The skin around your eyes is very delicate and thin, so you want to be gentle with it. That means using the right products and avoiding rubbing, scratching, or pulling at the area. Because that area is so sensitive, you might also find yourself dealing with things like dark under-eye circles, dryness, and puffiness. The latter part is one thing I've been dealing with a lot lately, so I went to a dermatologist for some answers.
In fact, puffy eyes are one of the most common concerns that patients bring to their dermatologists, says Kathleen S. Viscusi, MD, FAAD, FACMS, co-founder and partner at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta (DESSNA). Treating puffy eyes is a bit more complicated than you would think. "Effectively addressing this concern for each patient is much more variable. Just as there isn't a 'one size fits all' cause, there isn't a 'one size fits all' solution," Viscusi says.
But don't worry—there are a couple of things you can do to improve your puffy eyes. First, it helps to know the cause.
The Causes of Puffy Eyes
Viscusi says puffy eyes or excess fluid retention in the periorbital area can be caused by day-to-day changes in our lifestyles. Some factors could be seasonal allergies, high sodium diets, excess alcohol consumption, crying, and lack of sleep.
It's important to note that there's also a difference between puffy eyes and under-eye "bags," which develop as we get older. The extent to which you develop under-eye bags can depend on your genetics, but it might also be a sign of underlying genetic or medical conditions like thyroid disease or inflammatory conditions. "It is important to consult with your dermatologist to determine the cause in your unique circumstance," Viscusi says. "In the majority of patients, under-eye bags are due to natural maturity and gravity-related changes in the underlying anatomy: Weakening of the structural support provided by our muscles, bones, and ligaments cause the protrusion of the anatomical 'fat pads' under our eyes. These changes combined with sun damage and maturity-related loss of collagen, hydration, and firmness of the overlying skin lead to the development of under-eye bags and fine lines and wrinkles in this area."
How you treat your puffy eyes, though, can depend on the cause of them. Viscusi highlighted some for us below:
How to Relieve Puffy Eyes
"Underlying anatomy aside, we all are affected to some extent by the temporary puffiness due to our ever-changing, busy schedules and demands of our daily lives!" Viscusi says. "Healthy habits, such as a low salt diet, avoiding excess alcohol, and drinking plenty of water, as well as getting a good night's sleep are crucial in reducing puffiness."
If you find that an eye cream or serum helps with puffiness, Viscusi recommends applying the product in the morning rather than the evening. When shopping for products, she suggests keeping an eye out for ingredients that help combat inflammation, like caffeine, green tea, peptides, and other antioxidants.
Before you splurge on any devices and products that treat puffy eyes, it might be worth it to chat with your dermatologist, who can devise a treatment plan that is safe, effective, and just for you. "For instance, if your 'puffiness' is actually under-eye 'bags' due to changes in the underlying anatomy and structural support, no cream, serum, mask, roller, or cryo tool will comprehensively address the issue," Viscusi says. "Finding a dermatologist you trust, who can help you understand the underlying cause, and who will work with you to develop an effective individualized treatment plan is the most valuable recommendation I can make!"
How to Avoid Getting Puffy Eyes
Avoiding any of the stressors or causes above is a good place to start if you want to avoid puffy eyes. One thing that everyone can do is stick to a healthy lifestyle and be strict about your daily sunscreen use, which has a big payoff not only in the eye area but pretty much your whole body.
But for some people—especially those who are more prone to puffy eyes because of genetics or anatomy—sometimes no diet or sleep modification, skincare product, or tool can make the situation better. "A holistic approach is essential when evaluating and treating puffy eyes, and this approach may include dermal fillers; chemical peels; laser and light-based devices; and plasma-based technology, among many others," Viscusi says. "Dermatologists are trained to help guide you through this often frustrating and confusing topic, and there is nothing more satisfying to me as a physician than working with my patients to understand and articulate their concerns more fully and achieve their unique goals."
Products and Tools That Can Help With Puffy Eyes
If you do want to go the product or tool route, take a look at some recommendations from our editors.
"This unique eye cream utilizes pioneering 'Pathway Technology' and 'Prebiotic Innovation' to address puffiness, fine lines, and dark circles simultaneously," Viscusi says. "I also love that while safe and effective, it also is friendly to those with allergies, eczema, and sensitive skin, which is not always the case with other creams and at-home remedies, such as applying creams intended to treat hemorrhoids in this area."
You can use these cryo tools all over your face to give yourself an at-home facial massage. They're made to de-puff, lift, calm, and refresh the skin. To use as an eye de-puffing tool, just swipe the tips of the tools from the temple toward the tear duct.
"This product is designed to reduce the appearance of puffiness and dark circles. It also contains Patented TriHex Technology that is unique in its ability to promote the growth of elastin!" Viscusi says. "Elastin is a key component that supports collagen allowing the smoothing of fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes."
Like many of the products on this list, these patches contain the de-puffer caffeine. They're also super-hydrating and smoothing, thanks to hyaluronic acid, ceramides, collagen, and marshmallow root extract.
If you're looking for a multitasking eye gel, you've got one here. This one targets puffiness, dryness, and fine lines. Ingredients include hyaluronic acid, Japanese green caviar algae, and caffeine.