The reasons you have puffy eyes - and how to get rid of puffiness fast

Everyone suffers from puffy eyes from time to time, but what could be causing them?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We've probably all experienced that mild morning shock of spotting a pair of puffy eyes in the mirror.

Whether you’re stressed or just losing sleep in anticipation of the best beauty advent calendars 2020 hitting shelves, puffy eyes are extremely common. They are caused by a variety of different factors, but most are easy to counteract once you know how. Even if you don't have particularly sensitive skin, chances are your eyes and the skin surrounding them is fairly reactive – something as small as not using the best eye cream for your skin type can cause a reaction.

Why? Because the skin in this area is thin and less resilient against irritants. Fluid retention also shows up more prominently here than other areas of the face, particularly if it has built up overnight as you lie flat on your pillow. We look at the common causes of puffy eyes and how to get rid of them…

Common causes of puffy eyes

Many causes of puffy or swollen eyes can be tackled with small changes to your skincare routine or lifestyle. But there is a minority of reasons that are indicative of underlying health issues, too, so it’s important to identify the cause of your puffy eyes so you can rule out anything more serious.

Here are seven common causes of puffy eyes that you may not have considered…

1. Central heating

Turning the central heating up in winter can make eyes dryer and more sensitive than usual, as heat causes dehydration of mucus membranes in the eyes, leading them to thicken and become more inflamed.

2. Lack of sleep

A bad night’s sleep can lead to puffiness around the eye area in the morning as your body hasn’t efficiently cleared fluid and toxin build-up overnight.

This can be even worse if you’re stressed, which causes changes to the salt balance in the body – and if salt balances are off, your eyes can retain water as a result and swell.

A woman stretching in bed after waking up

3. Allergies

Seasonal allergies can cause swelling of the eye area.

When your body is faced with an allergy, it releases histamine into your system, which can sometimes lead to inflammation of the eye area.

4. Phases of your menstrual cycle

Just like the rest of your body swells during certain times of the month, your eyes can actually do the same.

They should go down after a few days, as with abdominal bloating.

5. Too much salt

Too much salt in your diet can cause your eyes to puff, as excess sodium levels can lead to fluid retention.

If you think too much salt may be the cause of your swollen eyes, simply cut back on foods that contribute to fluid retention.

There is hidden salt in condiments and pre-packed, frozen or canned goods (sodium is often added as a preservative), so eat those in moderation.

6. Too much alcohol

Your eyes are extremely vulnerable to even small changes in your diet, so the dehydration caused by drinking too much alcohol can lead to puffiness around the eye area.

Yes, sadly, white-wine eyes are definitely a thing.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

7. Thyroid problems

Although it is probably more likely to be an environmental factor, puffy eyes can also be a symptom of an overactive thyroid, so if you are concerned, always check with your GP.

But once you’ve identified the cause, what can you do to reduce a flare-up of puffiness around the eyes? We consulted some experts…

Experts on how to get rid of puffy eyes

“Puffy eyes are caused by age-related changes that occur around the eye area,” explains Dr Aoife Turner, aesthetic and plastic surgeon at AT Harley Street. “Loosening and stretching of the skin and underlying tissues leads to a bulging of the fat pads around our eyes, which can be exacerbated by environmental factors. Common triggers include dust mites and food products containing lactose, or alcohol.” To combat the problem and reduce swelling, she says, “identify which substance is irritating the eyes and reduce exposure, while simple tricks like sleeping with an extra pillow and using a cool eyepack will help to reduce puffiness”.

If you prefer a more holistic approach, Chinese medicine practitionerKatie Brindle explains that it may be that some of your organs are out of balance. “In Chinese medicine, puffy eyes are a sign of weak kidney and spleen Qi,” she says. As founder of the Hayo'u Method, Katie recommends a gua sha massage tool. “Hold the cool jade or rose quartz over the eyes,” she explains. “Rose quartz is cooling, and jade emits FIR rays, which are healing at cellular level. Then press-stroke the tool to encourage lymph drainage. Make sure you work on the neck first to open the lymph channels.”

The best massage to get rid of puffy eyes

Celebrity beauty therapist and make-up artist Nathalie Eleni recommends the following three-step ritual to depuff and soothe eyes.

  • Apply some eye gel or cream, then place your ring finger, which has the least amount of pressure, just under the tear duct of each eye. Using medium pressure with a pumping movement, slowly press along the undereye area in about ten gradual moves until you reach your temples.
  • Now massage the temples, using small circular, anti-clockwise movements to help drain toxins and fluids from the face. Continue this technique along you eye sockets, round towards your temples again. Slowly repeat three times.
  • Finally, place theindex finger at the bridge of your nose just under the brow. Push up and under the muscle, so that you are lifting it and hold for the count often. Work your way along the whole brow with this technique and repeatthree times.

Try these natural remedies to get rid of puffy eyes

Once you have identified the cause of your puffy eyes, you can adjust your lifestyle habits to tackle them or, alternatively, seek medical advice if you think it may be an underlying symptom for something more serious.

However, you can always try these natural remedies for reducing the appearance of puffy eyes…

Drink more water

Your undereye area will swell if your body is dehydrated. This is because it’s desperately trying to retain water.

Drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day can also help flush out toxins, helping to clear up your eye area.

Try chilled cucumbers

Cucumbers are an age-old puffy-eye remedy and there's some decent science behind them, too.

As well as being deeply moisturising, cucumbers contain antioxidants to fight off the environmental damage that can make eyes look tired and dull.

Ensure the cucumber slices are chilled, as the cold temperature boosts vasoconstriction (the tightening of blood vessels), which instantly depuffs.

And they even double as a healthy, low-salt snack!

Teabags

Teabags can help soothe irritated and puffy eyes, as they have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling – as well as relieving redness and irritation.

Simply put two used teabags in the fridge for half an hour and then put them on your eyelids for 15 minutes.

Cold spoons

Much like cucumbers, this home remedy will help tighten the blood vessels, which will relieve tired and puffy eyes.

Simply chill metal spoons in the fridge for approximately 15 minutes, then hold the rounded side against your eye for a few minutes until the spoon becomes warm.

The best beauty products for puffy eyes

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

The Ordinary caffeine solution

VIEW NOW: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG, £5.80, Boots.com

Caffeine is a top depuffing ingredient. It has anti-inflammatory properties, boosts vasoconstriction and improves microcirculation to brighten and stimulate collagen.

This serum combines that with powerful antioxidants and is the perfect light texture to use around the eyes.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Hydra-Gel Eye Masks

Elemis pro collagen hydra gel eye mask

VIEW NOW: Elemis Pro Collagen Hydra-Gel Eye Mask, £59 for six pairs, Lookfantastic.com

Puffy undereyes can drag your mood down with them, but 20 minutes with these will lift both skin and spirits.

These slippery little crescent moons, doused in firming plankton extract and hyaluronic acid, feel instantly refreshing and plump weary contours.

Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream

Clinique Pep Start

VIEW NOW: Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream, £25, Johnlewis.com

Fun name, serious results. Squeeze the cream on to the clever spherical tip and roll it around your eyes to massage as you apply.

The formula has caffeine for instant results, nourishing glycerin and shea butter plus peptides, which perform all sorts of functions but essentially make skin cells behave as if they are younger and more energised.

This Works Morning Expert Open Eyes

This Works Morning Expert

VIEW NOW: This Works Morning Expert Open Eyes, £30, Thisworks.com

When eyes need more than cucumber slices to look lively, this chilly metal tip feels like sweet relief. It's even better if you keep it in the refrigerator.

This contains kelp extract, hydrating hyaluronic acid to plump lines and cell-energising peptides.Massage around eyes first thing to brighten and firm.