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What Causes Puffy Eyes?

13 Jan 2023

What causes puffy eyes? Great question. We enlisted Jodi LoGerfo, DNP, a doctor of nursing practice and dermatology nurse practitioner, to share her skincare expertise as it relates to puffy eyes, the causes, and some tips that may help to address them. Keep reading to learn more.

First things first: What are puffy eyes?
“Puffy eyes or bags under the eyes are mild swelling or bulging under the eyes,” says LoGerfo, adding that they’re the result of a weakening of the surrounding tissue—a common effect of aging—and the pooling of excess fluids that gathers in the skin under the eyes.

What’s the main cause of puffy eyes?
Many factors can contribute to the appearance of puffy eyes, including aging, fluid retention, lack of sleep, genetics, and allergies. We’ll explore each next!

“As we get older, the tissues around the eyes weaken, including the suspensory ligaments and muscles that support the lower eyelid,” says LoGerfo. This may lead to [puffiness] around the eye area.

Fluid retention:
“When you are dehydrated, your body tries to compensate and conserve water, which can cause fluid retention around your eyes,” shares LoGerfo, adding that fluid retention can alternatively stem from a diet high in sodium and alcohol.

Lack of sleep:
A 2013 study which consisted of 40 people rating the appearance of sleep-deprived participants, found that “sleep deprivation affects features relating to the eyes, mouth, and skin, and that these features function as cues of sleep loss to other people.”

“Some people are just genetically susceptible to puffy eyes,” says LoGerfo, adding, “Look at your family, and if they have puffy eyes, you may inherit that too.”

This can include allergies related to pollen, dust, pet dander, cosmetics, and more.

Can you get rid of puffy eyes?
Achieving a smoother look and feel may seem out of your control, but in reality, there are steps, without going so far as to pursue surgical removal or even in-office treatments, that you can take to improve the appearance of puffy eyes. Here’s what you can start doing today:

  1. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
  2. Drink 8 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated.
  3. Use a cold compress or cold metal spoons to help with swelling.
  4. Limit alcohol consumption, which can lead to dehydration and may also interrupt your sleep cycle.
  5. Limit salt intake by avoiding pre-packaged or overly processed foods.
  6. Treat your allergies. “They can cause lots of eye issues including redness, swelling, and itching,” says LoGerfo.

As for the skincare ingredients you should look out for, consider these studied standouts, which are touted for their hydrating and firming properties:

Hyaluronic acid: Known to deliver a burst of hydration to all skin types, HA “may help improve the look of the under-eye area,” according to LoGerfo.

Antioxidants: Incorporating vitamins into your skincare routine is a vital move if treating the appearance of puffy eyes is your main goal. “Antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin C can help enhance and enrich eyelid skin making it look better,” shares LoGerfo. They may also improve the look of eye puffiness.

Caffeine: Arguably “the most important ingredient to reduce under-eye puffiness,” according to LoGerfo, skincare products containing coffee or green tea extracts can help depuff the under-eye area effectively.

Retinoids: “Retinoids help amplify cell turnover which can help rejuvenate the look of aging skin,” LoGerfo says of the powerhouse ingredient. Additionally, they can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

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