We love shopping bags and gift bags, but there’s a particular type of bags we’re never happy to see: the ones that show up under our eyes. While some people simply lost the genetic lottery and are more prone to puffy eyes, this frustrating trait is easily exacerbated by certain habits.
You’re not imagining things if you think they look significantly worse after a late evening with too many hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. “Salt, alcohol and a lack of sleep play a huge role in having undereye puffiness,” explains New York City board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Mark. He revealed, “A friend owns a winery and when he gave up drinking wine, the puffiness went completely away.”
An allergy attack or a good cry session can also cause you to wake up with swollen eyes. “Anything that causes a dilatation of blood vessels which become leaky and spill red blood cells into the dermis will leave deposits of iron from the hemoglobin in red blood cells,” explains Dr. Mitchel Goldman, a double board-certified dermatologist based in San Diego. That iron results in the undereye area looking browner and darker, for a double whammy in puffiness and dark circles. “Engorged blood vessels, iron from red blood cells, and melanin can cause both puffiness and undereye pigmentation.”
Luckily, there are a plethora of ways to alleviate puffiness and pigmentation using a few items you may already have in your home. “The classic cucumber slices work, as does ice,” Dr. Mark advises. “Also, elevating yourself when you sleep so the puffiness drains into your cheeks, is effective.” Bring on the extra pillow!
For an easy DIY fix, Orange County-based dermatologist Dr. Lorrie Klein recommends applying cold compresses or chamomile tea bags to the area. (For the latter, steep two tea bags in hot water as you might normally make tea, then remove them from your cup. Once they’ve fully cooled, lay back, sip on your tea, and rest the bags on your bags for up to 20 minutes.)
Alternatively, you could try some manual lymphatic massage to minimize darkness and swelling (simply massage the area with your ring fingers, working from the center of your face outward!), but there are also some topical skincare products that could help. “SkinMedica® TNS Eye Repair™ ($102), Senté® Illuminé Eye Cream ($89), ALASTIN® Restorative Eye Cream ($85) and Skin Better Science® Instant Effect Gel ($85) all help to some degree,” Dr. Klein says. “Anything with hyaluronic acid will help,” Dr. Mark adds.
If you’re looking for a more permanent solution, there are in-office treatments that a licensed dermatologist can perform to send your bags packing. Dr. Mark’s go-to weapon to foil puffy undereye bags is the MiXto CO2 laser, which he says is is by far the best treatment for this concern.
“It works almost like an iron for your skin,” explains Dr. Mark. “All you need [beforehand] is a numbing cream, and the laser will then heat up skin under the surface to the optimal temperature that causes collagen stimulation which will then tighten and contract,” he says. “For up to five days after, you may have peeling skin under your eyes, but there is no downtime.” Even better, you only need a single treatment, and you’ll get immediate results that also improve over time.
Dr. Goldman recommends radio frequency microneedling, which utilizes extremely tiny needles to deliver energy to the deeper layers of your undereye area and increase collagen. “It works in two ways: first, it tightens the skin by stimulating collagen and elastic fiber production and second, by directly shrinking/destroying the fat,” Dr. Goldman explains. After using a topical anesthesia cream to numb patients for an hour, he does three passes at three different levels, which takes about 10 minutes. It costs between $1,500 and $2,000 per treatment and you may need two treatments four weeks apart for best results. Learn more about microneedling here.
If you’re not quite ready to commit to having tiny needles poke or lasers zap under your eyes, we recommend investing in a full-coverage concealer — and trying to log an extra hour or two of beauty sleep whenever possible.
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Dr. Mitchel Goldman is a paid Allergan consultant.