- Puffy eyes are the result of accumulated fluid below the eye.
- They are often caused by lifestyle habits and environmental factors.
- In rare cases, they can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
- Treat puffy eyes with specially formulated skin care products or DIY home remedies.
Puffy eyes are an issue that can affect people of all ages. Typically occurring in the morning, they can appear unsightly and make the overall appearance of the face look unrested and unwell. In rare cases, they can be an indication of a more serious condition.
What Causes Puffy Eyes?
Puffy eyes are caused by the accumulation of fluid beneath the skin under the eye. As the skin below the eye is delicate, it’s a prime location for visible fluid retention.
Fluid retention is due to an imbalance of salt and fluids in the body. A common cause of fluid retention is dehydration, which can be brought on by inadequate fluid intake or overconsumption of alcohol.
Fluid retention also occurs when you consume too much salt. Sodium induces thirst while simultaneously preventing excess fluid from being eliminated.
Puffy eyes can also be caused by lack of sleep. An overtired body produces higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body respond to stress but also regulates salt and water balance. High levels of cortisol can throw off that balance and lead to water retention.
Allergies are another common cause of puffy eyes. Your body responds to the perceived threat of the allergen (often a food, chemical, pollen or animal dander) by releasing histamine, which causes inflammation and redness.
In rare instances, puffy eyes can be a symptom of a serious ailment.
Very swollen eyelids may be a symptom of an eye infection such as conjunctivitis.
Thyroid disorders such as Graves’ disease create the appearance of bulging eyes, while kidney failure can cause swelling throughout the body, including the face.
Puffy eyes vs. dark circles and eye bags
Puffy eyes differ from dark circles in that they don’t necessarily involve discoloration of the skin – although it’s not uncommon to have both at the same time.
Bags under the eyes are typically a result of aging and genetics more than diet or allergies. As skin ages, the tissue around the eyes weaken and fat begins to migrate down the face. This creates the appearance of loose skin below the eyes.
Puffy eyes, conversely, can affect anyone of any age and aren’t related to fat or gravity.
Best Treatments for Puffy Eyes
There are ingredients that work to either drain existing fluid or stimulate collagen production to build skin’s resilience against puffiness. When looking for a solution for your puffy eyes, try an eye cream or serum containing one or more of the following ingredients.
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it narrows blood vessels. Applied topically, it pushes blood out of the superficial veins below the eye and promotes drainage of retained fluids.
However, a possible downside to using topical caffeine below the eye is that it has been linked to decreased collagen production.
Peptides are naturally occurring proteins in your body. They perform a wide range of functions that include signaling to the body to produce more collagen. Applied topically, they can visibly improve skin’s appearance, increasing firmness and skin thickness.
While a peptide cream or serum won’t fix puffy eyes overnight, if used consistently it can reduce puffiness and improve the overall appearance of your under-eye area.
Aloe vera gel has soothing, hydrating properties to reduce inflammation around the eyes and calm redness. Aloe vera gel is an ingredient in many eye masks and serums or can be used directly from the plant.
Naturally produced in the body, hyaluronic acid plays a key role in retaining skin moisture. Applied topically, it can instantly plump up dehydrated skin. Use it to ensure that the skin below your eyes is well moisturized after it’s been de-puffed.
If your puffy eyes are caused by seasonal allergies, an antihistamine medication will be the most effective solution. Histamine, the body’s natural defense against allergens, causes swelling that’s particularly visible in the thin skin surrounding the eye.
This puffy eye treatment isn’t an ingredient but a delivery method. Many under-eye treatments are delivered through a rollerball mechanism. As the metal ball glides over your skin, it gently massages away excess fluid. At the same time, the metal cools your skin, which decreases blood flow to the area and reduces swelling.
Keep your rollerball products in the refrigerator for an extra cooling effect.
De-puffing ingredients: pros and cons
|Caffeine||Constricts blood vessels to limit swelling||May decrease collagen production|
|Peptides||Increases skin thickness||Isn’t fast acting|
|Aloe vera||Soothes irritated skin||Doesn’t counteract fluid retention|
|Hyaluronic acid||Replenishes dehydrated skin||Doesn’t counteract fluid retention|
|Antihistamine||Treats puffy eyes due to allergies||Only treats symptoms due to allergies|
|Eye rollers||Massages away fluid buildup; reduces swelling||Effect can be temporary|
Home Remedies to Treat Puffy Eyes
Puffy eyes can also be treated with simple techniques using ingredients you already have in your home.
Green tea has antioxidant properties that can soothe and reduce puffiness around the eyes. Boil two tea bags and let them cool in the fridge or freezer. Place them over your eyes for ten minutes to reduce eye puffiness.
While green tea is a very budget-friendly remedy for puffy eyes, it does require a fair amount of planning: you’ll need time to boil the water, brew the tea, cool the bags, then finally use them.
Another DIY puffy eye remedy is chilled cucumber. Placed over the eyes for a few minutes, the cucumber’s antioxidant and cooling properties can reduce irritation.
Another solution is to chill two spoons in the freezer and place over the eyes for rapid relief. A cold compress will have a similar effect.
The only caveat with this method is to be careful not to apply anything too cold, or you risk damaging the delicate skin below the eyes and causing further irritation.
A word of caution: hemorrhoid cream
A commonly cited puffy eye hack is using a hemorrhoid cream below the eyes. Hemorrhoid cream constricts blood vessels and contains hydrocortisone, an anti-inflammatory. However, these products are not formulated for safe use around the eyes and may cause injury and irritation.
DIY remedies: pros and cons
|Cucumber slices||Budget-friendly; reduces irritation||Doesn’t actively de-puff|
|Cold spoons or compress||Budget-friendly||Risk of damaging skin if too cold|
|Hemorrhoid cream||Not recommended||Can cause injury to the eyes|
Professional Treatments for Puffy Eyes
Puffy eyes are usually a symptom of a temporary state of your body such as dehydration or an allergic reaction. When this is the case, they cannot be treated by surgical methods.
However, if your puffy eyes are caused by extra tissue below the eyes, there are professional treatments available.
As a noninvasive procedure, fillers smooth out the under-eye area and may be useful if your puffiness is accompanied by bags under the eyes.
Under-eye fillers may cause bruising and swelling that takes several days or weeks to subside. Effects typically last six to nine months.
Eyelid surgery, known as blepharoplasty, is a more permanent solution for puffy lower eyelids. This procedure removes excess skin on the lower eyelid to reduce a puffy appearance.
Tips and Tricks to Prevent Puffy Eyes from Occurring
Puffy eyes can often be prevented with good lifestyle habits.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, especially in dry climates and during exercise, and avoid excess alcohol consumption.
Eat a diet with moderate levels of sodium. The recommended daily amount for adults is no more than 2,300 mg, but ideally, you should consume less – approximately 1500 mg.
Getting enough sleep every night will also decrease your likelihood of waking up with puffy eyes.
Puffy eyes are caused by fluid buildup below the eyes. While they might be bothersome, they’re usually not a cause for concern and only rarely signify a more serious condition.
Prevent eye puffiness by staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and not overindulging in alcohol or salty foods.
If your eyes naturally appear puffy regardless of your lifestyle, fillers or surgery may prove to be an effective long-term solution.
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- How much sodium should I eat per day? (n.d.) heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/how-much-sodium-should-i-eat-per-day