Everything You Need to Know About Eye Puffiness
Even with the most diligent skin care routine, you can still wake up looking like Master Yoda with puffy eyes after a late study night or a few too many beers before bedtime. Puffy lower eyelids don’t normally indicate a medical condition, but they can still diminish the natural youth and beauty of your face. Thankfully, this condition is simple to treat — whether with natural, at-home remedies or clinically proven, dermatologist-formulated treatments.
But before we go there, let’s talk about the causes of puffy eyes so you can more actively avoid them (because prevention is always easier than treatment!).
What Causes Under-Eye Puffiness?
Puffy eyes happen as a result of fluid buildup in the tissue surrounding the eye. This tissue is very thin, so when it swells and discolors, it’s especially obvious. Eye puffiness can be caused by a combination of various factors, including:
- Aging: Under-eye bags can occur at any age, but they are more likely to appear in your later years when the skin loses its elasticity and becomes thinner. With age, the area under your eyes weakens and loses volume and muscle. Those factors can cause the fatty tissue to bulge, creating a baggy look.
- Genetics: Baggy lower eyelids can run in the family. Some families simply carry the gene for more prominent under-eye bags.
- Allergies: Congestion, fluid buildup, and inflammation as a result of allergies can make the area under the eyes look puffy.
- Diet: Your diet is directly connected to the appearance of your skin. If you eat a lot of salty foods, you might retain more water and experience mild swelling under your eyes.
- Medical conditions: While under-eye puffiness isn’t a worrisome health issue in itself, it can be the symptom of an underlying health problem, such as a thyroid condition or Graves’ disease — both of which cause eye swelling.
- Stress: If you’re stressed out by your job, schoolwork, family responsibilities, finances, or other things in your personal life, your cortisol levels are thrown off, which increases the appearance of eye puffiness.
- Overexposure to the sun: If you sit in the sun for too long without proper protection, the slightest sun damage can cause your eye tissue to swell and become puffy.
- Sleep deficit: When your body isn’t getting enough sleep, your blood vessels expand and become more noticeable under the thin eye skin. This makes your eyes look puffier and baggier than they may otherwise be.
- Crying: Although this cause is a temporary one, tears from crying are reabsorbed by the skin around the eyes, making them appear puffy.
- Menstruation: Bloating is a common symptom of menstruation for the same reason that eye puffiness occurs during this time of the month. During menstruation, a woman’s body holds onto fluid in the subcutaneous tissues and contributes to puffy eyes.
Why Are Puffy Eyes Common in the Morning?
You may regularly experience puffy eyes first thing in the morning, which then go away as the day goes on. This is because the eyes are idle when sleeping, and the normal motion of blinking stops, which slows the circulation of fluids around the eyes — and the fluid pools as a result.
How to Get Rid of Eye Puffiness Fast
The good news is that if your puffy eyes don’t disappear on your own, there are plenty of things you can try at home before you turn to a dermatologist. Here are some of the most tried-and-true solutions we know of. Keep in mind that at-home fixes may be quick and convenient, but they could also be very temporary solutions to what can prove to be a long-term problem without help from a dermatologist.
- Cool compress: Applying a cool compress to the eyes when puffy can diminish mild swelling. Make sure to use a clean cloth and apply with very gentle pressure.
- Tea bags: Applying a chilled tea bag compress on closed eyes may help to reduce eye bagginess. Caffeinated black or green tea bags are supposed to be especially good — not to mention relaxing!
- Diet change: Naturally occurring foods have so much to offer us. Tomatoes, leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish, and berries are known for their inflammation-fighting properties. Increase your intake of foods like these and cut back on sodium.
- Head elevation: You can prevent those early-morning eye bags and wake up fresh-faced simply by propping your head up while you sleep. This can prevent fluid from pooling around your eyes.
- Sleep: Studies have not yet established the exact connection between sleep duration and bags or eye puffiness — but in general, the more rested you are, the better you’ll look. Seven to nine hours a night is the recommended amount of sleep.
- Medication: If your allergies are a main contributor to your eye puffiness, find a good over-the-counter medication that will help you get the symptoms under control. Eye drops might also help.
- Hemorrhoid cream: Yep, you read that right. Dabbing a little over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream under your eyes may reduce swelling — just be careful not to get any IN your eyes.
- Stop smoking: Smoking can increase the severity of eye puffiness and diminish the quality of your skin in general. Start by reducing the frequency of cigarettes you smoke each day and get help quitting for good.
- Vitamins: A Vitamin B12 or K deficit can cause puffy eyes. Along with a nutritious diet, a vitamin supplement with these nutrients is a great way to combat puffy eyes
- Cucumbers: No, it’s not just a movie thing! Cucumbers actually work to reduce inflammation around your eyes. Their water content also hydrates the skin and slows circulation to alleviate swelling.
- Alcohol abstinence: Alcohol is notorious for causing inflammation. It’s a diuretic, which means it causes you to urinate more frequently. When you lose water content through your urine, your body swells to retain fluids — including under the eyes. Try to limit how much you drink or abstain completely, if possible.
- Exercise: Facial and overall body exercise reduces the inflammation of fatty tissue and improves circulation to tone your under-eye muscles.
- Water: Water is your best friend when it comes to eye puffiness. Splash a little on your face to reduce swelling and drink plenty of water to flush toxins and reduce fluid retention around and under the eyes.
If you’re still struggling with red eye puffiness under your eyes after trying the remedies above, a visit to the dermatologist or plastic surgeon may be in order. Some treatments that have proven to help patients with this cosmetic concern include:
- Soft tissue fillers
- Neuromodulators (like Botox)
- Chemical peels
- Skin tightening with energy-based devices
- Laser treatment
- Eyelid surgery
Some of the above should be treated as last-resort options, as eyelid surgery is a very extreme solution to a problem that may be easily fixed with an effective topical skin care product.
Medical-Grade Skin Care Products
Due to the thin and delicate nature of the skin around your eyes, be very selective about the products and skin care ingredients you use. To target puffy under-eye skin or bags, look for skin care products with ingredients that can reduce fluid retention, hydrate, encourage collagen production, and improve elasticity.
While there is a lack of quality science to definitively prove that the following ingredients diminish under-eye puffiness and bags, there is evidence, including testimonials, that they may reduce under-eye inflammation:
- Willow herb (epilobium angustifolium extract) acts an anti-inflammatory
- Eyeliss (dipeptide-2) helps improve lymphatic circulation and drainage
- Caffeine is an antioxidant thought to decrease fat when applied to the skin
- Green tea is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties
- Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 (a peptide) is thought to increase collagen, hyaluronic acid, and more, resulting in improved elasticity, firmness, and tone
Perhaps best of all ingredients, however, are defensins. These are a key ingredient in the DefenAge skin care line for targeting aging concerns. Topical defensins occur naturally in the skin and are the first line of molecular defense in the body’s immune system, and they also play an important role in the skin’s microbiome. Defensins make new stem cells but are not stem cells themselves.
DefenAge has developed an eye care product formulated specifically with defensins to hydrate and rejuvenate skin around the eyes without irritating the sensitive and delicate eye-area skin.
Use DefenAge for Better Eye Skin Quality
DefenAge’s 3D Eye Radiance Cream is rich in anti-aging defensins and niacinamide, another skin nutrient. It has been scientifically tested and approved for use around the eyes to prevent and treat cosmetic concerns and to rejuvenate and hydrate the skin around the eyes. Users say the product drastically improves their skin quality, and researchers have reported these findings in a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Effect of defensins-containing eye cream on periocular rhytids and skin quality - PubMed (nih.gov)
How Long It Takes for Puffy Eyes to Go Away
There is no definite time for how long it will take for puffy eyes to clear up; it usually depends on the cause and what you’re doing to treat it. Morning eye puffiness can be gone within 24 hours while swelling from crying will often take no more than a few hours to go down.
For other causes, it may take much longer to get rid of puffy eyes. Remember that most treatments — whether at-home remedies or dermatologist prescriptions — are not immediate when it comes to long-term eye puffiness. Be patient, but most of all, be consistent. You’ll see the best (and fastest) results when you use a combination of daily skin care products, at-home remedies, and a healthy lifestyle.
When to See A Doctor
Sometimes, the best way to reduce eye puffiness is to simply visit your doctor. As we’ve mentioned before, puffiness isn’t a serious problem most of the time. But if it’s long-lasting (more than a few weeks) and accompanied by pain, irritation, and/or swelling, you should see a physician — especially if you have additional symptoms such as:
- A drooping eyelid
- Pink eye
- Eyelid inflammation
- Thyroid eye disease
How to Effectively Conceal Eye Puffiness
As you treat the root cause of your puffy eyes, you can conceal the swelling and bags in the meantime until the inflammation subsides. It’s easy to do so! Simply use a light concealer directly on top of the eye bags and trace along the edge. Gently blend it into your skin and continue applying layers until the shadow is no longer visible.
If you’re makeup-savvy, you could heighten the effect by applying a little extra eyeshadow and eyeliner than you normally would to draw the attention away from the bags under your eyes.
Visit the DefenAge anti-aging blog to discover even more ways to keep your eyes youthful and vibrant!