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How to Reduce Puffy Eyes: Tips and Effective Treatments

Closeup-up of a woman's eye with skincare product applied to under-eye area in a dotted pattern

Puffy eyes: It’s something none of us want, but unfortunately, dealing with a puffy under-eye area is a reality for most of us at one point or another. But if you regularly find that you’re asking yourself, Why do my eyes look swollen? Or wondering why you’re waking up with puffy, swollen eyes every morning, we’ve got you covered with this guide to reducing and preventing under-eye puffiness. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Are Puffy Eyes?

According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, MD, puffy eyes are characterized by swollen skin around the eyes, most commonly caused by fluid retention.

Why Are Your Eyes Swollen?

Your eyes can become swollen or puffy due to lack of sleep, allergies, a high sodium diet, or the natural process of aging, Dr. Green says.

What Causes Puffy Eyes?

So, what causes puffy eyes, exactly? “Aging is one of the main causes of puffy eyes, as the skin around the eyes is thin and shows any slight changes, such as loss of collagen and tissue,” Dr. Green says, “There is an increase in fluid retention with age, and the fluid can get trapped in the lower eyelid, also known as edema. Because the skin under the eyes is delicate and thin, fluid retention is noticeable, leading to puffy eyes.”

Similarly, crying can cause puffy eyes because the fluid gathers around the eyes, she says. “Puffy eyes or undereye bags can also develop due to genetics or lifestyle habits like a high-sodium diet and lack of sleep,” Dr. Green adds. Swollen eyes can also be the result of the body’s natural inflammatory response to an allergen, infection, or injury.

In general, Dr. Green says, undereye bags can typically be the result of natural aging, along with a genetic component, in which the weakening of muscles and tissues around the eyes contributes to the fat around the eyes bulging out, creating a bubble-like appearance.”

Why Do You Have Puffy Eyes In the Morning?

If you find that your puffy eyes are worst in the morning, this is likely happening because fluid gathers under the eyes as you sleep. “Blinking is like an exercise for the eyelids, so when the eyes are closed and not blinking during sleep, fluid can build up to cause puffy eyes in the morning,” Dr. Green says. “Eating a meal high in salt can cause fluid retention in the body because the body retains the extra sodium and increases fluid outside of the cells. Fluid retention is prominent around the eyes because the skin is delicate and thin, causing puffiness. Typically, puffy eyes in the morning gradually subside when you start blinking after waking up.”

Are Dark Circles and Puffy Eyes Related?

Dark circles and puffy eyes can be related, but they are different by definition. “Dark circles can be caused by lack of adequate sleep or age-related volume loss in the midface and undereye area and can accompany undereye bags,” Dr. Green says. “Dark circles can be caused by aging, fatigue, allergic reactions, dehydration, sun exposure, or genetics. Dark circles can also be caused by shadows cast by puffy eyelids or hollows under the eyes that naturally occur with aging. However, puffy eyes and dark circles are not always directly related.”

How Long Do Puffy Undereyes Last?

If you have puffy undereyes in the morning, Dr. Green says they’ll begin to subside as you blink.

How to Prevent Puffy Eyes

If you want to prevent puffy eyes, there’s quite a bit you can do. If puffy eyes are the result of fluid retention, you can prevent them by sleeping with your head elevated at night, which can help minimize puffy eyes in the morning, along with getting enough quality sleep. “Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding overconsuming sodium is also crucial in preventing puffy eyes and fluid retention,” Dr. Green says.

Other risk factors that should be avoided include smoking, excessive drinking, and overexposure to the sun, Dr. Green explains. “If you experience allergies, consult with your physician about alleviating symptoms of seasonal allergies. In some cases, puffy eyes and undereye bags cannot be prevented if they are a result of genetics or the natural aging process.”

How to Get Rid of Puffy Eyes

If you want to get rid of puffy eyes quickly, a cold compress is a great first line of defense. “This is a quick and easy way to reduce swelling. You can use a clean washcloth wet with cool water,” Dr. Green says. “Sitting upright, hold the cool washcloth for a few minutes. If using a frozen cold compress, be sure to wrap it with a clean towel and avoid applying ice directly to the skin. If you have an eye cream or eye gel, put it in the refrigerator prior to application for a cooling effect.”

You can also look for cooling eye gels or use black or green tea bags. “An added benefit is that they contain caffeine, which is a vasoconstrictor and has been shown to reduce swelling and increase circulation,” says Dr. Green. “Wet two tea bags, refrigerate for 20 minutes, then place on the eyes for 15 minutes. Moving the fluid away from the eyes through gentle massaging can help reduce swelling and puffiness.”

Additionally, Dr. Green says, using an eye cream to help your fingers glide around the delicate area around the eyes can stimulate circulation and move fluid away from the eyes. “Face rollers can also be used to gently massage the eye area to stimulate circulation. And if the puffy eyes are the result of a reaction to allergens or irritants, allergy medications like antihistamines can help minimize the symptoms.”

When to See a Doctor About Puffy Eyes

In some cases, it may be a good idea to talk to a dermatologist or doctor about puffiness you may be dealing with.

“If the swelling around the eyes is sudden and doesn’t subside with adequate sleep or cold compress, it is best to consult an eye doctor to discover the cause of the puffy eyes and the appropriate treatment,” says Dr. Green. “See a doctor promptly if the puffy eyes present with pain or irritation or if your vision is blurry or distorted.”

Get Rid of Puffy Eyes With Rodan + Fields

If you’re looking to brighten up your eyes, you can start with some products geared toward de-puffing them. Rodan + Fields’ Active Hydration Serum  and Bright Eye Complex are gel creams that reduces visible dark circles and eye puffiness over time with glycerin and hyaluronic acid to draw moisture to the surface.

You can also try the Total RF Serum, a powerful treatment aimed toward tightening and smoothing wrinkles, sagging skin, and helping with undereye bags.