The Truth About Puffy Eyes


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Puffy eyes are a common problem, whether you wake up with the kind that diminishes as the morning goes by or are bothered by puffy eyes that never seem to go away. The cosmetics industry knows this, hence why nearly every skincare company sells products claiming to get rid of puffy eyes. So how come you still have puffy eyes?

The answer is that even the most brilliantly formulated eye creams, gels, or serums can only do so much for improving puffy eyes. It doesn’t mean you won’t get some benefit—just not as much as you were likely hoping for. As always we like approaching problems like this with research and facts so you get as close as realistically possible to minimizing the appearance of puffy eyes. Here’s what you need to know and do.
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Top 10 Causes of Puffy Eyes—and Realistic Solutions

  1. Sleep Position
    Keeping your head flat while you sleep allows fluid to collect in the skin around your eyes. Sleeping with your head slightly elevated (making sure your neck is properly supported) can help prevent fluid retention in the eye area. Gentle fingertip massage around the eye area when you get up can help relieve this kind of swelling.
  2. Diet
    Alcohol consumption and a diet high in salt leads to water retention and increased puffiness around the eyes, which can linger throughout the day. Moderate (or eliminate) your intake of alcohol, sodium, and processed foods; add antioxidant-rich foods to your diet (e.g., fruits, vegetables, salmon); and drink plenty of water. All of these can make a HUGE difference.
  3. Contact Lenses
    Even under the best of circumstances, contact lenses can cause your eyes to look tired and puffy. Ensure you are wearing the most comfortable type of contacts for your vision correction. Follow your eye-care provider's exact recommendations for cleansing, wear, and disposal. Keeping your eyes lubricated with the appropriate eye drops also is a helpful preventive step.
  4. Allergies
    Exposure to allergens, either in the air or by rubbing your eyes with allergen-laced fingers (touching plants or animals you’re allergic to and then touching your eyes transfer the problem) can contribute to perpetual puffiness. It's best to avoid touching your eyes, because rubbing not only pulls at the skin (which encourages sagging), but may also make puffiness worse. Also, talk to your physician about taking an antihistamine or using anti-allergy eye drops to control your allergy symptoms, such as runny, itchy eyes. Applying a cool (but not ice-cold) compress to your eyes also can help.
  5. Dry Skin
    Dryness around your eyes can cause sensitivity and a heavy crepey appearance contributing to puffy eyes, while also making them look wrinkled and tired. An eye cream with skin-replenishing ingredients and antioxidants will keep skin remarkably hydrated, softened, and smoothed. It can make a world of difference for this problem you can see immediately.
  6. Makeup Residue
    Makeup, when left on overnight, or even a bit too long, can aggravate skin, a sure way to cause puffy eyes! Be sure to meticulously remove your makeup every night. Start with a mild, fragrance-free cleanser, and then remove the last traces of eye makeup with a gentle, fragrance-free eye-makeup remover (one that's also colorant-free is best for the eye area). Remember not to rub or pull the skin around your eyes when removing your makeup.
  7. Exposure to Harsh Ingredients
    Ingredients like menthol, camphor, alcohol, essential oils, fragrant plant extracts, or any kind of fragrance (natural or synthetic) shouldn't come anywhere near your eyes. If your makeup or skincare products contain these it almost guarantees puffy eyes. Stop using the product and switch to a non-irritating alternative.
  8. Fat Pads
    For some people, puffy eyes may just be their natural appearance, based on traits they were passed down from their parents. If you have excess fat pads under the eye, skincare can’t address that problem (believe us, we wish it could). If this is your particular problem the only way to deal with it is with the help of a cosmetic dermatologist. That’s the call you would have to make, and while it may seem expensive, wasting your money on products incapable of addressing this issue isn’t exactly cheap either.
  9. Sun Protection
    You can’t avoid the litany of problems unprotected sun exposure causes for the eye area (and not only the skin but the eye itself—just ask your ophthalmologist). Sun damage is your skin’s nemesis so don’t let it get the upper hand. An eye cream or well-formulated moisturizer with SPF 30 or greater is critical for getting every aspect of your eyes looking older and puffy under control. It is the one product that can reduce the risk of early signs of aging and keep them from getting worse.
  10. Sunglasses
    Wearing sunglasses is important for so many aspects of having healthy eyes, but in terms of keeping the skin around your eyes beautiful and young-looking, sunglasses worn daily is one of our favorite anti-aging solutions for eyes including diminishing puffy eyes.

While the solutions above may not be as dramatic as you had hoped (we get it, we wish eye creams could magically get rid of puffiness just as much as you do), you’re now armed with the truth and won’t have to waste another dime on products that don’t actually work. And for some of you, honing in on the right cause and the right eye creams may be enough to make all the difference. Happy de-puffing!

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Eye Creams.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!

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