You’d think getting an adequate amount of rest and eating a healthy diet would make under-eye puffiness disappear, but alas, we still see bags underneath our eyes. "Under-eye changes are inevitable as we all age (dark or bluish discoloration, depressed appearance, puffiness, bags, etc.)," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Robert Finney. "And identifying the cause of your under-eye puffiness is required prior to determining how to help treat it."
"The eyes are areas of highly specialized skin that is vulnerable to several different systems and susceptible to various changes that affect their appearance," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman. "Genetics, fluid retention, allergies, sun exposure, lack of sleep, and poor diet can all have a negative impact on the appearance of the upper and lower eyelids."
So what's the best way to de-puff and get rid of under-eye bags once and for all? Ahead, Hartman and Finney, as well as licensed esthetician Ali Tobia, divulge everything you need to know.
Meet the Expert
- Corey L. Hartman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL.
- Robert Finney, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor at NYU.
- Ali Tobia is a licensed esthetician and skincare expert in New York City with over 20 years of professional experience. She is a leading expert at Just Ageless body sculpting and beauty lab.
Use a Cold Spoon
One of our favorite puffy eye hacks uses a tool you already have in your kitchen: spoons. Leave two clean teaspoons in your freezer, and on puffy mornings, simply press them against your eyes for a few minutes. "This can be done with a spoon kept in the freezer (wet it before applying it to each under-eye area for a few minutes) and will help constrict the vessels and reduce inflammation in the area," advises Finney.
Use Depuffing Eye Gels with Caffeine
While we couldn't do without our morning java jolt, caffeine has also become a star player in skincare products. "Eye gels with active ingredients like caffeine, licorice, and other antioxidants are helpful," says Hartman. "Especially if they are cooled before application." Try chilling your favorite caffeine-infused under-eye gels overnight, then apply them in the morning while you have your coffee.
Finney advises that it's crucial to stay hydrated for many health reasons, but one of the more cosmetic reasons is to help keep puffiness at bay. "When you are dehydrated, your body tries to hold on to all the fluid it can, which could contribute to under-eye puffiness." Studies have found that the ideal water intake for those assigned male is 3000 mL, and 2200 mL for those assigned female.
Invest in a Great Eye Cream, and Use It Consistently
When shopping for under-eye remedies, "Look for a good moisturizing eye cream with ingredients such as green tea, caffeine, niacinamide, peptides and other antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and constrict blood vessels to reduce puffiness," advises Finney.
"My absolute favorite is the Alastin Restorative Eye Treatment, which has anti-inflammatory properties but also contains a peptide that stimulates collagen to help improve wrinkles and other signs of aging," he says. "The best part is that it is non-irritating. Many eye creams that promise wrinkle reduction contain retinol, and although retinol is great for anti-aging, it can often be irritating in the eye area, given that the skin around the eye is the thinnest and most sensitive anywhere on the body."
Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a derivative of vitamin A. It is an antioxidant used in anti-aging skincare products.
For an all-natural eye cream to soothe and de-puff eyes, turn to cold aloe vera gel, which boasts anti-inflammatory properties. Keep a bottle in your fridge and then apply it just like you would eye cream.
Try Gentle Rollers to Improve Lymphatic Drainage
Finney explains, "[The under-eye area] is one area on the body where our natural drainage system (lymphatic system) for excess fluid is not the best, some suffering worse than others. There are different ways to accomplish [drainage] including ice rollers (dual action by helping to massage and directly cool the area), jade rollers, etc." However, he does warn that "frequently rubbing the skin in this area can result in discoloration and a wrinkled appearance."
Hartman echoes this sentiment: "Eye rollers are a way to provide a gentle massage to the area and are quite effective if used regularly, just don’t apply too much pressure or it can trigger more inflammation."
Watch Now: How to Get Rid of Puffy Eyes
Try a Gentle Double Tap or Facial Massage Technique
Did you know that the way you apply eye moisturizer affects the state of your under-eye area? Tobia says, "Rubbing cream or moisturizer on your eyes can cause it to be puffy. Instead, try lightly tapping the area of your eyes and massaging the pressure points to encourage lymphatic drainage."
Hartman agrees, advising that a simple, gentle tapping motion with your ring finger can go a long way for draining the lymph buildup that causes puffiness.
Tobia instructs: "Starting with your neck to get the drainage started, drag the backs of your knuckles down along the sides of your neck. Then, work your way up your face, sweeping your fingertips outward from the center of your face to your ears. When you reach your eye area, you’ll want to make sure that you have your fingertips gliding across the bone just under your eye with a feathery touch." We recommend using a facial oil during this process to avoid tugging on your skin.
While we welcome spring with its blooming flowers and pleasant weather, we could do without the allergies that accompany it. "If you have seasonal or other allergies, it is very common to have extra puffiness under your eyes," says Finney. He recommends, "If you notice a seasonal change in your eyes, try an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Zyrtec or Allegra daily during the time of year when your allergies are heightened."
Get More Sleep
Hartman advises getting eight to 10 hours of sleep per night to help control puffiness. And while you're at it, he says to try and keep your head elevated overnight.
Finney agrees: "If you are sleep deprived, it usually makes puffiness worse," he says. "An often overlooked fix to de-puffing the eye area that can yield amazing results is to simply sleep in a more elevated position. Try adding an extra pillow to help elevate your head and allow the fluid to drain easier at night."
Consider an In-Office Treatment With a Dermatologist
If at-home options are not working for you, consider a professional treatment with a board-certified dermatologist. The best treatment for you may vary based on your individual concern, but in general, Hartman says that the best treatment for under-eye puffiness is typically radiofrequency microneedling.
"Radiofrequency microneedling devices like Lutronic Genius insert tiny needles (after application of a potent numbing cream) that heat the dermal tissue, reduce fat and edema, and tighten the skin to provide a firm, smooth surface," he says. Be wary of medical spas offering this treatment and instead visit a board-certified dermatologist.
How can you decrease eye puffiness naturally?
Applying a cool temperature—via a refrigerated beauty tool or spoon—can help reduce puffiness without the use of any products.
Is there an easy, catch-all way to depuff eyes?
Both of the above experts agree that there's no easy, catch-all fix to de-puff eyes—but investing time in the nine practices above can help you control puffiness.
What ingredients help depuff under-eyes?
Look for products that contain caffeine, green tea, niacinamide, peptides, and other anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Meinders A-J, Meinders AE. [How much water do we really need to drink?]. Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2010;154:A1757.
Penn Medicine. Aloe vera: not just for sunburns. Updated August 2, 2019.