We've all seen it before, the classic image of a woman at a spa, hair wrapped in a towel with two cucumber slices over the eyes. Peak relaxation, if you will. But have you ever wondered why cucumbers are the chosen fruit (yes, fruit) for the job? Furthermore, have you ever wondered if cucumber slices on the eyes are actually beneficial?
Short answer, yes. Cucumbers are more than just a beauty accessory during your facials and do in fact have benefits for the under eye, with hydrating and soothing properties that are gentle on the thin surrounding skin. Read on as double board-certified dermatologist Brendan Camp, MD, and celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar, RN, break down what exactly it is that cucumbers do for the eyes.
Meet the Expert
Why Do People Put Cucumbers on Their Eyes?
While there are a million-and-one eye treatment options nowadays, sometimes old tricks are the best tricks.
"Necessity is the mother of invention," says Camp. "Before skincare megastores and websites devoted to all things skin, people with puffy eyes reached for what was readily accessible. Cucumbers have become a mainstay for addressing swelling and puffing of the periorbital skin because they are a natural, inexpensive, and easy fix."
Cucumbers offer several skin health properties. Cucumbers are about 95 percent water, so, unsurprisingly, they are extremely hydrating for the skin both topically and when ingested. Cucumbers also contain high levels of lignans, cucurbitacins, flavonoids, antioxidants, and other trace elements and minerals. Cucumbers are said to be strong supplements to drinking water, as well as when directly placed on the skin. Aside from their gentle hydrating properties, cucumbers also have silica, which can boost collagen production. These exact benefits are what make cucumbers popular not only to place directly on the skin but also as an ingredient in many moisturizing and hydrating skincare products.
"They’re naturally cooling and have no irritating acids or fragrance that can irritate the sensitive eye area," Aguilar says. "It’s reported that cucumbers have been grown by people in India for both clinical purposes and as a food source since ancient times. It is popularly used in Indian traditional medicine due to its cleansing action within the body."
Benefits of Cucumbers on Eyes
There are multiple benefits to putting cucumbers on the eyes. Cucumbers have antioxidant properties, and also have cleansing properties that help remove chemical toxins from the body and skin. Cucumbers also have nourishing properties to soothe your skin and protect against skin irritations as well as reduce swelling.
"Cucumbers have been used for their clinical and therapeutic properties for centuries," reiterates Aguilar. "Because of a cucumber’s high water content, antioxidant properties, and isolated bioactive compounds including cucumerin A and B and cucurbitacins, these fruits are fantastic for reducing swelling and inflammation, hydrating, gently brightening, and soothing the skin."
The hydrating properties help keep the skin healthy in appearance and firm, which can lead to younger, fresher-looking skin. "Dry eyelid skin, and its associated fine lines, can contribute to an aged appearance," Camp explains. Aside from being rich in water, cucumbers also have vitamin C and folic acid to help promote skin health, vitamin K to help reduce dark circles, and soothing properties to help treat sunburn and wrinkles.
Camp also shares that a cold cucumber can cause constriction of superficial blood vessels. "This, in turn, lessens swelling of the periorbital skin that can occur after excessive salt intake, a good cry, or a rough night out," he says.
Who Should Avoid
Being that cucumbers are gentle and 95 percent water, not many need to avoid using them on the eyes. Of course, if you are allergic, you should not ingest cucumbers nor should you use them as a topical treatment. Like any treatment, you can always spot test if you are unsure.
How to Put Cucumbers on Your Eyes
Cucumbers should be placed on the eyes in slice form, not as an entire fruit. If you're familiar with the physicality of a whole cucumber, you could have probably guessed that much. "It’s best to use slices with the seeds and place them over the eyes," Aguilar shares. "A piece large enough the cover the brows and upper and lower eyelids is recommended."
Cucumbers have a cooling effect on the skin. "A cold cucumber works better than a room temperature one for treating puffy eyes," Camp shares. "This is because the cold temperature constricts the superficial vessels in the skin that contribute to swelling."
Beyond the basics, Camp shares some pro tips to get the most out of your cucumber experience. "Some people prefer to peel the cucumber before applying it to the skin if they are concerned about exposure to pesticides," he shares. "Reclining back to keep the cucumbers in place also gives you the chance to do some short meditative exercises that may help your mental health while the cucumbers restore your skin health."
So, when exactly should you put cucumbers on your eyes? Technically, whenever your eyes are swollen or puffy. Because cucumbers are best served (to your eyelids) cold, Camp recommends leaving them on for only a few minutes, and notes they are not a great overnight treatment. "I would suggest using in the morning on clean skin, or before an event," Aguilar adds. "Follow with serums, a moisturizer, and, (during the day) SPF."
The Final Takeaway
It's safe to say cucumbers are a solid option for the eyes when the end goal is de-puffing and soothing. An accessible fruit with no irritating acids or fragrances, cucumbers are a safe and affordable addition to your routine. And, if you prefer to go the skincare route versus actual cucumber slices, you're in luck. Many skincare products specifically targeting the eyes are formulated with cucumber to help hydrate and comfort the skin.
H. Murad, M.A. Nyc. EVALUATING THE POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF CUCUMBERS FOR IMPROVED HEALTH AND SKIN CARE, The Journal of Aging Research and Lifestyle. 2015.
Araújo LA de, Addor F, Campos PMBGM. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. An Bras Dermatol. 2016;91:0331-0335.