
Seasonal and chronic allergies can cause puffy, irritated, watery eyes. If you feel this is your case, try an OTC nondrowsy formula antihistamine; if your symptoms don’t improve, consult with your doctor to discuss a more effective treatment.
For some, puffy eyes are due to hereditary or as a result of the aging process.
If this is your situation, there are more permanent options to correct puffiness. Noninvasive, temporary fillers can fill in and smooth the under-eye area and typically last for 6 months to 1 year before being absorbed into the body.
For more severe cases, blepharoplasty, or eyelid surgery can serve as a permanent solution. While this is an invasive procedure, the results can be dramatic.
Do’s and Don’ts for Puffy Eyes
Do try and get a good night’s rest every night based on your requirements; some people need 6 hours, others 9. Just as important is to adhere to a regular nighttime routine, including time to relax at the end of the day and to retire at the same time each night.
Do get enough potassium in your diet. Potassium, a mineral found in bananas, leafy greens, and citrus fruits, helps counteract the effects of sodium in the body.
Do take care of the sensitive eye area. As this skin is thin and delicate, it is more prone to react to irritants and quickly develop signs of dryness, redness, irritation and puffiness. Prevent this by using a quality eye product to combat these unwanted effects and to strengthen, thicken and moisturize the skin.
Don’t sleep face down as this will increase the risk of fluid retention; instead, sleep on your back and elevate your head slightly.
Don’t use hemorrhoid cream in the eye area as it is not formulated for this purpose and can cause eye injuries. “Phenylephrine, a vasoconstrictor, is one of the active ingredients in Preparation H, and can be a strong irritant,” explains Dr. Downie.
Don’t eat a steady diet of processed, packaged and prepared foods as they are loaded with salt and other harmful additives. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an ideal amount of 1,500 mg per day and this is not achievable when consuming fast foods. Opt for home-cooked meals using whole ingredients as often as possible, as they contain much safer levels of sodium.
Puffy eyes can be a sign of a health condition or more serious illness. If your puffy eyes don’t resolve, if they worsen, cause pain or redness, or if there are other accompanying symptoms, see a doctor. They will examine you, make a diagnosis and begin a course of treatment.
Puffy eyes are a very common skin complaint and result due to an overconsumption of salt or alcohol, lack of sleep or allergies which results in fluid retention.
There are a large number of serums, gels and creams specially formulated for the delicate eye area. These products contain lower concentrations of active ingredients than those intended for the entire face and greater moisturizing abilities.
Eye treatments typically contain agents that will either help drain fluids or strengthen and thicken fragile skin. They will all help in reducing uncomfortable symptoms of itching, redness and irritation.
You can opt for aloe vera, caffeine, peptides or retinol, which are all effective puffy eye treatments. An easy and effective solution is to use cold therapy to quickly reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort; eye rollers can also massage pooled fluids away from the eye area but use caution when doing so.
If you’re experiencing swelling around your eyes accompanied by other symptoms, consult a doctor to ensure your puffy eyes aren’t indicative of a more serious condition.
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