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Puffy Eyes

The first thing people notice when they look at someone’s face is their eyes. That’s why most people aren’t happy when they look in the mirror and see swollen, puffy eyes. Needless to say, it’s not a good way to start the day.

What Causes Eye Puffiness?

The skin underneath the eyelids is thinner than it is elsewhere on the body. This means that when the underlying tissue swells, the under-eye area becomes puffy and easily swollen. The tissue underneath can become swollen from eating too much salt and from the effects of allergies or hormones. Some people have swollen eyes when they wake up in the morning, especially if they ate a high-salt meal the day before. Lack of sleep can also make eye puffiness worse.

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With aging, tissue under the eyes becomes more lax. This causes the fat underneath to herniate outwards, causing the under-eye area to look puffy. Genetics and smoking speed up this process. This puffiness becomes more prominent with fatigue, fluid retention and hormonal fluctuations.


One of the simplest ways to reduce under-eye puffiness is to place cold compresses over the eyes. A bag of frozen vegetables works well for this purpose. Cold compresses are particularly effective for reducing swelling from too much salt and from allergy-related problems. Drinking more water and reducing dietary sodium also helps to prevent under-eye swelling.

If the problem is related to allergies, allergy medications like antihistamines can help. Another way to reduce morning puffiness is to sleep with the head on an additional pillow. This elevates the head and reduces fluid accumulation during the night.

Oxidative stress from exposure to sunlight and a bad diet also contributes to laxity of the skin around the eyes, which can lead to a puffy, baggy under-eye area. Smoking further accelerates oxidative stress and damage. Have you ever noticed how many smokers have under-eye bags?

Other Treatments

Some people use hemorrhoid creams under their eyes to treat puffiness. Hemorrhoid cream contains an ingredient called phenylephrine that constricts blood vessels and reduces swelling. This works for some, but most dermatologists don’t recommend it since it may not be safe to use under the eyes where the skin is delicate. There’s also the risk of getting some the cream into the eyes, which could cause irritation. Reserve the hemorrhoid cream for treating hemorrhoids, and use a treatment specifically designed for the under-eye area instead.

When puffy eyes are caused by too much skin laxity under the eyes and bags are a problem, complex peptides can help diminish the baggy appearance while preventing further damage. Topical retinols and prescription-strength retinoids also help by boosting collagen production.

In severe cases, some dermatologists recommend a procedure called blepharoplasty to remove extra fat and tighten loose under-eye skin. Of course, there are risks to any type of surgery, so this should be a treatment of last resort. Most people will experience some improvement with topical treatments.

The Bottom Line?

Treating mild under-eye puffiness may be as simple as changing sleep habits and consuming less salt. In cases where this doesn’t solve the problem, cold compresses and topical treatments that reduce oxidative stress and stimulate collagen production can help, especially where the tissue around the eyes is lax. As a last resort, a blepharoplasty is an option to remove excess fat and tighten the under-eye tissue.


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