Puffiness in your face isn't the end of the world, but it's annoying. It can’t be solved with heavy-duty concealer or a generous slathering of your most intensive moisturizer. The difference may seem minimal (to everyone else), but when you’re feeling puffier than usual, you see that difference acutely, and you can’t stop seeing it. Whatever the cause—one too many cocktails, gorging on a high-sodium feast, or just staying up past your bedtime (or, as in many cases, some combination of the three)—there is a solution that’ll bring down the bloat. Skin experts Joanna Vargas, Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, and Dr. Kathleen Viscusi let us in on their de-puffing secrets.
What Is Facial Puffiness?
Facial puffiness is essentially excess fluid retention that results in inflamed skin and a bloated appearance. "Underlying anatomy aside, we all are affected to some extent by the temporary puffiness due to our ever-changing, busy schedules and demands of our daily lives," says Viscusi.
Meet the Expert
- Kathleen S. Viscusi, MD, FAAD, FACMS, is the co-founder/partner of Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta (DESSNA).
- Joanna Vargas is a celebrity esthetician and the co-founder of her eponymous skincare brand.
- Dr. Jennifer MacGregor is a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology..
Keep reading for nine tricks, guaranteed to return your face to its pre-bloat state.
Enjoy a Facial Massage
Back massages are one of our favorite ways to practice self-care, but your face needs some loving too. Vargas calls the lymphatic drainage massage “a lost art,” but one to rediscover if your face is in need of a little refreshing. To draw away the waste that’s built up in your system, massage your skin in gentle circles. Vargas says to start at the top of your face, massaging around your eyes, and then working down towards your jaw. Be sure to get both sides of your face and neck, too. And if you're feeling fancy, you can also use tools like a jade roller or gua sha stone instead of your fingers.
Load up on Caffeine
Think you should be avoiding coffee to help prevent a puffy face? Not quite, according to MacGregor. "It’s a great pick-me-up and a diuretic that de-puffs in a flash. But if you're not a coffee person, drink some green tea to kick-start your system. “The additional water will hydrate your body and will flush out your system, while the polyphenols help to attack fat cells and protect the skin against free radical damage,” Vargas says. And in case caffeine gives you the jitters, you can still reap its skin benefits by applying it topically, too. "Many eye creams even contain caffeine to use topically to brighten the eye area and reduce puffiness," Vargas tells us.
Eat Your Greens
Your momma told you to eat your greens—and she was right. According to Vargas, a diet that incorporates leafy vegetables (think: spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc.) will do your body—and your skin—good. “Diet-wise, I recommend eating greens at every meal—this will reduce puffiness and bloating, even within the same day,” she says.
Sleep With Your Head Elevated
Investing in a quality pillow is key to a good night's sleep, preventing wrinkles, and also, reducing puffiness. "As fluid retention collects (especially around the eyes), sleeping with your head elevated on an extra pillow or two can also reduce the appearance of puffiness, as it is often most prominent in the morning," explains Viscusi.
Break a Sweat
Getting your body moving can make all the difference for your bloated face. "When we lay still and flat overnight, swelling accumulates and settles around the eyes. Getting upright and getting some light exercise will help," MacGregor says. And if that's not enough, the proper amount of exercise can actually work to balance hormones, an excess of which may actually contribute to facial swelling (but more on that below).
Practice Healthy Habits
If you're looking to nip facial swelling in the bud, it would be wise to investigate its source—or sources, for that matter. The effect of temporary puffiness can stem from a number of causes that have to do with our lifestyle. "Healthy habits, such as a low salt diet, avoiding excess alcohol, and drinking plenty of water, as well as getting a good night’s sleep are crucial in reducing puffiness," says Viscusi.
Embrace the Cold
Place some chilled cucumber slices on your eyes, run an ice cube across your face, or go for a walk (in winter)—you’ll look and feel tighter in minutes. “It's old-fashioned, but it works,” Vargas says. “And the silica in the cucumber will help with skin elasticity.” "If you want to get fancy, there are also cold masks, cold rollers, and cold patches that can be applied to puffy areas," adds MacGregor. "Whether you swear by cold spoons or chilled cucumbers, the key here is cold compresses constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation, diminishing the appearance of puffiness," explains Viscusi. "Any form of a cold compress or cooling applicator is a game-changer."
Apply a Daily Serum
The right skincare products can also help a puffy face. Many are formulated with vitamins to strengthen the skin while also exfoliating to balance skin's overall tone. Smooth on a serum at night with a cold jade roller for a complexion that feels and looks more resilient. "Keep an eye out for key ingredients that help combat inflammation such as caffeine, green tea, peptides, and other antioxidants," advises Viscusi.
Try a Multipurpose Eye Cream
Do you actually need eye cream? According to Viscusi, the answer is a resounding "yes." She recommends ISDIN K-OX Eyes, or what we like to call, "eye cream on steroids." "[It] combats bags, puffiness, crow's feet, and dark circles with visible results in 28 days. I love that it has a cooling ceramic applicator—a key factor in expediting puffiness relief," she says.
Why might your face be puffy?
"Facial puffiness, or excess fluid retention, may be transient and temporary swelling due to day-to-day changes in our lifestyles and exposures, such as seasonal allergies, high sodium diets, excess alcohol consumption, crying, and lack of sleep," explains Viscusi.
Can hormones cause a puffy face?
"Absolutely, as you may feel/appear bloated leading up to or during your menstruation cycle, that can reflect on the face as well. Additionally, cortisol (a stress hormone) is a known culprit in causing puffiness," Viscusi says.
Can your face get puffier as you age?
"Typically as we age undereye puffiness can specifically become more pronounced. This is due to the weakening of the structural support provided by our muscles, bones, and ligaments - which causes the protrusion of the anatomical 'fat pads' under our eyes (making them look 'puffy')," comments Viscusi.