Maybe your sinuses are slacking on the job. Perhaps your six hours of shut-eye has caught up to you, or you’ve opted to try a treatment with a bit of downtime. There could be any number of reasons for swelling on your face, but whatever the culprit, it’s a pretty straightforward situation to understand. “Edema, or swelling, happens when there is a collection of fluid — be it serum, blood, or interstitial fluid — that pools in a fixed area,” says Laura Kruter, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Coral Gables, Florida.
It can happen after a procedure or when the area is inflamed, and in many cases, it’s not a big deal — even if you don’t know how to reduce swelling on your face. If you’ve had a procedure or treatment, it’ll usually subside within a few days, but could persist up to a week or more, depending on what you had done. “Every procedure is different, and every patient is an individual, so be sure to discuss your individual result with your physician,” adds Dr. Kruter. If you have prolonged swelling (a.k.a. it lasts or reappears over weeks or months), it could be a sign of inflammation or infection — and is definitely worth telling your doctor about.
For common swelling on the face, though, a few simple steps can go a long way. “Anti-swelling techniques are especially helpful for areas that naturally swell more, such as the lips or undereye area,” Dr. Kruter explains. Whether you’re dealing with swollen lips, eyes, or some other area, keep reading to learn how to reduce swelling on your face.
Facial Swelling Reducer #1: Ice
Bring out the cold pack — or ice wrapped in a towel to avoid damaging the skin — since ice makes swelling go down. “Lower temperatures reduce blood flow to the tiny capillaries in the skin, and can thus decrease swelling,” Dr. Kruter says. Hold it against the swollen area in five- to 10-minute intervals to help improve swelling. And conversely, heat is bad, since it can make signs of inflammation (like redness and swelling) even worse. Minimize heat exposure such as intense exercise, hot tubs, or saunas as your skin recovers.
Facial Swelling Reducer #2: Facial Massage
Think lymphatic drainage massage: Using your fingers or a jade roller, “lightly roll over lymphatic drainage points in sweeping motions across the face,” says Lisa Goodman, PA, founder of GoodSkin Los Angeles®. These points include from the center of the forehead and outwards (just above the brow), up and away from the cheekbones, along the jawline to your ear, and down each side of your nose. The pressure helps get the fluid moving, which in turn can relieve swelling. “We recommend a 20-minute massage with a light touch,” she notes.
If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before doing lymphatic massage or using a gua sha or rolling tool.
Facial Swelling Reducer #3: Gravity
Sorry, flat-earth conspiracy theorists, but gravity is very real — and very helpful. “Fluid travels downwards, which is why our feet swell after a long time sitting down,” says Dr. Kruter. Ths same goes for fluids in your face. “By elevating the head slightly with pillows at night, we can decrease accumulation of fluid in the face,” she explains. You can do this by simply stacking two pillows for a bit of a boost, or even invest in a new cushion, like a wedge pillow, to get a steeper incline.
Facial Swelling Reducer #4: Hydration
It may seem counterintuitive to drink fluids when you have so much collecting in your face, but it’s a matter of balance. “A hydrated state keeps our skin turgor — how well it snaps back when pinched — optimal, which improves the general appearance of the skin,” Dr. Kruter explains. It’s in your best interest (and that of your skin) to keep the hydration coming.