Ever wake up, look in the mirror, and notice that your bright eyes have suddenly become red and swollen overnight? There’s a myriad of red-eye culprits out there, “but, most commonly, allergies or allergic reactions are behind your puffy eyes,” says Angela Lamb, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you notice an uptick in swelling as weather warms up. Also to blame: a topical face cream, eye cream, or wash that disagrees with your skin, or inadequate sleep or dehydration, she says. No matter what the cause, we’ve all experienced the occasional puffy-eyed morning—so we tapped a few experts to figure out exactly how to fight swollen peepers, whether you’re being proactive or need that remedy in a pinch. Zap swelling stat with these eight tips.
Just like you’d pack a swollen ankle in ice, applying cold to eyes restricts blood vessels and decreases inflammation. “Cool compresses or versions of that are the most effective in a pinch,” says Dr. Lamb. “Applying cold spoons or ice water work to take down inflammation.” Stash a spoon in the fridge for emergencies, or grab an ice cube and hold until puffiness recedes.
Moisturizing and massaging rollerballs for undereye puffiness, like Clinique All About Eyes Serum ($29; clinique.com), are becoming more and more popular. You can try these new morning tools if you’d like, as they may work for some. “The steel ball is cold, and cold reduces swelling; the rolling action around the eye is a form of lymphatic massage, which moves subdermal fluid associated with swelling,” says celebrity makeup artist Kristofer Buckle.
Buckle’s go-to puffy-eyed fix is a tea bag. “Keep damp tea bags in a ziplock bag in the fridge, and apply to eyes,” he explains. “After five minutes or so, remove tea bags and use a hydrating eye cream to massage along brow bone and under the eye—I like Créme de la Mer ($160; cremedelamer.com) because of the high water content, and Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado ($29; kiehls.com). Use medium pressure to increase circulation, and move excess fluid out and down away from eye area.” Buckle says tea bags have the added benefit of caffeine and enzymes that may help reduce swelling and redness. (This tea bag treatment is one of the 5 Indulgent Ways to Have a Spa Day at Home.)
A lack of hydration is a key reason the skin around your eyes may appear puffy, and a heavy-duty hydrator may help. “Moisturizing before bedtime is very important, and greasy ointments or rich creams work best,” says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Aquaphor ($7; drugstore.com), which is widely
Lamb says creams and gels are often “trial and error,” but they generally conain antioxidants. (And you’ll probably feel a tight tingle if it’s truly working.) “I like Laura Mercier’s Flawless Skin Repair Eye Créme ($75; sephora.com) and Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye ($36; kiehls.com),” she says. “Creams work well, but depending on the root cause, sometimes it’s genetic. Fillers or actual surgery may be necessary.” Ask your derm for more options if you’ve tried creams and cool compresses and nothing seems to be working. (Or try the DIY eye cream featured in 20 DIY Beauty Products to Get Pampered on Less.) available and fairly inexpensive, works great.”
Sometimes, puffiness is the genetic hand you’re dealt. According Dr. Goldenberg, fillers often help if you can’t seem to get rid of the swollen skin. “If the issue is present all the time, with a visible line between the eyelid and cheek, it can be made to look better with a filler like belotero.” Talk to your dermatologist about an option that’s right for you.
If you truly have no time to zap that extra puffiness when you wake up, you can hide it. “As far as makeup goes, using the YSL Touche Éclat pen ($42; sephora.com) in a deep ‘U’ shape just under the bag will highlight the shadow and make the under eye look more flat and smooth,” Buckle says. “But make sure you do this in frontal lighting, as overhead lighting will create hard shadows and you’ll be piling tons of concealer and highlighter under the bag to try to erase a shadow the overhead light is creating.”
So, you’ve had a bad day, a bad cry, or a bad meal with lots of sugar, salt, or fat. Be proactive before you hit the pillow. “Take an anti-inflammatory like Advil and drink a couple glasses of water before you go to sleep,” suggests Buckle. Adds Lamb: “Get enough sleep. This is key,” she says, as this is where your body repairs and restores itself. “Also, staying hydrated helps the kidneys work well, and your lymph system process inflammation better.”