Reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Two dreaded words when it comes to your complexion: puffy eyes. Nothing can make you look exhausted quite like them.
Chances are, if you’ve ever dealt with puffy eyes or dark circles under your eyes, you weren’t exactly thrilled that they had taken up residence on your face.
We’re even willing to bet you wanted them gone as fast as possible.
We’re here to help with some effective treatments. But first, find out why puffy eyes occur in the first place.
There are a variety of things that can lead to puffiness around your eyes.
First up, aging. As you get older, the skin around your eyes weakens and starts to sag. Because of this, fluid can disperse and settle underneath your eyes, making them look puffy.
But aging isn’t the only thing that can cause puffiness under your eyes. Sleep deprivation, smoking, allergies and water retention can all play a role, too.
Puffiness may also be worse when you first wake up. Laying in a horizontal position all night lets fluids gather there more easily.
It also can make veins dilate, allowing them to hold more blood and help with blood flow.
It’s worth noting, if your puffy eyes feel irritated or last a really long time, you should speak to a healthcare professional about whether a possible medical condition could be causing puffiness.
Knowing what causes puffy eyes is only the first step in getting rid of them. Knowing what to do to treat them is another part of the equation.
Luckily, there’re a lot of things you can do — from small lifestyle changes to adding the right skincare products to your daily routine.
Yes, we know we said laying horizontally can increase puffiness. But so can lack of sleep.
If you think about it, you’ve probably woken up with bags under eyes after a night of bad sleep.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that adults between the ages of 18 and 60 need at least seven hours of sleep per night.
Need help getting better sleep? These tips could help.
Go to bed at close to the same time each night and get up at around the same time.
Sleep in a dark, quiet room.
Remove electronic devices from your bedroom — the blue light they emit is thought to affect sleep.
Skip large meals, caffeine and alcohol right before bedtime.
As for the laying horizontal thing. Try using an extra pillow to slightly elevate your head, so excess fluid doesn’t pool under your eyes.
Allergies can cause something called allergic conjunctivitis (and a range of other health issues).
Basically, the conjunctiva is a layer of tissue over your eyelids that can become swollen if you are allergic to things like pet dander, mold, pollen and other allergens.
If seasonal allergies are causing your puffy eyes, you’ll probably notice them pop up when you’re around that allergen and then go away when you’re not. Your puffy eyes may also feel irritated or look red.
If you’re able, take allergy medication (like over-the-counter antihistamines) to alleviate allergy symptoms such as puffiness.
A few ways you can make sure to fit water into your schedule:
Skip soft drinks with meals and instead have glasses of water
Carry around a big water bottle with you
Chase every cocktail you drink with a glass of water
If your puffy under eyes are a result of retaining fluids, consider upping your potassium intake.
Potassium naturally helps your body shed excess fluids.
However, it’s worth noting that there’s no research supporting that potassium will specifically cause fluid building up under your eyes to vacate.
If you do want to give it a try, men should aim to get 3,400 milligrams of potassium per day.
You could take a supplement, or you can try to add it into your diet. Foods that are high in potassium include:
Salt (or sodium) does the opposite of potassium. It can make you retain fluids.
So, if you’re trying to alleviate puffy eyes, it’s a good idea to cut out excess salt.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
If you’re eating packaged foods, look for ones that are labeled low-sodium or sodium-free.
Other foods you may want to be careful of are:
Burritos and tacos
Thin, wrinkly skin may get more puffy. If you want to address those wrinkles, here’s some helpful info.
A clinical trial found that using eye cream for at least four weeks improved the appearance of wrinkles.
It also doesn’t hurt to hydrate the area, so if your eye cream has a moisturizing ingredient like hyaluronic acid, all the better.
Another at-home treatment option is using something cold to reduce the appearance of puffiness.
Just remember, the skin under your eyes is sensitive, so an ice pack may be a little too much.
Instead, try cooling eye patches or use cold spoons and gently press the rounded side underneath your eyes.
You can even wet a clean washcloth with cool water and hold it in place for a few minutes.
For a different approach, you could try cold, wet green tea bags on your eyes. Not only will the cooling help, green tea has caffeine — which some research suggests can help bags under eyes.
Or, pretend you’re at the spa and place cooling cucumber slices on both eyes.
No doubt, a puffy under-eye area is a nuisance.
Aging, lack of sleep, allergy season — there are a variety of factors that can lead to that area underneath your eyes becoming puffy.
From chilled spoons to eye creams and sleeping more, there are quite a few things you can do to reduce puffiness. So, what are you waiting for?
If you’d like a professional opinion before you get started, speak with a healthcare professional about your eye puffiness to see if there are medical treatments you should consider.
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Dr. Vicky Davis is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, leadership and education.
Dr. Davis' expertise include direct patient care and many years working in clinical research to bring evidence-based care to patients and their families.
She is also an active member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.