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.
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.”
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.”
If you do want to go the product or tool route, take a look at some recommendations from our editors.